Susie never forgot the Christmas Eve when she was three and couldn’t sleep. Peeking over the bannister, she saw a plump man hiding something large and flat. The next day, under the tree was a large flat present for her and it was a big blackboard easel.
‘I saw Father Christmas put it in the cupboard under the stairs!’ said Susie. There was no doubt in her mind after that.
Sometimes Christmas presents were good, like the easel, and sometimes they were all right, like books and sometimes they were boring, like dresses, jumpers and dolls. When she was four, Susie’s mother told her that she now she could write, a good way to tell Father Christmas what you wanted was to put a letter up the chimney.
Luckily Susie had a good fireplace. She watched Mummy light the coals and when the flames were high, she popped her letter in and watched it fly up the chimney and off to the North Pole.
The only thing was, that it must have got lost on the way, because the one thing she wanted more than anything was a train set and Christmas Day came and Father Christmas left lovely presents but none of them was a train set.
In Spring, Susie and her family moved to another town. Now they had central heating so there was no chimney to send a note up. For two years Susie’s presents were nice, but never quite what she really really wanted. Then, one rainy Autumn when Susie was seven they moved a long way. The new house was rather dark and a tiny bit scary.
There were fireplaces in each room but every single one had been bricked up. The only fire was a rayburn in the sitting room, a kind of sealed metal box where you could see the coals trapped and burning behind glowing glass. Susie didn’t bother telling her little sister about putting notes up the chimney because Mum wouldn’t let them touch it.
One breakfast time in late December, Susie heard a horrible scrabbling, flapping sound behind the part of wall in the dining room which had once been a fireplace.
‘A bird’s fallen down the chimney.’ said Dad ‘It’ll die if we don’t get it out.’
Susie and her little sister watched anxiously until eventually Dad pulled out enough bricks so they could see into the dark hollow which had once been a hearth.
There was a lot of dust. Susie’s little sister held her hand tight as the scrabbling started again, louder now that the space was open. Suddenly a robin hopped out, something in his beak. He flew up to Susie, dropped a sooty piece of paper on her outstretched hand and then flew to sit chirping by the window until Susie’s Mum opened it for him to fly out.
Susie opened the piece of paper.
‘Look Mum!’ she exclaimed, ‘It’s that note I put up the chimney for Father Christmas when I was four!’
‘It can’t be!’ said her Mum coming to look, ‘that house is two hundred miles away!’
But it really was the letter she had written three years before.
‘Tell you what’ Mum suggested, ‘this time why don’t we just pop it in the post to the North Pole. It might be safer.’
So they did. And that Christmas, under the tree was a long thin package for Susie and inside was a train set at last.
After lunch while Dad was helping set up the train set on the dining table, Susie looked out of the window into the front garden.
There was the robin, hopping about on the front wall and chirping away. Then he stopped to look at her. And Susie could have sworn he gave her a little wink.
Words and photograph copyright 2017 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission