MERRY CHRISTMAS, ANGELS.
Welcome to a sparkling place where you will hopefully find joy and peace and love and hope wrapped up - not in fancy packages, but in honest words written with passion and love.
I am going to be posting YOUR stories here so we can have a quiet place to rest and read and be blessed.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
Just Tell Us You Love Us: My Christmas Miracle.
by C Elaine Ingalls
[Pg. 183; Originally Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul; Christmas Magic ©2010]
Most of my life I've been the type of
person who listened to the opinion of
others and if they said something couldn't
be done, I accepted their
decision and went about what I needed to
get done that day. That was before
an event that happened last year just
before Christmas. At the time I was
standing at the counter in a gift shop
signing a copy of my latest book,
Christmas in the Maritimes when I overheard
a lady say, "I'm sending this to
my nephew in Afghanistan and I know he'll
love it. When he's finished, he'll
pass it around to the other Maritimers in
"Other Maritimers in his unit," her words kept repeating
themselves over and
over in my mind. Gradually an idea began to
take shape. I shared my idea
with a friend but they said, "You'd
have to raise the money. You'd have to
know where to ship the books. You'd...
Forget it, there's no way!" But this
time I wasn't about to take 'no' for an
answer. The news last year was full
of stories about the conditions our troops
were serving under and I thought
if this little book would mean something to
the members serving our country,
then I was going to at least try to find a
way to send some copies to them.
My first step was to write to Roger Cyr, a friend who had been in the
force before his retirement. I asked him if
he thought the book would be
welcomed. He wrote back right away
encouraging me to pursue this idea. He
also said, "I spent four years in
Europe during the cold war serving with
our NATO troops plus a tour as a
peacekeeper in Africa (Congo). One of the
things we treasured the most was a Canadian
newspaper or word from home."
The more I thought on it, the more I was convinced stories from home
be such a morale booster. I began
investigating the possibilities and
started by making phone calls, doing web
searches and writing e-mails.
However, the results from my inquiries only
served to add to my earlier
doubts. It was fast becoming evident that
it wasn't a workable project. My
major stumbling block was the fact that I'd
never done anything like this
before so I was unfamiliar with all the
rules and considerations involved in
sending something to our troops. I
discovered parcels could only be sent if
you knew the specific name and address of
the unit and the name and number
of the person receiving the gift. My friend
was right, this idea might have
been a good idea but it was fast becoming a
dream that would never be
Somewhere along the way I read an article about another Elaine who was
to help the troops through her project
"Operation Wish." She didn't listen
to the 'no's' and her story encouraged me
to press on.
Finally, Wednesday noon hour (November 15) I made contact with Margaret
Reid, Coordinator of Deployment Services,
14 Wing Greenwood. Her response
was immediate. She wrote, "Great idea!
Definitely possible, from my
perspective anyway. We're doing our
packages to the troops on Nov 21st. I
guess the question now for you is if you
can make Christmas miracles happen
by next Tuesday??
I called Nimbus, my publisher. "Do you have 140 books in
stock?" (They were
waiting for more books from the printers
and I wasn't sure if they had
enough to fill their immediate orders.)
Sandra McIntyre, the managing
editor, assured me they could fill my order
if I could raise the funds
needed to purchase the books by Friday 3:00
pm. I needed to meet that
deadline in order to leave enough time for
the books to be delivered from
Nimbus' warehouse to Greenwood in time to
be packed with the parcels on
I wrote back, "Dear Ms. Reid, I'm believing this Christmas miracle
My idea was to ask the community (through contacts with the media) to
involved and sponsor the books as a way of
showing the men and women serving
our country they were being remembered. Two
reporters agreed to help but
before the afternoon was over I ran into
another snag. I didn't have a
business address where people could drop
off the money and my telephone
inquiries to this point suggested setting
up an account for this purpose
would take some time. The deadline for
getting the story out in Thursday's
papers was fast approaching. Around four
o'clock I remember thinking, Ms.
Reid said I needed a Christmas miracle, so
why not ask God? I did. Within
minutes I had an unexpected phone call from
someone I'd talked to earlier in
"Elaine, I was touched by what you want to do. You're going to get
Christmas miracle. I'll cover the
Two days later the books arrived in Greenwood in time to be packed in
the Christmas parcels being made up for 140
troop members of 14 Wing Greenwood who were serving our great country, Canada,
in various places throughout the
As I wrote my Christmas letters last year I thought of a poem I'd
from a friend. In the poem the author asked
a young soldier who had left a
wife and child at home to serve his
country, what he could give him for
Christmas.-money or a feast? The young
soldier's answer was, "Just tell us
you love us.' When I sent the books it was my prayer that
the small gift of
stories and memories from home would do
just that-tell 140 soldiers who were
serving their country that I loved them.
Thursday, December 22nd, 2016
The Farmers' Parade of Lights
by Caroline Sealey
[p.61-64 in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada © 2014]
red letters, the headlines of a local newspaper, boldly declared, Farmers
Parade of Lights. Overwhelmed by curiosity, not letting deep snowbanks slow
my pace, I hurried back to the house from the mailbox. A parade that involved
farmers was something I needed to know more about.
The newspaper article stated that the Farmers
Parade of Lights began as a spontaneous, informal event on the 2nd Thursday
of December, by the 3rd and 4th Line March Blahs Committee and friends of
Rockwood, Ontario. Local farmers dressed up
their farm equipment for the
Christmas season and rode through the village of Rockwood. A holiday gesture of
good will from the farmers to their non-farming
Over the years, the tradition continued. Twenty area
farms joined in the celebration and two hundred farmers, their families,
employees and friends rode on floats. This was an “invitation only” local
event, that involved no advertisements, fundraisers and no fees. The parade
route began on the 5th Line and travelled along Highway 7 to the 4th Line with
the North Pole as the final destination. The article suggested an early arrival
for spectators, as visitors had been known to attend from various locations
in Ontario, all across
Canada and numerous countries around the globe. Everyone from babies to seniors
filled the streets of Rockwood and enjoyed the decorated farm equipment.
When the school bus dropped my children off late that afternoon I excitedly
told them about the parade. A unanimous vote confirmed, we were going!
On the afternoon of the parade, we sat around the kitchen table and enjoyed
a simple meal. Grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, celery and carrot sticks
disappeared within minutes. At five o’clock we began to prepare for the journey
"Put on your snowsuits, warmest boots, toques, scarves and snowmobile
mitts. It’s going to be cold tonight and the parade is supposed to be
long," I told my children.
Bundled up and ready, we left our home in Pilkington Township for the
forty-five minute drive to Rockwood. A slight breeze blew, snow was in the air,
and temperatures hovered around -10C.
Excited about our adventure, my children tried to imagine what the parade
would be like.
“How do they put the lights on the tractors and light them up?” they wanted
“How big would the tractors and equipment be?”
“Would Santa and Mrs. Claus be in the parade?”
The newspaper article offered answers to some of their questions, but the
remainder would have to be a surprise.
Five miles outside of Rockwood we joined a long line of cars, that were
headed to the parade. The number of cars parked along the side of the road, caused
concern about parking, but closer to the village a few spots opened up. With
the car parked, we walked a mile into the village.
After a short search for the perfect spot to
stand and watch the parade, we settled in front of
one of the local parks. The
newspaper article had warned that a large number of spectators attended but I
was astonished by the crowds. Literally thousands of people filled the streets
of Rockwood that night.
Leading the parade was a police cruiser with flashing lights. Sirens
wailing, a policeman waved to the crowd. We stood in awe as the first float
passed in front of us. A John Deere tractor pulled a hay wagon with a nativity
scene perched on top. The size of the float and the number of Christmas lights
that decorated it, overwhelmed us. Garland, tinsel, ribbons, wreaths, bows and banners
added to the collection of lights.
The second float, a well decorated Massey Ferguson tractor, towed a manure
spreader covered in thousands of lights. Gold coloured tinsel hung from the
spreader's beater bars. A generator powered fan blew the tinsel into the air to
resemble manure as it was tossed from the spreader. A group of local “cloggers”
clogged to Christmas music, on the bed of a hay wagon pulled by an antique Ford
tractor. Clowns and fire fighters waved to the spectators, shook children's
hands and passed out candy canes as they walked the parade's route. Christmas
music provided by each float, filled the air. The spirit of Christmas took over
the crowd as parade goers joined in and sang Christmas songs.
The chute and auger on a snow blower, mounted on a dual-wheeled Case
tractor was decorated with white lights. Two short horizontal rows of icicle
lights protruded from the chute. Creative minds had designed the lights to look
like snow as it blew out of the snow blower.
Cheers erupted from the crowd as a skidsteer named The Dancing Christmas Tree performed its version of a square
dance, down the main street. Covered in multi-coloured balloons with a flashing
red light on its roof, the skid steer spun around, dipped and dived and
doe-see-doed to the delight of the crowds on the street. Other floats contained
stars mounted inside tractor tires, sprayer arms lit with red and green-coloured
lights and hay elevators displayed green and red candy canes.
Christmas trees of all shapes, sizes and colours mounted tractor fenders,
cabs and hoods. Last but not least, as in every parade at Christmas time, Santa
and Mrs Claus rode high in the cab of a John Deere combine. Santa's shouts of “HOHOHO
Merry Christmas” resounded into the night. Mrs. Claus's rosy red cheeks and
smile delighted young and old alike while the crowds cheered and shouted “Merry Christmas.”
Tired but excited, my children
chatted about their favourite floats on the drive home. The Dancing Christmas Tree was voted number one. Candy cane
filled pockets emptied, as we satisfied our sweet tooth. With tired voices and
sleep filled eyes, my children asked if we could go to the Farmers Parade next year.
Attendance at The Farmers Parade
became a Christmas tradition for my family. Each year the floats become more
imaginative than the year before. Participants wrap themselves in Christmas
lights and wear Christmas tree shaped hats. Plastic blow up Frostys, Santas and
reindeer have been added to the floats. Elvis made an appearance one year and entertained
the crowds. Some floats remain the same, while others make minor changes. The
more adventurous, creative farmers display new ideas each year.
