My sister and me, in ignorant bliss, got really excited watching our father build a heap of pens in our backyard, which he filled with chickens, ducks, and a beautiful pair of lovely white geese. Delighted with this addition to our garden, we spent ages leaning over their fence, naming and talking to, each one. Mum mixed them up big pans of, mash, brown, gooey stuff, to eat, and us kids threw them wheat, watching as they madly dashed around, trying to out peck the others and greedily get the most.
It was nearly at the first Christmas time, I really remember, and mum had put me in my bed for an afternoon nap. Too excited to sleep, as my favorite Nana was coming, I snuck out, creeping quietly, on tippy toes, across our hallway, for a quick nosy through the sitting room window.
Quietly, lifting the bottom edge of the black blind, Dad immediately caught my eye, half hidden behind the wood shed, he was swinging his axe up and down above his head. Then suddenly, I saw a chook with no head, come racing out and run flat tack, around the grass, before it just crashed over.
I raced back to my bed shocked. My brain not having the foggiest idea, of how or why, what it had just seen, happened.
Later, going out into our yard, I was alarmed by the total silence, something was wrong. All, the pet noises, clucking, squawking and honking was hushed. Peeking over into the pet pens, I could not believe it, but, they had all vanished. Even the lovely, specially beautiful, big white geese my sister and me just adored. I also saw, but never understood, the red splotches sprinkled over dad’s chopping block and up our wood-shed wall.
Tucked up in bed that night, I told Nana, who had arrived on the train for Christmas, about the pets disappearance as she stowed her suitcase under the spare bed in my room. Before she left to have her cuppa, and one of mum’s delicious little cakes she had baked, stuck together with jam in the middle, she reckoned, it was dad and his money making ideas. I was stumped, that made no sense to me.
Christmas morning, Nana and me got up early, as soon as we heard the bell on top of her big wind up clock going off. Her and me were going to be making the Christmas Puddy.
Nana opened her suitcase to get her day clothes out and got a big fright, a mouse surprised her by jumping out and running off into our wardrobe. He gave her such a big scare that she let out a loud squeal and mum arrived, wondering what had gotten Nana all excited.
When Nana said ‘mouse’, mum jumped up on a chair, shouting at Nana to fetch our straw broom. One big broom flick from Nana, did the trick. That mouse was sent scuttling up the hallway and out the open front door. My brain couldn’t figure out why the fuss about a wee mouse.
While stirring up the big bowl of puddy mix for Nana, I secretly hid some thruppences and one sixpence, she gave me, into the dough, for surprises. After that she emptied the whole lot out, on top of a floured up, flour bag, cloth. When it was rolled up into one giant sausage roll, she tied each end up with string, before dropping it into our big jam pot of water for a boil up on the stove.
Next, mum asked Nana and me to pod the peas for our Christmas dinner. Sitting outside together on the grass, it was impossible for me to resist their sweet, juicy, greenness. Out of the pods I opened, I gobbled up as many as went into the pot. It was only, thanks to Nana, we got it filled up.
When mum asked Nana to pluck the chook, I had to ask Nana, to find out what plucking was. She said it was getting all the feathers off. My brain, was still trying to take that in, when it had a horrifying flash of understanding, mum reappeared from the house, dangling a headless chook body upside down by its two legs. All the pennies dropped at that sight, and I twigged to the awful truth. The pets were gone to be Christmas dinners, that was dad’s big idea.
Mum carried dad’s metal, army bucket, filled with boiling hot water, outside, for Nana to use to dunk the headless chook under. The was to soften the feathers up and make them easier to pull out. I left Nana doing that bit by herself, it was too horrible for me to watch.
For the rest of the morning, people carrying empty flour sacks, turned up at our backyard gate and dad took them into our wash-house. I noticed their sacks when they left, were much fatter, our pets! An old man who dangled his sack from his bike handlebars, nearly toppled off when it wobbled as he rode away down the driveway.
Mum’s only sister, came out from town on the train to share our Christmas dinner. Auntie Bonnie was always fun, and as she had no children of her own, she spent her money shouting us kids presents and lollies.
Father Christmas, had left a black doll for each of us kids’ for a present. This confused me, as they were the same as the two white dolls, I accidentally happened upon dad painting black, the day before. Anyway, I thought it was ugly, but Mum tried to reckon lots of kids loved black dolls and golliwogs.
When we were all sat up at the dinner time table and I saw the pet meat on my plate, I dug my heels in and told mum I was not going to eat it. She got mad and made me stay at the table, all alone, after everyone else finished and went into the sitting room to talk.
I heard them having fun with my little sister, while, I stared at that meat on my plate, but never gave in. Mum sent me to my bed, which wasn’t fair, because I missed out on the puddy, I helped Nana make.