I knocked on my parents’ bedroom door.
“Can I go down and open my presents now, please?”
“For goodness sake, Harriet. It’s not even light yet. Get back to bed this instant.”
“But Mum, please. I can’t sleep.”
“No. Get back to bed. You can open your presents when I get up at seven o’clock.”
“I said ‘no’, Harriet. If I hear another word from you you’ll be opening your presents with a sore bottom! Do you understand?”
I went back to bed and lay there, wide awake and frustrated, until, a long while later, I heard Mum go to the bathroom, and I was standing with my hand on the door handle, ready to race down the stairs as soon as she knocked.
Shortly after 7am.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” Rebecca yelled. “That’s the one I asked for.”
“You both asked for it,” my mother told her. “There’s no point in having two the same. You can share it.”
“No way!” I said. “It’s got my name on it so it’s mine. Bad luck, Rebecca.”
“Don’t be mean, Harriet. You can share it with your sister and she can share her book with you. It’s Christmas, so be nice.”
“I don’t want her stupid book, and I’m not sharing this one.” I yelled.
“You little brat! Give it here,” said Rebecca, lunging at me and grabbing the book from my hands. I snatched it back, and in a moment a fierce struggle ensued which lasted just a couple of seconds but which resulted in the book being torn in half, several other parcels being scattered around the floor, and the Christmas tree coming crashing down.
There was a brief silence as we sat among the chaos, realising what we had done and the trouble we were in. The calm before the storm. Then we were noisily chased out of the room and up the stairs to our bedrooms and told to wait there and not dare to come out until we were told.
Dad had been having a lie-in, not wanting to get up at the early hour my sister and I had come downstairs to open our presents, but I could hear him complaining as Mum insisted on him getting up now. It took a few minutes in which I could hear him in the bathroom before I heard him entering my sister’s room. I heard Mum’s footsteps going down the stairs, the door of the hall cupboard where the slipper was kept opened and closed, her footsteps again, this time coming back up, and then she too went into Rebecca’s bedroom.
Dad must have been ready and waiting for her with my sister already over his knee because the spanking started immediately. I sat on my bed listening and counting as Dad gave her two dozen whacks with the slipper, each one followed by a howl of pain. I would normally have enjoyed listening to her being punished but not this time, because I knew it would be my turn next. I could hear her sobbing while my parents left her room and came into mine.
Dad looked at me, sighed and shook his head. He was still unshaven and in his pyjamas. He sat on the edge of my bed and pulled me over his knee. My mother stood watching, arms folded, as he pulled down my pyjama bottoms and began to spank my bare bum with the slipper.
He obviously hadn’t wanted to start Christmas morning like this and showed his annoyance by whacking me much harder than usual. After twenty-four stinging whacks, my bum felt like it was on fire, but at least it was over. Or so I thought.
“Harriet was the instigator of all the trouble, Jack. I think she should have another dozen.”
I looked up, horrified. Surely, he wouldn’t agree to that! I mean, I had had longer spankings from him before. It wasn’t that that bothered me. It was Rebecca, listening in the next room. How much she was going to tease me about getting a worse punishment than she had. I could picture her, eyebrows raised when she realised he hadn’t stopped at twenty-four. The pain of her own punishment, though no doubt still hurting, would be nothing compared to the pleasure she would get from hearing me get extra. Whenever it had been necessary for Dad to punish us both before, we had always got the same.
Dad didn’t argue with Mum.
“You’re the boss,” he said.
He raised his arm and brought the slipper down on my sore bottom again, and again, until Mum’s instructions had been carried out. Then I was told to pull up my pyjamas and come downstairs to clear up the mess. Mum opened Rebecca’s door and told her the same, and she came out on the landing, her eyes still puffy from crying, but with a huge grin on her face when she looked at me clutching my sore bottom.
Once we had tidied up the mess, we were allowed to continue opening our presents, this time with no arguments, and we were both very well behaved for the rest of the day, every time we sat down being a reminder of the consequences if we weren’t. Later on, our Grandparents came round for Christmas dinner. They were completely unsympathetic and found it highly amusing that the two of us had to sit on pillows to eat our dinner.