You know, I sometimes wonder was Santa a better man back then. No Playstation then from Santa, no designer Barbie kitchen – oh no- you were glad of a big tartan ribbon for your curls, you marvelled how Santa could bring two smaller ribbons for your sister’s plaits, a young lad was proud to say that Santa had brought him ‘Jelly and custard and a pair of socks’.
A different era
Oh yes it was a different age and a different country. With its front and rear carrier, setting it apart, the postman’s bicycle alone was a piece of technological wizardry to our innocent gaze. Today, its additional front carrier was laden with Christmas mail – parcels and greetings from the sons and daughters, nephews and nieces abroad. Decades later, Mary Robinson would give us a word for them – our “diaspora” writing home. We opened the card and gazed long and lovingly on it. It came from Aunt Mary’s daughter in Boston. A plush velvet Santa Clause, round and twinkling gazed cheerily at us, carrying lightly on his shoulder a sack overflowing with unimaginably exquisite toys. How our children’s hearts stirred at such a vision. The verse read.
“Can Santa forget you?
Oh no, not a chance,
Your name’s on the list
A whole year in advance!
As it was a Saturday afternoon, Anne and I were left to the tender ministrations of the older brothers, while Dad attended to farm chores and Mam had gone on her regular monthly visit home to granny. One of those blasé brothers, no doubt in the flush of post=Santa “coolness”, decided to impress on us that the verse inside contained grave news indeed.“ Oh no not a chance” it said and the phrase was used to convince us that the news was indeed bad and totally at variance with the visual image outside – “No Santa this year, Oh no, not a chance”. An amused Dad played along with the dreadful prank for a while.
Santa won’t deliver !!
Our misery knew no bounds. Fat, shiny glistening velvet Santa who had promised so much was just not about to deliver! It was too much for our little ravaged souls, our dreams in tatters at our feet. The tears that threatened earlier spilled over as we wept for what might have been. The repentant Dad and errant boys sought to re-read the message but by now our faith was badly shaken. But then Mam arrived, hopping off her bicycle, soothing our childish whimpers even before taking in our troubled tale “But Mam, Mam, they’re saying there’s no chance that Santa will come. It’s written on the card. “Show me that card quickly boys, she said. What’s wrong with yetat all? The sheepish looks on the by-now thoroughly contrite males confirmed new words “This card is telling us that the little ones are right at the top of Santa’s list”! A blessed moment indeed
The resplendent card could once again be viewed with unqualified delight. The little verse that had so misled could now be memorised and used over and over, to caution all that we were “right up there” as far as Santa was concerned.
The dear fat santa card stayed with us for many a year, eventually to be woven into the fabric of happy rustic childhood memory, all too suddenly deeming so long ago…