Christmas P A S T

20/12/2016

Do you have a memory of a bitter-sweet occurrence that made remembering what came before unimportant? Relate, but do not compare, yours to this little story.

 

Once upon a time there was a thought-free wandering 11yr old. One day, returning from one of his lengthy meanderings around town, he turns the corner of the street on which he lived and headed up the long road to the house where he lived. His destination was a boarding house in which he had lived for the past year with his younger sister. Living there he was accustomed to his unquestioned comings and goings, this being the third location in the four years of their mother’s departure in the care of a guardian. It was simply he and his younger sister, by twenty-and-two months, among a household of other ‘boarded’ children. At the end of each school year/term, all the boarded children returned to their parents; however, he and his sister, were to call the boarding house their home until their mother returned from an unknown foreign land. Their absent mother slowly began to slip from his memory, his mind sliding slowly into vagueness.

 

It was just the two of them in a predominantly matriarchal setting. The boarding house was commandeered by a school teacher and her mother. The mainstay were women of varying ages, ranging from teens to early adulthood. This left him out of the loop when it came to male directed activities. Simply, he was on his own. At varying junctures there were other boys added, but only one his age among them, and usually picked on by the older boys. He was either ignored, or mercilessly teased/pranked for being unaware of the predilection of the other younger boy. On one occasion, he was included in a night adventure resulting in him receiving corporal punishment for going along with the older boys. They somehow escaped this punishment.

 

On this return occasion, daytime, he may have been returning from the school he had earned a scholarship to attend. Fortunately, it was walking distance from where he lived. As he rounded the corner and began the long walk up the road, he spied a figure on a motorcycle coasting silently towards him. Its sound came only from collections of stones separated as it tires carved its path towards him. The stealth mode, a gas saving practice, was commonly used.

 

The figure astride the motorcycle was recognized as he approached the young boy, who was pleasantly surprised! He had seldom seen his father during the four years since his mother’s departure. He may have visited but, as it was this boy’s practice to wander off whenever possible, it was conceivable that his younger sister was the beneficiary of his other timely visits. But this was his lucky day! He was beginning to feel that unfamiliar elation that accompanied excitement.

 

The approaching motorcycle slowed, and stopped. His father’s familiar speech pattern on this occasion began a no-nonsense discourse. His words bullet-like. “I see you have not been keeping up with your school work, as your marks are unsatisfactory.” He may have said something else, but the boy didn’t recall what, except what followed piercing his opened heart. “You will not be getting a Christmas present this year. Make sure you improve your grades from now on.”

 

That said, he started his Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and rode off toward the main road.

 

The young boy, wounded and stunned, watched his father ride off into the downing sun. He turned, faced the direction in which he was headed and collected what remained of his fading sensibilities. Holding back the tears so as not to raise questions upon entering the boarding house, he opened the gate and walked along the path towards another of many evenings. No one but he knew this would be a very different Christmas; no words were exchanged during the festive times save the customary greeting of, ‘Merry Christmas!’

 

Later, he learned his father had visited with news of he and his sister’s relocation to their grandparents home, which will be their fourth home in the five years of their mother’s study quest abroad. No worries, this was simply one Christmas P a s t!

 

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