Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Prompt & Circumstance: Christmas Lights

It’s dark. Darker than it should be at 5 PM. And I am being jostled and bumped as I grip my little sister’s hand and push my way through the crowd. My parents have played the guilt card and whilst they stay at home and keep warm in front of the fire, I have drawn the short straw and have had to come out to witness the Christmas lights being turned on. ‘After all, you don’t get to spend much time with Becca these days.’ As if that’s a choice that I could help. I picked the university best for me, it just so happened to be the other end of the country.

A lot of people think the gap between me and my sister is weird. There is a clear 13 years between us. Becca was a surprise child (or accident if you want to be cynical). I love my sister but I hate being out with her because people look at me as if I am her mother. Some give me that pitying look and other disapproving and I just want to yell, ‘Not my kid! Just my sister.’ But instead I bite my tongue and just pull her along.

I manage to pull us out to the edge of the street. I put Becca in front of me and keep my hands on her shoulders. I know she wouldn’t wander off somewhere but at least this way I’ve covered my own back. There are lots of families around us and the noise level is almost unbearable. Our town is usually pretty sleepy but it feels like every single person has come out to see the lights being switched on. I’m not even sure why. The local council hasn’t changed them in years. They are the same crappy light fixtures that are hanging from the street lights and shop fronts as when I was a child.

I shuffle my feet slightly trying to keep myself warm. Becca is bouncing up and down herself but whether from excitement or cold I cannot tell. A guy with a tray of flashing lights comes down the street and Bec turns to me with her big blue eyes. “Jade, please can I get one. Please.” She is pulling at my arm and although I think it’s a waste of money I can’t say no. “Sure, Beccs.” I rummage in the pocket of my skinny jeans and pull out a fiver that has seen better days. I flag down the vendor and Becca picks out the gadget she likes the best, a spinning monstrosity of bright greens, reds and blues.

No sooner has she got it in her hand and is waving it around there is a burst of music from the stage that has been erected opposite us. The crowd around us erupts into cheers and my sister begins to jump up and down. Even I crane my neck and look down the end of the street as the parade begins. The black tarmac of the road becomes a catwalk for the floats that are sponsored by local businesses.

Father Christmas brings up the rear of the parade throwing out the bitesize chocolates you get from Celebrations tubs and children are restrained by their parents and guardians to stop them running onto the road. He heaves himself off the float and onto the stage where the mayor also stands with is chain hanging around his neck. He gives the usual speech, telling us all to be safe and to enjoy the Christmas season and how he is proud to spend another Christmas being mayor of this fine town. Then the countdown begins.

Becca grips my hand with the strength of a vice as we start at ten. With each number she hops up and down on the spot and jolly old Saint Nick grabs the lever. As we hit one he pulls it and the dark streets are lit up in ice blue images of starts and green holly. Best of all, the tree standing in the middle of the town centre lights up from top to bottom completing the somewhat picturesque scene.

Even though she’s seen it every year since she was three, it is as if that switch is also wired to Rebecca who lights up just as bright as the rest of the street. She hugs me around the middle. “Thanks for bringing me, Jade.” I look down at her and even though this wasn’t my ideal night, I smile. Ruffling the hair on the top of her head I tell her, “It’s alright, squirt. Now let’s head home, it’s freezing out here.” And once again I am bumped and jostled as I grip my sister’s hand and push my way through the crowd.

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