Tag Archives: Christmas

The Inklings: Chapter 41

To read the story from the beginning go here.

In Syafika’s family the tradition for Christmas lunch was to have an early savory course, then open Christmas presents and then have dessert. Syafika liked that very much because the break between courses meant she could eat so much more – she didn’t have to save room for dessert. Syafika giggled to herself when she realized that now that Vincent wasn’t coming she wouldn’t have to worry about what he thought if she ate a lot.

When it was time to move to the lounge room to open presents Syafika was so blissfully full of perfectly roasted potatoes that she no longer cared what Vincent did or what her parents thought about her and Vincent. She didn’t even care when Ousman took the place next to her on the sofa.

Rose and Binta picked up presents from under the Christmas tree, read the labels and handed them to the right people. Everyone watched patiently and waited until all the gifts had been handed out before opening theirs.

When Rose or Binta found a present labelled “Amanda” or “Vincent” they put them aside without saying anything. Amanda was still in her room and unsurprisingly had refused to come out of her room for Christmas.

Syafika found that in her pile of presents was one from Amanda. It was a hair brush, which surprised Syafika because she needed one – hers had gone missing and she had been borrowing Rose’s hair brush for the last week.

Syafika looked at Ousman, who was being very quiet and noticed that he was delicately opening an envelope with a gold ribbon around it. Ousman took out a piece of paper and unfolded it. Syafika looked over Ousman’s shoulder and saw that it was a copy of a hand written letter. Ousman smiled as he read it, before turning to Syafika and saying proudly “Look! A letter from my Dad”. Syafika took the letter from Ousman and read it.

To my dear son Ousman,

You would not believe how happy I was to hear from you. I have recently been through an experience that no person should have to endure and am living in a place which offers only scraps of hope and comfort, but now that I know you exist I have a reason to continue.

If the circumstances were different in my country (which is also yours) then I would prefer you came to live with me there, but if it is really possible that we can meet then I would accept any way of doing that. I once promised myself that I would never return to your country but that was before I knew about you.

I hope your mother is well and that she appreciates how lucky she is to have you. You be a good boy and, god willing, we will soon meet.


With love from your Father,




The letter was signed in distinctly different handwriting to the rest of the letter and Syafika wondered whether Ousman’s father was illiterate. She thought it would be funny if he was.

The Inklings: Chapter 40

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Emily picked John up on Christmas morning and John was very grateful. John knew his place was out of Emily’s way, plus he had so many presents to carry that he didn’t know how he would have managed if he’d had to take the bus, and John was feeling so scared about seeing all his relatives again that he didn’t want to arrive alone.

John had presents for Emily’s kids on hand when he squeezed into the back of the car to sit between their special booster seats. He’d bought a recorder for the eldest and a drum for the youngest and soon wished they hadn’t opened them in the car. Emily took many deep breaths but managed to stay calm. Her husband Greg wasn’t as strong and after 5 minutes of tooting and banging he fiercely told his kids to stop unless they wanted to get out and walk.

John couldn’t help feeling pleased with himself when he arrived at the Christmas party not only with presents for all but able to recognize everyone, even children he’d never met. This was thanks to Emily having used her photo album to show him what everyone looked like.

But then John’s brother Tim arrived. That was a surprise for everyone because Tim had been living overseas and hadn’t told anyone he’d be back for Christmas.

As John watched his relatives give his brother Tim a warm welcome he couldn’t help feeling jealous. Tim had brought everyone electronic gadgets as gifts that were made in his factory – the factory he had started in order to make the electronics he invented.

“That could have been me if I hadn’t stuffed up” thought John because he knew he’d once been just as smart as Tim.

Tim looked so happy, healthy and young for his age, while John had aged prematurely. One Aunt unkindly remarked that anyone would think that John was Tim’s father.

John was very glad that Fanta hadn’t been able to come with him. He imagined that Fanta would prefer Tim to him. All Emily had said about Tim was that he was a workaholic and single. “At least Tim doesn’t have any kids” thought John. “That would make me really jealous”.

Eventually Tim noticed John and came over.

“Hey!” exclaimed Tim when he realized who John was. Tim gave John a hug and John wondered what his parents had told Tim about him. Did Tim know he’d turned over a new leaf?

Perhaps John was just imagining it, but he felt that Tim was treating him with pity and John resented that. They’d once been equals, and good friends.

“It’s so good to see you!” said Tim. “I didn’t expect it. You look really well. How have you been?”

John didn’t open up and talk to Tim the way he would have liked to. He just gave brief answers to Tim’s questions and didn’t ask any in return. It wasn’t long before the very popular Tim was dragged off by one of their uncles to talk about the latest technologies. John sat down on the stone fence of the backyard and watched his relatives enjoying their Christmas like he wasn’t one of them.

“As if I could just buy my way back into the family with clever Christmas presents” thought John and he wished Tim had invented a remote control that would let John fast-forward the rest of the day.

Your honesty could be the best present you give to your family this year.

I’m really dreading Christmas this year.  The last couple of weeks at work before the end of year break are always frantic for me, and then when I finally do get some time off, my leave just gets spent organizing and recovering from Christmas!

I’m so sick and tired of cooking the same old bland roast turkey lunch that is almost as much of a chore to eat as it is to prepare, and having to pretend to be jolly as we sit around exchanging unwanted rubbish and  making ourselves sick on novelty Xmas nibbles that nobody really likes.

I don’t think I can cope with another bout of cleaning, shopping, cooking, obnoxious comments from drunken guests, resentful looks from in-laws, and shrieking children fighting over their presents.  Why do we bother?  Nobody seems to be really enjoying themselves.  I know I don’t!

It’s just occurred to me that maybe I would be doing us all a favour if I were to cancel the traditional get-together at our house this year, and spend Christmas volunteering at my local soup kitchen instead.  Even though it feels like I’m letting my family down, I have a suspicion that allowing them to do their own thing this year would be a relief to everyone. What do you think?

That sounds like the most common-sense idea I have heard all year!  By all means, yes.  Give it a try this year, and see what happens. From what you tell me, I don’t think you would be offending your family anymore than you would normally do by offering your regular, insincere Christmas gesture.

Just be civilized about it and try to avoid showing your resentment or making defiant announcements. Your honesty could be the best present you give to your family this year.

The Spark.

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