The Christmas dinner

I was still a child when Marie told me stories. Marie has been long gone (for more than 35 years) and I cannot ask her any more but her tales have edged themselves deeply into my memory.

Marie did an apprenticeship in tailoring. The salon where she worked was very posh and the difference between the simple live in the village and the big city was huge. Marie used to clean, look after the children and also learnt to take measurements, cut fabrics, sow clothes and iron ornately. The flat iron was made of iron and many such items were there on the oven. You had to be very careful with the elegant fabric not to burn it with the hot iron. Marie loved tailoring and learning about it brought her great joy. At the same time however, she felt lonely, even though she never really was alone. She missed her siblings, her parents, her house, the familiar scents and sounds that didn’t exist in the city. Every now and again she got very homesick and wished to go home. But it was far away (nearly a whole day worth of travelling) and expensive. She knew that she had to wait until Christmas. She was very excited when it finally got to the second half of December and she could return home on the 24th for a week. She had sewn a small gift for each of her siblings out of the left over fabrics with the permission of her boss. Marie couldn’t wait to give them their gifts and to see the happiness on their faces.

Her heart filled with joy and great expectations. It was cold, there was a lot of snow on the streets and the journey was grim. The train was delayed but Marie didn’t mind. When she saw the village her cheeks blushed. Her blood pressure rose. It was already dark as she left the train station. She knew that late in the evening no one would be there to pick her up and she dragged her suitcase through the snow towards the house.

As she opened the door of the house, her parents were sitting at the dining table. Her siblings were sitting on the floor, playing by the tiled stove. The little ones jumped up and ran towards Marie. She hugged one after the other and greeted her parents. Her mom told her that she had kept food in the oven for her. She added that the kids had been hungry and so they had already eaten. Each word made Marie’s heart sting a little more. It really upset her that her family hadn’t waited for her. However, she didn’t mention it.  

She told me this story when she was around 60. More than 40 years after it had happened and I cannot forget this story nearly 80 years later.

It is easy to upset someone. I wish, Marie’s mom had given the kids some bread to snack on that evening and had waited for them to all enjoy the Christmas dinner together with Marie.

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