by Rita Price, Athlone, Co. Westmeath
Let me take you back to 1956, a small child of five. An only child, just Mam and me. This Christmas stands out so vividly. Mam getting the Christmas tree and we decorating it together. All the decorations were so delicate, Mam had them wrapped in newspaper from one year to another. It seemed so tall to a little one looking up at the star on the very top. At night I’d look out the window and stare at the stars and wonder at the black sky behind all of these wonderful twinkling stars and I had one all of my own on my tree! The Christmas Crib, so special as Mam told me the story of this tiny baby.
Suddenly I was lifted high in the air
Santy, this special man was only mentioned a few days before Christmas. This special Christmas Eve, Santy was coming to our town, Athlone, on his way to the Army Barracks. He had to cross over the Bridge and my Mam held me tight as we waited among crowds and crowds of people to catch a glimpse of this wondrous amazing man. I remember being so small I could only see legs all around me, when suddenly I was lifted high in the air by my Mam and heard the bells in the distance. There he was, in a bright red suit and a big white beard. He was in a beautiful open carriage drawn by white horses and he was standing up shouting “Hello girls and boys, I know you are all good children “ and he was throwing bags of sweets in every direction. Imagine one bag landed in my arms. I could hear my heart pounding, as I watched Santy move away to the sound of the fading bells. I looked into my Mam’s eyes and saw tears rolling down her cheeks. I rubbed them away and we hugged tightly.
Santy was going to be on the radio
In those days we didn’t have Television, but we had something far better – A Radio where you could hear voices, plays, music and singing. Ours was a small black Bush with two knobs on the side. A big circle on the front with a needle that moved when you twisted the knob. Mam said Santy was going to be on the Radio that very evening so we swiftly walked home to hear his voice. I remember so many people wishing my Mam “A Happy Christmas” men lifting their hats as they passed by. What stands out in my mind is the smiling faces of everybody and this bursting emotional feeling throughout my body and mind.
He was calling out MY name
We got home and immediately Mam made me a big mug of Cocoa and on went the Radio. The news had started with the news reader saying “A very special person” had just popped in before he headed off on his long journey around the world.” Santy” and he began to call out names of so many children. Then I heard “Rita” he was calling MY name and said he was on his way now and all children had to go to bed immediately. I heard a door opening, I heard the wind howling, Santa was leaving the North Pole to come to ME and he called out MY name on the Radio. “Children I’m on my way. Off to bed now “ I heard the reindeers and the bells and Santa calling Rudolph. His voice rang out as he headed on his way to me. I listened and listened until there was no sound left, but my head buzzing..
“Mam I hear him coming up the stairs….Listen”
My little heart racing, my face red with excitement, I literally jumped into bed and squeezed my eyes shut. My mam had to take me out gently as I still had my Hat, Coat, Gloves, Socks and Shoes on! I couldn’t sleep, I tried so hard. I remember mam getting into bed beside me, we snuggled up Mam wrapping her arms around me. I remember saying to Mam Shhhh “Mam I hear him coming up the stairs….Listen”. His feet on the steps. Mam listened and said very gently, “I’l just check the door and make sure it’s open!!
Eventually I fell asleep to wake up to my red tricycle, books, sweets and my Christmas stocking full to the brim. The little baby was in the crib, just born. A magical, wonderful memory of my Christmas Past with my Mam.