Big Al and the Presents

The last month has been a steep learning curve for my four-year old nephew, Big Al.

What with securing an impromptu solo at the nursery Christmas Play, playing pinata with a baseball bat and our forest Christmas tree to remove as many needles as possible, Β and actually attempting to haul the tree down lumberjack-style, his calendar has been an action-packed event-fest, a little piece of pre-Christmas chaos for every door he opened on his advent calendar.

Al comes from a family which teaches a loving, caring ethos; there are books about the Christmas story scattered everywhere, and each night Big Al chooses one and has it read to him out loud by Mummy or Daddy.

Indeed, Big Al volunteered himself for the part of Joseph in his play, so keen was he to emulate the pastoral figurehead who oversaw the Christchild’s passage into this world.

So you can imagine that Big Al is under no illusions as to the true meaning of Christmas.

Oh, no.

Christmas is all about presents.

The Three Kings had the right idea, he figures. Big, expansive gifts with portent are the name of the game.

If Al had his way each day would be greeted by a huge mountain of wrapped presents; and he would work through them much as a tornado works its way across the fields of Kansas, one after the other, a vortex of wrapping paper and greeting cards and toys and small boy.

One day out of 365 the mountain appears. But his vision of what should happen next, and that of his parents,are two vastly different scenarios.

Like any sensible parent, Al’s mummy rations the presents. Read the label together, note the giver (for thank-you letters), unwrap it and enjoy playing with it. Then wait a few hours until the next one.

There is a palpable electricity in the little boy’s eyes and his mother waits on DEFCON 2 for Al to make any offensive moves on the present pile. She has the look of a cat about to pounce. Long years of living with Al have taught her that split-second timing is of the essence.

Most of the time, Al is good about this. This is mainly because he knows at the core of his being that should he launch an attempt on the North Face of the presents he will not win.

Yesterday, Big Al’s front door was opened to uncharacteristic quiet. No hurricane by the door; calm reigned.

Something was different.

I walked into the front room, and there was a small boy intent on something on his lap.

It was a small computer activity pad, brought by an expansive friend of the family for the blond bombshell. He held the stylus perfectly, and manipulated the whole thing like a pro. I might have been watching Phil at the iPad.

I stood for a moment to marvel at the quiet, and then pottered into the kitchen to sip mulled wine and talk to the cooks.

As more guests arrived the blonde head of hair seemed to awake, and hurtled once more round potential gift-givers, hoping to short-circuit the whole mountain of presents scenario. After that I remember snapshots of his Christmas: Felix showing him how to build a small Lego motorbike; reprimands for using the turkey on his plate as a javelin, and aiming his weapon at Felix; a propensity to be anywhere but in his Christmas seat at the head of the children’s table.

As we sat at the grown up’s table he appeared at the door quizzically. Might he get away with coming in? Might it be possible anyone here had more presents for him?

His mother reprimanded him. “Alasdair Shrewsday,” she scolded, “Sit that bottom back down where it is meant to be, please! Right now!”

He turned to go. He knew when he was beaten. And then he heard a sound that persuaded him a party was still possible. His Uncle Phil let out a classic hyena cackle. We were sampling Phil’s chimenea-cooked pudding, and it was a triumph. That laugh of Phil’s always has, and always will, indicate non-verbally thatΒ here is a slightly lawless corner of the Shrewsday empire.

Al’s eyes lit up devilishly. He mounted one more attempt on the grown-up’s table.

One hard stare from his mother and he hastily changed his mind.

Time passed: grown ups got up from the table, replete. Al pottered up to his mother:” Mummy, can we open another present now, please?” he enquired.

Who could deny the blue eyes, the blonde hair, the perfect diction?

His mother, that’s who. “Al, we’ll open another when everyone’s gone.”

Al got his big broadcasting voice on. He planted his feet firmly on the floor.

And he bawled authoritatively: “Could everybody go now, please?”


46 thoughts on “Big Al and the Presents

  1. Wow, I am stunned that Big Al is able to have such self restraint that he simply does not rip the wrap off all the presents in one fell swoop. His Mum must indeed be the Real Sheriff” keeping the young man in check. I can just picture him telling everybody to go home so he can get his next present.
    This would have been a great video moment for sure. Happy Boxing Day!

  2. Waiting HOURS between presents? That must certainly be torture to any 4-year old, let alone one of Big Al’s exuberance! I think I’m with him on this one…. At least he asked you all politely! πŸ™‚

  3. He demonstates impeccable logic! πŸ™‚

    A far cry from our undisciplined little soul who manages not only to rip open every one of her gifts in enormously quick succession, but still manages to ‘assist’ everyone else in opening theirs as well!

    1. I suspect if we watched them all the time, we’d discover they were using a kind of small-person enchantment to get it all done, Col. Of course, no-on ever observes every moment…

      1. He was quite cheeky like that. Yes, I’m having a nice break, thank you. Just trying to catch up a bit on some of the things that went by the wayside during the mad rush prior to the 25th. I hope your break is going well, too. πŸ™‚

  4. What a wonderfully big soul in this compact body! “Could everybody go now, please?” Really and truly, have we all not felt like saying that a few times in our lives? It sounds like your Christmas was merry, Kate, in spite of the ghosts in Bloomsbury.

  5. Big Al is my Boxing Day gift! I too am amazed at his restraint, and his resourcefulness in ordering people to leave immediately. I hope that earned him the right to another whack at the pile.

    Happy Boxing Day!

    1. Happy Boxing Day, Andra! Couldn’t let the season go by without reporting on antics from the smallest member of the Shrewsday Clan πŸ˜€ He got tired waiting for everyone to go and just opened one anyway while we stood taking our leave at the door…

  6. I need some good advice from Al’s Mom, BabyMibs is a total, clever manipulative little nightmare lolol, mind you, having a five year old open his presents then making him putting them into packing boxes probably was a bit cruel of me lolol! ( we move house shortly)

    1. πŸ˜€ Luckily his mother is just a string a character, Sidey. My sister led my parents a merry dance when she was young: now she knows every trick before Al ever tries them!

  7. I did not get to see my son and daughter much until I got custody when they were in early teens. I missed all this. And then as they got older were too busy to have Christmas with me. It is still Christmas in our hearts no matter what other do or don’t do and I had to learn that. And I’m OK with it . A personal Christmas: a time of reflection and to make not a toy list but a gratitude list.

  8. What an honest little soul! Glad the pudding was a success, and delighted to have a little glimpse of your lovely family and a happy Christmas home. Boxing Day is a lovely tradition and now we move forward to the New Year. Debra

  9. Big Al…there’s a man who knows how to give a “last call”! I hope he was able to indulge in wrapping shredding to his heart’s content once decently alone. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for reading, Cameron: to be honest it wouldn’t be Christmas without all the writing. Al is indeed a character: the same age, I think, as your Felix. Hope you are having a great festive break and Felix is having a blast.

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