Farm machinery has gotten larger over the years but is restricted to the
width of the roads and streets in and around Rockwood. Most years, the weather has
co-operated and been ideal. As long as it odes, we go and each time we have
joined the crowds at this spectacular event parade, we have experienced what
the organizers have set out to accomplish: to catch the Christmas spirit – in a
farmer’s way. As long as Santa and Mrs. Claus have their crops harvested they
will be back the next year with the combine. That way Rudolph and his reindeer
team get well rested before the big night!
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
Shania and the Whispered Wish”
by Sally Meadows
[p.103-105 in Chicken
Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada © 2014]
The sun was low in the sky by the
time I stepped out of the limousine into the slush of mid-December downtown
Ottawa. I gingerly gathered up the frothy layers of white tulle and lace,
exposing my clunky winter boots, my only nod to practicality on a day filled
with hope, beauty, and joy.
I stopped for a moment, looking up
at the ornate doors, and took a deep breath. This was the church my parents were
married in over thirty years ago. And today, less than a week before Christmas,
I was about to enter into my own wedded bliss.
Inside, it was warm and welcoming.
The flames of the candles swayed and flickered, beckoning me forward. The
enchanting scene in front of me was simply delightful.
Quickly replacing my boots with my
white satin pumps, and gently resting my hand on my father’s arm, I walked down
the aisle amidst the smiles and whispers of fifty close friends and relatives,
ready to pledge my heart to my soul mate. Perhaps because I had a bad
cold—always a potential peril for a winter wedding, and evidenced by a chapped
nose in otherwise lovely photographs—the ceremony was a bit of a blur.
Nonetheless, my friend assured me later that she had never heard anyone say her
vows with such certainty. I in turn teased my new husband that, in his
nervousness, he said his vows to the reverend instead of me! We all chuckled
about the “help me” painted on the shoe soles of the best man, exposed for all
to see as we knelt down for the final blessing.
After our first night together as
husband and wife at the stately Chateau Laurier, we headed west to continue our
honeymoon at Deerhurst Resort in the heart of Muskoka country. The highway was
shrouded in fog almost the whole way, but we were too blissfully content to
feel any fear. With the big city lights long behind us, the hush of the
Canadian boreal forest enveloped us with a surreal peace and calm.
Arriving at the resort, we were
struck by the contrast between the rugged scenery surrounding the property and
the spectacular Christmas lights of the main lodge. We were surprised to see
how deserted it was, realizing only later that we had arrived in the lull
before the Christmas crowds arrived. We had our own charming little honeymoon
cabin, but for that first night we decided to dine at the lodge restaurant.
The food was excellent, and as we
lingered over after-dinner tea, a petite, beautifully dressed brunette with a
lovely voice serenaded us with seasonal music. I leaned over to my husband and
shyly whispered my very first wish as a newly married woman: “That’s what I
want to do one day!”
I had always loved to sing and play
piano but I was too shy to do so publicly, and too focused on my professional
editing career to really have time to pursue it. But even as I was starting a
new life as a wife, that simple confession of my heart’s desire would just as dramatically shape and define
who I would become.
Two babies and a move across the
country later, I started singing in a church band. At the same time, there was an explosion of
outstanding female artists coming on the scene, including the soon-to-be
Canadian icon Shania Twain. Gorgeous and a little mysterious, Shania was from
Timmins, a small northern Ontario city I had visited once years before.
that her first break in show business had been at Deerhurst Inn—the very resort
where I had spent my honeymoon, at around the same time. Could it be that I saw
music history in the making that Christmas weekend I got married?
Over the years I followed Shania’s
career, searching for the unequivocal answer to my question, at the same time
never giving up my own dream of pursuing singing. Being a wife, mother, and
working outside the home often placed my personal aspirations on the back
burner. But I continued to sing at church, work on my craft, and eventually
write my own songs.
In 2011, I entered a recording
studio for the first time to record my first album. While still knee-deep in the
process, I read Shania’s recently released autobiography, hoping to solve the
mystery once and for all. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I may never know
if Shania was that young singer I saw so many years ago. But my belief that it
was, and her phenomenal success, has kept me inspired all these years as I
carve out my own little niche in the music world.
Two years ago, I finally quit my
day job. By the end of the year I had released my second CD, fittingly a
Christmas album, a nod to my most favourite time of year.
We can’t really understand until we
look back through the eyes of the future how one snapshot in time can impact
our life so profoundly. For me, on this last weekend before Christmas the year
I got married, I not only received the beautiful gift of a lifelong partner,
but the seeds of a dream that, to this day, is still growing.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
A CHRISTMAS RESCUE
The car sputtered as we
drove through the tiny, still town of Elrose, Saskatchewan. I looked over at my
husband, Ron, and fear froze the words in my throat. His brow furrowed as he
stared at the drifting snow on the deserted highway. The lone service station
was closed, of course. It was Christmas Day
I hadn’t wanted to make
the trip. It was dangerously cold with the temperature dipping close to minus
forty. Our white Plymouth had passed its best-before date long ago, and while
it was usually reliable, in that kind of weather our lives depended on it. I
wasn’t comfortable with that.
That year, Christmas Day
was the only time we could venture from our home in Martensville, Saskatchewan,
to my in-law’s home in Swift Current, a three-hour trip. My husband’s extended
family would be waiting for us, the last to arrive, to open brightly-wrapped
gifts, consume the scrumptious feast prepared by Mom and the sisters, and enjoy
one another’s company.
But it was freezing. Even
though our three young children were bundled from head to toe and huddled under
a blanket in the back seat, I worried about what might happen if we had car
trouble. Then the Plymouth sputtered again.
If you’ve ever travelled
Highway 4 between Rosetown and Swift Current in Saskatchewan, you know how desolate
the forty miles appear between each of the three small towns that separate the
two larger centres. Those barren spaces held few buildings. Farm fields
stretched from one horizon to the other, the small towns the only oases of
civilization. And on Christmas Day, all businesses were closed. In fact, we
seemed to be the only ones foolish enough to travel on such a bitterly cold
holiday. The road was empty except for our coughing, sputtering white Plymouth.
“Lord God, help us.” It
wasn’t my most eloquent prayer, but it was heartfelt.
I knew He could change
the weather, but obviously that wasn’t His plan. It didn’t seem right for our
family to freeze to death on Jesus’ birthday, but as the car and then its
heater slowed, my faith faltered.
Our ten-year-old spoke up
from the back seat. “What’s wrong with the car?”
“Are we almost there?”
That was the four-year-old.
“I’m cold!” Our daughter,
age eight, chimed in.
“The car is acting up,
but we’ll be okay.” I struggled to keep my voice steady. “God sees us and knows
what we need.” But my anxious heart
My husband pulled over to
the shoulder of the highway as our car crawled and then stopped. I wondered how
long it would take for anyone to notice a white car on a snowy highway bordered
by flat, white fields from horizon to horizon.
Just as the car coughed
one final time, my husband glanced in the rear view mirror. “Where did that guy
No one else had been on
the highway since Elrose, but there was a black half-ton parked behind us and a
young man walking toward our now-dead car. He tapped on the driver’s window,
and Ron rolled it down.
“I noticed your white
exhaust a while back and knew you were in trouble. You need some gas line
antifreeze. I’ve got some. I’ll put it in your tank, and you should be good as
Still puzzled, we thanked
him. He opened the cap to the gas tank and pulled a small container from his
coat pocket. We heard faint gurgling as the antifreeze worked its way into the
tank. A moment later, the man was at my husband’s window again.
“Now try it.”
Ron turned the key, the
car sputtered back to life, and began to run smoothly.
“Where are you headed?”
the man asked.
“I’ll follow you to make
sure you get there.”
Our thank-yous couldn’t
adequately express our gratitude. He just waved his hand and headed back to his
truck. As we continued toward our destination, I kept glancing in my side
mirror. He was still there. For more than an hour, every time I glanced behind
us, the reassuring bulk of the black half-ton was in sight.
When we reached the edge
of the valley where the city of Swift Current nestled, we all cheered. Just
another half mile downhill, and we’d be safe in the arms of loved ones.
I glanced in my mirror one
more time. The road behind us was empty.
God hadn’t changed the
weather for us, and He hadn’t kept our car from failing, but He hadn’t deserted
us. He’d sent a man in a big, black truck to take care of us when we needed it.
Was the man an angel? I don’t know. But I am convinced that he was a messenger
from God, sent not only to put some antifreeze in our gas line, but to remind
us that God is always with us.
The colourful packages we
exchanged that Christmas Day have faded from memory, but I’ll never forget the
gift of that man and his truck. And ever since that day I’ve wondered, do
angels drive black half-tons?
Monday, December 19th, 2016
Glimpsing the face of God
by Robert White
been sleeping in my usual spot when the light woke me up. It seemed a bit early
for the dawn and as I struggled to open my eyes I wondered why Zephaniah, my
partner, hadn’t woken me up for my shift on the watch.
as a shepherd was hard. Long, hot days of trotting the sheep from one grazing
pasture to another in the fields surrounding Bethlehem turned into cold nights where we
watched, waited and warded off predators—both animal and human.
didn’t start out any differently. Young Zeph had the energy to stay up late and
offered to take the first watch. I gladly accepted the offer, bedded down
against the wall of the pen as best I could and fell into a fitful sleep.
the sudden dawn, with a brilliance I’d never before experienced, startled me
from my sleep. Only, as I opened my eyes, the inky darkness of night still
surrounded a brilliant light. It wasn’t morning.
words seemed to fill the sky as I shielded my eyes from the blinding light. By
the time they adjusted, I could see why: hanging in the middle of the sky was
as unearthly a creature as I’d ever seen—and from that point on I couldn’t take
my eyes off the terrifying beauty of what I could only surmise, from the
descriptions I’d heard read from the ancient Scriptures in the synagogue, was
an angel—a messenger of God.
bring you good news…” it continued in a voice that seemed to come from
everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I’ll never forget what he, she, it,
said that night, but for sake of brevity it came down to this: God’s Son had
been born and was lying in feeding trough in Bethlehem.
when we thought it couldn’t get any more terrifying, the whole sky became
filled with the heavenly creatures. Their brilliant countenance blotted out the
moon and stars with an unearthly light that was brighter than the sun at
to God in the highest and on earth peace,” they sang with tones that defied
description. As they disappeared from sight—all of them gone in the blink of an
eye—and I hadn’t stopped staring since I laid my eyes on the first, the night
sky reappeared in all its inky darkness.
silence as loud as the angel’s song filled the sheep pen. Not a word was spoken.
