Getting into the holiday spirit! R&R!
All three of the older Rafter children vividly remembered their grandfather, Ted, dressing up in a Santa suit to surprise them on Christmas Eve. All three of them remembered climbing onto his lap, making sure that he knew exactly how good they had been, and exactly how bad their siblings were. Reminding him of what presents they expected to unwrap on Christmas Day, before padding off to bed, giddy with excitement. Julie and Dave never forgot the utter joy that radiated off all three of their kids' faces, as they excitedly discussed the prospect of Santa visiting.
Ted dressed as Santa Claus every year until Nathan was seven- Rachel was eleven, and Ben was nine. That was the last year Santa existed in the Rafter household, and it was Ben that missed it the most.
So, when little Ruby Louise was deemed old enough to be actually excited at Christmastime (at age three), Ben immediately brought the idea up with his parents and grandfather.
"I'm too old for that, Ben", Ted had sighed, while his grandmother Chel had chuckled at the thought of Ted in a red and white Santa suit.
"Tom?" Ben wanted to know, looking at his other grandfather.
"No way, mate". Tom shook his head.
So Ben turned to Dave. "Dad? Come on, she's your daughter!"
"And what are you going to say when she asks where Daddy is?" Dave reasoned.
"Touché old man", Rachel said from where she was perched on the bench.
Ben rounded on his younger brother, but Nathan was too quick for him. Holding up his hands, he shook his head. "Absolutely not. I'll stand back and take the photos, if you want to dress up".
"I'm a girl, Ben", Rachel said in disgust.
"Carbo!" Ben turned to his best mate. "I love you, mate".
"And I love you". Carbo patted him on the back. "But I'm not dressing up as Santa".
"So you put so many Christmas lights around the house you blow the power board, but you won't dress up as Santa for a measly few hours! Thanks a lot, Scrooge". Ben crossed his arms grumpily; glaring at the man who claimed to be his best mate.
"What about-" Nathan started, but was interrupted by the bang of the front door.
"Hey baby, sorry I'm late- but I bought dinner!" Jake Barton kissed his wife on the lips, holding up the bags of fish and chips.
"I knew I liked him", Julie said, pleased.
"Legend!" Carbo cried.
"Mate, congratulations!" Ben took the bags off him and pumped his hand up and down.
"What did I get volunteered for?" Jake asked wearily.
"You're the new Santa!"
And Rachel sealed the deal with another kiss.
"Santa's comin' tonight!" Ruby squealed excitedly, bouncing through the lounge room in her pink pyjamas, clutching her rag doll tightly. "Santa's comin'!"
"I know!" Rachel laughed, as Ruby settled herself in her lap. "Has everyone been good enough for Santa to bring presents this year, Rubes?"
"Daddy hasn't", she declared, "But that's all".
Dave looked bewildered. "And what do you mean by that, Ruby Louise?"
Ruby just giggled innocently, shrugging her shoulders.
"I think you should put out the bickies now, Rubes, to be ready for Santa", Coby told his little cousin, holding out his hand. Ruby shyly accepted it, and led him into the kitchen.
"Not too many!" Ted warned- his youngest granddaughter had been known to make a small mountain of biscuits for Santa Claus (under the encouragement of her older siblings).
Ruby diligently stacked half a dozen chocolate chip biscuits onto a plate decorated in Disney princesses, and with a slight struggle, retrieved her favourite mug.
"Coby, you gotta get the milk", she told him, and her cousin obediently sloshed milk into her favourite mug. But then she scanned the room once more. "How come not everybody's here?"
"What do you mean, honey?" Retta wanted to know.
"We're all here, kiddo", Tom assured her.
But a thump outside the front door stopped the little girl in her tracks. "What was that?" she whispered dramatically.
"Come on, we'll answer it together, what do you think?" Ben suggested, lifting his little sister into his arms. Ruby nodded, resting her head on Ben's shoulder and wrapping her arms around him protectively.
"It's not a monster, is it?"
Dave glared at his oldest son, for putting the idea of monsters into her head. He had warned her that she was too young, but both the boys had insisted, saying she would love it- and both Dave and Julie had been cursing the boys when Ruby woke up screaming.
"I don't think it'd be a monster, Rubes", Nathan consoled.
"Monsters don't come out at Christmas", Coby added.
"Monsters aren't real", Rachel said quickly.
"I saw 'em, Rach", Ruby informed her older sister.
"God forbid you contradict the three year old", Carbo chuckled to himself, as Ben carried the little girl towards the hallway. swinging open the door, he saw his little sister's mouth drop open and eyes light up- he had never seen a look like that before.
"Santa Claus!" she half gasped, half shrieked.
"Who's at the door, darling?" Ted wanted to know.
"It's Santa!" Ruby was absolutely astounded.
"Have you been a good girl this year, Ruby Louise?" Jake wanted to know, from behind his beard.
Ruby's eyes were huge, and she nodded emphatically. "Very good! I promise!"
"Santa knows when you've been good, Ruby", Jake said in a low voice, stepping inside with a sack over his shoulder.
"Are they for me?" Ruby was suddenly shy, wrapping her arms tighter around her older brother's neck.
"They might be", Jake said mysteriously, following his brother in law into the lounge room.
Rachel gasped in surprise. "Wow, Ruby! You must have been good this year!"
"I told you!" Ruby cried, scrambling into Jake's lap and proceeding to tell him all that she had asked for- number one being a puppy.
(He didn't have the heart to tell her that the puppy had been completely ruled out by her parents. Heck, he didn't have the heart to tell her that the unicorn she requested was out of order, either.)
"We've all been very good this year, Santa", Ruby told her brother in law cheerfully, pointing around the room. "Granddad and Poppy and Grandma and Mummy… Daddy's only been a little bit naughty".
"I don't understand that". Dave shook his head in amusement.
"Carbo and Benny are silly, but not naughty". She shook her head firmly. "Coby and Nathan are silly too, but they're still gonna get prezzies, right?"
"Absolutely", Jake said in a deep voice.
"Rachel, where's Jake? Jake's gotta get prezzies too. And Retta! Retta's really good, not like Carbo".
"I am so offended right now". Carbo shot a look at the three year old and she giggled innocently.
She had them all wrapped around her little finger.
The Rafters' lounge room floor was littered with wrapping paper and discarded tags and boxes, as Ruby Louise (and Ben) played with their new presents. Rachel had her head on Jake's chest, eyes half closed (she had insisted on coming to her parents' house before the sun had properly risen), while Julie and Chel prepared lunch for them (a proper turkey roast with all the trimmings, Julie had announced properly, the traditional Christmas lunch).
Ruby, clutching one of her many new toys, climbed into Tom's lap, abandoning her brothers and the Lego station Ben was diligently building.
"Wanna know a secret, Poppy?"
"Always", Tom smiled- Ruby's secrets had always been a source of entertainment.
"Last night I saw Rachel talking to Santa".
"Yeah, after I hadta go to bed". Her tiny shoulders slumped at the memory and both Ted and Tom had to stifle their laughter.
"Is that the secret, Rubes?" Retta wanted to know, yawning.
"What is it then, sweetheart?"
"Rachel kisses Santa!"
Rachel blushed scarlet, as her family erupted into laughter. Heat was radiating off her, as Ben and Nathan held their sides hysterically.
"It was gross!" Ruby claimed, unsure why they were all laughing.