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My Christmas Memory by Jaclyn Moriarty

December 19, 2018


Words| Jaclyn Moriarty

The first time I got caught reading my sister’s diary was Christmas Day, the year that I was eight. My sister was ten and she had left her diary lying on her bed.  (So I mean, whose fault was this really?)

I flicked to latest entry. It was for that day—Christmas.  I read the first line.

And stopped breathing.

This was the line:

What else could Christmas be but wonderful?


I got chills.  The beautiful simplicity of that line. Its rhetorical flourish. The double alliteration. The essential truth of the sentiment. (I mean, I was eight and didn’t use words like chills, simplicity, rhetorical, flourish etc—but you don’t need to be able to label genius to know it’s genius.)

I read the rest of the diary entry.  It didn’t quite live up to the opening, to be honest—it was pretty much a list of the presents my sister had received, the presents she’d asked for but hadn’t received, the presents she’d received from our grandparents when they arrived for lunch, the presents she hoped she’d get next year, and so on.

I looked back at that first line and shook my head.


I opened my own diary. Christmas Day, I wrote as my heading.

And then I wrote the perfect opening line:

What else could Christmas be but wonderful?

Later that night, my sister tried to kill me with a pillow.

Death by pillow suffocation.

In the end, she let me live if I promised, if I swore, that I would never ever






 She’d seen my diary entry.

Stealing that perfect opening line—it wasn’t just plagiarism, it was a dead giveaway.

(Years later, I suddenly thought: ‘HEY!’ Because, how did she know I’d stolen her line?  She must have read my diary too.  I decided to bring a pillow along the next time I saw her.)

Also years later, our grandmother was reminiscing about that particular Christmas.

‘Of course, that was the year when the chicken went bad,’ she said.

My mother looked at her blankly. ‘The chicken went bad?’

‘Yes!  It was a disaster. I got it out of the fridge ready to roast and it was crawling with maggots!

Gross!’ we all said. ‘What did you do?!   Roast some extra potatoes?’

‘No, no,’ Grandma said sunnily. ‘I just scraped the maggots into the bin and roasted it as it was.’

We stared at her.

‘Brought it along to Christmas lunch,’ she continued, cheerfully, ‘and you all ate it up as usual.’

Now she became a bit irritated.

‘Honestly, stop looking so green.  It was fine! We all lived!  It was fine!’

Well, of course it was fine. What else could Christmas be but wonderful?


Jaclyn Moriarty is well-known as the prize-winning, bestselling author of novels for young adults (and sometimes for slightly older adults). A former media and entertainment lawyer, Jaclyn’s books include the Ashbury-Brookfield series and the Colours of Madeleine trilogy. The first two books in that trilogy were both awarded the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the Queensland Literary Award. Jaclyn grew up in Sydney, lived in the US, the UK and Canada, and now lives in Sydney again. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone was shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Prize, the Aurealis Award and longlisted for the CBC Book of the Year awards and was the first she has written for younger readers.

Read more about her new book The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars



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