Thursday, 6 November 2014

Stories to warm the cockles of your heart, Dora

The phone rang three times and then stopped. Dora put down the minute matinee jacket she was knitting and settled in her chair. It was her son David 's signal. When the phone rang again she picked it up straight away.

'Hello David, I'm all ready with my list.'
'Fire away Mum, but don't forget it's Christmas next week and you'll be with us . Patty's got enough stuff here to feed an army. '
Dora smiled and relaxed into her chair. The sound of her son's voice always made her feel so safe, so happy and so hopeful.When the doctor had told her all those years ago that she would never have children, Sid had held her hand tightly and told her matter- of-factly that they could adopt, give a little child a chance of a happy home.They filled in the paperwork and were delighted when the call came to say that there was a newborn baby for them. David giggled and gurgled his way through his infant years and gave them unending joy. He'd burst in from school, socks falling down and jacket discarded on the floor, bubbling over with fun and laughter. When he was eighteen the law said he could trace his birth parents. He'd sat down next to them and looked them in the eyes.
'You're my parents, the only ones I ever want.' They'd tried to hide their tears of relief.
When David married Patty they gained a daughter. When their granddaughter Abbie was born, Sid and Dora looked after her while David and Patty were at work. Abbie had the same charming nature as David and she brought joy to them all.
'Well I've made two puddings this year so extra wishes. Now I'd just like some of those mini mince pies and some Yorkshire tea and maybe a bottle of mulled wine to offer the carol singers.That's all . Thank you so much David.'
Once a week David ordered Dora's shopping for her online and it was delivered to her door. Of all the modern conveniences it was the one that reminded her of her childhood. There were no supermarkets then and most of her mother's shopping was done on the doorstep, buying from the milkman, the grocer and the various travelling salesman. Her mother would have loved all the other inventions that had made life so easy though, a washing machine with a drier, disposable nappies, a microwave. Dora's favourite was still the duvet. A flick of the wrist and the bed was made.
'Mum, are you ok? Is your heating working properly now?'
David 's voice broke into her thoughts.
'Yes it's fine now, thank you. How is Abbie?'
There was a silence and Dora heard her son take a deep breath.
'The doctor says it's post- natal depression. She's been going for counselling.'
Dora had to bite her tongue and stop herself from snorting. She had no time for counselling. The doctor had made her go after Sid passed on. Dora had found herself sitting in front of a complete stranger and in just half an hour the wall that had been protecting her since childhood had crumbled away. She'd broken down in heaving sobs as she re-lived the times when her violent father undid his heavy belt to beat her brother Tom. He'd run off to Australia, a ten pound Pom they called them then, as soon as he was twenty. Dora had stayed to protect her mother and had been saved by meeting Sid at a local dance. She'd never seen or heard from Tom again. Sid had tried to trace him but never succeeded. Dora had left the counselling session feeling humiliated and exposed. She couldn't think how it would help Abbie. Dora thought it must be the boyfriend Oscar's fault. She couldn't understand why he didn't marry her. She was such a lovely girl and now with the baby it didn't seem right. Dora didn't understand it.
'Mum, I'll be round at ten on Tuesday. Patty's made up your bed.'
Dora tried to put some reassurance into her voice.
'It will be lovely to have a baby in the house at Christmas. Abbie will be fine. I'll be bringing my magic Christmas puddings.'
Dora put the phone down and looked at her knitting. It was a tiny matinee jacket for the Premature Baby Unit. She must have made hundreds over the years. Never did she think they'd be needed for her own little great- grandson, Harry. When David had rung to tell her that Abbie had been rushed into hospital with complications, Dora had felt a fear greater than anything her father could have caused with his violent ways. Harry was born at seven months but thanks to the doctors and his own fighting spirit he would be home for Christmas. Abbie though seemed to be in a state of shock and just moped about in her dressing gown all day while her boyfriend Oscar took care of the baby.
Dora put her knitting down and went to the kitchen . She sprinkled some more brandy on her Christmas cake and changed the cloth on the puddings. Every year she wished hard while stirring her puddings, eyes tight shut and gripping the wooden spoon. Sometimes they came true and sometimes they didn't.
As a child when she made the puddings with her mother they wished together, but it didn't improve  her father's temper or stop her brother leaving. Later she'd wished for a loving husband and found Sid, then for a baby and along came her beloved David. Last year she'd wished that Sid would get better but he'd left her in the Spring and this would be her first Christmas without him for fifty- five years. This year her wishes would be all for Abbie and Harry. Dora had bought some new silver charms and had wished hard.


Dora turned to Oscar who was sitting on her right and held out her cracker to him
'Don't pull too hard Oscar, I'll fall off the chair'.
Oscar grinned and tugged hard so there was a loud snap.He put on the paper hat and read out his joke.
'Where do Snowmen go to dance? To a snow ball.'
Everybody groaned. Dora was really warming to Oscar. She had watched as he 'd held the bottle and then rocked  Harry off to sleep. Mostly though she'd noticed how he looked at Abbie. She'd seen that look on a man's face before and it still made a warm glow steal over her heart. Sid had looked at her like that at the village dance and then had never really stopped. David was looking like that at Patty now as he raised his glass to her. She saw Oscar wink at Abbie and the warmth and love in her eyes as she looked back at him. Abbie was more like her old cheerful self. The counseller had managed to reassure her and give her the confidence she needed to look after Harry, perhaps there was something in counselling after all.
David stood up.
' I'm going to get Mum's marvellous pudding now ! Be prepared for the magic show everyone!'
They all cheered as David brought in the pudding, glistening with sugar and with beautiful blue and gold flames leaping over it. Patty served it with cream and brandy butter. Dora watched as everyone searched for their lucky charms. There was a squeal of excitement as Abbie found the little wedding ring charm and then she reddened and looked shyly at Oscar. Dora saw how the others quietly moved their charms about as realisation dawned. There was silence broken only by the snuffles from the cot. Oscar stood up. He moved towards Abbie and took the  charm ring ,then he dropped dramatically to one knee.
'Well as you are the one that got the wedding charm it must be a sign. You are the only one for me Abbie and well the thing is what I want to say is
 Abbie will you marry me?'
Then they were all crying and laughing and hugging at once as Abbie threw her arms round  Oscar.
'Oh yes !  Yes Oscar!Yes please !'
Harry woke up then and Oscar picked him up.
'Hey little fellow, an awful lot has been happening while you've been having your nap. Daddy's wearing a funny hat and Mummy's going to be my wife .'

Patty brought in the coffee tray . She handed round the coffee and then sat close to David. She kissed him tenderly.
'Merry Christmas Grandpa, what a wonderful Christmas this is turning out to be.'

Dora looked round at her family bathed in the glow of the lights from the tree. Her son and his wife, her granddaughter and Oscar and her little great grandson . How much she loved them. She knew Sid would be very happy.

It was only a lot later as they were all ready for bed that Abbie asked everyone
'Well what lucky charms did you all get?'
There was a lot of yawning and mumbling as they all said goodnight looking at each other with mischievous grins.
Dora looked at the photo of Sid as she turned off the light.
'Yes I know I'm an old fashioned fogey, but it worked for us didn't it my love? It seems he was going to ask her anyway, I just speeded things up. You were my hero Sid.
Merry Christmas '.
Then she blew him a kiss and carefully tucked the other four little silver charm wedding rings in her draw.. 

Christmas pudding

Wish upon a star

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