When What To My Wondering Eyes Should Appear?


You think Christmas is only for children? That’s what old Jim Hadfield thought too and as he was to discover, it is simply a matter of never losing sight of what Christmas intrinsically means and what magic exists still, in those remote places holed-up between fantasy and reality, hope and disillusionment.Jim dreamed – just like everyone else. He dreamed of bygone days when he would leap from his bed Christmas mornings, a flushed and excited eight-year-old, taking the stairs two at a time on his descent to the lounge-room. Pushing wide the door respectfully, a trait often exhibited by only children, you could have lit up a thousand cities from the glow on the youngster’s face as he gazed in awe at the presents piled up around the tree.Jim’s parents had never been what you might call well-heeled, yet they had ensured that at whatever cost, their little boy would remember the happiest of childhoods, most especially during the Yuletide season. Their efforts had paid off handsomely.Marrying in his mid-twenties “for better or for worse”, it had proven most definitely the less desirable of those two options. Cathy fundamentally was a bitch. He remembered back, not long before his mother’s death in fact, how she had more or less laid that particular fact out for him. His father had died years earlier and had been spared the worry of his son’s great unhappiness.All Jim had ever done was to love his wife unconditionally and in doing so, managed somehow to overlook her selfishness, emotional detachment, and cruel insensitivity. For thirty-four years Cathy drove, while he sat out life in the back-seat!Bereft of meaning, the marriage had produced two daughters equally bereft of paternal interest and consideration. Perhaps genetically influenced, both girls from their teenage years onwards found a plethora of reasons not to be home, staying either with girlfriends or maternal relatives. Of little concern to Cathy, it simply afforded her more time to spend in front of the television.The few times Jim tried to talk to either girl about their school-work, their futures, even the most mundane of topics…it was obvious, they had little need for his input into their lives…that having ended one might conclude, with Cathy’s abrupt announcement of her subsequent pregnancies.After a while, he left them to their own intractable devices. Both girls left home soon after completing school and their finding local employment. He saw them perhaps once a fortnight, usually when they came to visit their mother.Jim would console himself some nights recalling the Christmases when they were yet children and the pleasure he had gotten in recreating for them what still stood-out so vividly from his own past. How had everything gone so wrong? he mused. All he had ever wanted was to love…and be loved!Many years passed. Cathy had died of kidney disease, his daughters had married and moved away to the north of England. A postcard from Marion in the late eighties had put him on notice that he was now officially a grandfather. bahis siteleri He had seen the lad but half a dozen times since, the last being when his daughter called in at the local hospital briefly following his triple-bypass.He was in his seventy-fourth year now and living alone in a shabby semi in Portsmouth, the area’s solitude matching his own bleak and wind-swept life. Still, he took pleasure in wrapping-up during the wintry months and spending hours on the seafront, looking out at the grey Atlantic, perhaps sensing in the uncompromising and harsh environment, a kinship somehow with his own unstinting tidal existence.The one thing that adverse circumstance had failed miserably in trying to dull or nullify in Jim’s life however, was December the 25th. Each year he would decorate the little tree using the same tinsel and colored balls he had so religiously protected and stored away following his parental loss. Within the limitations of his meager savings, he would even buy himself a few presents to be religiously wrapped and placed beneath the tree on Christmas Eve.To the outside world that year, it was an elderly, and rather melancholy-looking gentleman, that took his time wandering around the stores, picking up and studying the latest toys, deriving tactile pleasure from simply holding the many items that represented those seasonal childhood yearnings. Occasionally he would smile as he held aloft a doll or a farm animal.Mothers would glance at him warily and shepherd their youngsters into the adjoining aisle. They could not know that inside that tattered old coat and scarf, an eight-year-old child looked out at his beloved world of remembrances.In Brackensfield’s, one of the largest Department stores on the east-side, the newly installed Santa was entertaining a long line of expectant children as their mothers jostled for the dubious privilege of parting with six pounds 75p in exchange for an instant photo of their loved ones posed on the man in red’s knee.No-one noticed the lonely old figure standing alongside the racks of games nearby, watching the awe-struck children as they progressed excitedly along the queue. The moment they had to relinquish their mom’s hand and take that last step up to that lofty perch. Then the encouragement to smile for the camera and finally those few words with Santa himself. Unseen also, the occasional yet involuntary tear trickling down the man’s cheeks.He stayed until the last child had scampered back to his mother and the helpers were hanging up the sign which read: “Santa has gone to feed his reindeer and will be back at 6 p.m.”For a moment, he was lost in his own thoughts.”It means a lot to you doesn’t it?”The words jolted him upright. Kindly eyes considerably older than his own even, looked down at him.”I was just remembering,” he half-stammered and feeling not a little embarrassed.The eyes smiled. “Ah, the memory of happier times perhaps?” Then after the briefest of pauses, “And what then would you wish for yourself on this cold Christmas canlı bahis siteleri Eve?” came the question from deep beneath the bushy