We have a Christmas tradition in my family where we all perform a reading during Christmas Day dinner (in-between the turkey and the Christmas pudding!). This year I chose to write my own poem about a very special Christmas my family had four years ago when we had a young Kenyan man called Elvis join us over the festive period. An incredible experience that would go on to change all future Christmases for my family.
I was taking part in a volunteer exchange programme at the time, living with a local family and volunteering with Elvis in Birmingham for three months before we were due to fly out to Malindi, Kenya, in the New Year to do the same out there.
Elvis couldn’t stop smiling from the moment he walked through my parents’ door and was welcomed with open arms by my family. I can’t imagine what must have gone through his mind as he immersed himself in a traditional English family Christmas. The Christmas jumpers, the over-the-top food, the copious amount of drink and the silly traditions, games and songs we have all become accustomed to.
I knew this would be a Christmas that Elvis would remember forever. But it’s also a Christmas that my family will never ever forget. Sharing this enlightening experience with an inspiring young person, who has overcome such hardship growing up as a disabled person in a very poor community in Kenya, we have gone on to change our ‘traditional family Christmas’ – cutting down the amount of food, treats and presents we splash out on every year, and reflecting on what’s really important for us at Christmas: being together as a family and being grateful for what we have.
I still think about Elvis a lot, especially at Christmas time. I think about the Christmas we shared together and the time we spent three months later staying with his mum and sister in a house with no running water, electricity or even a ceiling and just two beds between the four of us. We still email from time-to-time but he has limited access to Internet, so the responses are brief and few and far between. I wonder how he’s really doing and how he’ll be spending this Christmas, so many miles away.
I know it’s a cliché to write about appreciating what we have this Christmas – but it’s certainly something my family and I will continue to do as we remember that one special Christmas that we shared with my Kenyan hero Elvis.
A Christmas with Elvis
It was Christmas four years ago, when my Kenyan friend came,
All the way to England, to the cold and the rain.
Wrapped up in his first coat, from Birmingham we leave,
To arrive in Camberley, at the Philippsons’ – that special Christmas Eve.
A Kenyan king, what a celebration as we arrive,
His new family for Christmas, welcomes us at the drive.
A mum, dad, sister and nana make him beam,
As he enters his kingdom, it’s an African’s dream.
Now this Christmas holiday, came many a first time,
Especially when our family, came together to dine.
First olive, first sausage, first pudding, first wine,
Embracing the tradition of a festive expanding waistline.
His African smile, laughter, kind words for all,
He dances with my mum, we’re all having a ball.
After a beer with my dad, he sits with nana to play chess,
And falls in love with my sister, in her Christmas red dress.
Now Elvis is truly, king for a day,
And he must dream of a Christmas like this, now he’s so many miles away.
But it’s not just my Kenyan brother that had a holiday to remember,
For all of us had, an extra-special December.
An eternal memory, one family brought together,
We’ll remember that Christmas and appreciate what we have each year that little bit more forever.