Not a bleat was blatted. Not a sound was heard. I imagined we were all lost in
the same thoughts that crossed my mind: did I just dream this?
one of the newborn lambs nudged Zeph and I. And then Zeph broke the silence
with: “Did you see that?!”
of us really wanted to answer Zeph, knowing that any reply would solidify the
reality of what we’d just experienced.
was Old Abe who spoke first. Abe wasn’t the oldest of the shepherds—that would
probably be me—but he was called Old Abe because his hair had turned
prematurely white. He’d even travelled to the Temple
in Jerusalem to
be declared clean so he could keep tending sheep. But it was Old Abe who said
what we’d all been thinking.
before you knew it we sounded like a brood of hens chattering at their chicks.
Until, again, Old Abe spoke up.
what do we do now?”
won’t go into the details of the argument, but the sides came down to this: all
of us had to hightail it down to Bethlehem
and find the Son of God; we would go in shifts because somebody had to stay to
take care of the sheep; or we’d all go and take the sheep with us.
you knew it, we were all hightailing it down to Bethlehem with the most unusual
flock of sheep I’d ever seen: not one ewe, ram or lamb strayed from the flock
and it was the quietest bunch of sheep I’d ever heard or seen walk through the
streets of the City of David in my life.
took some doing as a bunch of excited shepherds herding a flock of docile sheep
wandered the dark streets of Bethlehem…
but we finally found the manger.
was quite a sight. The mother—whose name I later found out was Mary—couldn’t
have seen more than 20 summers. Somehow she must have expected visitors because
she looked relatively presentable for a woman who had just endured her first
labour. Still I’d seen that faraway, haggard look in the eyes of my own wife
after the birth of each of our children.
husband—again it wasn’t until some time later that I’d found his name was
Joseph—stood behind her, with his hands placed tenderly and lovingly on her
shoulders. They were gnarled hands. The hands of a man who laboured with them.
Yet, against Mary’s shoulders they portrayed a man that loved deeply and cared
passionately for his new family.
each took our turn at the trough. The child looked like every other newborn
with a peaked head and pruned skin. Yet there was a radiance about Him that
clearly defined Him as what the angel called Him: the Son of the Most High. And
when I looked into His eyes it was if He was peering into the very depths of my
the last of us had glimpsed the face of God, Joseph questioned Mary with a
look. She nodded and we knew it was time to go. By now the sun was rising and
the city stirring. And as we left to take the sheep out to the pastures we
excitedly told everyone we could about the night. Some of them waved us off
with a hand, assuming we had an early fill of wine. Others stood by their
doors, puzzling over our words. And others took of in the direction of the
talked about that night for many years. But the one thing none of us ever
talked about was what we’d experienced when we looked into the face of the
babe. For we knew that we had glimpsed the face of God.
Friday, December 16, 2016
EarthlyTreasure by Marcia Lee Laycock
Jessik watched the bauble twirl as he held
the loop of string attached to its top. It was made of real glass, a material
once used abundantly on his ancestors' home world. He loved how those
primitives on Earth had made such trifles - things meant for no purpose but just
to please. He thought of how this trinket might please Adana and wondered how
valuable it might be. Since the final religious wars had ruined Earth’s
atmosphere, anything from that world was highly prized. And it had been a while
since he’d taken an earthly treasure home for his daughter. He smiled,
remembering when she’d started calling them that – all her earthly treasures.
Jessik sighed. Earth. He’d heard a rumor
again the other day about a group that was planning a return. Foolishness of
course, to risk leaving their safe environment here on Eutopos, the most
advanced space station ever built. But Jessik couldn’t help but wonder what it
would be like to step onto real ground, to walk under green trees along a
free-running river and see a blue sky adorned with puffy white clouds that
wasn't the fabrication of a hologram. The stars and whirling planets of space
were beautiful, but earth ... sometimes he wondered why he longed to see it,
why that longing was sometimes even a physical ache inside him. Yes, he did
dream of it even though he knew his dreams were pure fantasy. And he wasn’t
alone. Each time another attempt was made to find a suitable habitable planet,
there were those who attempted to make it back ‘home.’ As far as anyone knew
none had ever been successful. Jessik sighed. He knew the earth he saw in the
edvids had perished long ago. Even if an expedition were to succeed in reaching
it, the planet was likely still just as uninhabitable as all the other planets
they had explored. Jessik gave his head a shake. But some always seemed willing
to take the risk, some always clung to hope.
The chime at his door made him start. He
pressed the key on his computer to clear a transparent window he’d installed in
the metal. Guilder. Hastily Jessik laid the ball in its protective wrapping,
closed the chest and slipped it under his desk. He opened a tray of ordinary
utensils, then hit another key on the computer to open his door.
His supervisor strode in, his eyes roaming
the room. Jessik nudged the box further under the desk with his toe.
“What are you working on?” Guilder’s voice
came out with just the right inflection; the tone used by those in authority.
“Cataloguing.” Jessik deliberately left off
the ‘sir’ he knew he should have added.
Guilder’s face did not reveal that he’d
taken notice. “Finding anything of interest?” he asked, his eyes scanning the
clutter of boxes on the floor.
“Nothing out of the ordinary.” Jessik’s
voice came out in the boring, flat tone used for common conversation. His toe
rested on the small chest.
Guilder nodded. “Carry on.” He stepped
through the door.
Jessik pressed the transparent panel again
and saw that the man lingered, leaning slightly toward the door. Jessik wished he could read his
expression. But a man at Guilder’s level was skilled at keeping his face devoid
of emotion. Jessik forced himself to wait until the supervisor moved off, then
retrieved the small chest.
He lifted the lid and removed the baubles.
There were four of them, all different colors and shapes. One was in the
ancient form of a star. Jessik smiled at the primitive shape. It was bright red
glass with swirls that caught the light. Adana would love it. He slipped it
into the inside pocket of his tunic.
Separating the shredded material that had
cradled the decorations, he saw there was another layer under it, covered by a
soft blue cloth. Jessik removed it and held his breath. Gingerly he lifted out
a shape and laid it on his hand. It barely reached to his fingertips, but was
finely cut and exquisitely detailed. It was the shape of a man, dressed in garb
that could only be pre-history. So very little was left from that era that
Jessik knew he held something priceless. He examined the material. Wood. Very
old. He lifted it to his nose. There was no smell but the figure had not been
colored so he would be able to trace the grain to determine the type. He picked
up his tablet, selected the file he needed and photos of wood grains flowed
across the screen. He selected three, then swiped his finger across the tablet,
sending them onto his wall computer. The third photo looked promising. Jessik
tapped the tablet again and a short block of text popped up. Olivewood, found
in the middle-east area of earth. The middle east. That pivot of earth’s
history. Jessik’s hand shook. He stood the artifact on the table and uncovered
a second figurine.
This one was in the shape of a man as well,
but it had two wing-like forms sprouting out of its shoulders. It was slightly
longer than the first. Jessik knew it had spiritual significance. He’d read a
bit about the ancient icons and rituals of earthly religions, clandestinely of
course, or under the cover of ‘research.’
The third figurine was more slender, the
carved garment showing traces of color, perhaps a pale blue. Jessik studied the
face. Female, he thought, and placed it beside the other two. Only one remained
in the box. He lifted it and frowned. It was more roughly carved, the marks of
the carver’s knife plainly visible in the wood. Each end formed an X that held
a trough wedged between them. Jessik turned it in his hand. How incongruous, he
thought, and set it down by the others.
He stared at the figurines for some time,
then turned to his wall computer and spoke two words – “Earth, pre-history.”
Immediately the screen glowed with a list of categories and code numbers.
Jessik scanned them but could not find anything suitable. He tried a couple but
got no relevant information. He stared at the figures again then spoke a word
he’d come across in his reading – “Angels.”
The links gave him only a few options. He waved
at the wall to open the first one and stared at the picture that popped out and
began to rotate before him. The hologram made it obvious it was of a man’s
form, glowing with a white light that seemed to reach out for Jessik even here
in his office. He minimized the image quickly, his heart beating. If Guilder
stepped in ... even if he had reason, researching this kind of content could
get him in big trouble. Jessik closed the wall monitor and sat down to read the
text on his smaller tablet. It directed him to the restricted vaults. He
memorized the code and an additional number, a page number.
He sat back. It must link to an ancient
document, a history book perhaps. He’d have to get special clearance to get
into that section, and for special clearance he’d have to tell Guilder what he
was researching. But what reason could he give the supervisor? That area of
study was tightly restricted and all projects were assigned only to those at
the highest levels. Guilder would know Jessik did not have the needed
authorization. He tapped his lips with his index finger. Perhaps there was
Jessik spoke and the wall screen flashed,
then scrolled the names of all those on duty in the archive vaults. He scanned
the week’s schedule and smiled. Hease was on duty. He’d used the leverage he
had with the guard before, to gain admittance to the vaults holding ancient
books on earthly religions. It would be a risk and there was no way he could
get around logging what he wanted to see once he was inside, but … he stared at
the figurines again. They were so fine, so beautiful. Jessik had to know more
about them. Adana would be so pleased.
A strange feeling came over him as he
focused on the smallest artifact on his desk. Why would it be included with the
others? He picked it up and examined it again. It was really quite crude. He
picked up the angel in his other hand. Perhaps they did not belong together. He
frowned. No. For some reason he knew one had something to do with the other. The
light that had beamed into his office from the hologram seemed to pulse through
him. He felt a burning desire to know.
Jessik packed the artifacts away carefully
and slipped the small chest into the hidden compartment behind the landscape
screen on the wall. There were a few other items in the hidden recess, things
that had intrigued him enough to warrant further examination when he had time.
But these - these were the most exciting and most valuable things he’d come
across in years. He couldn’t wait to show them to Adana.
The thought gave him a sharp thrill. It was
the same thrill he felt every time he contemplated taking something for her,
every time he thought of the look on her face when he presented her with the
gift. The thrill was followed by the familiar sadness, the wail of sorrow
Jessik carried deep inside him, the pain he bore for his only child.
He cleared the memory and closed down his
computer, making sure the lock feature was activated. Then he pressed an
intercom button to tell his secretary he was leaving his desk for awhile.
