It was 5am that Christmas morning, and although we were expecting the call, the shrill of the phone echoing across the house startled us just the same, and we lept out of bed.
I do not recall ever waking up so early on Christmas day, not even as a child out of curiosity to find out whether Santa had received my letter and delivered the present of my dreams. Rather, as the years rolled on and Santa had long become an imaginary figure, it was the time that I would’ve probably got home from a celebration breakfast with my friends after the traditional Midnight Mass.
So there I stood in our kitchen at daybreak, groggy and half-asleep while I buttered some toast and downed black instant coffee. The tiled floor was covered with colourful reflections spilling in from the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree standing in the hall, adding a magical touch as they shimmered and shifted.
My better half duly appeared in the doorway, car key in hand and pointing to his watch. It was time to go. I could feel butterflies nervously fluttering about in my stomach as we headed to Mater Dei Hospital, for that is where that early phone call came from. Our daughter had gone into labour and our first grandchild was on the way.
After months of anticipation, I should’ve been over the moon. Instead, I was overcome by a sinking feeling of helplessness at the realisation that this was it and there was nothing I could do to spare my daughter those awful labour pains, not even on the most wonderful day of the year.
The main hospital entrance was cheerfully decked with Christmas decorations, but it was unusually quiet that morning and the silence was almost eerie. The reception desks were empty, the cafeteria and convenience shop were shut, and nobody except us two seemed to be around. Nobody, not even in the long wide corridor leading to the numerous hospital wards, including the waiting area where we eventually settled down and huddled together, facing an anxious wait and hoping for tidings of comfort and joy.
It seemed like an eternity before we received the first text message from our daughter’s partner, who was in the delivery room assisting and supporting her throughout. “She’s puching,” it said. No comfort there, much less joy! Was she puking? Bewildered, we read the message again. Surely he meant pushing. We felt a sense of relief reassuring ourselves that it was just a spelling mistake. But as time and more time passed, we started brooding again until the phone call that put us out of our misery finally arrived – “It’s a boy! Congratulations nanna and nannu!”
Overwhelmed with excitement and emotion, we pulled each other into a bear hug, both laughing and unable to restrain the joyful tears that started to squeeze out of our eyes. For like Mary’s Boy child, our grandson was born on Christmas day and it was the best Christmas present ever!