Red Man: a Toddler’s Christmas

Red Man

Red Man

Before you come to the far end of your understanding, where days and dates and weeks are only flimsily grasped – ideas as wispy as the net curtains you tug at to look out onto the street – you hold a clear picture in your mind: a Red Man. A big, jolly, ruddy-cheeked Red Man. The man who will leave presents under the tree you took home with your Daddy and dressed with shiny balls and angels and lights. The feeling when Mammy lifted you up and you put a giant star on top! The tree’s clean smell and the coloured flashing in the darkened sitting room is like floating and just watching the lights’ reflections dance on the star is better than anything – even TV and sweets.
The adults smilingly repeat a name – Santa, Santa, Santa – and will the words from your lips, expectantly studying your features and nodding wide-eyed questions down at you.
“And who’s going to bring you ALL those presents?”
“Red Man.”
They laugh. “But what’s his real name.”
“Red Man.”
You will not call him anything but “Red Man”. It’s because he belongs to you and your name for him is the right one. It’s because you see him everywhere.
Red Man is on every wall and doorway in the creche, beaming down at you and your friends while you chatter and play. He’s in the songs you all sing and shake your fingers to when you scream, “you’d better watch out” . He’s in the stories that they read, going “ho, ho, ho” and laughing and flying with his reindeer. And they all end so happily. Red Man is in the shops, sometimes not just in pictures, but  singing and dancing; Red Man dolls, with shiny black boots and golden glasses and fluffy beards. You love how he is always laughing or smiling and always looking at you the same way Grandad does.
For a while now, every morning after Daddy gives you breakfast, he takes down a long, thin box from the counter top – a calendar he calls it. He points to a tiny  door and, both greedily and carefully, you pull it open to find a special chocolate behind it; a magical chocolate with a Red Man shape that you can feel with your fingers and your tongue before it disappears in your mouth. Daddy tells you it’s getting closer and closer to the big day. Christmas. That Red Man will visit you very soon and leave you presents.
“Only ten days to go,” he says.
“Only six days.”
“Only four days.”
He tells you what you have to do: go to bed early, go off to sleep, no peeping out the window or getting up and sneaking down the stairs. And if you do all that and for being a good girl all year, the Red Man will leave you wonderful presents under the tree – all wrapped up and mysterious.  And very importantly: you must leave a little snack out for Red Man and his reindeer. He’s tired and hungry from travelling all around the world and bringing presents to all the boys and girls and would love a little something before he’s on his way again. So you think hard about what to leave him.
Daddy says maybe a glass of whiskey or a little glass of stout. You just know that’s wrong. You smelt whiskey once; it was yucky. Red Man wouldn’t want that stuff. You think about what you’d want yourself after a long day in the creche – a glass of milk, a Penguin Bar and a little chocolate muffin. And for the reindeer? Carrots of course!
And when Daddy says “two days to go” you know the time is near. You can count to two on your fingers and you can picture tomorrow and one day more and that’s when Red Man visits.


About ucronin

Microbiologist, brewer, writer, fan of James Joyce, guitar player and gardener, U. Cronin was born in the county town of Ennis, Co. Clare. He's spent much of his adult years moving country — between Spain and Ireland — and at present he is to be found back in his native town. Author of five novels and working on a sixth, U. is back in the lab and engaging his passion for looking for bugs using very bright lasers. Let's hope it turns out well!
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