"It felt like the first time somebody had actually SEEN me."

Reblogged from Hayley Webster

I'm going to write a thread about the nicest Christmas gift I ever received. I was nine years old. I think it cost the person who gave it to me about £1.50.

My sister was nearly five. We lived with my dad. My mum lived the other side of town with her boyfriend. Her and my dad were Not In A Good Place. She still had a key to the house and would sometimes use it, unexpectedly.

My dad had a girlfriend I really liked. She was a teacher. She drove a green 2CV. She took us orienteering. She had let us make make menus for Christmas dinner in Black and blue and silver.

(I wasn't keen on this colour scheme, but I didn't say anything, because she was really trying)

She didn't live with us, though. It was the year the Snowman was really big. I loved that film, and the music and had to be a 'snowman at the dance' in the school play.

Anyway, we didn't see my mum for chunks of time. It wasn't a great time. This girlfriend turned up and made things nice, little gestures, little noticings.

I made my sister a card every day from Santa's elves and hid little gifts about the house, little glitter footprints, bought beautiful soaps from the gift shop in town in the shape of sea shells, and bells and apples using my savings, and wrapped them for her.

I put tinsel around the spoon for her yoghurt in her lunchbox. I made and cut her sandwiches into snowflakes or stars. When I put her to bed at night I made up stories about two girls called Hayley and Jodie who went to live with the elves.

(One night my mum turned up and she and my dad were drinking. I could hear them downstairs shouting and crying. One of them was sick on my school bag. My mum had hit a bollard and they went out to clear it up.)

I was always told not to tell his girlfriend if Mum had come over, but I found that hard. She was so nice, honestly. The sort of person who actually remembered to do the things she said she would, and she was so clean and nice.

One weekend, just before Christmas, she said to me, 'You've made Christmas reallly magical for your sister, you really have.' And I puffed up, all proud and happy. Then she said, 'It seems such a shame nobody does that for you.' I didn't really understand what she was saying.

That week, one morning, I came downstairs ready to make breakfast (porridge with LOADS of demerara sugar that soaked down to to the bottom. Recreate it. It's perfect). On the door mat was an A4 envelope with glitter on it.

It just said, 'To Hayley. Have a lovely Christmas. Thank you for all your help. Lots of love from Santa's elves xxx'

When I opened it, it was the piano sheet music for We're Walking In The Air.

I had been working out how to play it myself, but I couldn't get it quite right. And there it was, in an envelope, just for me. I played it and played it and played it. It felt like the first time somebody had actually SEEN me.

It was the nicest thing, the loveliest, kindest, small, lovely thing. It made a difference to me, a huge difference. I remember it every year, every single year.

That Christmas went on to be quite odd. A drunken Christmas morning thing between my parents - my mum giving me and my sister Grease and Mary Poppins and leaving. Other things. But that gift, that one small thing, taught me what it means to be noticed for who you are.

It's something I try to do, not with gifts, but with actions. She taught me Christmas, is nothing to do with showing people you love them with big money spends.  For me, it will always be about giving people what they need; attention, kindness, love.

And when that happens to me, when people do that for me, it literally lasts as warmth my whole life. Notice people. Show them they matter. It's the best advice I could ever give anyone. Not just at Christmas.

*cue the cheesy inspirational music*