WRITTEN BY CAMILLA KELLY
Each element weaves together wonderful memories…
We start with a wreath base made out of willow, and JoJo watches from the armchair across the room, with Misty at her feet, while I wrap some florist’s wire around it, readying it for the first layer of greenery.
She calls this the boring bit – like putting lights on the tree before you can do the tinsel and baubles – we always make her dad do that – but she’s still watching passively as I separate out the rest of the materials we need. She’s going to let me do this bit too.
JoJo is really not all that into Christmas this year.
“Hmmm.” I stand back and appraise. “It’s no good. I’m going to have to go out and cut some more greenery.”
“You’re not going out in this weather?”
“It’s only drizzling.”
She sighs. The whole thing is just too much fuss and she can’t understand why I’m bothering.
It’s disappointing. Crafting things for Christmas is usually a mother-daughter bonding time for us. We always made the wreath together. Maybe it’s because she’s getting older. She’s bound to be less interested in this stuff now that she’s a teenager.
Still, I have hope. She’s still hanging around, after all. And while I’m wielding my secateurs in the garden, I look up from under the hood of my coat and see her standing at the back door. I wave a branch of conifer at her. I’ll entice her yet.
“What do you think?”
She shrugs and goes back inside.
Back inside, shaking the raindrops off the pine needles, I tell her, “I got it from your Christmas tree.”
She’d rescued the small tree from a sale at the garden centre in January. It had seemed destined for the compost heap. She’d insisted on putting it in a pot by the back fence, and to everyone’s surprise, it flourished. Now she calls it Bertie, and we all appreciate its scented presence at our summer barbecues.
“Poor thing missed out on Christmas entirely last year,” I say. “This year it’s going to be the centrepiece.”
She smiles faintly at the thought. “Remember how we thought it was dead, and then the whole summer it just grew and grew?” she says.
As I twine the conifer branches into the base of the wreath, JoJo takes a seat beside me.
Having filled out the ring with box hedge and holly berries, I reach for the pine cones.
JoJo takes one and turns it in her fingers. They’ve been sitting in a dish on the windowsill since we collected them on an autumn walk through the park.
We’d been playing Fetch with Misty at the same time and clearly not giving her the attention she felt she deserved, because suddenly she dropped at our feet, not the ancient red ball JoJo had thrown for her, but a blue woolly hat. Moments later, a very cute young man came running after her, wanting it back.
JoJo had blushed scarlet. Misty had been very taken with him too; every time we threw the ball for her, she’d return it to him, which – thankfully – he found hilarious. Soon he and JoJo had made a great game of it.
JoJo looks up, her cheeks pink, and bursts into laughter.
“I know just what you’re thinking of,” I say. And the memory has the two of us laughing so much that Misty gets overexcited and starts turning in circles, probably taking credit.
“Wait a second.” JoJo stops me before I fix the first cinnamon stick to the wreath. She disappears momentarily and returns with spool of gold ribbon. “It was left over from the scrapbooking we did this summer,” she says.
She cuts a length and then picks up a few cinnamon sticks, but before tying them, she lifts them to her nose. “Mmm. That outdoor market with the hot chocolate stall,” she says, taken back by the scent. “Is that where you bought them?”
“We’ve got some hot chocolate left too,” I say, smiling. “Let’s heat some milk.”
I knew I’d get her involved eventually.
While I make the hot chocolate, she fixes bundles of cinnamon to the wreath.
“You know what else we could add?” she says. “Dried orange. Like Grandma made last year. It would smell gorgeous.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“And maybe the candy canes that Kath and Dan gave us last weekend – for a bit of colour.”
It seems that once she’s started, she can’t stop. The wreath fills out, item by item, full of texture and colour and scent. And memories.
Soon it’s done, with only the orange slices left to add, which are currently baking on a low heat, smelling wonderful as promised, and reminding us of her grandmother’s kitchen.
JoJo looks at the wreath with pride, quietly thoughtful. “We’ve done some nice stuff this year, haven’t we?” she says.
I give her a hug. “And Christmas will be nice too,” I promise.
Let’s call Grandma and show her.
We call my mum online, and on screen she displays her own wreath, being teasingly competitive.
“Though I think, on balance,” she says, “you two get the prize this year.”
JoJo clinks her mug against mine in celebration. It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas.
Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
Don’t forget – you can find brand new, uplifting short stories every week in My Weekly magazine! Subscribe now for a great money-saving deal, or enjoy one of our Little Escapes short story collections.