CHRISTMAS STOCKING | Molly Alessandra Cooper on the ties that bind her and her sisters together, and the routines they return to at the same time, every year.
by Molly Alessandra Cooper
I think we’ve always opened our first Christmas presents together on Christmas morning; if not always then I’ve forgotten the times before. We wake each other up first before we see our parents, stealing a moment for just the three of us. There was that one time you both forgot or chose not to wake me up when I was in the depths of teenage indifference (it was perhaps best for everyone that I wasn’t forced to wake up earlier than required).
Now it’s me who wakes first; I knock on your adjacent bedroom doors and we haul our stockings into one of our beds, tucking under the duvet. You both rub your eyes and yawn, frowning slightly as I sit upright, smiling, ready for the day. I never feel more like the eldest sister than when I act parallels with our mum; she’s the earliest riser we know.
The youngest gets to open first usually; or the eldest. The middle sister always goes second, never first. Our stockings are red with gold stars, our names stitched on in Christmassy green and red felt; mum made them for us when we were small. Collectively our age is 71. We always choose the smallest, softest, most likely to be socks present so that we’re equally as happy with our start to Christmas.
One year I was already sleeping in the bed we sat in to open the first present; I’d been through a break up and insisted I couldn’t sleep alone, though I’m not sure you had a say in whether I was welcome to stay with you. I was sure I’d fall apart alone. We aren’t affectionate siblings but we understand the way we each deal with sorrow.
Our parents don’t know the ways we feel so similarly about ourselves; the way we envy different things about each other and how we can disagree so strongly about our differences. We joke that one of us (always the same one) is adopted, her hair a different colour and her eyes a different shade.
“I’ve forgotten what it felt like not to love you, middle sister, forgotten the feelings we felt for each other in our worst teenage years.”
I’ve forgotten what it felt like not to love you, middle sister, forgotten the feelings we felt for each other in our worst teenage years. It’s not the distance that makes my heart grow fonder, it’s the memories of us in recent months which warm me. This love comes of bitterness bitchiness and vicious arguments; the bad is not completely buried but the friendship sits proudly on top of our baggage now.
My favourite Christmas mornings were the ones when we were hungover; we went out and danced to Indie music and drank too much wine. We came in late, sat at the dining table which had been laid for breakfast and ate our veggie patty Subways; giggling at our poor efforts to sneak around the quiet house. In the morning, you were worse off than me and we laughed at your half-hysterical half actually-might-be-sick hangover; one of the ones where everything is inexplicably funny.
I can feel the smiles and silly faces we pull as we tell the jokes only we understand; mocking our parents and ourselves. My stomach aches with our laughter when we leave our parents’ homes after Christmas; I smile as I sit on the train back to London as I think about our new literal dance moves or the unconventional way we approach ‘girl talk’. I smile because on that drunken Christmas Eve we awkwardly but honestly told each other how proud we were to have each other as a sister.
Molly writes creative non-fiction and is a lover of books, art and food. She is currently living in London and working for ASOS.