The descent to the ancient archives sector
took fifteen minutes. It was the deepest level of the facility and he had to go
around a couple of checkpoints to avoid the surveillance cameras. He was glad
they had removed the cameras on most levels. Part of the new “trust” initiative
the government was trying out. He had been surprised to discover they had
removed them from the religion section. Religion was still considered
dangerous, but there were so few now, who insisted on practicing the
clandestine rituals, so few who dared ask for access to the lower levels, that
the government had been letting up on security. Jessik smiled. That would work
to his advantage today.
The guard was dozing when Jessik stepped
from the lift and strode toward the door marked
Religion Archives – Authorized Access Only. He was almost on top of the man
before he jerked awake and stood up, flustered at finding himself face to face
with a superior.
Jessik smiled. “Kind of slow today, Hease?”
“Ye – yes, sir. Sorry, sir. It won’t ..”
Jessik cut him off. “I can’t seem to locate
Supervisor Guilder and I need to check something.” He moved toward the door.
“It will only take a short while.”
Hease did not move but Jessik saw his throat
constrict as he swallowed.
“Neither of us needs to file a report. We’re
all human, after all,” Jessik said, knowing the guard would remember the day
he’d caught him away from his post. And now dozing at his station would be a
second infraction. Either lapse would be cause for dismissal. He lifted his
eyebrows at the guard and smiled again.
The man gave a quick nod and pressed his
thumb into the console in front of him. Jessik heard the lock disengage. He
nodded back to the guard and stepped through the door.
Lights flicked on as he strode down the long
corridors. The archival units consisted of vaults within vaults. Some held only
computers that activated wall monitors with more
and textual information than a man could absorb in a lifetime. Others, the
deeper vaults, held the archives themselves, the original articles salvaged
from earth. It was to this area that Jessik strode.
He reached it quickly and stood for a moment
facing the hand-sized square on the wall. The moment he put his palm on it
there was a risk he could be detected. He wiped his hand on his tunic to clear
it of the slick perspiration and laid it on the square. When he removed it, the
screen lit with the time and date – 14:45, December 10, 2175.
A small panel slid back above it and Jessik
spoke the numbers he’d memorized. The screen flickered with another code,
telling him which vault to access. He stored the information in his mind and
entered the now open corridor, watching the codes that glowed as he passed by.
The number he wanted was not far into the vaults. He stood in front of the
door, glanced back down the hall and licked his lips. His heart raced and his
hand shook as he reached out to push the slider key. The panel whisked open
immediately and he stepped inside the room.
A pale white light illuminated hundreds of
transparent cases lining the walls from floor to ceiling. Jessik’s eyes widened
as he scanned them. He went to the index panel and entered the numbers he’d
memorized. A faint hum made him step back and hold his breath as a column of
cases began to move. Then the whole room seemed to shift and the case he had
requested slid into place in front of him. He wiped at his eyes, let his breath
out slowly, and raised the lid of the case.
The book looked heavy but fragile, so Jessik
did not want to risk lifting it out. He stared at the scrolling on its cover,
carved into the smooth dark surface. The letters glinted with yellow and Jessik
wondered if it was a residue of gold, that most precious of earth’s metals. He
ran his hand over the surface and knew it must be what was called leather, a
substance made from the skin of an earth animal. This was not just some history
book. This was something special, something perhaps at one time considered
Jessik swallowed as the word rolled around
in his mind. It was an ancient word little used any more, one of the words he’d
had to define when he read the old texts. Sacred. Consecrated. Hallowed.
Sanctified. The words seemed to whisper from the book itself. Jessik shook
himself. For a few seconds he thought of fleeing back to the safety of his
office. He’d been here before, staring at a book that he knew was restricted,
but this time he had the feeling that if he lifted the cover of this book
something would change. Something would change forever. His hand hovered over
it. He withdrew it and placed it over his heart. He could almost feel its rapid
thumping. He reached out again and lifted the cover.
The words were written in flowing gold
script on the yellowed page. The Holy Bible. King James Version. Published
1876. Jessik’s heart almost stopped. This was a copy of the Christian’s holiest
book, the book that had been banned along with several others after the second
religious wars. It was the third war that had finally brought an end to it all,
but by then the earth’s atmosphere had been so damaged the survivors were
doomed to a slow death. The small number who had managed to flee into space were
all that was left of the human race. He was a descendant of one of them. One of
them, Jessik realized, must have brought this book with him as he fled with the
others to search for a new world. No doubt he had paid for that infraction with
Jessik’s hand shook. This was one of the
books that were responsible for the near annihilation of his race. He’d been
taught how evil it was, how blood-thirsty and obscene. The image of the winged
figure flashed in his mind. Its beauty seemed to hover in contrast to what he
knew to be true. Perhaps … Jessik’s hand moved to turn the page. Perhaps his
teachers had been wrong. He had long ago recognized that not everything the
government officials told them was accurate.
He turned the pages, quickly becoming
absorbed in the contents. Several of them were beautifully decorated with
ornate lettering and detailed drawings framing the scrolled text. He scanned
them, a sudden urgency making his heart race again. He flipped to the page
number he’d memorized. There was the picture of the angel that had shone such
odd light into his office from the hologram. In this depiction he was standing
before a kneeling woman. Jessik read the text on the opposite page, his lips
moving, perspiration standing out on his forehead as he struggled to understand
the ancient form of his own language.
“And in the sixth month the angel
Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin
espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the
virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou
that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what
manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not,
Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in
thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be
great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give
unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of
Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How
shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto
her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall
overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:26-35
A metalic clang made Jessik’s head jerk up.
Someone else had entered the vaults. He strained to hear footsteps but silence
made his ears ring. His foolishness suddenly overwhelmed him. If he was seen
here it would mean dismissal, the end of his career, perhaps even prison. Who
would care for his daughter then? He closed the book, sealed the case and
watched it slide back into its place on the wall. A surge of regret made him
linger. He wanted to read more. He wanted to know more, with a desperation he
did not understand. He sighed, strode to the door, and listened again before
pressing the exit panel. He had been here too long. More reading would have to
It took Jessik a full week to sneak the
baubles and the figurines out of the building. Each time he thought the
thumping of his heart would be heard by the guards but each time they waved him
past without asking him to step through the scanner. His seniority was enough
to give him the needed level of trust.
And the look on Adana’s face was enough to
make him keep doing it until he had given her all of the decorations and
figurines. He was surprised that she was most fascinated by the last one, the
one he almost left in the box, the small crude one that did not seem to belong
with the others.
Adana clapped her hands when he placed it
with the others on the shelves surrounding her bed. Jessik scanned her
collection. Small toys of all shapes and sizes were arrayed there. She would
gaze at them for hours, he knew, inventing stories in her mind to pass the long
days that dragged by without mobility, without hope. Jessik sighed. The
physicians had finally stopped giving him excuses. They had no explanation for
Adana's paralysis. Psychological trauma was the last prognosis. But his
daughter had never been traumatized. She was, in every other way, a happy
normal child. But a child who could not walk, could not lift her arms or even move
her fingers and toes. They had advised him to place her in a facility that had
nurses and orderlies who would care for her, but Jessik could not bear the
thought. He knew patients like Adana often died suddenly in such facilities. He
had hired a private nurse for the hours when he could not be with her. He
smiled at her now as she stared at the last artifact. Then her face lifted
expectantly to his.
“Will you bring me the baby next, Daddy?”
Jessik frowned. “The baby?”
Adana nodded and her eyes flicked to another
shelf, then back to the last artifact. “Yes. It has to have a baby in it, like
the other one.”
“Other one?” Jessik’s eyes scanned the
shelves now. “What other one, sweetheart?”
“There,” Adana said, pointing with her chin.
“On the third shelf, beside the teddy bear.”
Jessik moved closer and reached for the
object. It was a small globe he had given Adana a couple of years ago, thinking
she’d be thrilled with the floating glitter inside it. He peered into it now,
and caught his breath.
Four miniscule figures surrounded by
sparkling glitter hovered inside the globe. Though not as finely wrought, they
were similar to the figurines he’d just given Adana. An angel figure was
suspended from the top, its wings spread. Below it a man and woman stood
peering down at the same crude shape but this one had a tiny baby lying in it.
Jessik put the globe back and reached for
the crude carving. “The baby,” he murmured.
“Can you find it, Daddy?” Adana asked.
Jessik turned the figurine in his hand.
“Perhaps.” He looked at his daughter’s hopeful face. “I’ll see if I can,
sweetie, but it’s very old. It may have been lost long ago.”
“Please find it, Daddy. Please, find the
baby. It’s not complete without the baby.”
The look in his daughter’s eyes made
Jessik’s fill. “I’ll try, sweetheart. I’ll try.” He kissed her forehead. “Rest
He passed his hand over the light sensor as
he left her room, not realizing until he collapsed into a chair in the living
room that he still held the small artifact in his hand. He stared at it and
shook his head. Who would have thought such a crude thing would be designed to
hold an infant? He placed it on the table beside him and slouched into the
chair. Exhaustion overtook him. His head fell back and in a few moments he was
The man standing in front of him was taller
than most. His skin was a dark colour, almost black, yet he seemed to glow with
a white light. He held a book in his hand – the book Jessik had seen in the
vault. The man smiled, then began to read.
And she brought forth her firstborn
son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because
there was no room for them in the inn And there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And,
lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round
about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not:
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all
people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is
Christ the And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Jessik jerked awake. His arm spasmed away
from the arm of the chair and knocked the artifact to the floor. He reached for
it and placed it upright on his palm.
“The babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes.”
He leaped to his feet. It took him half the
normal time to reach the archives building at this late hour. No crowds of
people heading to work slowed him down and he knew there would be no-one in the
building except a few guards. He met only one who simply nodded to him and kept
He went directly to his office and retrieved
the box from its hiding place. He opened it and removed a handful of shredded
packing, separating it carefully. Nothing. He dug into the box again and
removed another handful. This time his finger touched something hard. He pulled
at the material and a tiny hand reached up toward him.
Jessik removed the rest of the packing with
his thumb. The baby was carved in the same wood, its head realistically too
large for its body, which was wrapped tightly in strips of cloth. Its arms were
outstretched as though expecting to be lifted up. Jessik’s heart beat faster.
He wrapped the small carving in a cloth and tucked it gently into his pocket.
Then he headed for the lower levels.
