I remember it looked marvellous in the television advert. The family playing it looked so happy. Two kids, a mother and a father, all playing it together. And the thing itself shone with perfect newness. I wanted one so much. I wanted that happiness, that familial accord. And there it was under the tree. I could tell by rattling it that it was what I’d asked for. Under the wrapping the box looked smaller than the one in the advertisement. But I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I had one. They had bought one for me. All would be well. All that promise would be mine. Now and always. Opening it on that Christmas Eve I was filled with joy. Here it was. Yes, small and a little shoddier than it had looked on the small screen but nevertheless it was just like the picture.
But no one would play it with me. Not now, they’d said. Maybe later. And I couldn’t play it on my own, what would be the point. Mum and Dad never played it with me, not once. My sisters did, but only a few times. What happened to it? I think I kept it in the box most of the time. In my room. That first frisson of pleasure never to be repeated.
There were few people about this morning. Most of the students have migrated homeward. Their cars have gone from the Prom and from behind Alexandra Hall. I heard some girls laughing along Pier Street, but that was all. Lip Lickin’ Chicken was open and a few bodies hung around outside The Angel. Stragglers.
I called her. She took a little while to answer. A slightly querulous voice. Who’d be calling now? At this time. But she warmed up. I had to introduce myself. I remember. I remember now. We talked of Dad and her late husband and where she would spend Christmas. I made her laugh. She’s eating too many mince pies. Can I tell her I care? That we both do. That I cleave towards her softness, her lovingness. She talked of her son in Australia. He has depression. He called last week. It was his birthday. She wants to go and see him but is uncertain if she’d be welcome. I sent him money. I wanted to send them presents, something to open but I don’t know their sizes, what they like anymore. So much grief. We’ll visit, take you out to lunch. That would be nice. So nice. So nice.