Christmas Eve 1940”
A fiction in England
By Bruce Haase / Senior Library Member
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From the prompt: A child is doubting Santa for the first time, on Christmas Eve there’s a thud on the roof…
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It was the first Christmas that I wasn’t sure if there was a Santa Claus. In December of 1940 I was ten years old and we lived on the Royal Hendon Road, not far from the Royal Air Force airfield. The Battle of Britain had just slowed down in October, but we weren’t sure if it was safe then, just weeks later.
My only brother, George, was fourteen and he and his friends had fun convincing me that there wasn’t a Santa. They had pretty much succeeded in their efforts. I felt a little sad, but more grown up with my new knowledge. During the war, my Dad was a civilian, but was gone most of the time, traveling the country, fixing electronic gear and training soldiers.
On that Christmas Eve and my Mom and Dad and George were down at the local pub for a couple of hours. I was home alone with our ancient cat, Prissy, she would fall asleep too close to the coal heater and would have to be moved away before she caught fire. I had moved Prissy and was dozing in the parlor with the wireless on low.
Far overhead there was the sound of a few Merlin engines, those Merlin’s were comforting music to our ears back then. The German engines never had a smooth and pleasant sound to them. We called the Germans, hienies, or Fritz or just plain nazis in those days. We didn’t hate them exactly, but we were very afraid of them, no one ever spoke of that fear though.
I heard one of the Merlins get a choppy sound, that got me on my feet. I checked Prissy and climbed the stairs to listen better. My ears were straining and I was barely breathing when the engine quit. While thinking about the young man, high above, alone in the dark and cold, I started counting off seconds and waited for a sound. Mom’s wind up Porcelain wall clock read ten:fifty-three when there was a big thud and swooshing sound on the roof. There was a rattle outside the window, on opening it I was face to face with a man hanging from parachute cords.
He was badly hurt and I said that I would go for help. He said no, please don’t leave him alone. He asked me my name and I told him, “Johnnie”. He said he was a Canadian Flight Officer named Carson and he wasn’t going to make it.
He told me of his wife in Ontario and his three children, all younger than me. He asked me to take his wrist watch and to make sure they got it. His grip on my arm was weakening and his voice became too soft and garbled to understand. His eyes closed and he died. It was ten:fifty-eight. I had only known him for five minutes. I took his watch off of his wrist, it was broken and very bloody.
That Christmas Day I washed his watch and carefully wrapped it, I wrote a letter to his family. I told them how much we children appreciated the people like Canadian Flight Officer Carson. People that came from another country to help save us from the Nazi’s.
The next day my brother and I went to the airfield and we found a Pilot Officer that would make sure that Pilot Carson’s family would get his watch and my letter. A couple of months later I received a letter from his wife and parents. They thanked me for my letter and the watch, they had given him that watch on the day he got his wings at flight training. Now they had it back and it meant a lot to them. They told me that they were happy that I was there in his last moments so he wasn’t alone.
During that war George and I and our Mom and Dad and many other children at school wrote many other letters to families of dead soldiers, sailors, and airmen. We received many letters back, all saying how much our letters meant to them. We felt like we were helping those loved ones, heartbroken, so far way. It’s not a lot of effort to write a letter.
I’ve written many more over the decades, and through all of the wars, I’ve written to the families of police and firemen too. My wife and children have done the same. Now the grandchildren carry on. It’s December 2015 now, and I know that on Christmas Eve I’ll think about washing Canadian Flight Officer Carson’s broken watch.
Flight Officer Carson wasn’t Santa, but he taught me about the meaning of giving… Even if the gift is as small as a letter.
Write Your Story @ the Union City Library
Join our senior library member Bruce Haase and write your memoir. Bruce is a life long reader, he now writes memoire-based, creative non-fiction. These are informal meetings to support each other and organize your thoughts for writing. Sharing is optional.
Meetings take place the third Tuesday of the Month
December 15, January 19, and February 16
1 — 3 p.m.
For more information: Bruce Haase Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: UNION CITY BRANCH – Get Directions