A gor­geous new baby is an ir­re­sistible ex­cuse to go shop­ping – for the whole fam­ily, it seems!

My Weekly Special - - Fiction First Class Family Fun - By My Weekly Fic­tion Ed­i­tor Karen By­rom

Baby Ruby Clark opened her mouth in a dainty yawn and blinked sleep­ily at her grand­mother. “Hello, lit­tle one.” Polly Wad­ham smiled down at the small bun­dle in her arms. “I’m look­ing af­ter you this morn­ing. Mummy has gone into town – yes, she has – to meet her chums and catch up on the gos­sip.

“She’s hardly had a minute to her­self since you ar­rived, you know. Not that she minds –” Polly be­stowed a fat kiss on the baby’s cheek and smoothed down her red-gold curls – “you’re our lit­tle trea­sure. Yes, you are… And we’re go­ing to have a lovely quiet morn­ing, all to our­selves –”

“Grandma!” Matty’s voice yelled from the kitchen, ac­com­pa­nied by a vol­ley of barks. “Just tak­ing Tyson for his walk. See you soon.” The door banged and Ruby jumped in Polly’s arms.

“That brother of yours!” Polly chuck­led. “He doesn’t know the mean­ing of quiet.” Ruby smiled and blew a bub­ble – she didn’t care what her brother got up as long as she was warm, dry, fed and loved – and there was plenty of that in the Clark/Wad­ham house­hold.

The next in­ter­rup­tion came from Mike Wad­ham, who popped his head around the door to in­form his wife he was off to the an­tiques shop he still owned in the cen­tre of town.

“Margery’s off and there’s a lady com­ing in with a load of stuff she’s cleared from her mother’s house,” he ex­plained. “I don’t want to leave Jen­nifer to deal with it.” Their el­der grand­daugh­ter, Ruby’s sis­ter, had proved an able Sat­ur­day as­sis­tant, but some jobs needed ex­pe­ri­ence. “Will you be all right on your own?”

“Ruby and I will be just fine.” Polly smiled. “Pinky will be back soon, and

I think Jim and Alex are com­ing home for lunch.”

Her son-in-law and el­der grand­son were still putting in ex­tra hours at the fam­ily garage. Busi­ness was good – thank good­ness, with this new hun­gry mouth to feed.

As if on cue, Ruby let out a whim­per that her grandma knew would soon turn into a full-blown paddy if she wasn’t fed soon. For­tu­nately

Pinky had left ev­ery­thing pre­pared. All Polly had to do was warm the bot­tle and en­joy the sat­is­fied snuf­fles of the baby she held so ten­derly.

The sound of Pinky’s key in the lock awoke Polly from a light doze a lit­tle while later. Baby Ruby was now sleep­ing peace­fully in her Moses bas­ket, Matty was back with his two friends, all up in his room play­ing com­puter games, and Tyson lay curled up at Polly’s feet, en­joy­ing a snooze of his own.

Polly stretched and went into the hall, fin­ger on her lips, to meet her daugh­ter.

“Shh! Ruby’s nap­ping.” Then:

“Good grief!” she yelped, ig­nor­ing her own in­struc­tions. “What on earth have you been buy­ing?”

Well might she ask! The pretty raf­fia shop­per slung over Pinky’s shoul­der was full to burst­ing, while the rolls of pa­per in her arms were slip­ping and threat­en­ing to spill all over the hall­way.

“Bar­gains!” Pinky beamed. “You know how I al­ways meet Mel at DM Browns’ for cof­fee. Well, the lift was bro­ken so I went up the es­ca­la­tors and through the house­hold sec­tion and saw they were hav­ing a sale of old Christ­mas stuff to make way for this year’s stock.”

“Christ­mas!” Polly sniffed. “But it’s only Septem­ber.”

“It was too good a chance to miss,” Pinky de­fended her­self. “These rolls of pa­per were just fifty pence each, and the cards were a real bar­gain. Be­sides, I’ll need to get or­gan­ised ear­lier this year – I know I’m on ma­ter­nity leave but I seem to have less time than ever. I’d for­got­ten how un­pre­dictable ba­bies were.”

A lit­tle cry from the sit­ting-room con­firmed just that – Ruby shouldn’t have stirred for an­other half-hour.

“Go and put all that un­sea­sonal stuff away be­fore Matty sees it and starts doubt­ing Santa!” Polly rolled her eyes. “I’ll stick the ket­tle on and see to young madam.”

Pinky grinned. If Polly re­ally be­lieved that eleven-year-old Matty still be­lieved in Santa then she didn’t know who was fool­ing who!

Polly gath­ered Ruby gen­tly in her arms and walked gen­tly round the room.

