~ DAY 8: In The Bleak Midwinter ~

~ A Christmas Story ~

Tradition.

Everyone has a Christmas tradition. They remember those quirks, from childhood that carries long into adulthood and beyond. Don’t open presents till after lunch or wait until we all watch a movie together. Fall asleep on the sofa at two in the afternoon and play a terrible boardgame.

It’s… little, mundane things that make the day memorable.

Ours started early on Christmas morning. I was ten years old, when we first started this tradition. Myself, my older brother Jack and little sister Sophie, would trudge across the farm in silence, our boots crunching on the snow. We’d arrive at the oak tree… and stay for about fifteen minutes.

Then we’d return home. To the farm. And carry on with our Christmas as normal.

Normal. What I mean by that is… we don’t talk about her.

The girl buried underneath the oak tree.

Our sister.

It was our tradition. Our thing.

Then it all changed.


Hi Jack,

Merry Christmas! Is it snowing in London? It’s really coming down, thick and fast over here. Sophie says hi. And Mum. Dad has to go and milk a cow.

When are you coming back for Christmas?

Love,

Tom.


Hi Tom,

I won’t be coming home for Christmas. Give my love to Soph and Mum. Dad too. No, it’s not snowing in London, too much heat from the traffic.

Love

Jack.

P.S. I miss the snow. Visit the oak tree for me okay?


Hi Jack,

This is the second Christmas you’ve missed and I haven’t seen you at all! Mum isn’t happy, neither am I. It’s like you don’t care.

Tom.


Hi Tom,

Of course I care.

Love,

Jack.


Hi Sophie,

How’s New York? Please say you’re coming home for Christmas, Dad’s not well. I can’t run this farm by myself.

Love,

Tom


Hi Tom,

New York in Christmas is so magical! Wish you were here! Sorry Tommy, can’t make the flight. Snow is too bad. Send dad my love and Mum. And of course… when you go to the oak tree.

Love,

Sophie.


Hi Jack and Sophie,

Dad passed away last night. You coming for the funeral? It’s two days before Christmas. Stay here and we can go to the oak tree on Christmas Day. Let me know.

Love,

Tom


Hi Tom,

Oh my God, is Mum okay? Are you okay? I’ll try and get a flight out.

Love,

Sophie


Hi Tom,

Give Mum my love. You too mate. I can’t make the funeral, got too much work on. Working on Christmas Day too.

Love,

Jack


Hi Tom,

Ugh, there are no more flights! Can’t make it till New Year.

Sophie


Hi Sophie,

I just checked, there are flights.

Tom


Sophie,

You ignoring me now? Real mature.

Tom

Tom,


Stop it, I need to grieve in private.

Sophie


Dear Jack and Sophie,

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a good Christmas. However, I have to tell you that Mum is very ill. This could very well be her last Christmas.

Don’t you dare think of an excuse. Mum doesn’t bother to read your cards anymore and I don’t blame her. Do you have any idea, the pain you’re causing?

I want you both to come this year. Sophie if you make an excuse about a flight delay, I will personally row over to New York and row you back. Take a bloody boat if you must, but you will be spending Christmas here. We’re going to visit the oak tree and we’re going to carry on. If you don’t come… I’ll never speak to you again.

You would’ve lost two siblings.

I’m not responding to emails. I’ll either see you on Christmas Eve, or never again.

Love,

Tom.


I should’ve sent that message a long time ago. Christmas Eve, two cars pulled into the driveway simultaneously.

Christmas morning, three siblings trudged across the fresh snow. Back under the oak tree again, in the bleak midwinter.

© By Christina Alagaratnam

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