Christmas with the Smiths

By Lynn Elder – A short story

A feel good song.

She moved a hairbrush through her little one’s tangled strands of long auburn hair. Strains of the Wiggles could be heard from the television in the adjoining room as they jumped about singing “Hot Potato.” It reminded Sarah of the holiday concert she took her twins Annabel and Chloe to last Christmas. There was a red, a blue, a purple and a yellow Wiggle. Times had changed, though, with the arrival of a female Wiggle who donned the yellow skivvy.

The Smith family had survived another Christmas yesterday with the extended family present. Every year there was trepidation as to what the day would bring. Peace and joy to the world were not the first words to spring to mind. Her in-laws were not essentially bad people, but Sarah struggled to find anything in common with Fred and Myrtle. They held extreme conservative political views that did not align with their environmentally minded daughter-in-law.

Buying Christmas presents was not an easy task either, and Sarah’s husband Brett was happy to offload the task to her. It was not something she relished, because in previous years, the response to her gift selections was lukewarm, to say the least.

Sarah braved the crowded shopping centre a week earlier as the dutiful wife she was, searching for appropriate gifts. One positive was the elegant gift wrapping that the shops provided, sparing her from another job in an otherwise busy time of year.

Christmas Day arrived with the in-laws on the front step. As was the custom, the grandchildren insisted that they open their presents before the big, cooked lunch. Sarah thought to herself, let us get this part of the day done with. Brett welcomed his parents with big hugs while the twins tugged at his jumper, urging him to hurry up. Soon they were all settled into the sofas facing the brightly decorated pine tree surrounded by presents. The girls squealed with delight on opening their gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. They were still young enough to enjoy playing dress-ups with their Barbie dolls. Then it was like a game of pass the parcel, as the various gifts were handed around.

Fred ripped the paper as he opened his present, which revealed a book about vintage trains. Sarah held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Thankfully, he was gracious enough to say he had almost bought a copy for himself recently. One down. One more to go. The sausage-shaped present was in the hands of Myrtle now. She was more delicate in undoing the pretty wrapping paper and the curly ribbon. A long skinny item fell onto her lap being a posh-looking umbrella. Myrtle exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely but useful present. Living in Melbourne, you never know when it may rain.” She opened it to display the impressionist art of Renoir. Arty but practical, Sarah thought to herself. The reaction was better than hoped for. The gift-giving ritual was now completed. Lunch was still an hour away, so the adults stood up and stretched as the twins played with their new toys.

Fred surprised Sarah when he picked up the blue guitar leaning against the wall in the living room. Brett had bought it for her last Christmas. Unfortunately, looking after two lively twin daughters and running a business from home, learning to play the guitar was not a priority. Chloe and Annabel were distracted enough to urge Grandpa to play a tune. Sarah imagined him playing something akin to a call to arms for fellow comrades. She did not even know he could play a musical instrument. Imagine her astonishment when the girls’ favourite Wiggles’ tune, “Hot Potato”, was played. Before anyone could protest, all the adults were up and dancing with the twins. Sarah and Brett exchanged a hug and a kiss, while her husband, shouted over the music, “Best Christmas yet!”

12 Days of Christmas writing prompt: Using the following random words, write a Christmas, summer, or holiday themed story. Potato, Guitar, Book, Umbrella, Hair brush

Prompt provided by author Melissa Gijsbers.

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