It’s Christmas 1942 and Edie goes home on leave from the WAAF…
She saw the stockings hanging in their usual place on the mantelpiece. Her mother took Edie’s hands to her lips and kissed them. ‘I’m sorry, my dear, I couldn’t bear not to put his stocking up again this year. I know it’s silly but I hope you’ll indulge me?’
‘Of course, Mummy. I understand.’ As long as the stocking was there, they could fool themselves that everything was the same. Jimmy had been gone for over a year and a half but it was still a bitter pill to swallow.
As soon as she got changed into her civvies, she helped to put the final decorations on the tree. It was a family tradition to wait until they were all gathered together to put the star on the top of it. Afterwards, they toasted the tree with a small sherry.
In the evening, Edie’s father left for his patrol. He’d been in the Home Guard from the very early days but she still found it difficult to think of him as the country’s last line of defence. He was such a sweet man, if he ever caught an enemy, he’d be more likely to give the fellow a cup of tea and a jolly good talking to than raise his gun to him.
On Christmas morning they went to church. Hannah managed to cook an excellent Christmas lunch considering the shortages. After lunch, they opened presents. Inside Edie’s stocking was a new pen, a bottle of ink and some chocolate. ‘I’m afraid oranges were nowhere to be had this year but we managed to bag the chocolate,’ said her mother. ‘This one is thanks to Daddy. They’re not quite as nice as your usual, but everything is in such short supply.’ She gave Edie a brown paper package which she’d made prettier with a ribbon tied in a bow. It contained three notebooks, rather utilitarian compared to her usual leather-bound journals but no less welcome since she was down to her last twenty pages on her current one.
Before she had a chance to thank them, her father handed her a large flat box, from Lewis’s. ‘And now, la pièce de résistance.’
She opened it to find the most divine silk dress, the colour of cornflowers. ‘Oh gosh, it’s beautiful. It must have cost the earth, as well as your clothing rations for a year.’
Her mother gave a little shrug. ‘We have plenty of clothes. You’re a young lady now, Edith. You’re allowed to dress like one occasionally, even if there is a war on.’