Elizabeth stepped in the door, shivering and shaking as drips of sleet fell to the cold black and white tiled floor. Piece by piece she peeled off each layer of scarf, glove, hat and jumper throwing it over the tall iron cast coat stand and tip toed in her sodden socks past the staircase to the kitchen. Skipping from diamond to diamond on the old Victorian tiles she moved to the AGA turning it up and preceded to rub her hands from the warm orange glow it emitted deep within.
With a jump, the front door slammed and in her teenage daughter trudged leaving a trail of damp in her wake. Her mother’s careful attempts were now forgotten as her heavy saturated coat was thrown over the kitchen table as each layer was thrown haphazardly over the old bronze radiators. Rose pulled a drenched emerald cap from her head and her ashen hair fell statically over her shoulders, her cheeks bright and rosy, and her nose a perfect round button.
“What’s for dinner Ma?” Rose cast her boots by the back door as in ran a skippy energetic Springer. “Oh hey little Gibbs! What are you doing here? Ya hungry little fella?” Her mother watched as her daughter threw herself gleefully to the floor, both her and the dog wriggling and hugging against the cold damp tiles.
“How about veggie curry? I think there’s some sauce left in the fridge… thanks for introducing the lake by the way. You can grab some towels and wipe it all up now you’ve gotten comfy,” Elizabeth smiled warmly to herself watching her daughter and the dog and proceeded to empty the contents of the fridge before cheekily throwing a towel over her daughter’s face.
Rose rolled her eyes with a smirk climbing off the floor allowing the dog out on to the garden and then quickly slamming the door shut so as not to let in the strong winter gale. Bending over awkwardly she traced her journey back wiping up the excess water. “Veggie curry sounds good! Can we get the Christmas decs out as well tonight? It is the 1st of December tomorrow.”
Her mother aimlessly chopped up mushrooms and onions as garlic bubbled and spit on the hob casting a strong pungent scent over the home. Gibbs the dog ran and weaved the length of the garden sniffing each blade of grass and sticking his head in the greenhouse before running from a lone hedgehog that scuttled by. “Well, best root out the popcorn maker as well then if that’s the case.”
Later that same evening both girls were rooted on the living room floor, their toes buried deep in the soft fluffy rug. Their annual marathon of Potter films played in the background, Rose engrossed in the gorgeous winter display of snow falling over Hogwarts.
“Ow…” she jumped having pricked herself with the needle, a string of popcorn and cranberries already wound and knotted in her lap. Her mother smiled shaking her head as she restrung old baubles and rose to her feet beginning to place them on a tall Norwegian spruce that proudly enveloped the bay window.
“Told you to pay attention… right, it’s your job to do the annual switching on ceremony…” Elizabeth fiddled with bulbs and lights that hugged the branches. “Best to check it now before we fill it up.”
Rose jumped excitedly to her feet and knelt by the plug ceremoniously, “I declare Christmas… OPEN!” on her final word she pressed the switch, a fog of warm white lights began to glow bringing new warmth of magic to the room. “That’s the first time in about five years that they’ve worked first time!”
“They’re new… I treated us…” Elizabeth smiled as Rose moved up to her side; both of them wrapped their arms round the other digesting the momentous festive memory. In the following weeks there would be a flurry of craft markets and carol concerts as each one meticulously hid their presents from the other. “Oh… best check on the special addition!”
Elizabeth jumped and dashed through to the kitchen as Gibbs rose from his deep slumber curled up tight on the ivory couch. Rose continued to add decorations including the felt Santa from Helsinki and the elf in a stocking from Lappland. Piece-by-piece she unwound the popcorn and cranberry string delicately tracing it between the lights. Eventually her mother returned from the kitchen bearing big tankards of sweet indulgent hot cocoa, both decorated with vivid red and white peppermint sweets.
Together they stood proudly in front of their display still surrounded by an explosion of glitter, confetti and old haggard decorations. They cheered their good fortune sipping their sickly treats and Elizabeth placed her arm round her daughter. “This time ten years ago I brought you home and showed you how to turn on the lights. You were so scared, I was terrified for you. Coming here to this strange place, assumptions being made that I was your mother now. You were just three years old, I bet you barely remember it.”
Rose beamed up at her mother sipping her drink and slid her arm back round her waist. “I remember the snow and the cold, I remember the lights and you singing me to sleep. Not clearly but I remember your warmth.”
“And with that you became a Hickson, my daughter. And I couldn’t be prouder…” Elizabeth placed her drink down and embraced Rose tightly as the cosy warm lights softened against the streetlights glaring outside. The fire crackled in the background spitting and shaking its splinters against the glass.
“Neither could I Ma, neither could I.”