December 14th: Sian’s Christmas Club

Christmas Club2

Joining in with both Sian’s Christmas Club and Blogmas today, the Blogmas prompt being, “What’s your favourite Christmas memory” and Sian suggesting we start our piece with, “At Christmas we…”. Here goes…

ChristmasDresses

At Christmas we would always, without fail, buy a new dress for me. A special dress. One from Loreen’s, the poshest shop in the village. I remember the excitement building as the Designated Day grew closer, my Mum more excited than I was, always, her excitement barely containable on the actual day itself. It’d be a special trip, just me and my Mum. My Dad would hand her an envelope and we’d be instructed, kindly and with a smile, to spend no more (I don’t know, looking back, how they were able to spare any money for a dress that was obviously so expensive, as money was very tight in those days).

We’d get ready, me and Mum, for the long walk in to the village. Pulling on socks, then carrier bags (so we didn’t get wet feet), then wellies, then gloves and scarves and bobbly hats, we’d head out, in to the darkening afternoon, snow beneath our feet. The prospect of entering Loreen’s brimming in our minds, the crunch crunch crunch of the snow under our feet hypnotising us, hardly talking to each other as we imagined what we’d find there. Loreen’s. The very name causing hushed silence in anticipation of special attention, an array of beautiful, handmade dresses and kindnesses I’ve still, to this day, not forgotten.

We’d get to the main square and suddenly we’d start to talk. What colour would I like? “Perhaps we’d be able to get a cardigan too. Or shoes?”, I’d venture. (I laugh, now, as I remember how wonderful I felt when Loreen let me try the girls high heeled shoes on, as my daughter doesn’t stop asking me to tell Santa that she, this year, wants a pair of high heeled shoes, “…with a bow on the front, Mama”).

We’d cross the main square, bidding Merry Christmas to everyone we’d meet and then we’d grip our hands a little tighter and I’d hold my breath the last few steps. We’d say hello to Dave the Barber (next door) and then there we’d be! At Loreen’s. She’d always have a marvellous display in the window, and we’d stop and stare, mouths agape, as we took in all the delights: embroidered tulle, thick pleated silks, taffeta, pearls stitched on finest, smoothest cotton, socks with little bows…a little girl’s dream shop.

The moment before we’d enter. Whenever I remember it, I always feel like I was holding my breath, like time slowed down, as I imagined myself crossing in to the shop. The window in the door full of condensation, from the warmth inside, little drops of water running down the window, meeting the ledge, it’s Victorian flaws catching them, a perfect little drop of water forming, glistening…some frozen in action. The lights inside would be welcoming, glowing. There’d be a smell of rich, new, cloths emanating from inside, and then, click – dingaling – Mum would open the door and the little bell on a wire, that hung over the door, would ring. We’d step in to the shop and Loreen would step in from out back and there we’d all be! With only one task in hand: to find the most beautiful Christmas dress (at the right price).

I remember she’d always fuss over me, but not in a fussy way. In a way that felt perfectly comfortable. Like a perfectly human, real, Mary Poppins. Immaculately dressed herself, she’d add a spot of glamour to our village wherever she went. She popped in to the Post Office, all the ladies would discuss her outfit as she left. In the bakery, they’d spend an age discussing her shoes (and be baffled by her choice of chocolate eclairs, “But she’s so thin!”, they’d sigh). She was a swathe of elegance in a village without much of it, and we all loved her for it.

As we entered the shop, she’d ask how we were, ask me how school was, slip me a few chocolates and ask me to warm myself by the heater (an electric heater screwed to the wall a little way above my head). Then we’d set to, to find it. She knew what I liked, what called to my heart. [I guess that’s why she was so successful, why people came from all over the county to find their Christmas dresses there].

I’d be welcome to try them all on, all the ones we selected, as many as I liked. Her patience was infinite. I’d take delight in the trying on – thankful that the heater did it’s job – and I’d step out to sighs and ‘Oh my, she’s so beautiful!’ from my Mum, Loreen and her assistant. I remember feeling so special in those moments. Not that I was showing off, at all, but because I was being spoilt – on one of the days of the year my parents decided they could spoil me – and, because of that, I had to enjoy every moment of it because it was most definitely special.

It was expected, it was part of the delight, part of the special attention from Loreen, from my Mum, from my Dad. It was a day, an experience, to treasure (and treasure the memories I do). I’d be allowed to try on not just the dress but, also, the socks (with bows) and the high heeled shoes and the matching embroidered cardigan. The whole set. A little girl’s dream, so many frills and details and so much love. 

As I’d be trying them on, I’d hear my Mum and Loreen whispering. Some negotiations about payment. Loreen touching my Mum’s arm and telling her not to worry. It was her pleasure. Then I’d come out, feeling like every little girl should feel at Christmas time. My heart fit to burst (it was all a bit too much). Their faces a picture. Me ducking back inside before they’d see my tears of happiness (because they might think I was upset, not happy, and I wouldn’t want to spoil their enjoyment).

I’d hand Loreen the one and, as I was changing, she’d pack it for me. The works. Tissue paper, thick cream- coloured paper bag with a thick satin ribbon handle. A shiny glittery pom-pom bow (rarely seen decorating even Santa’s presents in our home). It’d be wrapped with such love, such care. Then I’d emerge from the changing room, dressed, again, for the cold and she’d give me more chocolate and a kiss on the cheek and bid us a Merry Christmas with the sweetest smile and we’d be on our way home, in the dark. The snow a little bit deeper, the cold that little bit more chilling, but all of it bearable because my Christmas dress – the one – was in the exquisitely wrapped bag.

