Although many people speak about the year “winding down”, family, friends and clients describe this time of the year as action-packed: there’s lots of work to finish before the Christmas break, there are cards to be written, presents still to be bought, and a family visit or vacation to be prepared.
For this final post of the year, I want to offer you a small Christmas present. Treat yourself to an oasis amidst the rush: make yourself a nice cup of tea and take a few minutes to read a Christmas story with a difference.
I wrote this story several years ago, inspired by how a few people had shared about their childhood Christmas’s with me. If you like the story and are so minded, please consider making a donation to a charity supporting children, e.g. Oxfam’s Educate a Child programme.
Jimmy’s Guardian Angel
Jimmy ran from the yellow-walled kitchen, tears bubbling down his cheeks. His mother’s last tirade still echoed in his ears: “it’s all your fault! If you didn’t keep getting into trouble in school, your daddy wouldn’t drink from the worry and everything would be ok in the family. We’d be happy again. Why were you ever born!”
7 year-old feet pumping up the stairs, he ran into his room and – quietly as possible, so that nobody would find him – he opened the squeaky wardrobe door, climbed inside and pulled it just as quietly shut. Curled up in the dark, he thought about the Advent candles in the living room. The third one was already burning. In just one more week Santa Claus would bring the Christmas presents and he would get none. Only good boys got presents. Boys like Gerry Murphy, who always got his homework right. Not boys like Jimmy Kerr, who always got into fights. His mammy had just said what he secretly knew and had always hoped wasn’t true: his daddy drank because he was bold. Because he was bad. His daddy only hit his mammy when he’d had too many beers, so that must be his fault too. And there was never enough money. Jimmy had heard his mammy tell his granny when they were both tidying his room, not knowing he was hiding in the wardrobe. (Another part of his boldness: his room was always a mess.) So many things were wrong in the family, and it was all because he got into trouble in school. And in one week Santy would give everyone – except him – a present.
He was so sorry. What could he do? Not even his teddy was talking to him. Then he got an idea. Climbing quietly out of the wardrobe, he went over to his desk and wrote this letter:
Dear Guardian Angel, I know I’ve never written to you before, but Miss Harris told me that you’re patient and you love me. I’ve been very, very bad. I know, because I hear my mammy crying in the kitchen. And it’s all my fault: daddy’s drinking, the fights, the broken plates, everything. And I’m really, really sorry. So, please, please, please. Will you talk to Santy for me? Miss Harris delivered all our letters for us. I’m sure everyone else will get their presents from Santy, and I’ll get nothing ‘cos he only gives to good children. I promise, if you put in a good word for me I’ll be a good boy at school. Really good. And then daddy will stop drinking. And he won’t hit mammy. And she’ll have enough money for the house. Please, Jimmy.
He found an envelope, wrote “Jimmy’s Guardian Angel” on it, put the letter inside, sealed it and ran to the post office. Old Mrs McHenry was behind the counter, just like she had been for every weekday for the past 43 years.
“Mrs Mac”, Jimmy gasped, “how do I post this?”, as he handed her the sweaty envelope. She looked at the envelope, looked at Jimmy, and smiled gently.
“It’ll have to go special delivery”, she mused.
“How much is that?”, asked a panicky Jimmy.
“Oh, there’s no charge for writing to guardian angels. It’s a bit like writing to Santa Claus. Just leave it to me, and I’ll make sure it gets to the right place. Is that all right?”
Doubtfully, he nodded slowly.
“Be a good boy and run on home to your mammy. She’ll be wondering where you are!”
Each morning, full of hope, Jimmy ran down to the front door as soon as he awoke. Each morning, there was no reply from his guardian angel. Christmas Eve came, and with it, no letter. He sulked around the house all day and didn’t even bother to hang up his Christmas stocking. Before going to sleep that night, as he lay in bed listening to his parents throwing plates at each other in the kitchen, he prayed one last time to his guardian angel. And with a heavy heart, he finally drifted off to sleep.
Christmas morning, Jimmy looked at the end of the bed: no tell-tale present. Maybe Santy had left it under the tree! He ran down the stairs, teddy in his hand, and looked under the Christmas tree. Nothing. A tear trickled over his cheek. An hour later his mother came down to make a cup of tea, the first of many in her long day. Seeing Jimmy sitting, crying on the floor in front of the tree, she was overcome with guilt: why had she used he old trick of telling her son he was bad so that he wouldn’t expect a present from Santa Claus. Maybe she could have borrowed some more money from her brother for Christmas; he’d already paid for the turkey and ham. She picked up her son, hugged him and started to kiss away his tears. He just blubbed more. As she came into the kitchen she saw a big package standing in the back garden. Excited, both of them ran out the door. The package was clearly a bike. Attached to the right handlebar was a note:
Dear Jimmy, your guardian angel explained that you’re a beautiful, special boy at heart. So here’s a beautiful, special present for you. Wishing you and your family a peaceful and merry Christmas, Santa Claus.
Jimmy remembered his promise to his angel and, as he looked at his mammy’s blackened left eye, he knew it wouldn’t stop his daddy’s drinking.
Photo: Arsentyeva E