The Perfect Christmas
24th December 1954,
How are you?
It’s bloody cold this year, so I’m having to write this with fingerless gloves on, I’m even having to crochet with the gloves on! I’m worried that if I take the gloves my hands will freeze!
I think the main problem is, that the central heating broke a few days ago. It’s meant to be getting fixed today, but for now, I’m just wearing two jumpers and extra warm tights.
Yesterday was amazing, Celia took me and Julie up to London and we went shopping together. We went into a beautiful boutique where we had our bridesmaid dress fittings. The dresses our the palest of blues, and they shimmer like the sea when we walk. They are gorgeous, and now I can’t wait for the wedding in a few months!
After that, she took us both for afternoon tea at Claridge’s before we got the train home. We both felt so grown up, and the tea was amazing! They had so many different types of tiny cakes!
I’ve got to get changed in a few minutes; we’ve got to go to the Christmas Eve church service.
I can’t wait to see you tomorrow, but you’ll probably get this letter after you see me anyway.
Love always, your Athene XXXXX
Athene addressed the envelope before pulling on her coat hat and scarf to go and post the letter before she had to get ready for church.
Even if she wanted to, she could hardly go to church wearing three jumpers. At least the church had proper heating!
She kept her tights on and changed her jumpers and skirt into a dress and a cardigan before pulling her coat, hat, scarf and fingerless gloves back on.
“You ready Athy?” called Uncle Davy up the stairs.
“Coming!” called Athene as she ran down the stairs pulling on her shoes.
Uncle Davy was wearing his best uniform with his greatcoat over the top.
They walked into town and sat through the church service. Athene got all her favourite carols, even Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
Athene was still singing as they got home.
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing! Glory to the new born King!”
“Go on get to bed,” chuckled Captain Llewelyn, “or you’ll be half asleep at the Pennington’s tomorrow!”
“Goodnight Uncle Davy!” she beamed before rushing off to bed.
The next morning Athene got up early to pack up all the Christmas treats for the Pennington’s. she had been baking for the last week, there was her Granny’s famous Welsh cakes and Mince pies, she had even made some blackcurrant jam tarts for Anthony.
As it was still cold outside, she was wearing her green jumper from last Christmas with a navy skirt and woolly tights. She was also wearing the matching hat scarf and gloves from last Christmas with her coat.
Uncle Davy helped Athene load all the presents into the car, as it was just under an hour to the Pennington’s.
“Can you believe that it was just last year when you and Morgan were playing rugby in the snow?”
“With the weather we’ve got, I’m surprised that it hasn’t started snowing again!” laughed Athene.
Instead of snowing this year, there seemed to be a kind of miserable cold rain. Athene just didn’t care though! Rain wasn’t going to pull down her mood today!
Everyone was coming around to the Pennington’s that day, the Fforbes Hamiltons were coming with Julie, and Celia was coming with her parents as well. It was going to be the first Christmas with no rationing whatsoever and they were going to party!
Anthony came running out of the house not even having pulled on his coat as they pulled up in front of the house.
“Athene!” he exclaimed rushing out of the house and pulling her in for a kiss.
“Merry Christmas!” laughed Athene as they hugged each other.
“Come on Athene, we’re all waiting for you!”
Anthony helped Captain Llewelyn bring in all the presents and Athene carried in the cake tins which she put in the kitchen.
“Morning Mrs Brown,” beamed Athene.
“It smells delicious in here,” she said sniffing in the wonderful scents.
“Can I smell a turkey?” she exclaimed.
“And stuffing, and gravy, and roast potatoes, and chipolatas.”
Athene’s face lit up at the sound of such a feast.
“Well, we deserve a decent Christmas after fourteen years of food rationing.”
“You are far too right,” said Mark pinching a mince pie out of one of Athene’s tins.
“Hey,” she yelled slapping his hand away.
“At least wait until after lunch.”
“Sorry,” muffled Mark with half a mince pie in his mouth, “they just look so good!”
“Why do we have to wait until after lunch for presents?” sulked Mark.
“Everyone’s here now,” sighed Mrs Brown, “you can wait another half an hour for lunch!”
Athene helped with the finishing of the lunch whilst Anthony, Mark and Julie set the table for lunch.
“Do I see Christmas crackers?” asked Athene as she looked at the table.
“I thought they were a myth!”
Athene had never even seen a Christmas cracker in real life.
“Paper party hats, bad jokes and plastic toys,” beamed Nick, “everything you’ve ever been told is true.”
Athene’s face lit up like a set of fairy lights, this might truly be her best ever Christmas ever.
The fourteen of them sat down for lunch, and everyone ate far too much, but they still all seemed to have space for Christmas pudding afterwards.
Athene got a pink paper hat in her cracker and a tiny sewing kit.
“Did I hear you saying you’d brought some of your Granny’s famous Welsh cakes earlier?” asked Simon.
“Well they’re her recipe,” admitted Athene, “but they’re not traditional Christmas food.”
“I don’t care,” said Simon, “those cakes are legendary!”
