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The International Writers Magazine

A Very Darling Christmas
Sarah Richardson

The Darling family were unfortunate in Christmas 1930 as their wonderful father was away, either on business or at war, Mother always forgot which. As a result, they were quite poor, though as Mother always said, there was always somebody less fortunate, and anyway, they had servants ( Joan the Housekeeper and Old Tom the Gardener).

On Christmas morn, Mother roused the children and pressed oranges into their hands.
“’Tis time for church!” she declared, joyously.
The family therefore dressed in their Sunday best and trotted two by two to the ramshackle yet charming local House of God.
Upon their return, Dick, who was twelve and impudent, decided to say something impudent.
“How I love Christmas,” said he. “Spending the morning hearing about how I’m going to Hell.”
“Really, Dick,” admonished Mother. “Charity, run and cut me a switch.”
Esther looked sternly at Dick. At seventeen she was quite grown up and disapproved of young Dick’s antics.
Benjamin, the eldest, broke the solemn silence with a rousing shout.
“Let’s have breakfast!”

The family sat merrily about a table lain with bread, milk and cakes. Determined Benjamin, pious Esther, tomboy Jane, accomplished Elizabeth, impudent Dick and little Charity (who means well) with their Mother were indeed a pretty family.
“What’s the point?” sighed Charity. “We shall only have to give it all to illegal immigrants again.”
“Charity!” scolded Mother. “Really. Elizabeth, run and cut me a switch.”
After the dull church outing, the children were famished, so they were awfully aggrieved when Mother brightly, and predictably, brought up the subject of the Irish family in the abandoned barn.
“If only the O’Hara family had as much as we,” she began. “Why, their newest baby is ravaged with scarlet fever and the other fourteen children, frail mother and alcoholic father do nothing but fret and weep.”
“Perchance they should seek employment,” muttered Dick, as his mother cried “Jane, run and cut me a switch!”
“Mamma,” squeaked Charity (who means well), "Connie Carpenter said our cousin Emily was wicked and her family threw her out with the pigs!”
“Absurd!” cried Mother, turning puce. “You know that poor Cousin Emily recently succumbed to the consumption. ‘Twas a terrible time.”
“I saw her yesterday!” said Dick. “Dirty and ragged under the old bridge with a baby. She’s not married!”
“C’est un scandale!” agreed Elizabeth, showing off as usual.
“She’s dead!” shrieked Mother. “Esther, run and cut me a switch.”
“Mother!” coaxed Esther, sanctimoniously. “The O’Haras!”
“Why, we simply must take them our breakfast!” cried Jane.
“Bother,” said nearly everyone else.

Thus the Darlings took their breakfast to give to needy children (though they would have preferred rat traps) and returned in conceited high spirits to sing memorable songs from 'Meet Me In St. Louis', while Elizabeth smugly provided the musical accompaniment on the piano. They had just finished 'The Trolley Song' when there was a knock at the door. The children ran to answer it.
“Oh!” they bellowed, simultaneously. “Father!”
For their father was come at last! They all laughed heartily and the girls of course wept.
“But was that singing I heard?” laughed Father. “More! More! But first, Dick, for you!” And Father gave Dick his dear old toy steam engine, mended good as new. “And now,” continued Father, still in his heartiest voice and before anyone could ask questions about his mysterious absence, “if Eliza would consent to play again…”
And Eliza did and they all sang 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' until Joan the Housekeeper hanged herself in response to such a saccharine display.

© Sarah Richardson - Jan 2004
Sarah is a first year Creative Arts student at Portsmouth University

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