It wasn’t until he stepped off the lift that
he thought about how he would convince the guard to let him in. The man snapped
to attention as Jessik approached.
“Open the door,” Jessik said, using his
highest tone of authority.
“Yes, sir,” the man replied and the panel
Turning his face away so the guard would not
see his shock, Jessik strode into the corridor. He did not take time to ponder
the man’s unquestioning obedience. His mind and soul hurt with the need to know
more about the angel, and especially more about the infant.
When the box slid into place in front of
him, Jessik did not hesitate. He turned to the page with the picture of the
angel. Then he followed the references to other portions and read each one of
them. And each one added to something swelling inside him, something he felt he
could not contain. It made him want to shout with joy, made him even want to
dance. But why? His own emotions confounded him.
Jessik stepped back for a moment. What did
it all mean? Was it simply some superstitious nonsense from long ago? Was this
something dangerous, even obscene, as he’d been taught? Then why did his heart
race? Why did he feel such longing? He stepped back to the case and turned the
pages carefully again, scanning the text here and there. Then his heart
stopped. He read the words over and over.
“Say to them that are of a fearful
heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God
with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall
be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man
leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall
waters break out, and streams in the desert.”
The lame man shall leap. Jessik didn’t know
what a hart was, but the lame man leaped. Oh, if it were true, if it were only
Jessik stared at the book for a long time,
his hand resting on it. Then his heart slowed. A strange feeling came over him,
a feeling he had never known before. Peace. Complete peace. And a solid, calm
“And he shall be called the prince of
Jessik straightened. His hands wrapped around
the book and he lifted it from its case. He was not wearing a coat so there was
no way to conceal it. But Jessik didn’t care. He turned to the door, pressed
the exit code and left the room. The guard did not look up as he strode past
him. He hurried to the transport level, expecting the alarms to begin blaring
at any moment but nothing happened.
By the time he reached his home, he was
drenched in perspiration and he thought his heart was going to leap from his
body. It pounded against the hard surface of the book he clutched to his
breast. Leaning against his front door, Jessik gulped for air. When he could
almost breathe normally again, he entered and made his way to his study. Placing
the book in the middle of his desk, he laid both hands on it. A single word
surfaced in his mind.
He had researched that word too. I was what
the ancients did to petition their gods for favor. For things like making the
blind see and the lame walk.
Jessik did not know what words to use so he
said only one word. He said it out loud: “Please.”
Then he opened the book and began to read.
He read and read and read until his head dropped down and eventually lay on the
page as sleep overcame him. And Jessik began to dream.
A man dressed in rags held out dirty hands,
his voice pleading with those who passed by him.
“Alms,” he cried, “alms for a man lame from
birth. Alms, alms.”
Most passed by him without a glance but
after a time two men approached. One squatted down in front of the lame man.
“Look at me,” he said.
The man did as he was told.
“Gold or silver I do not have, but what I
have I give you.”
The stranger stood, reached down his hand
and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Messiah, rise up and walk.”
The lame man stared at his hand for a
moment, then looked up into the man’s eyes. Slowly his hand reached out and
grasped the stranger’s. Then he stood. Then he took a step. Then his face began
to glow as he leaped in the air.
“Praise God,” he cried. Praise God!”
The alarm almost gave Jessik a heart attack.
He leaped up, panting, his heart slowly returning to normal when he realized it
was only the wakeup alarm he had heard. The house was still dark and silent. He
always rose early, before the servants. He usually loved that time alone, to
read and to study, but this morning he had only one burning need in his mind.
He hurried into his daughter’s room. The
soft glow from a night-light fell on her face. Jessik stared down at her and
his love for her made him groan.
“Adana,” he whispered. She stirred but did
not wake. “Adana,” he said again.
Her eyelashes fluttered and her eyes opened.
Then her lips curved into a slow smile. “Daddy?”
Jessik placed the book on her bed and gently
lifted her into a sitting position, tucking the pillows and a blanket around
her rigid body to support her.
“I have a story to tell you,” he said. “A
very old story, from a very old, wonderful book.” He pulled a chair to her
bedside, took the book in his hands and began to read, holding it so that his
daughter could see the illustrations.
The dawn light had grown to full morning sun
pouring into the room as he finished reading.
Adana’s eyes sparkled. “It is a wonderful
story. Is it true, Daddy?”
Jessik had never seen such hope in her eyes.
“I believe...” The words caught in his throat. He closed the book, took the
small carving from his pocket and held it out to his daughter.
Adana turned as the morning light fell
softly on the baby’s outstretched arms. “Jesus,” she said. Then she gave a soft
moan and slowly raised her arms, stretching out her hands in a way that mimicked
the child in the manger.
Jessik’s hand flew to his mouth as his
daughter took the tiny carving from his palm. She pushed the bedcover back and
let her thin legs slide over the edge. As her feet touched the floor and began
to move, she moaned again.
Adana,” Jessik whispered again and reached
“No, Daddy,” she said. “Let me do it on my
own. Let me walk.”
Tears flowed down her cheeks, but she smiled
at him, took a step away from the bed, then turned and walked stiffly to the
shelf where the other figures stood. She placed the baby in the manger beside
the female form, moved the male form to the other side and placed the angel
between them, all facing the baby.
“There,” she said, “Now it’s complete. All
together again.” Then she turned, took a step toward her father and stared down
at her once paralyzed limbs. "Am I dreaming, Daddy?"
Jessik scooped her into his arms and whirled
her around the room. "No, sweetheart, you aren't dreaming."
She laughed and wrapped her arms around his
neck. “Put me down, Daddy. Let me walk. I want to walk.”
He lowered her gingerly to the floor,
holding onto her arm.
“It’s okay, Daddy.” She laughed again. “You
can let go.” She skipped across the room and back into his arms. “It’s true,”
she whispered, “It’s all true.” Then she kissed his cheek. “This is the best
earthly treasure ever.”
“Yes, Adana.” Jessik choked the words out as
his eyes fell on the book. “Oh yes, my girl, it is. This truly it is the best,
the most holy earthly treasure ever.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
May watched Joe,
her common law husband, as he sat on the couch, drowning his sorrows with a
forty of whiskey. She would tell him the war was over but that would only result
in him cussing her out. Joe still lived on the battlefield of World War II where
he had seen action. Even on Christmas day, he relived it over and over by
watching the newsreels from the war. It was one of the many reasons she dreaded
the holiday season. Her childhood experiences, that haunted her memories, were
The thoughts lead her back in time and she was once again the small girl
huddled in the corner of the cold damp room, locked away from life. She didn’t
understand why her aunt hated her so much and condemned her to this room,
leaving no chance of escape. Beyond the walls she could hear the shrill laughter
of her cousins. Judging from the volume, something big was happening. While they
celebrated, May fought to keep from wetting herself by squeezing her legs
together as tightly as she could. Her prayers went unanswered; urine soaked into
The door swung open. Her aunt’s words were sharper than her pointed chin
“Wet yourself again?” Auntie’s hand came at her.
May ducked but the blow came too fast. The hard floor broke her fall. No
tears fell—years of this ritual had taught her to never react to pain. Why
did she get punished for something she couldn’t stop? There was no time to
ask. Auntie grasped May’s thin arm and pulled her across the room. May did her
best to get her feet under her as they made their way to the
“Clean yourself up.” Auntie walked away.
Another bruise to be added to the
others, May thought as she rubbed the sore spot. There was no time to worry
about it. She had to get changed into dry clothes before Auntie came back or
round two would follow.
When she entered
the living room, May noticed her cousins clutching new dolls. Their delicate
porcelain faces and silky hair shone. May longed to hold one of these ‘big girl’
dolls or any kind of new toy.
Her cousin ran to
her, a smirk on her face and handed her a paper bag. “Merry
Inside, May found
her 'new' toy. The doll hung limp from years of play. Its hair had been cut or
pulled out and it was missing an eye. May wanted to throw it on the floor and
demand that she too get a new doll from the store. But Auntie watched her every
move. A bruised arm would be the least of her worries if she voiced her
brought her back to the present. What did he want now? She sighed and headed
into the other room to see to his needs to find the phone was ringing. She
answered it. It was her son, CJ. He and his new girlfriend would arrive in about
When May first met
Lea, she knew this girlfriend was different from the others CJ had brought
around. Lea talked to her, listened to May’s stories about her past. They had
even prayed together. And this year, Lea would be spending Christmas with them.
May worked hard on
making the meal perfect. Lea’s Mennonite roots didn’t include many of May’s
holiday traditions. Would Lea appreciate the Scottish dressing with its oatmeal
base? Or cooked cabbage? Maybe May should have tried to include some of Lea’s
customary holiday foods? Joe would complain if they didn’t have the traditional
meal even though he wouldn’t be sober enough to remember eating it. May wasn’t
about to risk an argument with him today.
CJ and Lea arrived
as May put the gravy into a bowl. Lea carried a small present that she set with
the packages May’s daughter had sent in the mail. May had hoped her daughter
would be home for the holidays. She was too busy. On the outside, May pretended
it didn’t matter but inside, the mailed packages were cruel reminders of her
lack of importance in her daughter’s life. But who cared about gifts? Joe only
wanted more whiskey and May had long switched to giving cash to her children and
Joe sat on the
couch in his underwear holding his plate of food. CJ sat in May’s chair beside
his dad with his plate. At least she and Lea sat at the table in the dining
area. The compliments for the meal almost scared her. May trembled, unable to
say a word in response. Lea didn’t seem to notice her silence.
After the meal, Lea
jumped up and started clearing the table. May watched, stunned to see someone
else helping in her kitchen. She held her own plate unsure what to do next.
“I’ll wash because
I don’t know where to put things after I dry them,” Lea said.
I must look dense
standing here, my mouth gaping, overwhelmed with something so
basic, May thought. Good thing her guest had already turned her
attentions on the dishes in the sink. May found a tea towel and began
It was over. Every
one was fed and another Christmas done. Gift opening would wait until May found
a private corner away from Joe. She folded her tea towel and was headed to join
Joe and CJ in the living room when she noticed Lea at the table,
a Bible in front of
her. May had never learned to read and never passed up an opportunity to hear
someone else read to her.
