Father Christmas makes mistakes. There was the year Middle One was desperate for a particular new DS game. We watched him excitedly unwrap it in our bedroom on Christmas morning, as is our family tradition. The three of them drag their heavy stockings down from their rooms to ours and we all sit on our bed as they open everything. I take photos. The rest of the presents, the ones from “us” and other members of the family, are opened later, mid-morning, along with coffee and Florentines.
“I wonder what that can be?” I said.
“It’s the game I wanted!” He said.
“Really?” I said.
This is what it’s all about, I thought to myself. This is what makes it all worthwhile. All that tramping around the shops, stressing about ordering the turkey, wrapping all those hundreds of tiny presents, this look on a child’s face right now. But the look quickly changed from sunny joy, to disappointment. A great thundering cloud passed across it, right in front of my eyes, because the box was empty. No game. Nothing. Zilch.
Obviously Father Christmas wasn’t there to witness this crushing disappointment. If he had been he might have reflected upon what had gone wrong. Had he bought the game in Woolworths, perhaps? (This is going back a couple of years, you see.) Had he taken it to the tills at the front of the shop, rather than the ones at the back where they sold CDs and DVDs and games and then added them to the empty boxes from the display? Had the assistant at the front tills forgotten to do this and Father Christmas, in his pre-Christmas stress, not noticed either? Perhaps. But, as I say, Father Christmas wasn’t there so we were the ones left to pick up the pieces. And it wasn’t pretty.
This year he messed up as well. He doesn’t usually even attempt to deliver the presents until well after midnight when, I guess, he can be sure they’re all asleep. But I think he got cocky and over-confident. Perhaps he knew they’d all been skating at Somerset house with friends in the afternoon and were shattered? (Youngest says Father Christmas knows everything, even if you’ve been “naughty or nice," because it says so in that song.)
Whatever the reason, Father Christmas delivered his presents early this year, before midnight, (I think he was keen to get to bed) and shortly after, we heard stirrings and the patter of little footsteps coming downstairs to our room and there was a little bleary-eyed boy, with a bulging sack clutched to his chest and a big smile on his face, standing at the end of our bed.
“He’s been!” He cried.
“It’s not morning!” We cried back.
After much cajoling we managed to get him back into his bed (cursing that Father Christmas all the while) only for him to reappear shortly after, and then again, and then again, until, finally, at about 2 am, we gave up and let him stay in our bed where he thrashed around and fell asleep about an hour later. I didn’t.
Most parents of young children experience Christmas day through a haze of exhaustion, I know we have in the past. But we really thought those days were over. Apparently not. I hope next year Father Christmas gets his act together. But I suppose he must be getting on a bit by now.