Hayley Webster’s thread about a special Christmas memory has been liked more than 50,000 times on Twitter.
In a poignant string of tweets, writer Hayley Webster has shared one of her most important Christmas moments, which took place when she was just nine years old. Not only has she beautifully captured how confusing Christmas can be through the eyes of a child of divorce, she has also reminded us of the holiday’s true meaning.
Over the course of 18 tweets, Webster describes her efforts to make Christmas special for her five-year-old sister, recounting how she “put tinsel around the spoon for her yoghurt in her lunchbox”, left little presents for her around the house, and tried to distract her from the fact that their parents were “Not In A Good Place”.
Whether you’ve had a similar experience or not, Webster’s witty but touching account feels relatable, and as far as your heart strings go, consider them well and truly pulled.
But this is not a tale of woe. In fact, at the heart of Webster’s story is a lesson in how small gestures can be hugely significant.
Read on to find out why the best present Webster ever received cost no more than £1.50, and why the sentiment behind the gift has stayed with her ever since.
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
(I wasn't keen on this colour scheme, but I didn't say anything, because she was really trying)— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
Webster continues to allude to this being a difficult time for her family, writing: “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.”
Although bewildered by her changing family landscape, she focused on making her younger sister’s Christmas magical with thoughtful details and gifts.
“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,” Webster writes.
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
(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.)— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
Despite not comprehending the meaning of her dad’s girlfriend’s comment, Webster would awaken to a special surprise later that week intended to make her realise that her thoughtfulness and kindness had not gone unnoticed.
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
It just said, 'To Hayley. Have a lovely Christmas. Thank you for all your help. Lots of love from Santa's elves xxx'— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
When I opened it, it was the piano sheet music for We're Walking In The Air.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
Webster brings her story to an end on a beautiful note, reminding us that small acts of kindness really do matter – and don’t need to cost the earth to mean something.
“It’s something I try to do, not with gifts, but with actions,” she writes. “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.— Hayley Webster (@bookshaped) December 3, 2017
*cue the cheesy inspirational music*
Webster may have joked that her message is cheesy, but the thread has been well and truly welcomed into the arms of those on Twitter, having been retweeted over 17,000 times.
Hundreds of social media users have commented on the heart-warming story with many saying that it made them cry.
Tears. Such a story. Sad, obviously. But your thoughtfulness to your sister, The Teacher's kindness to you, her noticing and giving you that perfect gift. Changing the way you felt about things profoundly. Beautiful xx— hoskas (@hoskas) December 3, 2017
Oh my goodness, there’s something in my eye. What a truly lovely story to read, especially when so much of the world is in turmoil.— Karen (@ManicMippisMum) December 3, 2017
Christmas wishes to you, Hayley.
One Twitter user who picked up on the thread is author JK Rowling, who retweeted Webster’s story to her 13.6 million followers, calling it “beautiful”.
Here’s to showing people that they matter, all year round.