The Week Off

Entry by: Tauren

28th December 2017
A very, very long time ago, back when I was a child, so we`re talking a really long time ago, Auntie Anne, my mother`s only sister, would come and stay with us for a week over Christmas.
This hadn’t always been the case; she had once had a life of her own in England, but then her mother died when my mum was just a toddler, forcing Anne to abandon her carefree life and return home to help raise her siblings. And when they`d left home to have lives and families of their own; she stayed behind to look after my grandfather.

And that’s how things remained until granddad passed away when I was seven; it was from that point on, until she took her own leave of this world, that she came to stay with us.

Every Christmas eve at around fiveish, Dad would go and collect her from Greenmount, delivering her to our front door with absolutely no fanfare, (their relationship could best be described as; tolerable) but to the utter delight of her five, and one day, six, nephews.

A severe looking, and severe woman, auntie Anne wouldn’t hesitate in giving any of us a slap if she felt we were deserving of it, but if Anne smacked you you knew you`d earned it, so none of us held it against her. She was an inveterate and unapologetic chain-smoker, invading a house where nobody else smoked, soon reducing the atmosphere to something akin to a London Peasouper, a fact that drove my parents insane, but bothered none of the rest of us a bit.

What was so special about Anne`s annual visit was the safety that arrived with her. Her older sister was the only person in the world my mother was afraid of. And though Anne knew what her baby sister was capable of, and how regularly she did it; she knew also that in the holy catholic Ireland of the sixties, she was powerless to do anything about it.

So for one whole week a year she did the only thing she could to keep us safe. Safe from the wooden spoon, the rolling ping, the sweeping brush, or whatever weapon was closest to hand whenever our mother “lost it”
But most of all we were safe from the rubber hose she kept in her bedroom, the one she used when she hadn’t “lost it” but had had an opportunity to think about what she was about to do. We always knew that moment, it was like a pressure change in the air, you know, like the feeling you get when you can sense the thunder storm approaching. Each of praying `don’t let it be me, please don`t let it be me.`
And there is a certain level of guilt that goes with hoping it`s not you, knowing that in doing so you`re damning one of your brothers.

You always hear how Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all men, well that was a week of peace for us, though not so much on the goodwill. And I will always celebrate Christmas, though I have long been an atheist, because for me it will always be that, a time of peace, a time when my brothers and I got the week off.
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