The child is standing outside in the dark, waiting. She wears brown sandals on her small feet. The straps are thin and hard from the cold, the sole so worn down at the tip that the big toe, which is barely the size of a Cent-Coin, almost touches the snow. A white shirt of bad, translucent fabric hangs from her bones, unveils the shoulders and collarbone, cannot hide the child's emaciated body and shivering knees. So she stands and waits, clasping the big box in her hands with stiff fingers. Behind the sliding glass door the lights go out. The child sneaks across the stone terrace, presses against the wall, covers her face with steaming breath. She listens. Voices disappear, retreat to the kitchen. In this darkness, of which she has been afraid for centuries, she must stand again tonight. She will do her work, she will not ask any questions, she will remain unseen and nobody will know her pain, not her loneliness, not the cold. Cautiously she slides the glass door open, takes off her shoes, steps onto the soft furry rug. The child, who is called Chris by the workers, takes the parcels out of the box, colourful parcels with ribbons and ornaments and places them under the glittering, decorated tree. She lights the candles and warms her rigid fingers. For a short moment she snuggles her toes into the cosy rug, closes her eyes, enjoys the abundance, before she rings the bell and quickly steps outside again.
In Austria, where I grew up, the story is told, that at Christmas night a small child – called Christkind – brings the presents and lights the candles on the Christmas tree before it rings a bell and vanishes. Then everyone enters the living room and is amazed by the beauty of the tree and the many colourful packages surrounding it. On a picture I had in one of my books, the Christkind was depicted as a six year old kid, with a thin white knee long dress and blond curly hair. I always felt sorry for the poor little creature and didn’t understand how everyone could be so jolly enjoying the luxury and forget about the lonely hard working child out there in the dark. Growing up, I believed in that story, and I now know, it is true. How come we care so little about the children providing our luxury and high living standards while they have barely the means to survive? I still don’t understand.
Claudia Klingenschmid studied psychology, theatre and literature in Innsbruck / Austria and Munich / Germany. She has worked in various artistic fields, including performance, hospital clowning, urban art and printing. After publishing essays, poems and short stories, her first novel came out in German in 2019 (Parasit ToGo / Piper Verlag). She has lived in different European cities and the US, and is currently living in Heidelberg / Germany. She is member of the Grazer Wortlabor and part of the Heidelberger Autor:innen-Netzwerk.