MY Gift for your December- Grace’s Fur Coat
Struggling as I am this holiday season I have become somewhat Scrooge- like. I want to sink further into my sub surface world and wake up in 2011. That can’t be done not with a little boy who eyes dance and delight with the trappings of his first realized Christmas.
As I lay awake last night I thought of the first Christmas I could remember in any detail. The event unfolded in pieces parts as sleep and tears tried to interfere.
A pillow case was tied to my bedpost- mummy and daddy acting funny and telling me that tomorrow would bring surprise as a Father Christmas would be coming- later on giggling and rustling at the end of my bed as mummy was there with a “grandfather in red”.
I awoke to find the pillow case, full of goodies, no longer tied to the bed post- filled with expectation I hauled the loot to my parent’s bedroom. As I climbed on the bed and snuggled under the eider-down ,opening my presents- mummy got up and went to make a cup of tea- tea and hot buttered toast in bed was a special treat – I knew that.
Then came the evening- I am not sure what happened the rest of that day. I remember sitting at a big table at my father’s mother’s house, having been sat on telephone books and a cushion and tied around my waist to the chair with a pretty scarf so I could eat with the adults.
My Grandmothers were completely the opposites of one another. My Nana -Nanny Hines – ( mum’s mother) was fairly poor ,she had white, white hair . Her little house always smelled of baking and she always had time for a cuddle and a story. Her big feather bed was always the place for a lovely warm nap. English homes, especially back then, were “cold and draughty”.
My father’s mother on the other hand, was much wealthier- her large house with many rooms , 13 to 14 foot ceilings, ornate plaster work was furnished with velvets and silks and overstuffed furniture. Nanny Bunyan smelled of expensive perfume and was decked out with jewelery and coffered red hair, manicured nails and beautiful clothes. However hers was not a “lap” that was for holding a child’s sticky fingers and stories.
I remembered that Christmas night- there were aunts and uncles and lots of people. There were no other children and there wasn’t a tree, even a tiny one decked out with paper chains. However there were silver serving dishes , tea services , brass, silks ,satins, curtains and door hangings with plush velvets and large floor lamps whose fringed shades moved and swayed – the firelight reflected off the crystal. It was all very Aladdin’s cave- like, there weren’t any of the thick slices of homemade bread with lemon curd, or slices of cream cake but dates, and figs and turkish delight, dainty little cakes and sandwiches.
I suppose I must have fallen asleep as I remember being carried out of the room , the cold air of the draughty hallway stirring me from sleep.
I was laid on the big bed in her room, it was, I knew, a room filled with wonderful objects I was not allowed to touch. The hues were dusky rose and golds, the big bed was covered in a rosy pink satin coverlet, long dark wine velvet drapes covered the very large windows. This night at the bottom of the bed had been piled the coats of my grandmother’s guests. I awoke as my little warm body was laid onto the coldness of the satin coverlet-
“Be a good girl and go to sleep”
said my father as he closed the door , I was cold but I dare not touch anything- I curled up into myself trying to stay warm in my own little part of the coverlet, to move would find another place where my little body would experience the touch of cold satin once again sending a shiver of cold.
How long I lay like that I don’t know, it was probably just a matter of minutes but it seemed so long when the door opened and light came into my little dark world . Her name was Grace, she was the wife of the CFO of my grandmother’s business.
She came into the bedroom and laid her husband’s coat, still cold from the outside, at the foot of the bed.
I suppose what met her eyes was a tiny little golden headed child curled into a fetal position half awake and half asleep. The next thing I remember was being cradled in warmth- she had taken her fur coat off and still warm from her own body wrapped it over and around me- I remember that warmth, the smell of her perfume, the feel of the softness of the fur as I buried myself in its comfort, the sounds of Christmas from the drawing-room became my lullabye
I slept , until my world of contentment and warmth was once more rudely awakened, mummy putting me into my coat , being carried to the car , the car blanket ( the heaters in cars then weren’t so good either) being put over me for the journey home but the cold leather back seat brought me once again to reality.
So to those who join me this “holiday season” watching, shivering in our grief from our parallel world “the other world” of silver bells, laughter, decking the halls , parties sweet things to eat, songs and merriment
I wish you the comfort, warmth and respite from the coldness that grief brings ( if just for a little while) I wish you the gift of Grace’s fur coat.