Each year, early in autumn,
My mother placed newspapers
On top of the great mirrored wardrobes.
Then like squirrels, we put aside
Our winter supply in the cool upstairs
Of the big old house.
Newspapers, apples, newspapers, apples,
In single layers, each apple wrapped
In its own square of newspaper,
So that no apple skin should touch another.
On Christmas morning, in the toe of my stocking
(Mother's brown lisle,
With darned holes and mended ladders),
The cool hard roundness of an apple
Greeted my outstretched grasp.
I rubbed the fruit against my cheek, breathed its scent,
And bit into its juicy crispness with delight.
Awake early as we were, and admonished not to rouse the adults, I satisfied my hunger
Until my brother blew impatient reveille on his new bugle.
The sound could have woken the dead, and did.
Grumbling parents and visiting aunts got up,
Releasing us from our cold rooms and promises of silence.
I bundled my toys back in my stocking,
And took the sticky apple core and brown pips
To the rubbish bin (do not swallow the pips or an apple tree will grow inside you).
Christmas day wended its way
Through the wonders of stuffed goose and plum pudding,
Banging crackers and paper hats,
And presents under the candle-lit tree.
The sweet smell of an apple,
Fifty years later,
Has the power to recall
These childhood memories
Of a Christmas in Wales.