by Morna Sullivan
“You’re best staying put. We’ll miss you. Stay safe and keep warm. Bye.” Mum put the phone down.
“Bad news. Gran and Granda are snowed in.”
“Aaw no! We’ll not get their presents!”
“Jack! You’ll get their presents when the snow melts and Gran and Granda can travel. It just won’t be on Christmas Day this year,” said Mum.
“I’ll miss them…. I mean I’ll miss Gran and Granda,” said Ellie.
“We all will. But we’ll phone them tomorrow to wish them Happy Christmas. We’ll see them soon. We’ll celebrate again in a few days’ time when they arrive. Now, who’s going to help me clear this table?”
“When will Dad be home?” Ellie moved away from the window to help Mum.
“Soon, I hope. The snow’s not getting any lighter.” Mum lifted the toys and magazines from the table.
“Why’s their tree not up? It’s Christmas Eve. Santa can’t come if your tree’s not up!” Jack peered through the window at the house across the lane.
“They maybe don’t celebrate Christmas like us. Not everyone does,” said Mum.
“Do they not believe in Santa?” asked Jack. “How awful for Luka! I’d hate Christmas without presents.”
“It must be very difficult for them, moving to a new country. They’ve left their family and friends behind. They don’t know the customs or language here,” said Ellie.
“If you’re not going to help me, go over and see Luka. He’s probably never seen snow before,” said Mum.
“I don’t want to go outside,” said Jack.
“I’m sure he’d like someone to play with. He seems lonely. Go on over. Ask him to help you build a snowman – or else, come and help me in the kitchen.”
Reluctantly Jack pulled on his blue woolly coat and red scarf, hat and gloves. He slammed the front door behind him. Mum and Ellie watched him cross the narrow lane and ring the doorbell on the green door. A lady wearing a flowing purple robe with a long blue flowery scarf draped over her head opened the door. Soon Luka appeared wearing his thin black nylon coat and came out to play in the snow with Jack.
“He must be freezing Mum. His coat’s so flimsy. He’s not wearing a hat or gloves,” said Ellie.
Ellie kept working to clear the table. Every so often she went into the kitchen to check the simmering vegetable soup. Every so often she came back to the window to watch the boys building their snowman. It was growing bigger and bigger by the minute.
“Found it! It’s as good as new.” Mum carried a bright green padded coat down the stairs. “Jack’s grown out of it. I’m sure it will fit Luka.”
“Luka’s fingers must be freezing playing in the snow,” said Ellie. “Do you think Auntie Noreen would mind if I gave him the scarf, hat and gloves she sent me for Christmas? He mustn’t have any – or else he’d be wearing them.”
“I’m sure Auntie Noreen would be very proud of you if you did that. It’s very kind. Now, I think some hot chocolate would be a good idea, what do you think?”
“Yes, I’d love that.”
“Go and ask the boys to come in. It’ll warm them up.”
Ellie pulled her coat on and ran outside to bring Jack and Luka in. They all sat round the table eating chocolate biscuits and drinking hot chocolate with melted swirling marshmallows.
“Lovely. Thank you, Mrs Meadows.” Luka smiled.
“What a fantastic snowman you’ve built together, but it’s too cold to stay outside for long today.”
“Our snowman needs a hat and scarf,” said Jack.
“Would you like to give him one of yours?” asked Mum.
“No!” Jack shook his head.
“Do you know what we do at Christmas in this country Luka?” asked Mum.
“No.” Luka shook his head.
“We like to give our new friends presents. We thought you could use these.” Ellie handed Luka a large parcel.
“What’s in that? What’s he getting?” asked Jack.
“Something he needs more than you do,” said Mum. “Open it Luka.”
Luka carefully tore open the green paper patterned with red-nosed reindeer.
Jack’s cheeks glowed, matching the reindeer’s noses on the Christmas paper.
“Wow! ” Luka beamed. He tried on the coat, hat, gloves and scarf. “I love Christmas in this country!”
The back door opened.
“Are you having a party?” Dad asked.
“We’re starting our Christmas celebrations early,” said Mum. “Meet Luka, Jack’s new friend. He lives across the lane.”
“Hello Luka. Merry Christmas,” said Dad, setting down a huge turkey on the table. He shook Luka’s hand. “I’m not sure what you’re plans are for tomorrow, but if you’re not doing anything special, you and your family are very welcome to join us for dinner.”
“Thank you, Mr Meadows. I ask Mum. Thank you for presents. I go now. Bye.” Luka hugged everyone. He ran home wearing his Christmas present.
“I’m glad you’re home safe Dad. We’ll miss Gran and Granda tomorrow but if Luka and his Mum and Dad come for dinner it will be a really special Christmas. I’m happy Luka likes his new scarf, hat and gloves I gave him.”
“I’m glad he likes my old coat,” said Jack.
“You’ve made his first Christmas in this country really special,” said Mum.
“Luka seems very nice, Jack,” said Dad. “He’s very happy to have made a new friend.”
“It’s good making new friends, especially at Christmas,” said Jack.
“It’s not just good for Luka – it’s good for all of us,” said Ellie.
“We’re usually giving everyone else presents at Christmas, so it’s good to give yourself something,” said Dad.
“What do you mean?” asked Jack.
“A friend is a present you give yourself,” smiled Mum, “and one that can be for life – not just for Christmas.”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that. But when you put it like that, it’s probably the best present I’ll get this Christmas,” said Jack.