“Oh Simon’s told us about those!” said Mr Bell.
“Apparently they’re so good that your Welsh sports master has started being able to smell them out!” laughed Mrs Bell.
“And they’re better than his own Mam’s,” finished Celia.
“Oh alright then,” said Athene shaking her head and passing around the tin of cakes.
“These are amazing,” said Anthony through a mouthful of cake.
“You’ve had them before,” laughed Athene.
“No I’ve had the one’s your Granny made before, not made by your own fair hand.”
“They’re alright?” she stammered. She had never actually tried the recipe before.
“They’re perfect,” nodded Mrs Brown.
Captain Llewelyn took a particularly large cake out of the tin and bit down.
“Oh dear God,” he muttered closing his eyes in near ecstasy.
“Athene they’re perfect it’s like she made them herself. I never thought I was going to taste Gladys’ Welsh cakes ever again. But they’re perfect!”
Athene was close to tears as she gave her uncle a hug.
“Who wants presents?” asked Mr Pennington once they had all eaten their fill.
“Me!” yelled Mark and Julie leaping up from the table before anyone could stop them.
Everyone went through to the sitting room where there were mountains of presents waiting to be opened.
Mr and Mrs Bell started off by passing Julie and Athene a present each. The two boxes were identical.
“Together?” asked Julie.
Athene nodded and they both ripped off the paper and found a shoebox. They had each been given a pair of light blue high heeled shoes to wear with their bridesmaid dresses.
“Oh they’re gorgeous!” said Athene taking one of the shoes out of the box.
“All girls like shoes,” beamed Mrs Bell.
Julie was handed two huge boxes by her parents, she had opened all her small presents earlier, but these were the big ones.
The larger box contained a pure white tutu, the skirts stuck up even when Julie wasn’t wearing it. She had been expecting this, but the other box she didn’t know what was in there.
It was a long flowing dress with short sleeves, it was navy blue with the occasional silver sparkle. Athene could tell that once she put it on it would fall all the way to Julie’s feet. Julie had her first-ever grown-up evening gown.
“Oh Mummy!” she exclaimed, “Daddy! It’s perfect!”
“You’re welcome Juliet,” said Mrs Fforbes Hamilton.
“Now we’ve just got to find you something to wear it for,” said Mr Fforbes Hamilton.
All the four Pennington boys were handed large rectangular boxes.
“If there hadn’t been clothes rationing Simon and Nick should have had these years ago,” admitted Mr Pennington as the boys unwrapped them.
Inside the four boxes were tuxedos.
“I’m not going to have you lot just wearing your best suits at the wedding in a few months.”
Nick seemed to be thoroughly impressed, and Anthony didn’t seem to care either way.
“Wow Dad!” beamed Mark.
“Can I wear this for shows?”
“I don’t care what you wear it for Mark,” chuckled Mr Pennington, “as long as you keep it in good condition and wear it for Simon and Celia’s wedding.”
“Look out world,” muttered Nick, “Fred and Ginger have got proper evening dress now!”
Uncle Davy had given Athene some new clothes for Christmas, including a light pink cashmere jumper.
Mr Pennington handed Athene and Anthony two book-shaped parcels. He was holding one in each hand and seemed confused for a few seconds about who to give each one, before smiling and handing them both their presents.
Anthony beamed and ripped off the paper.
“The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers,” muttered Anthony looking at the books.
“Tolkien!” he beamed his eyes lighting up like stars.
“Thanks Dad!” he beamed giving his Dad a hug.
Athene opened her present and found several small volumes. Ovid’s Fasti, Heroides, Metamorphoses and Amores.
“Anthony told me that you have taken an interest in Ovid,” he explained.
“You’ll have to ask Mr Mitchell what they’re about,” said Mr Pennington, “I’m afraid I was never great shakes at Classics.”
Then the children all exchanged gifts.
There was a joint gift from Julie and Celia. She now not only had a light pink lipstick but also blusher, mascara, eyeshadow and concealer.
Athene and Anthony then passed each other their gifts.
Anthony had been playing with his camera again, as well as the usual photographs of them and their friends there was also a blown-up photograph that Mr Mitchell had taken. Athene and Anthony were dancing together on the stage at the Christmas entertainment.
Anthony then opened the light squashy parcel which Athene had passed to him.
He unfolded the parcel and found the grey blue jumper that Athene had laboured over for months.
“Athene!” breathed Anthony.
“I thought you were making this for yourself, you worked so hard on it!”
“If I was making it for myself, how come it’s four sizes too big for me?”
“Well go on Tony,” said Simon, “see if it fits.”
Anthony pulled on the jumper, and it fit perfectly.
“That’s amazing,” said Mrs Bell looking at the stitching, “and this is ribbed!”
Even after the presents, the celebration wasn’t over!
They sang Christmas carols around the piano, as Anthony accompanied them until their voices gave out.
When they looked back, in years to come Anthony and Athene could safely say, they could never remember such a perfect Christmas.