“Christ­mas in Septem­ber,” she mut­tered. “It gets ear­lier every year. You know Ruby, when your mummy was lit­tle, we didn’t even start think­ing about Christ­mas un­til De­cem­ber 1. Then we’d bring out the Ad­vent cal­en­dar and your mummy, Un­cle Jonathan and Un­cle Drew would take turns open­ing the lit­tle doors to see the pic­tures be­hind.

“No cho­co­late in those days – Ad­vent was about get­ting ready for baby Je­sus.”

Ruby’s eyes screwed up in con­cen­tra­tion, for all the world as if she were lis­ten­ing to her grandma’s words.

“We put the tree up the week­end be­fore Christ­mas, and the chil­dren didn’t make their lists un­til Christ­mas Eve – although Santa had a good idea what they wanted.” Polly chuck­led. “There were bikes and books and chem­istry sets and Lego – but never dol­lies or prams. Your mum was such a tomboy! Your grandpa and I could never have imag­ined she’d grow up and give us four beau­ti­ful grand­chil­dren. We are so blessed –”

Then Polly had to laugh as the blessed child gave a loud burp and de­posited a trail of half-di­gested milk over her shoul­der.

The fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day, Polly met two of her friends from her lo­cal church at DM Brown’s café as usual. The lift had been fixed so she was able to by­pass the Christ­mas sale goods.

But what on earth? The en­trance to the café sported an ar­ti­fi­cial Christ­mas tree and a plac­ard declar­ing the open­ing of the Christ­mas gift shop in a few weeks.

“I don’t know what has got into ev­ery­one these days,” she tut­ted to Marnie. “I know work­ing par­ents don’t have loads of spare time, but even so … Christ­mas in Septem­ber!”

Marnie agreed. “I was in the newsagent this morn­ing and they’re sell­ing all these glossy Christ­mas mag­a­zines.”

“My grand­daugh­ter has in­formed me she’d like a Peppa Pig toy from Santa,” Ali­son chimed in. “She’s only four, but she’s al­ready see­ing ad­verts on TV.”

“Shock­ing.” The trio shook their heads – none of them wanted to be the fud­dy­duddy to say it wasn’t like that in our day.

“It’s not even Hal­lowe’en,” Polly pointed out. “Why we can’t keep the sea­sons to their cor­rect place and time, I don’t know. Well, I shan’t buy presents un­til De­cem­ber, no mat­ter how tempt­ing the dis­plays. Who’d like an­other scone?”

Wa­tered and fed, the friends chat­ted hap­pily be­fore head­ing to the lift.

“I’ll just pop in to the chil­dren’s depart­ment on our way down,” Ali­son said. “All this talk of Christ­mas has al­most made me for­get that it’s lit­tle Tom’s birth­day next week. He has so many toys, I’m go­ing to be Mrs Sen­si­ble Granny and get him clothes this year.”

“I’ll come with you.” Ruby didn’t need any­thing, but Polly loved an ex­cuse to look at all the dainty baby dresses.

“Oh my!” She caught her breath as they came out of the lift and into the chil­drenswear area. “How sweet would Ruby look in that?”

An hour later she let her­self guiltily into the house, hop­ing to sneak up the stairs be­fore Pinky saw her. Too late!

“Come for a cuppa be­fore you go up, Mum,” Pinky called from the kitchen.

Mike was al­ready there, cud­dling Ruby as Pinky made tea.

“What have you been buy­ing?” he asked, spot­ting the DM Browns’ bag.

“Noth­ing.” Polly blushed. “Well, just a lit­tle thing…”

“Let’s see.” Mike Wad­ham knew his wife was no good at keep­ing se­crets – es­pe­cially from him. He drew the bag to­wards him and pulled out a mi­nus­cule orange striped baby-gro, padded to look like a pump­kin. A match­ing hat had a lit­tle green felt leaf at­tached. He raised his eye­brows, per­plexed.

“A Hal­lowe’en out­fit?” Pinky caught on right away. “Mum, it’s only Septem­ber – Hal­lowe’en’s weeks and weeks away.” She laughed fondly. “What hap­pened to your mantra of keep­ing the sea­sons to their own time and place?”

“They might have sold out!” Polly tried to de­fend her­self but had to laugh. “I got the big­ger size – I know she’ll sprout in the next few weeks. She’ll look so sweet in it.”

She didn’t tell them she in­tended to re­turn next week to pick up the gor­geous lit­tle baby-girl Santa out­fit she’d seen on dis­play… be­fore they all sold out, too!

“It’s not even Hal­lowe’en. Can’t we keep sea­sons to their place?”

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