He seemed visibly shocked. “Why?” he asked. I was crying. “Me mam said that if I was good I’d get something, that God would remember me, but all I got was cinders.” I turned and ran from the church with a parting shot of
“I hate God!”
When I got home I ran upstairs to the bedroom and lay there crying. Don was sent up to see what was wrong with me. All I could think of was that God didn’t keep his word.
There was a knock on the front door, and when my mam opened it there was a man from the Methodist congregation standing outside. Mam must have thought he was asking for donations, for I heard her say: “I’ve got nothin’ to give yer.”
He asked whether she had a little girl, and instantly mam thought I must have done something wrong. Again I heard her voice, hard and querulous, saying: ”No, it wasn’t our bitch, whatever it is, she was in church an’ she’s been in here since she got back.”
The man said that he knew I’d been in church because he’d heard me tell the preacher that I had got nothing for Christmas except cinders. He then produced a rag doll and said it was all he had as the shops were closed. He asked her to give it to me and tell me that God does keep his promises and that he does love me. My mam took the doll from him and shut the door without a word.
Then she exploded: “She’s told the bloody world. The bitch. She’s snitched to the whole congregation. We’ll be the laughin’ stock of the street.” It was Don who saved me a beating. He told her that I was only telling the truth.
She flung the doll at him and he brought it to me. It was ancient but I loved it dearly. Even now I still consider it one of the best presents that I ever received.
While remembering that I rarely got a present from my mam, I look back, though, and think about how hard it must have been for my mam with six kids to bring up, no husband, and very little money coming into the household.