CHRISTMAS 2015

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Here’s the second part of the Cole family’s Christmas, as promised! If you remember, we left them half-way through the day last time. I hope you enjoy this part…..

If you missed the first part you can find it here. A couple of people have asked about the other Cole stories, so you want to find out more here’s a Halloween story, and here’s another Christmas story called ‘The Three Wise Gifts‘).

Whatever you read, I hope you enjoy yourselves. 

Most of all, have a wonderful New Year’s eve, and all of us here wish everyone a wonderful, happy 2018. XXX Many bisoux from me – to you all.

 

By 5.30pm the damage was done, the battle over, and the sitting room was an ocean of wrapping paper and boxes in varying states of aperture. Dotted about the room were small piles of salvage, each with an owner in varying states of bemusement. Simon and I had been good, and tried to work to a budget, but the twins were the proud owners of a small castle of presents each, and the room was somnolent with an excess of Christmas cheer and the warmth of a fire too well attended-to. Sylvie had fallen quietly asleep in her chair, and Simon was sprawled, head nodding, at the end of the sofa. Katie and Emma were exchanging comments on their presents, and Paul and Lisa worked as a team to keep the twins at a manageable level. Robert and Nadia had already left, to go back to their small flat above the bakery to sleep. Their one child had spent the day with grandparents and would be reunited with them later, I assumed.  I wandered through to the kitchen to make some tea, disappointed that Simon’s present – a book – had not arrived in time, but happy that the day had gone well and no major damage limitation had needed to be applied. 

I went back through to the sitting room with the tray, complete with a plate of slices of Christmas cake, and the twins came running over, one in a spiderman costume and the other wearing a pair of goggles to deflect some imaginary enemy fire. 

Little Tom stopped in front of me, and leaning forward, gave me a hug, saying “Don’t worry Auntie Sophie, Santa will come back with Uncle Simon’s present, don’t you worry!”, and even as his little head jerked back with a smile of sympathy, Tiny Tim was there beside him, muttering scowls of argument.

“He won’t come, silly, it’s just a story,” Tim muttered as he went even darker in the face with disbelief. 

“No it’s not,” argued Tom, vehemently, “we’ll leave a mince pie tonight by the fire, won’t we Auntie Sophie? And tomorrow, too – it’s bound to work”, and so the die was cast.

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On the morning of the 27th, still aware by computer that Simon’s book was “out for delivery”, I was awoken at daybreak by the twins, who came screaming up the stairs to announce that Santa really had been, and that Simon’s present had been left under the tree. As Simon and I struggled to come awake I listened to their tale in some disbelief, but with a small hand pulling me out of bed, I was led downstairs to the sitting room by a very excited 5 year-old to a room awash with light from a Christmas tree that illuminated, quite beautifully, a wrapped present under the tree, accompanied by a message on a piece of faded note paper that apologised for the tardiness of delivery. I kneeled there, stunned with bemusement, and then Simon pointed to the fireplace, where the crumbs of a mince pie lay on an empty plate studded with black fingerprints, and where the glass door to the fire had been left open, and where a trail of four of five footprints etched with ash stretched back to the tree across the carpet. I looked up at Simon, but he was pursing his lips with narrowed eyes, wondering too. Absentmindedly, I wondered if the hoover would be able to deal with the footprints.  

This was Tom the Believer’s moment of triumph, and he was not short in telling all and sundry about the magic of Christmas, sleighs, reindeer, men in red costumes and the power of belief. He danced around the room, singing about footprints and presents, mince pies and magic. Tiny Tim, the DisBeliever, scuttled around in the background trying not to get excited, but it was clear his brother had all the aces, and Tiny Tim turned, before our eyes, into that most ardent of admirers, Tim the Converted. I looked up above the noise to see Simon looking at me, eyes wide with wonder too. 

It had to be the work of my Tim, or perhaps Katie, or Emma, I decided. Even Sylvie. One of them had some explaining to do – it was very clever, but I needed to know the story.

