I made a dream, it was Christmas...

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  • Friday, 23 December 2016

“Tomorrow’s Christmas! Paris has been getting ready for three weeks. From the Christmas lights on the Champs Elysees, to elaborate window displays at the capital’s most famous department stores, everything is magical and enchanting. “C’est TELLement magnifique”, says Mom. My name’s Emmie. I rewrote my letter to Santa Claus five times. It’s not because I kept changing my mind about what Christmas presents I wanted; it’s because I couldn’t find the right words to get him to stay an extra ten minutes at our house so I could give him a hug and talk with him. Daddy said not to be too hopeful. Santa has a lot to do on Christmas Eve and probably won’t have a second to spare.

“Today, my folks and me and my sisters are driving out to the country to spend Christmas with Grandma ‘n Grandpa. I’ve been dreaming of this trip for a whole year. Apart from the cold, we have such a good time: the jokes, and riddles and giggles in the car; seeing my cousins again; and playing hide-and-seek in the vineyard. There’s all the excitement of the Christmas preparations: my aunts talking for hours, planning Christmas dinner; Grandpa perched on a ladder putting the final touches on the Christmas tree; and Grandma cheerfully humming Christmas carols as she sets up the little nativity scene.

At seven that night I attend mass with the grownups. The little kids stay home. This year I’d rather have stayed home too, ‘cause I have a plan!

After church, we all have supper. The grownups have foie gras, which I think is kind of yucky, and oysters (even yuckier!) We kids have crêpes! All sorts of crêpes with all sorts of colors: with hazelnut spread, whipped cream, blueberries or bananas. Yum! Anyway, it’s getting late and the grownups all say they have a lot of work to do, which I don’t really understand, but there are so many mysterious things about Christmas.
 
After supper, like every year, we all leave a shoe under the Christmas tree for Santa Clause to fill. I put a bright red ballerina shoe, because it’s really easy to spot, in case Santa is nearsighted like my cousin Eleanor. Florin writes his name in giant letters in case Santa doesn’t recognize his shoe, and Gaspard cheats by leaving an après-ski boot ( he’s noticed that Grandpa, with the biggest shoes in the family, always seems to get the most presents). Grandma sings out “Okay, off to bed, kids!”

They say “Be a good girl and go to sleep. Tonight, Santa Claus is coming, he’s gonna come down the chimney and maybe bring you a present.” As if I was a baby! Who could believe that‽ Santa Claus has much too much to carry to fit down the chimney, and how’s he gonna get past the fire? Grandpa always burns grapevine branches that shoot off sparks like fireworks. Poor Santa Claus! This year, I’m finally gonna solve the mystery.

At last, it’s time to kiss everyone nighty-night. 30 pecks, smacks and smooches later, it’s bedtime for me and my kid sister Louisa in our bedroom on the second floor.

I’m sleepy but I’m so excited. Tonight, I’m finally going to meet Santa Claus in person. So I’m going to pretend to fall asleep, and when the whole house is quiet and dark, I’ll sneak downstairs and wait by the fireplace for him to come. He shouldn’t be too surprised, since I told him in my letter.

Louisa is fast asleep. I slide out of bed and listen by the stairway. There’s still noise in the house. The grownups downstairs are doing the dishes and getting something ready. I can’t figure out what. They’re laughing a lot and seem very busy. I put on the white dress I wear for special occasions and slip quietly into the living room. The Christmas tree decorated by Grandpa stands alone with a ring of shoes around it. I sit down at the foot of the tree and wait. Maybe if I sing a song to Santa, he’ll come sooner?

Petit papa Noël, quand tu descendras du ciel… 
Little Father Christmas, when you come down from the sky…

I’m so sleepy. My lids get heavy and I doze off. I wake up with a jolt when I hear:

Petit papa Noël, quand tu descendras du ciel

It’s Grandma going from room to room, waking up all the kids singing “Petit Papa Noel” by Tino Rossi.

“Come on kids – Santa's been here!! Come on now, everyone up!

Impossible!!! What happened? Did he say something? Did he leave me a note? No one seems to know my secret, except maybe Mom, who says sleeping at the foot of the Christmas tree is not a sensible thing to do, since a child could catch cold and maybe get in Santa Claus’s way while he’s delivering the presents!

C’est trop pas drôle! It’s not funny! Now I’ll have to wait a whole ‘nother year! Oh, well! Let’s go help Grandma get all the sleepyheads out of bed so we can finally go into the living room and see what Santa has brung!

Four years ago, I was the littlest kid, and so I got to go into the living room first on Christmas morning. This year there are at least eight kids ahead of me. It’s no fun getting old!

At last Grandpa opens the living room, and what a surprise! Baby Jesus is in lying in the manger and our shoes are full of gifts! Santa Claus was here but had no time to stop. Once again, it’s Grandpa who gets the most presents! (He must have a deal with Santa). I’m a tiny bit disappointed but so happy to see everyone laugh, and sing and play! Grandma sings, and laughs and says:

“It’s time to pick up our things and sit down to Christmas dinner. But first, Emmie is going to recite a poem she’s written.”

 I knew it! (Even if I did ask Mom to let Louisa recite this year)

 

It’s when the holly boughs swing slowly,
That the leaves all tumble down.
The snow covers things so perfectly.
And our guests arrive in town.
Everyone kisses with joy.
Kids play noisily with their toys.

We hurry to the dinner table
for a lovely Christmas meal
Our tummies are soon full.
How merry we all feel!

The tree’s decorated beautifully.
The gifts are given generously.
What an impressive Christmas!
 
 
Emmie



Joyeux Noël à tous,  Chantal

 

© Pictures: front page istock

Chantal

Bonjour, my name is Chantal. I’m often told that I’m “so French”. This is, in part, due to my traditional upbringing in Versailles, one of the most conservative cities in France, famous for its chateau, good schools and large families. I have three daughters. They’re model children, cheerful, nice and really fashionable. I’m in Paris almost every afternoon for my charity work and I still work part-time as a dance teacher. When the occasion presents itself, I teach etiquette to children at school. I’ll try and explain why my children get so many compliments.    

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