Lea said the words
loud and clear, unafraid of Joe’s protests at this addition to their holiday
celebrations. “And it
came to pass in those days…”
May knew the story
of Christ’s birth but somehow in her world, Christmas and Christ never came
together. For her, it was a day to endure and remember her aunt’s lessons about
May’s place in life as someone undeserving of the finer things. But as she
listened to Lea read the account of the first Christmas, something clicked
within her. She had a right to take part in the celebrations in their fullness.
When Lea read the part about the shepherds and the angels, May couldn’t hold
back. She burst into song. Lea joined in for the chorus of Angels We have Heard
Joe grumbled his
complaints as the women made their way into the living room. A tremble went
through May but Lea ignored his cussing and retrieved the small gift. The
brightly coloured bag could hold any number of things May thought as Lea set it
in her hands.
May opened it with
great care. When she peered inside, she saw something brown. Reaching in, she
felt something soft and furry. Grasping it, she lifted the hidden treasure out
of the bag. Around its neck, the teddy bear had a ribbon that shone with
newness. Its fur was soft, untouched by another. Memories flooded back to the
many times May had watched her cousins enjoy their gifts at Christmas time while
she went to her room with some used up old doll. But this time she had the new
toy. Cuddling the bear against her chest like a mother would hold a child, she
thanked Lea for the gift.
“I’ve always wanted
a teddy bear...thought I was too old.” May brushed away a tear. “People would
think I was crazy.”
That night, May
held her bear, petting the soft fur. This small gift brought with it a beginning
of healing from the many years of being told she was a useless burden and extra
expense, especially during the holidays. This bear said something different.
There would be no more Christmas celebrations with her listening in from behind
Previously Published in Christmas Chaos
(copyright 2010 Prairie Dog Publishing and its Licensors)
Monday, December 12, 2016
Glynis M. Belec
eyes lit up each time she watched the commercial. Every five year old child needed a Cabbage Patch Kid. The television said so. I had taken a psychology course or two so I
knew what those marketers were up to but no matter how hard I tried to convince
my little girl that it was all a gimmick to get parents to shell out hard
earned money, the more she wanted one.
“I need to adopt a Cabbage Patch baby,”
Amanda said day after day. It was hard for her to differentiate between want
and need at her young age and when she felt the pull, need always came out the winner.
exactly flowing like a river and with Christmas drawing near, the struggle to
buy gifts and pay bills tipped the scales more in the direction of unbalanced a
little too often. I secretly wanted to buy Amanda a Cabbage Patch doll, though,
but it was a craze that I had sworn I would not succumb to; no aggressive
marketing ploy would make me submit and surrender, no matter how appealing the
baby dolls were with their adoption papers and big, beckoning eyes.
I had heard
the news stories about Cabbage Patch Kid dolls being sold out within minutes; I
was aware of the tales about back order woes and upset children and frantic
parents who would line up for hours hoping to score a doll from the next
shipment. I refused to line up to buy a
doll. Besides we really couldn’t afford it, anyway.
same, Christmas shopping excursions included a mandatory trip to the toy
department. The yellow boxed babies did not sit on the shelf for long, but with
Amanda in tow, it was crucial we checked. Although she knew she needed to adopt a Cabbage Patch baby,
Amanda also understood in her own childlike way, that she likely wasn’t going
to get one for Christmas. Mommy was a bit of a stubborn shopper and she was
slowly learning that my idea of the perfect gift did not necessarily mesh with
same, I was lenient when it came to window shopping. The more I watched my
darling daughter interact with the boxed babies, though, the more I felt a
nudge that maybe I should give a little.
I saw how she looked at the Cabbage Patch creations. I listened to her
trying to pronounce the name – each one came pre-named. Then I would see the
hurt on her little face when someone snatched a box from the shelf. I got to
the point where I thought it perhaps time I relinquished. Maybe, just maybe I
would talk it over with Daddy.
So I did. We
considered our budget and rationalized that she was only young once and we
probably should make her Christmas wish come true. I put it on my list. Next
time I was in town I would march up to the toy department and adopt the perfect
Cabbage Patch baby for Amanda. I could hardly wait for Christmas morning.
was a week before Christmas and I headed to the department store. Daddy would
keep Amanda happy and occupied. When I arrived
at the store I headed straight for the toy aisle. Dolls of every sort stared
back. There were baby dolls, princess dolls, dolls that walked, talked and
danced. But I could not see any Cabbage Patch Kids anywhere. I asked the sales
Ma’am. We sold out a few hours ago.”
are you getting more in?” I asked.
not.” The salesclerk sounded as if she
was sick of answering the Cabbage Patch question. Her rolling eyes were an
week before Christmas. I had finally relented and now the desire for me to find
a Cabbage Patch for my daughter was becoming an obsession. Why had I been so stubborn? It was a doll and
it was all Amanda had wanted for Christmas. I needed to find one.
shopping trip turned into a mission. But to no avail. I tried store after
store. No Cabbage Patch Doll to be found. Eventually, the last store I tried,
the sales clerk apologized profusely but then her eyes lit up a little and she
pointed to a display.
have these.” The helpful young lady pointed to a display of Cabbage Patch Key
rings. Squeeze the back, the arms open and they cling to clothing or books.
They were definitely cute but definitely not what I was looking for. But I
bought one. At least it was a Cabbage Patch Kid in miniature. I had tried.
I arrived home my sullenness was a dead giveaway. I told Daddy what had
transpired and he uttered something about ‘not meant to be.’
morning arrived. We decided not to wait for Nana and Grandpa to arrive to open
gifts. Amanda was anxious to see what was in the glistening packages under the
tree. She was gracious. When she opened the little box containing the Cabbage
Patch Kid key ring, she smiled and kissed the little doll, cradling it in her
small hands, the little silver keychain dangling. I felt wretched. Why had I
been so stubborn? I should have shopped earlier. I should have known, given the
craze over the popular doll that I needed to plan way ahead. But Amanda seemed
content to rock her little key ring baby.
Nana and Grandpa arrived we settled down for a lovely Christmas breakfast and
we chatted away, basking in the simplicity and joy of family. Then Nana pulled
out a box.
I almost forgot. This is for you, Amanda.”
Amanda quietly took the box and
gently peeled away the pretty paper. A squeal of delight pierced my heart.
“Mommy! It’s a Cabbage Patch Kid!” Amanda cried.
I could hardly believe my eyes. A
dark chocolate skinned little baby stared out of the distinctive yellow box.
How did you know?” I hugged my more than surprised mother.
my mother’s friend, Peggy, who loved to shop, had bought a Cabbage Patch Doll
earlier in the year. She had no reason to buy one herself, except that everyone
was buying them. So when Christmas
rolled around she gave the doll to Nana because she knew she had a
flowed for a myriad of reasons that Christmas morning. No one was more
thrilled, though, than Amanda. She took out the adoption papers and announced
that her new adopted baby was officially named Justina Crispina.
guess that was meant to be,” uttered a teary-eyed Daddy!
clipped her key ring to Justina’s dress. My heart skipped a beat…
Friday, December 9, 2016
UNDER THE TREE
get me anything for Christmas!" my husband's voice broke into my thoughts
which were full of all the Christmas preparations I planned to complete in the
next few weeks.
I looked at
him and nodded, "You say that every year."
year I'm serious. There won't be anything for you under the tree or in your
stocking, at least not from me. So don't get me any gifts either. Put the extra
money towards more things for the kids." he repeated.
bother replying. We went through this every year. Most years I'd listen and get
him a few little gifts so the children could enjoy watching him empty his
stocking. Every year he'd have a gift under the tree for me and my stocking
would have lots of surprises, sometimes costly surprises in it. Every year I
wished I hadn't listened to his instructions. This year I wouldn't.
in a whirlwind of activities including baking, shopping, decorating and sending
out Christmas cards and letters. My husband repeated his ‘nothing-for-me’
message frequently.. Each time I would look deeply into his eyes for the
teasing glint that was sure to be there, yet he appeared more serious than in
the gifts were all wrapped and under the tree, the items for everyone’s stockings
well hidden from prying eyes and the children's Christmas programs were done.
Christmas Eve had arrived. I tucked the children into bed. Sleep would be
delayed in claiming them due to their excitement so I curled up on the couch
and settled in for a long wait.
know there's no gift under the tree for you, right?" my husband asked.
have anything for your stocking either. So don't be disappointed. I warned you.
You listened and didn't get me anything either - right?" he said.
I looked at
him and smiled. I would wait and see. Maybe this year he listened to his own
rules and I'd be one up on him. Then I tried to shake those thoughts right out
of my head. Since when had giving gifts become such a competition? That
shouldn't be what Christmas was all about.
I felt like
I had barely laid my head on the pillow when I heard the children's voices
attempting to break into my sleep fogged brain. "Get up. It's Christmas!
at our arms urging us to hurry. They needed to see what Santa had put in their
stockings. I pulled on my robe and followed them to the living room where I
watched them eagerly empty all the treasures from the stockings. I loved to see
their smiling faces. Then I turned to watch Brian empty his stocking. He leaned
over and whispered for my ears alone, "I wasn't supposed to get
I pulled a
few chocolate candies and an orange from my stocking. He had been serious.
There was no gift under the tree and none in my stocking. I tried to hide the
disappointment that suddenly surfaced.
morning, we headed the few blocks to my parent's house to celebrate with the
rest of the family. The fragrant aroma of roasting turkey and pies filled our
nostrils as we stepped into their home. Christmas dinner always provided a
bountiful supply of scrumptious food. I quickly pitched in to help load the
table with its bounty while the children ran off to play with their cousins.
barely finished eating when the children clamoured to open presents. The gift
exchange needed to wait while the women tackled the mundane chore of kitchen
cleanup and the men headed out to check the trucks and warehouse. With
impeccable timing they returned just as we completed the last of the dishes. I
looked forward to a relaxing afternoon of visiting. Brian looked at me and
said, "Before presents why don't you take some of these leftovers to our
fridge and bring back a couple games for later."
good to me but why don't you go?" I replied.
I'll stay here. You go. Hurry back." he countered.
around but no one took my side. Frustration began building inside me when I
asked him once more to do the errand and he again refused. The realization I
could not win this argument sunk in, like a rock into the pit of my stomach. Rather
than creating an unpleasant scene, I grabbed my coat and jammed my arms into
it. I pulled on my boots, grabbed some containers of leftovers from my mom and
headed out the door, barely refraining from slamming it behind me. I mumbled
and grumbled to myself all the way home. By the time I arrived in my own
kitchen the frustration had turned to full blown anger.
open the refrigerator door, shoved in the containers and slammed the door shut.
