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So I get a message from my brother on the bank holiday at the end of the summer. He is thinking about visiting. It’s been a while since he has seen us and unbelievably he still has to deliver our Christmas presents from last year. I start to worry because I’m not completely sure that we have kept his family’s presents but I check and Maggie has safely stored them at the bottom of the wardrobe. Of course she has.

I have to un-wrap them though, they’re not labelled and I have to make sure they are the right ones and they are still suitable. They are. But when I re- wrap them there isn’t enough of the original Father Christmas paper left so I go back to the study drawer and find some left over snowman wrap. That’s alright, one with red Father Christmas paper and one with white snowman paper. It will make it easier to remember which one of the boys gets which present. Good job really as there are no gift tags to be seen.

Before he comes I tidy the house and think of things for the boys to play when they’re here. Maggie will be disappointed because she would have wanted to see him and his wife and the boys. But all the time I’m clearing up part of me is expecting a call or message to cancel, another postponement. I’m no better though, I could have visited him. At least I admit that I suppose.

When they arrive we go over to the play park and watch the boys on the swings and roundabouts. We talk about how everyone seems to be splitting up. We discussed ways of beating the rat race. There were fantasies of resigning and starting businesses from scratch. But there was a difference this time when we spoke, there was a resignation. Five years ago we would have spoken of these schemes with great enthusiasm, really believing that it was all going to happen. On Monday we would resign and on Tuesday we would be free. But over that short period of time our belief had slowly melted away, drip by dip. Even the fantasies seemed hard work this time.

All that talking sure made the time go quickly. After a couple of hours there they went, the two boys running across the road towards the car. They were shouting, ‘Can we open them now?’, ‘Please can we open them now?’ And following them was my brother and his wife walking slowly as if held back by an invisible weight. It was all they could do, to keep walking. Ahead of them, carried under a tiny arm was a box shaped Father Christmas. And, above a bobbing head, a family of snowmen were mercilessly held up towards the August sun.

I didn’t tell them the truth about Maggie and why she had left. I could sense none of us were really ready for that.

ff - snowmen in august: Text
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