Plot

A mother's love

quote
My mammy disnae love me

This short sentence opens the story with sudden, shocking impact. It is a frank and upsetting statement that announces the main idea of the story. Eight-year-old Alison is jealous of her five-year-old sister, Katie. Alison believes Katie is her mother's favourite child. This seems confirmed by her mother's question: why can't you be more like your sister?

Katie is wee and pretty and aye happy, bubblin ower wi life. She is described by adults as a princess and an angel.

Alison explains that her mum looks through her and she describes the impact this has on her. She explains that:

quote
it's hard no tae be seen, it makes you wee and crumpled up inside

Alison attempts to express her love for her mother through physical affection, but her mother doesnae kiss me back and refuses to tuck her in at night because you're a big girl.

Sibling rivalry

Alison remembers covering Katie in balls of plasticine when she was a baby to make her look like she had a disease. She describes how this made her feel good inside, warm and full. This suggests that her jealousy of Katie has affected her for many years.

Katie is chosen to be an angel in their school nativity play. Their mum sits up all night sewin her a white robe and a perra golden wings. This contrasts with the effort she puts into making Alison's costume. She is playing a shepherd and is given a tea towel to wear around her head.

quote
glitterin as if she really wis an angel

A photo taken at the nativity play mirrors how the two sisters are seen by others. Katie is at the front and Alison is in the back row daurk and blurred, overshadowed by her little sister. Alison overhears her mother commenting on the photo, describing Katie as pure beautiful in that frock. In comparison, her language is negative when talking about Alison. She states that ah kin hardly get anythin tae fit her, making Alison self-conscious about her size.

Santa's grotto

When visiting Santa in a department store, Alison wants to ask him for her mother's love this Christmas. Even though ah don’t think ah believe in Santa any mair, Alison is determined to change her mother's feelings about her.

When it is Alison's turn to sit on Santa's lap, she kin see that Santa's beard is fake. This demonstrates her loss of innocence as she grows older, realising that the magic of Christmas is sometimes constructed. She wants to tell Santa her wish because his eyes are kind and he called me by ma name. Her desire to cling to simple suggestions of kindness from a stranger suggests that she feels neglected in her own family.

Alison is unable to express herself properly to Santa, discovering that:

quote
a big lump cam up, no in ma throat, but in ma hert, heavy and grey lik a stane, that stopped me from saying it

Santa suggests that she writes down her wish in a letter and places it at her fireplace for him to find. Alison attempts to do this but struggles to articulate herself on the page. Instead of her mother's love, Alison asks for conventional Christmas gifts.

Just as Katie is described as an angel, the mother's hair is described glowin like a halo against the blackness of the room when she and Alison are together in the girls' bedroom on Christmas Eve. Unlike her blonde mother and sister, Alison has brown hair like her dad. She tells her mother Ah wisht ah had hair lik yours, which makes her mum smile and look at Alison mair soft like.

Following this moment of closeness, Alison's mother gives her a dry kiss, barely grazin ma cheek and moves to the door before ah have time tae kiss her back. The final image of the story is a wee crack of light fallin across the bedclothes, a symbol of hope.