There was just one small cardboard box left on the floor, scuffed and well worn. Jack knelt in front of it and slowly began to untie the string holding it together. Carefully he removed the lid putting it to one side. He knew what was hidden within, it came as no surprise, but he liked this moment all the same. He was helping to decorate the Christmas tree and this was the last, and for Jack, the best and most important part of all. The smell of the freshly cut tree standing on the floor in front of the window filled the air. The coloured lights were draped through the branches, the swathes of tinsel hung, the fairy was sitting securely at the top and the globes and decorations all tied on, all that is except for one.
Jack gazed lovingly down at the wooden Father Christmas lying there snugly cushioned on his bed of cotton wool and gently picked him up. A faded red coat, scuffed black boots, a worn smile and a stare without much of a twinkle left in the faded blue eyes looked back at him. This was the final decoration to be placed upon the tree, Grandpa’s old Father Christmas. Jack knew the story well. He had sat on his Grandpa’s knee in front of a roaring fire with the chill winter winds tapping on the windows and listened to the tale, his eyes wide moving between Grandpa and the wooden figure of Father Christmas on the tree.
Jack heard the words of the tale once again. Christmas Eve and Grandpa and his young sister were hanging their stockings near the ticking clock on the mantelpiece over the fireplace. A carrot and small glass of port carefully carried on a small tray from the kitchen and positioned in the hearth. How they had both scuttled up the stairs and jumped into bed waiting for Mum and Dad to tuck them in and wish them goodnight, thinking all the while of the morning ahead and willing themselves to fall asleep quickly. The next morning waking early and tip toeing downstairs, peeking into the front room and finding the glass of port empty and the carrot gone and their Christmas stockings lying either side of the fireplace and filled with small presents and sweets, an orange and a shiny new penny piece.
One year a brightly painted Father Christmas with a bright red coat, black boots and a twinkle in his eye had smiled out at Grandpa from the top of the stocking. A short length of string hung from the middle of his back and when pulled his arms and legs had shot out, up and down, up and down. Grandpa had eventually tied him to the Christmas tree and every year thereafter the little wooden man was hung in the tree to see them enjoy Christmas.
Jack felt a lump in his throat for this year Grandpa was not here to tell the story or to help. “Happy Christmas, Grandpa,” he whispered as he tied the decoration to the tree, “I know you’re watching.”