Amy’s Birthday Wish
Could anyone give the little girl what she longed for most of all?
AMY had never seen snow before, though she’d heard about it in the fairy stories that the staff sometimes read before it was time to turn out the light. She’d seen pictures, too, in books with pages made of stiff card.
Lately they’d been told the story of the Nativity; about baby Jesus, and how he lay in a manger. She hadn’t known what a manger was until they’d started to build a model in the big day room.
There were eighteen children in the orphanage. Amy had been there for nearly six months, ever since her mummy and daddy had gone.
She didn’t know where they were, but she’d been given a big hug and told they wouldn’t be coming back.
Soon it would be her fourth birthday, and they’d promised to make her a special cake.
She’d tried to tell them that all she really wanted for her birthday was her mummy and daddy, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
The garden was usually in darkness at this time, but tonight the moon illuminated a scene that had Amy enthralled.
Right in the middle of the snow-covered lawn was the large snowman they had all built that afternoon.
Amy had been given the honour of giving him a carrot nose, which was a bit skew-whiff as Mrs Bennett had needed to lift her up to reach.
The others had laughed, but Mrs Bennett told her it was the very finishing touch that was needed. Mrs Bennett was a kind lady. All the ladies were kind, but they weren’t her mummy.
Snow began to fall again – faster now, and in bigger drops that looked like the decorations on the Christmas tree in the entrance hall.
Amy wanted to reach out and catch some but the lower windows were locked, and she couldn’t reach the small open one at the top.
She turned away with a sigh and picked up her teddy bear from the bed.
He was all she had left from her previous life; Teddy and a framed photo of her and her mummy. Even her clothes were new, because her old ones didn’t fit her any more.
In the photo, Amy was sitting on a swing and her mummy was standing behind her with a big smile on her face. Daddy wasn’t in the photo because he had taken it. She was finding it hard to remember exactly what he looked like, and that made her very sad.
A bell rang, signalling it was time for tea.
Amy came out of her room and met some of the others in the corridor. She didn’t have a particular friend yet, but she did have Teddy under her arm, so that made her feel better.
At first one of the grownups had offered to hold Teddy while she came downstairs, but she’d clutched him tightly, unaware of the panic on her little face. They hadn’t asked again, but they kept a careful eye on her – on all the children.
It wasn’t long now till Christmas. There was a huge pile of presents under the big tree, and each one had a name on.
Amy had seen her own on one of the parcels. It only had three letters, so she could recognise it even though she couldn’t read yet. She couldn’t imagine who would have bought her a present, though.
There was a lot of excitement on Christmas Eve.
The children were putting on a Nativity play for all the staff and visitors, and every single one of them was taking part. Amy had asked if she could be a snowflake, and somehow Mrs Bennett had managed to run up a suitable costume for her.
Amy didn’t have a speaking part, and she was thankful for that. Because, truthfully, she was very nervous.
She looked out at the audience and saw Mrs Bennett beaming at her, her face sending her silent encouragement.
Amy relaxed, and she even managed to enjoy herself.
The play was a big
success, and afterwards Mrs Bennett introduced Amy to her husband. He was a funny man, and he made her giggle when he put some chocolate icing on the end of her nose.
“Tastes like Christmas cake,” he said, wiping it off again and licking his finger. “Yummy. Do you like Christmas cake?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember if we had it before. I don’t remember much about Christmas at all.”
Even though she felt sad, the excitement of the other children was infectious. On Christmas morning, Amy awoke as full of it as any of the others.
They’d been told they could open their presents after breakfast, and she wolfed her cereal down in double-quick time, only to have to wait until everyone else had finished.
They sat cross-legged in rows on the floor in front of the tree. They were supposed to take it in turns, but that idea soon went out of the window.
Lots of small fingers tore at wrappings, and delight shone on each small face. Each except Amy’s.
Her chin trembled, and though she managed not to cry it was a close-run thing.
The staff had tried hard to match the gifts to the children, and they couldn’t have known that the paper doll with the cut-out clothing was identical to the one her mummy had bought her before she’d disappeared.
The doll had disappeared as well, lost with her other belongings.
While it was an ideal choice – and she loved it – the memories it brought back were hard for such a little one to deal with.
Mrs Bennett managed to distract her by fetching some crayons and offering to help Amy colour in one of the outfits.
The moment passed, and she was once again the excited little girl who’d bolted down her breakfast.
Time went by, and as Amy’s birthday approached she wondered if this was when her mummy and daddy would come back. She couldn’t believe they’d miss her special day.
She’d settled in and made some friends at the orphanage, but it wasn’t the same.
Lots of grown-ups visited – some even two or three times – and Amy watched as first one friend, and then another, left with strangers and never returned.
The hardest, though, was when Nellie went away. Nellie was her best friend of all, and Amy cried herself to sleep when they told her she wouldn’t be coming back.
The next day, Sally came to visit.
She’d been a few times and played with all the children, but mostly she spent her time with Amy.
This time she brought her husband with her.
“They tell me you’re going to be four soon. Is there anything special you’d like? Keith and I would like to give you a present.”
“If you could find Mummy and Daddy and Granny and Grandad, that would be the best birthday present ever.”
“I wish I could, darling, but they won’t be coming back. Did no-one ever tell you?”
And for the first time, someone explained to Amy what had happened. She didn’t mention the crash, which Amy, the only survivor, had somehow managed to blot out.
Sally paused, because what she had to say next was crucial.
“We might not be able to give you the best birthday present ever. But there is one thing we could give you, if you like. A new tricycle. Of course, there isn’t really room for one here. You’d have to come and live with us, where there’s plenty of space.”
She paused and took a deep breath.
“We’ve asked the orphanage, and if it’s all right with you, we’d like you to be our little girl.”
She just managed to get all the words out before Amy flew into her arms.
“Oh, that would be the best birthday present ever!”
Sally looked at her husband over the top of her head, tears streaming down her face.
“I think that’s a ‘yes’!” ■