But by the end of breakfast it became apparent that everyone was as bemused as everyone else. They all swore, quite strongly, and in tones that the twins could not quite hear, that none of them had had anything to do with it. As we cleared the table we then dissected the day before, only to become aware that I had been at home most of the daylight hours. The house resounded with the sound of small children singing the praises of Santa and everything took on an air of mystery and enchantment. All of us found ourselves looking for other surprises, and matters took a turn for some serious thinking when Annie, old Mr Benoit’s niece, came to the door to give us a box of chocolates, gaily wrapped and ribboned. Annie was in her 70’s now and had lived in her father’s house for some years since his quiet dignified death in 2010, and when Emma took her aside to tell her about Santa’s mysterious visit, the hairs went up on the back of my neck as I remembered an enchanted Halloween from ten years ago. The two of them held hands and looked at us all, grinning with their shared supernatural belief. 

At 11.00 or so Simon went into the village for some bread for lunch and we had another quick committee meeting which became quite animated when we all realised that really none of us, no one, was responsible for the secret delivery. I had a brainwave and checked the website for the delivery company, only to find that we could no longer access the tracking history. 

It was left to the twins to tell us what happened. 

“Santa came back, you sillies,” they sang. “He came back, left Simon’s present and then went home in his sleigh.”  As logic would have it, it seemed the best answer. 

The footprints did hoover out, and the fingerprints happily washed off the plate. And Simon adored the book, an out-of-print pictorial history of the Shetlands where his family had once come from. But the mystery of how the book had got under the tree continued to mystify me enormously. Simon simply shrugged his shoulders, and, I assume, thought I knew the answer and that one of us had done it. The mystery continued through the New Year, right up to the point when I drove Sylvie, Paul and Lisa, and the twins, to the airport a week later. All through that long drive the twins continued to crow about the “Power of Santa” and I went home half a believer myself. Katie went back to her second term of university in Bordeaux, and Tim went back to the UK to Southampton and his last spring term there. All of this depopulation of the house left just Emma, Simon and myself, alone with a new year stretching before us and a puzzle we seemed destined to never solve…. 

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….until one day in late January, when I went to the post office next to the village hall one cold and grey Wednesday afternoon. Inside I put a small parcel on the counter and said “Bonjour’ to the woman behind the counter, a lady from the next village who was an occasional relief for Carole, our normal woman in charge. I was paying for the postage when the woman asked me something, quite quickly, in French.

I paused, coins akimbo, as time slowed existentially – after a long pause I asked her to repeat her question, aware my hands were blue with cold on the counter and that the notice on the wall in front of me advertising the arrival of Père Nöel in the Salle De Fêtes for the village Christmas party was coincidentally well out of date.

Was madam’s husband happy with his Christmas present, was the question, and I frowned a little, not sure I had heard right, but aware I needed to ask a question or two.

Tugging at a stray hair under my hat I nervously asked if the parcel had perhaps been collected from the Post Office?  Mais OuiOn the day after Christmas, madam, le 26**.

My hand hovered in mid-air as I thought further.

Who had collected the parcel, I asked?  Madame’s husband, of course

Of course. I should have guessed. I had known him long enough…..

I stood there, aware my head was bowed and my heart was beating too fast. I thought perhaps I should faint a little, just to make matters more theatrical, but then grinned at the epiphany of it all. Instead I went home with a smile on my face and cornered Simon in the study as he sat there, typing away. 

“YOU bastard!” I hissed in his ear in a fake fit of temper. “IT WAS YOU!!” and Simon looked up, startled and whitefaced.

“What?”  He’d half-forgotten the parcel, I suspected. 

“YOUR PRESENT!” I threw back at him, and he at last smiled faintly and then muttered something. 

“How and why?” I continued, perching myself in his lap. “How did you manage that?”

And Simon put his arm around me and explained. On Christmas Eve he’d been going through a pile of cards on top of my desk when he’d discovered amongst them a typical French delivery note, that told of how a parcel had been left with the Post Office. I, the one in charge of Christmas cards, must have missed it.

