I must confess that I thought Santa ran some sort of franchise when I was six. Not only did he manage Christmas from the seven-hundred-and-thirty-five pages of the Kays catalogue, but he also ran the Christmas hamper scheme. Santa, being a busy man and all, sometimes needs a wee heads up. So, when Mum told us that our Christmas hamper came from Santa via one of his many helpers, a perfect opportunity was presented to me. I remember the hamper arriving that very Christmas.
Mum is upstairs having a lie down ‘cause her back is still sore from putting the tree up last week. Me and Jimmy – that’s my wee brother, are sitting on the wee couch and I have the Kays catalogue on my knee. It slides off my legs sometimes ‘cause I’m wearing slippy yellow tights. I turn the pages right to the back where all the good stuff is, like the toys. I’m in charge of the catalogue ‘cause I’m the biggest, Jimmy helps me look but he’s too wee to touch. The catalogue smells like nail varnish and it is shiny and full of hundreds and millions of pages; that’s why it’s so huge. Santa’s elves must work really hard to make all this stuff. I lick my finger and touch the top of the page, it sticks like glue and I can turn it over easy. It makes Jimmy laugh ‘cause he thinks I’m magic. Somebody is knocking at the front door and I don’t know what to do. I know that we’re not to answer the door in case it’s Joe the Provie man looking for money, and I’m too wee to say that Mum’s not in. I shut the catalogue and slide it onto the couch.
'Mum, Mummy, Mum, door,' Jimmy is shouting.
'Shhhhhhh,’ I put my finger to my lips, ‘hide behind the couch.’
Jimmy is a good boy and goes behind the couch ‘cause that’s what we always do, but I can see him peeping. Lassie is on the telly and there isnae any sound on but I’m scared in case it is Joe ‘cause he sometime looks in the window. I turn off the big button and hide. Mum doesn’t like Joe, but I do ‘cause he’s smiley and funny like my Dad. He has white hair but he isn’t old like Papa. He always wears a shiny red tie and a pen clipped onto his shirt pocket. It’s good fun though, crouching down on the carpet with our hands over our mouths trying not to laugh. Mum usually crouches down beside us so that she can shush us but it makes us laugh like anything. Anyway, Mum is too big to be invisible.
Inside the house everything is as quiet as anything but I can still hear the knock, knock, knock, and I can hear the ceiling creaking, so Mum must have got up.
‘Answer the door Kirsten; it’s one of Santa’s helpers.’
I’m off the floor and bombing it to the door before the knocking stops. I stand on the bottom stair and turn the handle. There’s a wee fat man with puffy red cheeks wearing a Santa hat.
‘Parcel for Mrs Clark.’ He’s holding a ma-hoosive brown box and looking behind me for something.
‘I’m coming, I’m coming.’ Mum’s in her pink nighty even though it’s still day-time. There’s a fag in her mouth with a long bendy bit of ash on it; it’s ready to fall off on the stair. She’s puffing and huffing and clinging to the bannister while she wobbles down towards us.
‘You couldnae take it in son, my back is killing me.’
Santa’s elf is in our house! I hope he likes the decorations. I pop my head outside and check for Joe’s white van but it’s not there so I shut the door. In the living room, Mum writes her name on a wee notebook that’s magic ‘cause of the blue paper that’s underneath it – it makes her name write twice.
‘Nice tree,’ he says and pats Jimmy on the head and then squeezes my cheek. ‘Merry Christmas, I hope Santa’s good to you.’
The elf walks to the front door and my belly is all funny because of the hamper, but also ‘cause I have ripped a picture out of page six-hundred-and-thirty-one of the catalogue without Mum noticing. I follow him out to the big hedge and tug on his jumper sleeve.
‘Can you please give this to Santa, just in case?’
He opens the folded piece of shiny paper and smiles.
‘Sure thing hen, mind and be a good girl then.’
I watch him get into his car. He’s looking at the picture of the Patosa doll that I picked especially, and he’s laughing. It must be because I sneaked it to him.