Chapter four

Christmas is coming soon. I can hear my sisters talking all about it in the kitchen. I can’t really remember last Christmas but Catherine said I was scared of Santa Claus and cried when we had our photo taken. I don’t remember that at all but she showed me the photo in the lounge room, and there I was on Santa’s lap crying my eyes out. That’s not going to happen this year because I’m a big girl now.
“What do you want for Christmas Molly? Catherine asked. There was a tea towel over her shoulder and she was stacking dishes away.
“I want to be a princess” I reply.
“Molly, you can’t ask to be a princess for Christmas” Samantha said, her hands made soap bubbles float in the air; I watched them drifting until they burst. “You get presents for Christmas, like on your birthday.”
“Even better than that” said Catherine, “Santa brings you presents in the middle of the night and leaves them at the foot of your bed”.
“Christmas is so exciting” Jasmine added with a big grin. She is waving her arms around with a pink tea towel and bouncing up and down on her heels. “I can’t wait for all those lollys and yummy things to eat on Christmas day”.
“I can’t wait either” I join in, clapping my hands together and starting to jump up and down with excitement as well.
Later that day we went Christmas shopping. The girls were on holidays from school now and Mum made us all get dressed up in our best clothes. I am wearing a pretty pink dress with ribbons in my hair and white sandals. It makes me feel like something special is about to happen as I twirl around like a ballerina and watch the skirt of my dress float up.
When we get down town, Stephen holds my hand as we walk around the shops in the main street; shaded by the wide shop awnings and wooden verandahs that hang over the footpath to make it nice and cool in the summer heat. The main street is wide and the shops on the other side seem so far away. Most of the shop windows are filled with Christmas decorations and the street is busy with cars driving up and down as they look for somewhere to park. Every now and then a noisy truck goes past and fills the air with dirty smoke that makes me cough.
There are so many people walking around that I feel like I am going to get swallowed up by giants; all I can see are legs. I watch all the different shoes walking around and wonder what sorts of people are at the top of them. A pair of old ladies shoes walk past me that are black and stiff and in a hurry; a group of white tennis shoes with long girls’ legs and little white socks go the other way with giggling voices. Some old brown boots with mud still clinging to them step aside as we walk along. We stop and I hear a deep voice say ‘good morning Mrs. White’ and my mother’s voice talking about the weather and Christmas and some other things until I see some pretty pink shoes that go ‘click click click’. I wonder what it would be like to walk in pretty shoes with such high heels so I practice standing on my tippy toes until my feet start to get sore. Across the street I can see somebody wearing sandals just like mine. A girl with brown hair is walking with her mother and she waves when she sees I am watching her. I quickly look away and hide behind Mum’s legs. When I look back the girl is gone.
I tap my feet as we starting walking again. My sandals make a nice loud sound on the footpath. I try skipping and that makes an even better sound with a nice rhythm. Sometimes we stop and the girls hold skirts up against their waists before putting them back and moving on. Sometimes I have to stand there for ages while Mum and the girls flick through every blouse on a rack. That is when my legs begin to really ache. I try to imitate the girls and hold a dress out to feel the soft material before putting it back and flicking my hair over my shoulder. I get bored with that pretty soon and start singing songs in my head. I am standing in front of a shop window and watching my reflection pulling funny faces. Whenever a pram goes by I try and have a look inside to see the baby. I wonder what it would be like to have a younger brother or sister to play with. I would try and be really nice to them all the time like Stephen is to me. Sometimes the babies look back at me and smile because they know what I am thinking.
We walk on and on all morning until my legs get so tired I can hardly stand and my feet are hurting from the sandals. It is getting hot as well, even though we are still on the shady side of the street.
“I want to sit down” I whine.
“Hush Molly” said Mum, “We’ll stop for some morning tea soon, just hang on for a bit longer”.
“But I want to sit down now” I start to sniffle.
“Don’t worry Molly, I’ll give you a piggy back ride” said Stephen, crouching down so I can climb on his back. Suddenly I am one of the giants and I wonder where Jack and his beanstalk are.
As we continue walking on I can hear Christmas carols coming out of the shops. “Jingle bells, jingle bells” I start singing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells” over and over again as I kick my legs.
“The next bit is ‘jingle bells all the way’” said Stephen.
“Jingle bells all the way, Jingle bells all the way” I sing.
Eventually we stop walking and sit down in a café that is nice and cool. Mum bought me a chocolate milk shake and a donut and I sit there watching the bubbles in my drink and listening to the girls talking about shopping for shoes. This doesn’t seem like a very fun part of Christmas to me at all, but we are going to see Santa Claus soon so that is exciting.
We line up behind all these other people and wait to see Santa. Through the crowd I can see a little bit of red suit and his white beard and I can hardly stand still.
Stephen is still holding my hand and it is finally my turn. But suddenly I don’t want to do it. He looks so big and red and scary that I start to cry. “Come on” said Stephen, “you’ll be right Molly”. I try to stop crying and be brave but I can’t help it.
Mum picked me up and handed me to Santa. Suddenly I am on his lap with a big white glove around my waist. “So what do you want for Christmas, little girl?” he asks in a big booming voice. I can’t answer or think of anything to say, my voice has disappeared. I just want to get away from Santa and back to Mum where it is safe.
“She’s just a little shy, Santa” said Mum.
“Ho ho ho” he replied, “why not have a lolly from my sack then”. I timidly reach into the bag and pull out a red lollipop.
“You should say ‘thankyou’, Molly” said Mum.
“Thankyou” I say in the quietest voice ever. I don’t think Santa could hear. Then I am off his lap and back in Mum’s arms and we are walking away.
“Mum!” I said, “I forgot to tell Santa I want to be a princess!”