He explained how he’d gone to the post office on Boxing Day**, and came back with his book. How he had carefully wrapped it, written the note on some very old paper from the boat-shed, and then left it under the tree the next night, together with the cunning clues of a mince pie and ash-trodden footprints.

We laughed together then, but I still had to ask one more question. 

“Why?”

Simon looked at me, and laughed. “For two reasons. One, I love mysteries and it was fun to have you all guessing, but two, because I wanted to give Tiny Tim a special Christmas.” He paused, and then continued,”I knew if I could make him believe in Santa Claus a little better, he’d have far more fun,” and he looked up at me and grinned. 

“You rotter,” I said, and stamped lightly on his foot as I hopped down. “I’d just got back to believing in Santa myself and you have to ruin it.”

We never did tell the others. None of them. It became the Christmas Mystery, and as well as the tale being told for years to come, I know Tiny Tim and Tom will look forward to many more wonderful Christmases, too. 

**most French shops and services run as normal on Boxing Day

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53 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS 2015

  • Ah, and there we go, the perfect denouement to the excesses of commercialism. The best Christmases are nearly always to be found in rich dark writing, a bit like a simple plain piece of chocolate that one never wants to finish. Mrs C read this before me (she had first dibs on the computer this morning) and she said I would be a happy man. She is correct, as always.

    Thank you for everything this year, Susan – what a wonderful year for the blog, Mrs C and I have loved it all. We hope you have a wonderful evening at home with your loved ones.

    • Hello Phil – so happy we have kept you and Mrs C entertained this year. We all hope you have as much fun with us in 2018. Are you going to come across to France again? If you ever get down this way make sure to pop in and see us. XXX

  • Enchanting story and such a lovely reflection of the humor, kindness and thoughtfulness that your readers see alive and true in your family’s interactions with each other and the world. Wishing you and the whole family a healthy and happy 2018! Looking forward to reading your words, seeing your photos and hearing your stories in the year to come!! xo

  • I twist on Christmas – what a good idea. Do you think it works on adults too. I have a husband excited about our first Christmas in France in 2018. Maybe some extra fun wont go amiss.

    • Hi Judi, I hope you managed to find some fun for your husband!!! And good luck with your life in France, make sure you come back and tell us all about it. So happy you enjoyed the story XX

  • Thank you Susan. We are all looking forward to more stories about this very special family.
    May 2018 be a year of much laughter, flowers and blue eggs. Oh, and I hope lots of figs….
    Ali XXx

  • Hi Susan, such a lovely story for Xmas, Anne HH has put it into words much better than me though, so I agree with everything she wrote! Wishing you all a very happy & joyful New Year. It’s a big night here in Edinburgh with the Hogmanay celebrations, the fireworks literally make my old sash windows rattle they’re so loud!

    • Hi Janet, hope your windows survived!! Did you eat any haggis? I’m afraid to say it is not my cup of tea, alas, despite my Scottish DNA, but that has let me enjoy the rest of Hogmanay in the past, I must admit! Have a wonderful 2018, and hope you enjoy what it will bring. XX

  • Happy New Year! Thank you so for posts, photos and short stories. I hope you enjoy putting everything together as much as we enjoy reading it.

  • Bonsoir Susan ! Merci pour cette charmante histoire écrite avec votre talent habituel. Un vrai cadeau de Noël pour tous vos Followers ! Pour moi votre blog est le meilleur des blogs d’ expatriés en France ( et non le 48e/100 comme j’ ai lu sur un site web ).// Good evening Susan! Thanks for your lovely Christmas story written with your usual talent ( …one day, a book !…) A real Christmas gift for all your Followers! In my opinion your blog is the best expat blog in France ( not 48 out of 100 as I recently read the ranking made by a web site ). I wish you the very best for you and your family in 2018.