I wheeled around, almost colliding with a huge dishwasher standing in the
middle of the kitchen floor, as I stomped from the room to find the games. I
stopped suddenly and turned around.
dishwasher! I don't have a dishwasher!" I yelled into the empty room. My
anger drained out as tears began to run down my face. I ran my hands over the
brand new appliance. My present didn't fit under the tree or in my stocking. I
had been sent home to find it. Checking the warehouse had been an excuse to
sneak the dishwasher home. I wiped my tears before heading back into the cold.
My anger dissipated only to be replaced by shame at my attitude. I slowly
walked back into my folk's house and sheepishly faced my family. Their faces
were wreathed in smiles as they waited expectantly for my reactions.
my comments to my husband, "You didn't keep your word. You got me a
present?" he said as he tried to keep a straight face but the twinkle in
his eyes betrayed the losing battle he fought.
dishwasher in our kitchen!" I replied.
filled the room while everyone began talking at once. The laughter drove the last
vestiges of frustration, anger and shame from me. That Christmas I learned a
lesson or two. First, things aren't always as they seem. Secondly, frustration
and anger should never have first place in my life, especially at Christmas.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Jenny knelt in the
snow in front of the manger scene in the square. The baby looked so peaceful.
His eyes were closed and his red lips slightly parted. His mother had wrapped
the blanket around him so carefully.
“Blue, blue like the sky.” She
reached in and stroked the soft wool of the blanket.
“Dare I touch him?” Slowly she lifted her small hand and laid it on
the baby’s face. It felt warm.
“Just like a real baby.” Jenny pushed the blanket back from his
forehead and was surprised to see tiny strands of dark hair. She looked up at
his mother, looked into her open eyes.
“She’s smiling at me.”
Jenny lifted the corners of her lips to return the smile. “I don’t think she
minds that I touched her baby.”
“Get away from there. Be off with you. Who do you think you are,
touching the manger scene?” Harsh, cold words flowed over her. She jumped back
startled and stared into the angry face of the custodian.
His gray overcoat was fastened over wrinkled brown pants. A fur cap
rested on his shaggy hair; shaggy gray hair that escaped beneath the cap all
around his head. Bushy eyebrows were tightly drawn together in an outraged
“’Way you go. Back wherever scum like you comes from.” The man waved
his arms wildly at her, shooing her away.
Jenny stood, her face twisted with disappointment and fear. She took
one last look at the baby then ran for the park across the street. When she
reached the path into the wooded area, she paused and looked back to see if she
was being followed. The angry man was still standing there, shaking his fist at
her, but making no attempt to cross the street.
She pulled her leaden feet along the slippery path. Snow was
falling; that soft, gentle snow that embellishes the front pages of glossy magazines
around Christmas. To Jenny it had lost its beauty long ago. It was just cold,
far too cold for her shabby coat and worn shoes.
The tree branches overhead provided some shelter from the wind as
Jenny continued along the path. A squirrel scolded from a low branch, but she ignored
him. Her mind was still on the baby in the blue blanket.
“Beautiful baby, beautiful baby,” she crooned to herself. Her thin
arms hugged her chest as she pretended to rock the baby.
She reached the other side of the park and looked up at the apartment
building blighting the skyline on the far side of the street. It had seen
better days. Graffiti sprawled along the dirty brickwork on the lower levels, paint
was a foreign substance to the doors and windows, and a sadness seemed to hover
over the neglected domicile.
But it was home to Jenny. She had never lived anywhere else. She
looked through kinder eyes not seeing the crumbling exterior, the dingy
hallways, the tattered curtains. She only saw the familiar, the comfortable;
home, her home.
Carefully she crossed the street and entered the foyer. The
threadbare carpet did little to absorb the dampness from her feet. Stairs rose
before her, rising up along peeling, faded walls. Her steps slowed as she
reached the first floor. Two doors down and she’d be home.
She pushed open the door to her apartment, entering quietly. “Mama,
I’m home.” She kicked off her wet shoes and shoved them to the side with a damp
“Jenny, where have you been? I’ve been calling for you out the
window.” Mama bustled into the living room, wiping her hands on an apron that
had once been pretty.
“Mama, I saw the baby.” Jenny’s eyes shone as she looked at her
mother. She was still holding her arms as though cradling him.
Allie, her mother, stared at her, her eyes puzzled. She pushed back
lank pieces of dark hair from her face as she observed her daughter. “Baby? What
baby? What are you talking about, Jenny?”
“The baby in the manger at the square. I saw it. I saw the little
blue blanket. I touched it, Mama.” She spoke with a dreamy lilt to her voice.
“I touched the blanket and the baby’s face.”
“I’m surprised someone didn’t stop you.” She reached out and touched
her daughter’s hair, slipping the small hat from her head.
“Oh, that old man who looks after the rink did chase me away. But
that was after I felt the blanket and patted the baby’s face.” Jenny reached
around and hugged her mother.
“Okay, enough about the baby. It’s time to eat. Get your wet things
off and come to the table. We’ve got a pork chop to split between us tonight.”
Allie turned to head back to the kitchen, wiping a stray tear from her eye.
“All right, Mama, I’ll be right there.”
Jenny always tried to obey her mother. She was all she had. Her
mother refused to talk about her father. She had no memory of him, but she
dreamed about him every night. He always wore a red jacket with a white shirt
and tie. Jenny thought he was handsome. And he always took her mother and her
away from their tiny apartment to a big house in the city where she had two
dogs and an orange cat. She never told her mother about her dream. She knew it
would upset her.
you’ve hardly eaten anything. Can’t you try to eat a little more?”
Jenny-girl was her mom’s special name for her.
“I’m not very hungry, Mama,” Jenny sighed as she pushed around a
tiny piece of pork chop on her plate. “I’m just tired.” She sighed again then
brightened quickly and looked at her mom. “I know I’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Her mama looked at her with sadness in her eyes. Jenny had seen that
look before and would do anything to erase it from her face. She knew it had
something to do with her and how tired she was.
It was cold in their apartment so bedtime came early. When she was
ready for bed, Jenny went to the front window as she had done every night since
the lights had been lit on the big tree down the street. There were no
Christmas lights in her home, but she could see the tree.
“Mama, it’s so beautiful. Look at it with the snow falling on it.” She
wiped steam from the window and leaned closer to it.
Allie stood behind her, arms wrapped around Jenny’s shoulders. Jenny
leaned into her mother’s embrace, resting her head on her shoulder.
“Mama, what’s Heaven like?”
“Why are you asking about Heaven, Jenny-girl?” Her mother’s arms
tightened around her.
“I don’t know. It just occurred to me. I think it’s warm and bright
there. I think there are Christmas trees on every corner and a baby in a manger
with a soft blue blanket under every tree. What do you think, Mama?” Jenny
stayed in her mother’s embrace, tilting her head so she could see the whole
“Oh, Jenny-girl, that sounds nice. I think you’re right.” Allie
leaned her head down to nestle in Jenny’s hair.
Jenny yawned and snuggled closer to her mama. Allie picked her up
and hugged her tightly.
“Time for bed,” she said cheerily.
At midnight the coughing started, deep
rough coughs, jarring Jenny from her sleep. “I can’t breathe,” Jenny wailed
between gasps and coughs.
Allie got up right away and forced a straw between Jenny’s lips. “Drink,
Jenny. It will ease your cough.”
But the cough didn’t stop. Allie finally left the apartment and
mounted the steps to the next floor. She rapped sharply on the first door.
“Sam, Sam, please wake up. I need your help.” She knocked again,
harder this time.
Presently the door opened a crack and a wrinkled face framed in a
nightcap peered at her. “What’s going on,” the raspy voice grated.
“It’s Jenny, Sam, she won’t stop coughing. I need to get her to the
hospital. Can you take us?” Allie reached out and gripped his arm.
“Allie, it’s you.” He threw the door wide open. “Come in, come in.
Let me get dressed and I’ll see if that crazy old car will start.”
“I can’t come in, Sam. I’ve got to get back to Jenny. Please hurry,
I’m scared.” Allie started to cry.
Sam awkwardly patted her shoulder. “Now, now, Allie, we’ll get her
to the hospital. You just get ready and meet me at the front door.”
The hospital doors
loomed before them as Allie carried her precious bundle into the waiting room.
The room was bleak. Lighting was dim and an old TV spewed forth a program
unwatched by weary people sitting on plastic chairs. Sam and Allie found two
seats at the back and Jenny was shifted to Sam’s arms while Allie went to the
desk to register.
A baby cried and an old man coughed discreetly into his
handkerchief. Allie sat down dejectedly beside Sam.
“She said it’ll be at least two hours before a doctor can see her.” Allie
pulled her coat around her and sighed.
Jenny stirred, sat up abruptly, and began coughing. The sound was
disturbing, rattling deep in her chest. The nurse looked up from her paper
work, rose and entered the room behind her. When she returned, she called
“Already?” Allie whispered to Sam.
“I don’t think she likes the sound of Jenny’s cough.” Sam’s wrinkled
face had the hint of a smile as he adjusted Jenny in his arms.
Allie lifted Jenny and followed the nurse into the busy emergency
department behind the waiting room. Here the lights were bright and nurses and
doctors moved about quickly, assessing their patients. A friendly face emerged
from behind a desk and led Allie to an empty cubicle. The narrow bed had a
clean sheet on it and Allie laid her burden down.
“Hello sweetheart.” The new nurse entered the cubicle with her
clipboard in one hand, her eyes moving over Jenny.
“Hi.” Jenny smiled in spite of her cough.
“Are you cold?” The nurse felt her forehead and checked her pulse
recording the information on her clipboard.
“Yes, very.” A little shiver rippled across her shoulders.
“I’ll be right back.” She patted her arm and turned to leave. When
she returned, she carried a heated blanket which she unfolded and gently placed
over Jenny, tucking in the sides around her.
“How’s that?” The nurse stood back and surveyed her patient again.
Her forehead wrinkled as she smiled.
“Nice, thank you.” Jenny snuggled under the blanket, flexing her
cold toes to extract the warmth.
“The doctor will be here in a minute.” The nurse patted Allie’s arm as
she left the cubicle.