When Christmas Eve came I could hardly get to sleep. Mum sent me to bed early but I just lay there trying to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh on the roof. Every now and then I would sneak out to the lounge room to see if Santa had been yet. “Molly! Get back in bed!” Mum would yell at me.
But being in bed didn’t help. I felt like running around or jumping up and down before I burst. How could anyone sleep when they knew Santa was meant to be coming? I thought it was sounding quieter in the lounge room so I tried to sneak out again. As soon as my feet touched the floor Mum was in the doorway. “Molly, are you still awake? You need to go to sleep sweetheart.”
“I can’t sleep Mum, I’ve tried really hard but I just can’t”.
“All right then, why don’t you come out and lay on the lounge for a bit” said Mum.
I hopped out of bed with my pillow and snuggled up on the lounge next to Mum, listening to the television. I don’t know what was on, just some boring grownups movie with a man in a grey coast walking in the rain. Every now and then he would start singing something about silver bells.
The next thing I knew I was lying in bed and could see the first rays of morning sun light coming through the window. I lay there for a moment just staring out the window, trying to remember something important, when suddenly I looked at the end of my bed and saw a pillow case full of presents. I jumped up and quickly opened my Santa sack to see what was inside. First there was a book; I love books but I’ll look at that later. I reach in again and pull out a doll in a pretty dress. I bend her legs at the waist and sit her down next to the book. Next is something large and soft, as I pull out a princess dress and squeal in delight. “Santa did make me a princess!” I yelled excitedly. Last thing in the sack is a princess crown which I quickly put on my head and bounce up and down on the bed with delight.
I jump out of bed to see if anyone else is up yet, but the house is still and quiet so I go back to my bedroom to sit on my bed and look at the book, pretending to read a story to my new doll. “Once there was a princess” I said, “She was the prettiest girl in the whole kingdom with beautiful eyes, but a nasty witch had locked her in a tower”.
Eventually everyone else woke up and the house was soon filled with Christmas carols coming from the stereo and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on the barbecue. I went and sat in the lounge room and looked at the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree, trying to guess which ones are mine and what special surprises are waiting for me inside the colourful wrapping paper that rustles excitingly when I touch them.
While everyone else was having breakfast in the kitchen, I played with my new doll under the Christmas tree. There was a scent of pine needles in the air and when I touched the tree the needles were spiky and a little bit sticky. They made my fingers smell. I showed my doll the sparkly tinsel and pretty fairies and other decorations on the tree while the stereo sang about having a white Christmas.
I lay down on the floor and closed my eyes as I wondered what a white Christmas would look like. There would be a castle covered in snow, high on a mountaintop. I am a tiny thing wearing my princess dress, standing at the bottom of the biggest Christmas tree in the world. My curly red hair is poking out from under my princess tiara as the lights on the Christmas tree sparkle in my eyes and make the decorations shimmer. There are angels and fairies playing amongst the green, red and golden tinsel, laughing and squealing like young children and I want to climb up there so that I can play with them. There are so many presents under the tree blocking my view and I start to climb on top so I can see further and reach the fairy children. I am holding my new doll tightly in my arms. “Molly” she calls to me. “Molly, wake up. It’s time for Christmas.”

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