    • Oh Philippe, you say the kindest things, thank you. I wish only half of what you say were true and I’d be happy. Thank you for your support for everything (and you know what I mean), you are a true gentleman. I shall make sure that when we do finish the book (did I really mean that?) you will be one of the first to get a copy. Have a wonderful 2018 XXXX

    • Susan,
      Thank you for this wonderful heartfelt Christmas story. What a lovely way for all of us who still “believe” in Santa to go “back” in time and remember our own cherished memories of this “jolly old chap.”
      In looking back over this past year I would also like to send my love and appreciation for your time and beautiful “works” you send to your readers each week. You truly are a woman of many “talents” but most importantly ( I believe I speak for everyone) your true “talent” is your love for family. Week in week out all of us witness this in every sentence…every picture…! You truly are an amazing woman, Susan! And I am so very lucky to be able to witness and celebrate with the Hays family a wonderful tapestry of continued loved. For this I am forever filled with Gratitude.
      Happy New Year Dear One!!
      Blessings to the entire Hays family. And YES I still really do believe in Santa Claus…Why? Because for those few magical hours on Christmas Eve we all can learn a little something from the ❤️‘S of little Children all over the World!😘

      • Stephanie, thank you for your wishes!! And blessings back many times for you and your family too – thank you so much for your support – you have been most kind. As for the rest of your reply, I have to add that I think most families love each other just as much as us, surely?? 🙂 Is that not a normal thing for many people? There is the occasional shout, I have to admit, but I rather think that is part and parcel of the tapestry, no? And as for Santa Claus, the legend should continue for ever as far as I am concerned. Christmas would not be the same but for that little spot of magic…. even if we are woken up at 6.00am! XXX

        • Susan,
          Oh my goodness what your blog has given me and others is a thousand times more than I could ever give back to you!
          FYI Grandbaby number 2 will Bless our Family this summer. Can’t wait…! Though we are all so smitten with our little Emerson! Have a lovely week ahead!
          ❤️😘

          • Oh how exciting, now you will have two to spoil, I can imagine how thrilled you must all be. I shall eagerly follow for photos in the summer on Instagram, I have to admit I am rather smitten with babies!! xx

  • Thank you for your stories. You write so lovely using similes, personification, and adding new vocabulary for me.I too, hope to encounter more stories from you in 2018 and I agree, a book of short stories, or a novel should be forth coming in your near future.

    • Sandy – thank you so much for your comments. I love writing these for you all, so I am very happy when people like them. There will be some more, I assure you, though perhaps under a separate section and not as part of the blog. We may be reshuffling things about a little so do come back and visit again! Have a wonderful 2018 XX

  • I could hardly wait for part 2. What a wonderful story. Now it’s 2018 and a happy New Year to you all at Our French Oasis

    • Santa needs a little TLC now and again, I think. He tends to get pushed around a little nowadays – that never happened when I was a little girl! Hope you enjoyed it XXX for the New year

  • I loved the ending of the Christmas Short Story. It was a lovely Christmas mystery.
    Thank you for the New Years advice too.
    Taking time for yourself, reading a classic book ( in pages you turn), have a purpose and goal for short and long term.
    Happy New Year.
    Hugs from the South of USA
    And “Roll Tide”

    • Thanks so much Carolyn, I love reading when I get the time, there is nothing quite like it. Big hugs to the south of the USA from France and wishing you a very happy and healthy 2018 xx

  • Hello, Ms. Susan. Just got back from our trip to the province to celebrate the New Year and 94th birthday of a dear aunt. And as I read this story, i remembered how as a child, I was always excited for Christmas, to what Santa will bring me. And then my cousin ruined it one day (I think I was 11 then), telling us there’s no Santa, it’s his mother who prepared the gifts. How disappointed we were! I want to greet you and the entire family a Happy and Blessed New Year. Will read the other posts now.. Thanks for the story.

    • I can remember when I learnt that there was no real Father Christmas, I was heartbroken! We still keep the story going here for our youngest who is 11, I am sure she is far too wise not to know, school children nowadays all seem to grow up so much quicker, but we still all keep the pretence going as we must and I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and what a wonderful age for your aunt to have you all there. Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2018 xx

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