beard.”That’s easy, ” Jim responded. “I’d wish that for just a few hours even, I could spend time with a young lady who might love me for simply myself. Someone I wished I could have met when I was young and had a future.”The hand caressed the white moustache. “All of us have a future, my friend. It’s just a matter of recognizing when it actually started! We must enjoy the opportunities that come along and for some of us,” he looked at Jim almost sympathetically, “such times may be of regrettably brief duration.”Smiling now, he took Jim’s hand. “Well now, a very merry Christmas to you, Sir. I must be going. Those reindeer of mine are eating me out of house and home.”Jim watched as the tall figure disappeared around the sporting aisle and decided to head home. Although not snowing, it was icy cold outside and he was looking forward to the familiarity of the snug confines of his little home. Perhaps he would indulge himself with a small bottle of brandy, after all, Christmas was but once a year.Entering the small latched gate that opened upon the narrow crazy-paving pathway that led to his front door, he felt upon his forehead first one, then another touch of crystalized cold.He looked up. The weather bureau had been right for once. For only the eleventh time since the turn of the previous century, a genuine white Christmas had been predicted for the south of England. He watched for a few moments, the sporadic flakes as they eddied silently downwards, not yet in a sufficient flurry to lay the groundwork for their heavier relatives.The front door closed behind him, sealing off once more his own little eco-system from the withering elements. Everything was as he had left it. The tree over by the small French doors, those ancient but so well-loved glass balls reflecting the small lights as they winked on and off – tiny beacons of cheer in a room of such gentility and misplaced affection.Beneath the lower branches upon the threadbare carpet, four neatly-wrapped presents lay clustered there. So sad their message of loneliness, yet so inspiring a tradition of hope and good-will. Jim knelt down and re-arranged them as he liked to do occasionally.He had long since put out of his mind what they contained and was rather looking forward to the morning’s discoveries. He allowed his fingers contact with some of the long strands of tinsel. It took no effort on his part to recall his mother kneeling there beside him, showing an eager son how to hang them properly. Closing his eyes, it was her fingertips he now felt, her breath that perceptibly disturbed the symmetry of those lower branches.The plummeting outside temperature was more than enough reason to light the fire in the open hearth that he had earlier prepared. He knelt there watching as the embryonic flames consumed the kindling, giving them sustenance to take-on the challenges of the thicker wood above.Within canlı bahis ten minutes the hearth was ablaze with pyrotechnic good cheer and Jim began to set strategically in place layers of coal that would keep the entire house warm during the night. There is something intrinsically magnetic about an open fire. A lifetime’s thoughts and recollections can pass in an instant watching those glowing embers, the small pockets of gas igniting within the lumps of coal and the curious behavior of those tiny flame-creatures as they scurry along the base of the conflagrated logs.Jim walked over to the small but serviceable kitchenette and cooked himself a couple of pork sausages with potatoes and mixed vegetables and with the small room at its optimum temperature now, he watched on television, as he had done every successive Christmas for as far back as he could remember – Miracle on 34th Street. Some years it was A Christmas Carol, but always one or the other.The brandy saw admirably well, to his transition from well-fed comfort to yawning tiredness. The last thing he did was to lay out a final layer of coal before drawing the fireguard across in front of the hearth.He was aware of the old clock in the lounge-room striking, having listened to its comforting message of hourly regularity since he was a small child. Subconsciously he realized it was midnight. It was the other sound however that had him struggling between wakefulness and confused unreality.Its repetition brought him fully awake. Someone at the front door?…his front door? It was only the lightest of knocks.It would have been hard to tell what shocked him more. The inbound blast of freezing air with not a few flurries of heavy snow, or the young girl standing on his doorstep shivering there, in just a thin dress.”Could I come in for a few moments please, I’m lost,” was all she was able to mutter.The girl was in the last stages of hypothermia to judge by her color and aggravated shaking. Flakes of snow covered her shoulders and long brown hair. He did not fail to notice how pretty she was either and the likelihood that she was surely no more than eighteen or nineteen. He pulled her gently inside and closed the door.”Good heavens, child,” he said, propelling her gently towards the fireplace. “What on earth are you doing walking around the streets at this time of night…and with no warm clothes?””I…I don’t remember,” she said, crouching down near the hearth and holding her freezing arms out to the resuscitating warmth. “Something happened, and I had to leave…that’s all I recall. I don’t even know this place!”Jim selected a few small logs from the pile nearby and tossed them on the fire ahead of some more coal to bring up the level of flame.”Are you hungry, missy?” he asked. The girl looked up at him and nodded shyly.”Well you just stay there, love – get yourself nice and warm and I’ll fetch you something to eat,” he said to her.As he pottered about in his little kitchen alcove tossing some bacon and eggs into a frying pan, and a couple of pieces of bread into the toaster, he looked back at the girl. Obviously benefiting greatly from the warmth of the fire, she looked back at him once or twice, smiling and quite obviously at ease in his presence.

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