Mum pats the sofa in a confiding and comforting sort of way. I snuggle in beside her in gleeful anticipation.
The catalogue is open on her knee and I carefully and methodically turn the pages – examining each baby in turn for their qualities.
I am well practiced now and know what to look for. A pretty face, blue eyes but most essential of all is the soft body. Oh yes and the clothes. This one in a blue romper is perfect. From that day forward I wait. It can be weeks and I am not good at waiting.
There is that wriggle of excitement that denotes a certainty of satisfaction and also that other one, the more uncomfortable one, the anxiety that she may not come, may not be “in stock” and therefore exchanged for a lesser model. Do they care enough to get it right?
Tissue paper crackles. Cold is at the window. It is the day.
Lost in a family of elders I am derided for my impatience. Church. Lunch. Walks and tea. It goes on and on.
Now the tree. At last. Once again I am teased and taunted by older siblings who have an axe to grind; there are indeed quite a few gifts for me. I squirm silently.
I cannot help but scan the wrappings – shape and size of course and always a box – she always comes in a box.
My turn now. The striped paper and huge red ribbon add to the delay… is she here? My heart depends upon it.
Staring out at me through the cellophane window is a baby. Rose red lips, curled plastic hair and cheeks all round waiting to be kissed. In a pink dress and little white socks she is not quite the one but she is very pretty and smells delicious.
She scrambles out of the box and amidst a sea of paper and string we fall in love.
Her soft body nestles into my soft arms as I rearrange her frills and examine her interesting knickers and little plastic toes.
The banter goes on over my head. Behind the Christmas tree now happily forgotten, my baby and I sing together, oblivious to dinner preparations and champagne corks flying.
Later, we creep unnoticed up the stairs into the darkening house. I find Matilda sadly sitting in a corner. I gather her up and kissing her briefly on the cheek, tuck her in beside the baby and sing a sleeping song.
This is my best Christmas EVER.