We’d get home and de-bulk, Dad handing us an Ovaltine or Horlicks to warm us up. The bag’d be placed in Mum and Dad’s wardrobe until ChristmasAnd I’d spend the next few days dreaming of the dress, literally dreaming of it. It’d be handed to me on Christmas Eve (I’d always try to imagine Mum’s face as she opened the bag). I’d hang it on the side of my wardrobe, facing me as I fell asleep, on its own cushioned coat hanger, embroidered by my Mum. Ready for the next morning. I’d stare and stare at it as I fell asleep, memorising every glorious detail of it.

As I woke, I remember, I’d look over to the dress – even before I scrambled to see if my stocking had been filled – and – magically – the dress would have been joined by some high heeled shoes, some socks with bows and an embroidered cardigan. All of them there, shining with happiness and joy, waiting for me to bring them to life, to bring them to life on the sweetest, most joyous, of all days.

My Christmas Day outfit completed.

Magically.

Somehow.

A little girl’s wildest dream come true.

[Photos  from here]

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40 thoughts on “December 14th: Sian’s Christmas Club

  1. Schotzy says:

    AW!… I feel like I walking right there along beside you with jsut as much anticipation for you receive the happiest gift…. Youare an awesome story teller…. you pulled me right into the moment, both down the lane, into the store and the delight of Christmas morn!. And I was reminded of my similar story finding my perfect easter dress when I was a child.

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  2. Becky says:

    Oh wow! I was with you in that shop! What a wonderful memory to have and so wonderfully shared. Merry Christmas!

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  3. Barbara says:

    Yes, Becky – I agree!!! I was picturing a little girl and her mum walking through the snow to the village – and trying on her special dress…and I just knew it would end with her receiving, not only the dress, but the shoes and sweater, too! What a beautiful story of your special Christmas memory!! You are truly a great story-teller! Keep the memories alive for your children and their children, etc. (I am behind in my Blogmas! Still need to do Saturdays & todays; AND my Sunday Reflections…later today OR tomorrow!!) Thank you so much for sharing with your readers!!!

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Thanks, Barbara, for your comment…..we’ll all enjoy reading whatever posts you manage to write (we all understand, I think, how busy this time of year can get!)….hope you’re having a lovely day xxx

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  4. Lizelle says:

    WHat a beautiful post, ah now I really need to get my Christmas outfit in order! Haha. I love these posts. You’re reminding me so much the importance of creating these memories at all. This wonder and moments of feeling like the most special little girl really is something that every little girl should feel at some point in their life. Perhaps it is in moments like these that, the notion of the possibility of being special is nurtured and allowed to grow in their mind, as they stare and sleep and dream 🙂

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia! Absolutely…nurturing the possibility of being special is so important (it’s something I try very hard to ensure, for my daughter)…..lovely comment….thank you! Enjoy your day xxx

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  5. Sian says:

    It sounds absolutely wonderful! Conjured up so beautifully for us..I think I can hear that dress rustle from here 🙂 Thanks for a very special story

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  6. Ally says:

    Wow what an amazing story.

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  7. JO says:

    I love the idea of you and your mum walking into the village, it reminds me scenes from Pride and Prejudice when the girls go to buy hats and ribbons, not that I am in anyway suggesting you’re quite that age lol. What a truly magical story and I do hope you made paper chains today xxx

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  8. Oh, this is just wonderful. What a beautiful memory so perfectly conjured up.

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  9. Abi says:

    This was so vividly recalled. Beautiful. I was really moved when you talked about tearing up and not letting them see you so as not to spoil it. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it.

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  10. What beautiful memories all of those dresses represented! So magical and truly a little girl’s dream. What a lovely Christmas memory to share all tied up with a satin bow. Charm in every word. Thanks for sharing Helen! xo

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  11. What a lovely story for the Christmas Club, such fabulous memories & so wonderfully told!

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  12. Jhona O. says:

    Really beautiful. I can just imagine it all. I love the way you tell your story…thank you!

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  13. Chelsea says:

    One of my favorite post this far- I felt I was with you and you seem surrounded by love from your parents- truly beautiful.

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  14. Carrie Ann says:

    This was so beautiful, I just loved it!! I didn’t get time over the weekend to read this, so this morning I’m sitting here with my coffee and took a trip back in time with you. What a great way to start my day…I’m still smiling 🙂

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  15. Jennifer says:

    You are such a wonderful writer. I totally enjoyed reading this lovely memory. Your dresses must have been beautiful and how special to have such a beautiful shop to visit.

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  16. Helen, you are a beautiful writer! I hope you know this! This brought tears to my eyes. You painted such a riveting and spectacular visual of you and your Mum and finding a Christmas dress. Good Grief. I can’t do it justice with my words. One of my favorite things to do with my mom (I call her Smoo) is to go shopping. What a special tradition your mother created with you. How tender. Reading it was truly magical. I hope you publish this in your book someday! 😉

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Heather, oh my goodness…thank you so, so much for your comment. So beautiful. Thank you. [Shopping with Mums – or Smoo’s! – is *the best*!!!]

      Like

  17. This is such a beautifully magical story. I could feel the cold then the warm then the dress and your emotions, so childlike yet so mature.
    Lovely lovely story telling. Merry Christmas to you x

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  18. Oh this was wonderfully told – thank you for that lovely field trip!

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  19. Zoe Rose says:

    Such a lovely post! I feel like i was there with you. I love that anticipation and excitement, how special for your parents to make such a lovely tradition to treasure.

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  20. This was so beautiful! I want a dress now! Lol. I felt as if I was there too! Job well done. Your imagery was immaculate! Kudos!

    Like

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