Twelve Days of Christmas
The knocker rattles on the door, the dog barks and I lose all track of the point I am making on my zoom call. ‘Hang own a minute, just need to answer the door and I leave my client looking at a messy office as ran into the hall, grabbing the dog by the collar to stop him running off. Any chances, any door open and he is off visiting next door’s chickens.
‘Morning parcel for you. Registered but don’t worry I’ll sign for you, covid times and all that. There you go, enjoy, have good day. If I don’t see you again have a good Christmas’. And with a hand in the air, George our postman is away, jogging up the lane, whistling to himself. As usual he’s wearing his bright red post office sweat top and has on his shorts and boots. He always has shorts on, no matter what the weather, rain, sun, gales, snow. And he’s already round the corner and out of sights calling out a hello to walkers passing by.
I don’t look at the parcel, just notice it’s small, not much bigger than my hand. I put it up on top of the bureau away from Buddy the dog who’s very interested and sniffing madly. He normally collects the post from the mat and brings it to me in the office. We sometimes lose a few though, as tearing some to pieces is good sport when he’s bored.
At lunchtime I remember the box and open it up as I eat my sandwich. The dog sits beside me, head to one side, inquisitive. Although maybe he’s more interested in the crisps on my plate than the parcel. I absently drop one, which he neatly catches in his mouth, still watching me as I unwrap first the brown paper and then release a beautiful red bow wrapped around a small, elegant box. The lid comes off with a satisfying hiss and a pop. I slide my fingers through the tissue paper inside, expecting a present of some kind, but all I come out with is very high quality piece of paper, folding with neat crease down the centre.
I open the beautiful cream heavy duty paper and there are only seven words, in wonderful calligraphy …..’Believe and trust in yourself. You are very capable. Believe in the best in others too’. I turn the paper over, nothing else. I empty the box, lifting the tissue paper out carefully, so as not to tear it. There is no address, no other note, just those words. I look at the dog, he looks back, tips his head one way then the other seeming to say ‘don’t ask me I’ve no idea’. I discover though, that if I bend the paper backwards it will sit neatly in the box upright so I can see the words like a tittle mini display. Although I am confused, I decide I like the phrase and every time I see them through the rest of the day they seem to just lift me a little somehow.
The next morning, I have to get my accounts organised before the year end so I’m up early and deep into receipts, invoices, expense sheets when the door bangs again. I don’t answer because if I lose my thread now I’m stuffed, an hour’s worth of adding up and organising will disappear. I ignore the knocking, which persists. Irritated I stalk to the door, throw it open and there’s George, dressed in his usual kit even though its freezing cold. Except this time, he has a Santa hat on, with a bell which tinkles every time he moves his head.
‘Parcel for you’. And instead of leaving it on the wall he puts it into my hand. ‘Looks like the same as yesterday, perhaps it’s a duplicate, did you accidentally order two? It is the same, he’s right. I turn the package over. Everything is the same, exactly the same. I thank him close the door and although I’m mildly intrigued, my paper work calls. So it’s lunch time again when I open the box. I’m feeling smug because all my books are ready for the accountant and I’m only three weeks late, which is a step up from last year. The box opens with that same satisfying hiss and pop again. There’s the same single page and this time it reads ‘Do it now, get it done. You know you’ll feel better afterwards’. I read it again and chuckle. Spot on, I do feel better and as I refold the paper and set it upright in the box I’m busy thinking about the treat I might allow myself this afternoon.
On the third day I’m ready, no zoom calls booked, no admin to do, but George doesn’t come. In fact no one up the lane has seen him all day. I feel bit disappointed but hey ho maybe that was that anyway. I’m checking my emails to see if anyone is owning up to sending them, but no word yet. Then at eight in the evening the knocker does go. There is George standing under the outdoor Christmas lights, as bright as ever, smiling as though it’s mid morning.
‘Sorry I’m late, a computer glitch messed the rounds up and we had to sort by hand, didn’t get going till the afternoon, but here’s your post’. And there nestled in amongst the cards is another box. Just seeing it warms me, which is strange as I think I should be concerned. Just who is sending these parcels? ‘Looks like you’ve got a fan somewhere’ George remarks before disappearing into the night, just the tinkle of his bell telling me he is next door delivering more post.
I know what I doing now and I soon have the next message propped up in its box. ‘Find your talent, develop it and use it to help others’. Support others to find their talent too’.
I like this one, it seems to speak to me. I believe in talent, that everyone has something they are excellent at. And everyone’s talent is different. The comment stays with all evening and that night I sleep like a log which is very unusual.
Over the next few days we get into a routine. Buddy lies on the front door mat, looking up occasionally at the letter box and then barks crazily when the knock comes. George smiles as he hands another identical parcel over. I’m spreading the notes out in a semi circle on
the kitchen table. Added to the first three I now have ‘Go out and meet interesting and diverse people. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll enjoy it. Search out any prejudice you may have’. ‘Create a secure base for yourself, an anchor which builds confidence for you personally and for others around you’. ‘Hold serious issues lightly if you can. If possible, smile and relax as you work through the big questions’.
