A group I'm a member of is having a Christmas story writing competition - this isn't my entry, this is my first attempt that is about 300 words too long. I liked it too much as it stands to try and cut it down, so I decided I'd post it here instead.
Old Mrs Brown had a Christmas tree of sorts. It was small, a little bent and a little bald on one side and the tinsel that its boughs were made of was less silver and more yellowed through age. She had found it on one of her rummages at the back of a local charity shop and had bartered with the lady, a robust W.I type behind the counter, down to a price of 75p. Which was a bit of a bargain.
She placed the tree on her small occasional table which stood before the bay fronted window of her little house. It leaned slightly to the left and had a drooping appearance but it was a tree and she felt that they had a lot in common. She was past her prime, had become stooped with age and her hair was now more silver than the gold it had once been.
She felt quite tired out after her excursion into the busy high street so settled down in her favourite chair with a nice reviving cup of tea, and as she sat there, she looked at her little tree and sighed. Once her Christmas Eves’ had been filled with family and bustle. The comings and goings of groceries being delivered, the last minute baking of mince pies and sausage rolls. Ferreting around in all the nooks and crannies of their little over crowded family home, trying to remember where all the carefully hoarded presents were hidden. The twins had been devils for finding them and as money had always been tight, it had meant buying little bits throughout the year when she had some extra pennies. Gifts often were so well hidden they didn’t get found until Easter. Even the twins failed to find one present that to this day had eluded detection. Still, she thought, it was easier to buy for one, and although the high street had been busy today, she had managed to stretch this weeks money to include a nice breast of chicken and a packet of cranberry and chestnut stuffing, which would do her a meal with a Christmassy feel. A small individual Christmas pudding she could microwave would round it off nicely. She sighed again, drank the last of her tea, and with a little effort and a groan got to her feet. She wanted her tree, battered as it was, to have at least a few lights and some decorations before the evening was out.
The box with the her few remaining decorations was like a trip down memory lane. There were the paper bells that folded out, the colours now faded and dusty but she remembered the twins being fascinated by them throughout their childhood. The glass baubles with their names written on them, one for her, one for Fred and one each for the twins. Her Mother had bought them the year they were born. Each carefully tissue wrapped parcel uncovered another memory. She found the small string of lights at the bottom of the box, small plain white ones. After checking they still worked, which amazingly they did, she slowly wrapped them around the tree which bent even further under their added weight. Next, on went the tinsel, she only had one piece of faded red and silver but it looked very pretty against the lights. A few baubles and a rather dilapidated fairy who only had one wing and the tree was done. Poor fairy, she thought, another Christmas relic who had seen better days. Still, that fairy had been bought over 40 years ago.
Mrs Brown stepped back and admired her handy work. She smiled with a childlike joy brightening a face that normally looked tired and aged. It was Christmas Eve and she had a Christmas tree of sorts. This was the first time she’d bothered with Christmas since her Fred had died 7 years ago, and she didn’t know why she had suddenly felt the urge to have a tree this year, but it felt like the right thing to do.
Her stomach rumbled and she checked the parlour clock. Goodness it was way past tea time and she had been too tired to bother with lunch. Time to get something to eat and then maybe to watch a little TV before bed. She picked up the last thing to make the tree look perfect, a small brightly wrapped gift that had come in the post that morning. Sent from so far away, it was a little battered in one corner, but it had a ribbon and matching ribbon curls and the label that swung from it read “To our Mum, Happy Christmas, love from ‘The Terrible Two’ xxxx” Christmas tree and a present - perfect.
They didn’t find Mrs Brown, until after the New Year. She hadn’t been missed by anyone over the holidays and as she didn’t have a phone she couldn’t have called for help if she needed to. The notes made on her post mortem stated that she died of natural causes and that she looked at peace.
Copyright P Lainchbury (2012).
Please remember to keep an eye open for your elderly neighbours this winter. xxxxxx