Love ever present at holidaysPublished 11:39am Friday, January 11, 2013
But now, looking at the Jan. 3, 1925 date he had marked at the top of the little letter, he was writing fondly to his 3-year-old daughter, before cutting and pasting a life-like envelope for it, complete with a hand-drawn postmark and a miniature stamp, created by snipping a square from a real one:
Are you tired of waiting for Daddy? The ship is such a long, long, way from London. Now when you see the sun sink each night behind the land it will point to the place where Dad has gone to – the other end of the world.
You are going to write daddy a nice long letter, aren’t you, and tell him what a lovely Christmas tree you had, also all the things dear old Father Christmas sent you.’
In my mind’s eye, I could clearly see this handsome man, after whom my mother takes and described by her as “the most loving and wonderful father,” bent over his work, late at night, missing his wife, son and toddler daughter during long months at sea. To be home for Christmas was a rarity and indeed he meant to be a part of the festivities of the season as he dipped his pen and scratched a story that would charm any child:
‘Now Joan, dear, we all talk of Father Christmas but we must not forget Mother Christmas cos if there is a Father Christmas there must be a Mother Christmas, too. Mother Christmas remains at home and puts all the things in a bag for Daddy Christmas and as she cannot climb down chimneys, she stays at home.’
The creation of his Mother Christmas came as no surprise, I thought, turning the petite page and remembering my own mother’s tales of how her father worried continuously about the long stretches of loneliness for his wife, keeping, as it were, ‘the home fires burning.’ It was only natural he would be inspired to add the female element to the success of the jolly old elf.
‘They call Father Christmas William Christmas and the Mother, Mary Christmas. All the little children, cos they never see her, think it is ‘Merry Christmas,’ so next Christmas, when you get all the lovely toys you will think of good, kind, Mary Christmas, won’t you? Who stayed at home to get all the toys ready to put in the big bag for Father Christmas to take out, and when you hear children say, “Merry Christmas!” you must say, “it is not Merry Christmas, it is Mary Christmas!”
I hope you are being such a nice good girl, cos I do want my little girl to be so very good. So mind you love your big brother, Bert, and help him with his home work every night. Give Mammy a big love for me, also for Bert, and such a great, big, love from Daddy to his darling Joan.
~ Night, Night,
I tucked the letter back into the caddy, my soul warmed to the core. The grandfather I had never met, I couldn’t help but to feel, had led me to the realization I had missed amid the anxiety of the last several days: it doesn’t matter where you are for Christmas, it only matters with whom you spend it – even if you can’t see them.
Because love is always present.