The coffee machine gurgles and spits. I making two cups, imagining George would like a warm drink. I can hear him chatting to someone, he’ll be here in a moment and I know he will knock, the parcels keep coming. I think his talent is to make others feel happy and he certainly is secure. At least in the job he’s doing. I’m guessing he’ll take milk and I know he likes chocolate, so out come the biscuits.
‘Lovely coffee Mr G, thank you’ and I watch him dunk his second biscuit. He’s sat on the wall scratching the dog behind the ear. Buddy does his perfect dog pose and of course is rewarded with a tiny piece. ‘I’ve cracked it I think, these parcels you’re getting’. I look at him, suddenly wondering if he’s behind the whole parcel thing, but I know he isn’t. ‘So, you’ve had six parcels and now we’re at nineteenth of December. I reckon someone’s doing the twelve days of Christmas with a twist. If that’s true you’ve got six more coming, including that one there. George is just sitting on the cold bricks relaxed as can be, legs bare, chatting as though its a summers day, while I’m busy wrapping my coat around me to stay warm. The box sits tantalising between us, waiting to be opened.
I can’t stop myself and tell him about the six sheets of paper and as his eyes move to the box beside his coffee, I can tell he’s dying for me to open this one. My fingers are cold and won’t move easily, so he unwraps it and then hands me the box. This one says ‘Think big. Have a vision for the future and understand your current reality. Manage the broad strategy and the details to make this happen’.
‘This is just like chinese proverbs, handy hints for the busy, stressed person. I like it’. He smiles broadly. Then realises what he’s said. ‘Oh sorry, not that I think that’s you by the way, I meant it more as general comment. You know us’ and he waves his hands in the air. “I like that one about talent and the one you’ve just got about having a vision but dealing with the details too. Actually I like them all. Do you mind if I write them down’? He pulls out a small battered notebook from his pocket, dropping rubber bands on the floor around him. Takes a stubby pencil and begins to write. “Stuff like this is really helpful you know, maybe I could weave it into some poetry’. I nod and smile. I know he dropped out of university with some sort of breakdown, just before his final exams. I’ve heard the neighbours chatting.
The next five days are fun. We open the parcels together and interpret the messages over coffee, with ever increasing treats – croissants, doughnuts, cream cakes. The cold air seems to make us hungry, The neighbours are talking about us. One pokes her head over the fence and tries to join in, until Buddy does one of his running jumps and bangs against the panel. She goes away muttering. On Christmas eve I organise lunch. Somehow it feels right to have a meal together. It turns out to be more like dinner, as its late afternoon before George jogs down the lane, the last parcel and box of chocolates in hand. We sit out at the garden table. It’s cold and the temperature is dropping but we’re being Covid safe. Even George has an extra layer on top, but nothing will convince him to put trousers on. The dog is in heaven, as he gets regular treats of proper dog biscuits from George’s pocket as we eat.
“So, what have we got, let’s arrange them together’. George is excited, has his notebook out ready to take more notes. ‘Okay’ I reply positioning all twelve like a fleet of boats about to set sail. They read:-
1. Believe and trust in yourself. You are very capable. Believe in the best in others too.
2. Do it now, get it done. You know you’ll feel better afterwards.
3. Find your talent, develop it and use it to help others. Support others to find their talent too.
4. Thing big. Have a vision for the future and understand your current reality. Manage the broad strategy and the details to make this happen.
5. Go out and meet interesting and diverse people. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll enjoy it. Search out any prejudice you may have.
6. Create a secure base for yourself, an anchor which builds confidence for you personally and for others around you.
7. Hold serious issues lightly if you can. If possible, smile and relax as you work through the big questions.
8. Expect conflict if you are doing something new or different. Most people won’t understand what you are trying to do at the beginning.
9 . Enjoy nature, spend some time each day outside. Stand in the sun and reenergise. Walk when you can, particularly if you need to clear your head.
10. Develop yourself, you will have an interesting journey. Give and receive feedback, this will help you change.
11. Stand up for what you believe in, share your ideas. You can make a difference.
12. Enjoy special moments, share them with others. Celebrate. Affirm and thank others.
‘These are just in date order, but I reckon they all have equal ranking really’ I say. George nods, scribbling thoughts as we speak. Sometimes he goes silent and seems to float away. He’s shared some lines of his poetry, which I feel very privileged about and now I sense him shaping words in his head as we sit in contented silence.
We move our paper boats with beautiful words around, making connections. Trying different combinations. ’I like enjoying nature’ says George. ‘I like meet interesting and diverse people’ I respond. We bounce ideas around as the snow begins to fall gently down on us. The dog gets more biscuits as we chat, the temperature on the outside thermometer drops but we don’t notice.
We never found out who sent the boxes, but what great Christmas presents we both received that year.
Grahame Pitts December 2021