Carol disliked Christmas immensely. It wasn’t because of people teasing her about her name, it was because everyone seemed to get Christmas presents and she didn’t get anything. All the other kids at school got presents, like Judith who got a doll when she already had one, and Marlene got a kitten.
It wasn’t because they were Jewish or anything either. Nor were they Christians. Her parents didn’t give her anything for Christmas but they seemed to go from one office Christmas party to another, and they even had a party at home with all sorts of decorations and lights and a tree.
On Christmas morning, no one pretended to come down the chimney, even though Carol left a peanut brownie that she had pinched from the cookie jar in the kitchen. But it was still there in the morning, and her parents slept in until eleven o’clock. To fill in the time waiting for them to get out of bed, Carol watched television on her own. And when they got up they never even said “Merry Christmas”.
“That’s because your parents are very busy,” said Marlene’s mother, Mrs. Brocklehurst. Carol spent quite a bit of time at the Brocklehurst’s house. Carol was dropped off there by her mother whenever she was having guests for an afternoon tea or dinner or something.
Anyway, that was years ago. These days Carol’s parents are in a retirement home. Carol’s mother is bed-ridden and her father is in a wheelchair. Carol never visits them. It’s not that she’s mean or anything; it’s just that it never occurred to her.
Leo was all of six and a half years old. A half seems to matter when you’re that young. I’m six and a quarter. I’m going to be seven in four months. Because, you see, at that age birthdays matter.
Leo loved to sing. He knew all the nursery rhymes and a few other songs as well. His favourite song was:
This old man, he plays one He plays knick knack on my thumb With a knick knack paddy wack Give a dog a bone This old man comes rolling home.
And then his mother heard him singing:
This old man, he plays one, He plays knick knack on my BUM.
BUM was emphasized to make sure all heard. Leo knew how to rhyme. His mother was amused but pretended to be shocked. She took Leo aside and told him that BUM wasn’t a nice word to use in the song. And if he was very good she would take him along to the Christmas carol singing next week.
He was a good boy, so off they went to the carols. Leo sang. The whole world heard him. He sang in tune but at the top of his voice.
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum Me and my BUM.