Sunday 18 August 2019

No Furby under the fir tree, but I've learnt to forgive

Christmas Day looms large, and Elle Gordon remembers delights and disappointments from her childhood - and feels grateful for her parents

Elle and her sister Alicia with their pony Sally.
Elle and her sister Alicia with their pony Sally.
Elle Gordon's pony Sally

santa played a huge role in contributing to the happiness of my childhood. And yet to this day there will always remain a Furby-shaped hole in my heart. She didn't have a Furby, I hear anyone born in the Nineties roar aghast. Yes, I know. Still healing.

It wasn't that I had bad Christmases, they were in fact extraordinary. It was just that Santa seemed to consider our letters as more of an abstract slip of paper than a clear-cut guide. Yes… before you ask, I did put in the catalogue code.

To be fair, my parents were great for assuring us that they would put in a good word with the big man himself. But Furby hints just did not get through… ever. If I'm honest, Santa seemed in favour of going off grid in terms of what we asked for.

As I grew older, pangs for the talking toy that resembled a gerbil switched to pangs for a Babyliss crimper and finally settled in my tweens on a Spice Girls Polaroid camera. Strangely, out of all this I got the BaByliss crimper. Absolute madness. On reflection, I feel he should have known that a Furby would in fact have been a much safer option.

At the time I don't think I could see what my parents (in collaboration with Santa) were doing. As I grew older and gradually wiser, it soon began to dawn on me. It wasn't that we didn't get what we wanted. It was that they wanted us to be grateful. They did not want their kids to tangle themselves amongst the reams of wrapping paper and forget that really, what Christmas should be about is spending time with the people you love. And being grateful for whatever we were given…whether in the letter or not. Even if that did result in Furby-related heartaches.

There was that magical Christmas where instead of some doll I was living to have, my sister and I were both given bikes. No stabilisers… just big mad bikes. A Christmas that might have been spent planted in front of the fire turned into hours spent outdoors, laughing and occasionally crying (me mainly, I was awful), as we tried to cope with what seemed at the time like MASSIVE bikes. It was a memory of Christmas I'll never forget…. my howls of "don't let go" and my dad's own howls of laughter before he sprinted to catch me.

There was a Christmas when I was about four years old and I heard Santa's sleigh bells. I promptly pelted to my bed and dived under the duvet, eyes firmly shut bursting with excitement. What I didn't know until years later was that my mum, chuckling to herself, had been tinkling a bell at the bottom of the stairs. That's a thrilling feeling I'll never forget.

The half-eaten carrot, our screams of delight. The Christmas when I was six, recovering from an operation and went to visit Santa, and he signed my cast. The fights… oh, the fights... and heated debate over the exact positioning of the tree. The war over who would get the last roast potato (always my brother), the grapple for the purple sweet, a board game called Billionaire that we all got strangely hooked on. The dining room table decked out with mouth-watering morsels.

The ultimate Christmas came when I was 12. Wellies and coats were clad to go out to the old barn that had long been out of use. Here we met a beautiful horse called Sally who became part of our family. I remember my mum giving me a leg up on to Sally and bareback we took our first stroll. No amount of Furbies or make-up kits that I had so longed for could compare to the feeling of owning this living, breathing, beautiful horse.

Sally brought years of joy. We learnt the value of hard work. The 6am starts and endless amounts of soil to attend to soon showed us that. But it was a surreal Christmas, a dream.

Now I look back and I'm in awe of my parents and all that they did and still do. Two of the kindest people I'll ever know, doing all that they could to ensure we had the best Christmas possible. I don't plan on dragging Santa out of retirement this Christmas. I'm looking forward to spending time with all the people I love the most. My new little nephew Luke has brought with him plenty of magic for all of us, certainly enough to soothe any pangs for an overpriced handbag that I probably don't need… well… I think.

Sunday Independent

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