This is a true memory when I was about age seven or eight years of age. 'Our Kath. Go outside to coal'ouse and get bucket of coal,' my father said. (I should add that we were northerners, from the UK, hence the phrasing of this sentence)
I knew better than to argue, and with a sigh I climbed from my knees, reluctantly glancing down at my unopened Christmas presents. Why me? I thought. My brother should go.
There were strict male/female chores in our household. Most of the jobs were deemed as women's work, but not the laying of fires and bringing in the coal from the outside coal house. That task fell to my father or my brother, who, because he was a year younger than me, was only expected to bring in half a bucket of coal. I saw my brother look at our dad in surprise, but Eric smugly glanced at me and carried on opening his presents.
Nothing beats a coal fire
I left the room, opened the back door, and resentfully picked up the dirty, empty coal bucket kept near the door. I defiantly thought, if Eric is allowed to bring in half a bucket, so can I. Outside it was cold. A wintry sun struggled to appear, hiding behind wispy clouds. I shivered and made my way to the back of the house towards the coal house. I could see a curve-shaped object leaning against the doorway. I picked it up. It was covered in lumpy wrapping paper, with scarlet ribbons, and a white label attached.
"To Kathleen from Father Christmas"
The coal forgotten, I sped back to the warmth of the kitchen and incredulously read the label - 'To Kathleen from Father Christmas'. I ran into the lounge, (or as we called it, the sitting-room). 'Look what I found outside coal'ouse,' I said excitedly. My parents smiled at each other. 'Ee, it looks as if Father Christmas does exist after all, our Kathleen, doesn't it?' my mum said.
By this time I had excitedly ripped the rest of the lumpy packaging away from Father Christmas's present, to find a purple velvet coat-hanger inside. (It was not until several years later that I found identical ones hanging in my mother's wardrobe).
"Mr Morgan said there isn't a Santa Claus"
'Well I'll go to foot of the stairs,' I exclaimed. (I had heard my dad use this expression and it had made a lasting impression on me). 'Mr Morgan was wrong then, wasn't he?'
Mr Morgan was the Headmaster at Cheadle Primary and Infants School, Cheshire. We had recently been told by Mr Morgan, in no uncertain terms, we could forget childish ideas such as believing in Santa Claus. I remembered, I had come home mortified and said to my parents. 'Mr Morgan said there isn't a Santa Claus.'
My faith now restored by Santa's gift, I happily carried on opening my presents. My father left the room and returned a few minutes later with a full coal bucket. I glanced up guiltily, expecting a reprimand, but he seemed amused and to my surprise didn't say anything to me as he laid three lumps onto an already roaring fire.