Friday, December 22, 2006

Childhood Christmas

My life in the late 1940s and 50s was dominated by all things ‘Chapel’ – my father being the local Minister. As a child, the magic of Christmas was paramount to me. Christmas was consumed with endless ‘practices’ at the Chapel’s Vestry for the annual display of children who could not sing, playing and singing Angels and Three Wise Men. My parents had high hopes for me as a boy soprano. I was always one of the Three Wise Men. I must admit, coyly, I was good. But in musical terms, I was never in the class of my sisters. My downfall. Tom Jones I never was.

My memories of the annual display reminds me, that unfortunately, Baby Jesus was always a rather scruffy doll in a box of hay. But the congregation enjoyed our efforts.

This brings me to ‘three days before Christmas’. The Welsh language is rich in its ability to have words that are not present in the English language. The English have the words ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’. The Welsh have a word for ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’, the day after ‘tomorrow’, and the day after that too!

So as a child, December 22nd was vital, because it was the day that I could use the words “dradwy mi fydd hi’n ddiwrnod Nadolig” – it will be Christmas in three days’ time! Somehow, this brought the event closer. I recall that as a four-year old, my mother found me in bed during the afternoon. To a child a ‘day’ constituted being in bed for some time, so I worked out that if I slept, Christmas Day would become sooner. There was logic in my brain even in those days.

One of my memories of these happy times was that on this day - three days before Christmas Day - it would be the annual pilgrimage to the local chemist shop (pharmacy). Mr. Griffiths (the pharmacist) was also a member of the chapel. His shop was a latter day version of Walgreens, but on a much smaller scale. Not only would he dispense medicinal compounds that would cure anything from coughs to a bee sting, his emporium had fragrances that would have little boys thinking they were in heaven with 30 vestal virgins - whatever they were.

I would first go in with my mother to buy a present for my father - usually a handkerchief - and then return to the Austin Seven for my father to escort me to buy a present for my mother. All in the strictest of secret, you understand. I remember well that I had saved my pennies all year for the event, and split my meager savings between both. The gift for my mother was always beyond my means, but Mr. Griffiths would always be able to get me a wonderful gift. I suspect that my father had almost always doubled (and more) my savings to buy a suitable gift for my mother.

The result was always wonderful. My mother and father were so surprised on Christmas Day when they opened their gifts - they were the best gifts they’d ever received.

So, Dear Readers, “dradwy mi fydd hi’n ddiwrnod Nadolig”.

Here endeth today’s lesson.