My first favourite Christmas gift
Sometimes we interpret growing up as a license to be jaded and cynical. But Keitu Reid turns it all around for us just before the most the most money-spinning, cynicism-inducing time of the year. We were all kids once, and we all believed in the magic of Christmas once.
When I was about 6yrs old or so, I had a foolish accident. My friends dared me to put my middle finger in the slight and sharp hinge of our gate – and close it. I did that and the rest is a painful bloody memory.
I remember seeing my finger gushing out thick red liquid – like a small but raging volcano.
I ran, screaming to the house, and was met by my father who had heard my loud cry. My father’s eyes were wide and I could tell he was trying to restrain his panic – I remember him swaddling my hand with a towel. I suspect that fear gripped me, or I passed out, because I cannot remember the trip to the hospital. I cannot remember being checked and probed by a doctor or being changed into those shapeless hospital garments.
I seem to have regained full consciousness when my parents kissed me on the forehead and said they had to leave me there. Alone. It was terrifying.
I remember one girl was so badly burnt that the nurse didn’t know where to hold her. She just moaned. Her wounds frightened me – and made me a little nauseous. So I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling – trying to breathe as little as possible because the sharp sting of disinfectant and wounded limbs was not easing my queasiness.
It was hot. With little air coming in. And my finger was throbbing.
I remember I refused to eat. Luckily, sometime in the evening my mother returned with some comfort food. She had a bit of soup in a flask. It soothed me up to the moment she told me she had to go – she will come take me home tomorrow. Tomorrow? As a child that is a lifetime. I begged her to just take me. She couldn’t. I was heartbroken.
My mom left and I sobbed till I was quiet. I received some sincere smiles from some other children, a few were oddly comfortable and at home. I do not recall smiling back at them. So they left me to sulk. The children who were not strapped to drips were free to play together.
After some time, shrieks of excitement came from some of them. I turned my head, unable to restrain my curiosity. It was Father Christmas with a bag of goodies! Accompanied by a nurse, he first went to the group of playing children, and he delighted them by liberally providing hugs and toys. Once done with that group, Father Christmas went to the other children lying in their respective beds. He had a small chat with each, and gave a kiss, a jolly laugh and a gift.
He arrived by my bedside and pulled out an odd looking teddy bear. It was a clown to be exact. He was made of multicoloured patches of knitted wool – green, yellow, red, blue, strings of black wool for his hair. I imagine this was some school child’s creation during a home economics class; or perhaps a loving old woman who cares for sickly children knitted some of these during the year for sad and sore children in hospital.
The clown was stuffed with cheap fluff. Father Christmas attempted to speak to me as he gave me the toy. I greeted him politely and didn’t speak again. He gave a final warm smile and left our ward to go to another. I could hear shrills of glee from the room next door as I huddled my new friend, slipping in between the sheets.
The clown grew to be a soothing friend. That night, as I lay in hospital I hung onto the clown with all the strength I could manage. Tomorrow didn’t seem so far after all.
I took my clown home. Throughout my recovery I held him tight. When they pulled out the stitches (back then we did not have the ones that dissolve away), I had to hold onto my clown. Into my pre teen years – I held onto my clown when I had a bad day at school. He took care of me when I went to boarding school (yes I did sleep with him till I was about 15). He was my ever faithful friend – when I triumphed he hugged me. When I was upset – we held onto each other even tighter.
There came a day that I thought I had outgrown him – so I gave him (along with some other childhood tit bits) away. I still think of my clown. I wonder where he is. I hope he is offering companionship and comfort. I hope he knows he was my best Christmas Gift. Quite possibly he was my best friend for a long time.
Image: kiiw (c)