While they waited, beeps came from nearby monitors along with soft
voices. People whisked by the cubicle bent on errands that needed their
“Hi, I’m Doctor Mike. You must be Jenny.” A broad, cheery face accompanied
the voice as he stepped into the cubicle. He seemed to fill the whole space
with his presence. When he sat beside Jenny, he asked her questions while
taking her pulse and listening to her chest.
“Jenny, I’m going to give you something to ease your cough and help
you to sleep. I’ll have the nurse bring it to you.” He sat back on his chair, observing
“Thanks.” Jenny tried not to cough, but she was unable to stop. Her
face turned red as a deep one engulfed her again. She covered her mouth with her
hand then quickly shoved it back under the warm blanket.
Doctor Mike turned to Allie as he stood. “When Jenny is asleep, I’d
like to talk to you in my office. The nurse will show you where it is.”
“Yes, thank you Doctor.” Allie drew in a deep breath and moved to
sit beside her daughter again.
When Jenny was
finally sleeping peacefully, Allie sat and watched her daughter before rising to
meet the doctor.
“How was I so lucky to have Jenny?” she whispered to herself. She
leaned over the bed, brushing the dark curls back from Jenny’s damp forehead.
She reverently placed a kiss on the flushed cheek and without looking back,
left the cubicle.
Doctor Mike was busy when she reached his office.
“He’ll just be a few minutes.” The nurse looked up from her work and
spoke softly to Allie. “Sit in here and wait for him. He particularly wanted to
talk to you right away.” She indicated a chair placed just inside a small room.
The inner door opened and Doctor Mike loomed in the doorway. “Thanks
for coming, Allie. I need to talk to you about Jenny.”
A cold chill ran down her spine the same time as a hot flush rushed
up her neck. The doctor stood back to let her enter his office. He indicated a
chair in front of his desk while he sat across the desk from her.
“What is it Doctor? Jenny will be okay won’t she?” A worried frown
gathered around her eyes as she leaned toward him.
“Allie, I’ll be frank with you. I don’t know yet exactly what’s
wrong with Jenny, but I don’t think it’s good.” He rested his elbow on his desk
and rubbed his chin as he looked at her.
A sharp gasp escaped Allie’s trembling lips and she quickly put her
hand over her mouth as her eyes widened.
“We’ll need to do a number of tests and I need your permission for
those. I know this is hard, but I know you want the best for her. I can’t treat
her unless I’m certain of the cause of her cough.”
Allie pulled herself up straighter on her chair. “Of course you have
my permission. I’d do anything for my little girl. Please just help her.” Then
the tears came, running rivulets down her unfeeling cheeks. “Please, please
help her,” she squeezed out between sobs. She fumbled in her pocket for a
Doctor Mike rose, patted her on the shoulder and left the office.
The nurse returned almost immediately.
“Allie, we’re going to admit Jenny. The doctor wants her taken to a
room as soon as possible. Come with me and we’ll gather her things.” The nurse
turned and left quickly leaving Allie no alternative but to follow.
Hour after hour, Allie
sat by Jenny’s bed. The tests had been completed earlier and the doctor would
soon be in with the results. She looked up as Sam came through the door. This
was a new Sam; hair washed and brushed, a suit she had never seen before, face
shaven, even his shoulders were pushed back as he joined her in the room.
“Sam, thanks for coming,” Allie said with a look of relief on her
“I wanted to be here with you. No one should have to face a hospital
alone.” He sank into a chair on the other side of Jenny’s bed. Jenny was still
sleeping quietly so they spoke in whispers.
“The doctor is coming soon to give me the results of the tests. Will
you stay with me when he comes? I don’t think I can face it alone.” She reached
out a trembling hand.
“Of course I’ll stay.” He gently squeezed her fingers.
“She’s probably going to be fine, but I’m really worried.” Her face
crumbled but she held back her tears.
She heard the doctor’s voice in the hall and took a deep breath. Sam
rose and stood behind her.
Doctor Mike slipped into the room and approached the bed, nodding to
Allie and Sam. He checked the chart hanging by a string at the foot of the bed,
took Jenny’s pulse, felt her forehead then turned to Allie.
“I have the results here,” he said in a noncommittal voice holding
up the papers in his hand. Sam’s hand found its way to her shoulder, resting
“Jenny is suffering from a severe case of pneumonia. We already know
that she has a weakened lung capacity due to that birth defect.” He cleared his
throat and scanned the papers in his hand. He looked up into Allie’s eyes. “I’m
afraid there’s not much we can do.” He glanced at Jenny in the bed. “We’ll
start her on medication, but you need to be prepared for the worst. I’m sorry.
We’ll do everything we can.” There was compassion in his voice.
Allie sat stunned at the news. Sam rubbed her shoulder.
“Do you have any questions?” Dr. Mike’s eyes were on hers.
“I . . . I don’t know what to say. I can’t even think.” Allie
whispered in a strangled voice, unable to move.
“I know this is a shock. I’ll be available if you need me later.
I’ll get the nurse to come.” He left the room, leaving them staring at his
“Mama, Mama.” Jenny stirred in the bed, pushing the covers back from
“You’re awake, Jenny-girl.” Allie rose and went to her daughter, kneeling
The coughing started almost immediately, harsh wheezing coughs. Allie
gave her some water which soothed her a little.
“Mama, I’m real sick,” Jenny managed to gasp out between coughs. She
let her head drop back on the pillow. Her cheeks were pale and her lips were
beginning to crack.
“I know Jenny. Try not to talk.” Allie caressed her forehead, lifting
a lock of hair back from her face.
“But Mama,” more gulping coughs, “I want to tell you something.” She
struggled to sit but fell back.
“What is it darling?” Allie leaned closer and put her arms around
“I want to see the baby in the blue blanket one more time,” she
managed to choke out.
“Oh Jenny, we’ll see him once you’re better and out of here.”
There was only the torturous sound of her breathing for a minute. “No
Mama,” she panted, “I need to see him today.” Her hands moved restlessly over the blanket,
picking at the fabric.
She fell silent, spent from trying to talk and from the wrenching
coughs. Sam glided from the room, unnoticed by either mother or daughter. The
nurse soon arrived and attached Jenny to an IV to start the medication. Jenny
lay very still as the needle was inserted into her arm.
daughter sat quietly, holding hands. Jenny drifted to sleep once more as the
medication eased the cough. Allie never knew how long she sat in that one
Nurses came and left offering her lunch or coffee which she declined.
The doctor came in twice to check on her. It all seemed a dream to Allie.
Daylight turned to darkness and still she sat. Jenny’s breathing was
laboured and a light sweat dotted her forehead. Christmas lights came on all
over the city, visible through the hospital room window but unnoticed by Allie.
Still she sat.
A soft knock on the door brought her out of her reverie. She placed
Jenny’s limp hand on the sheet and rose to answer. A woman stood there, her
face was familiar but Allie couldn’t place her.
“Hi Allie, I’m Joan, the mayor. Sam came to see me this afternoon to
tell me about your daughter. I’m so very sorry.” Her voice was low and sweet.
“The mayor? Ah … please won’t you come in?” She stood back and let
the older woman enter the room. Her black leather coat looked expensive and was
set off beautifully with a blue scarf and gloves. Although her hair was gray,
it was styled in a youthful cut enhancing the beauty of her face. Under her arm
she carried a package wrapped in a paper bag. Sam eased into the room behind her.
Allie stood amazed as she looked at this incongruous pair invading
the hospital room.
Joan smiled at her as she stepped closer to the bed.
“I have something for Jenny,” the woman spoke kindly, shifting the
parcel to her other arm.
Allie nodded and moved close to Jenny. “Jenny, Jenny,” she spoke
softly to her, gently touching her face. “You have a visitor dear. Can you open
Her eyelids fluttered then opened full. She saw her mama, Sam, and
the strange lady.
Joan leaned over the bed. “I’ve brought something for you to see.”
Jenny smiled her sweet smile at the mayor.
Joan placed the parcel in her arms. Allie helped her unwrap it.
Jenny lifted the baby with the blue blanket from the bag. Her eyes
had a faraway look of wonder in them as she cuddled the baby to her.
Allie’s mouth fell open as she realized what the bag had held.
“Where . . . How . . . ?”
“Allie dear, being mayor opens doors closed to other people. It’s
one advantage of the job. Thank the gentleman with me. It was his idea, a grand
idea. I simply did what he asked.”
Allie gazed at Sam with a new look of appreciation. He smiled shyly
back at her. Then all eyes focused on the bed, watching the joy on Jenny’s
And as Christmas Eve made way for Christmas day, Jenny closed her
eyes for the last time, a beautiful smile on her face as her arms encircled the
baby in the soft blue blanket.
And His arms encircled her as she was ushered into His presence.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Miriam opened her eyes to the sound of the
cock’s crow and stretched lazily on her thin pallet.
There was a sudden rattling of the wooden
shutters and a piping voice called urgently.
“Miriam…Miriam! Have you forgotten
what day it is?”
It was Eli and even though he was three
years younger than her, he was her only real friend. She scrambled to her feet, groping for her
leather sandals. “Wait, Eli. I’ll be there in a minute.”
The King doesn’t have a birthday every day and the village is already
getting crowded. I can’t believe he is
really coming!” Eli was so excited that
his voice squeaked even more than usual.
A visit from the King! Miriam scrubbed her face at the basin with
special care and slipped her tunic over her head. She looked ruefully at the faded blue cloth
and tried vainly to smooth the wrinkles from it. Ah well, it was the best she had. She began to braid her long black hair with
nimble fingers when the shutters rattled again.
“Eli, you know I can’t go till I finish my
chores. The fishermen will be in by now
and my father will want to sleep after being out on the lake all night.” For a moment she wondered if there would be
any fish this time and felt a pang of worry.
“Oh no,” she scolded herself.
“Nothing is going to spoil the King’s birthday for me. I refuse to be sad for one moment.”
Eli burst through the door in a flurry of
thin arms and legs. “Give me the bucket
then and I’ll go to the well for you.
Hurry up or we’ll miss something.”
“Here then,” she said gratefully and handed
him the water bucket. He disappeared out
the door and she set to work. She lived
alone with her father in the tiny hut so there wasn’t much to do. She rolled up her pallet and set it in the
corner before taking up the straw broom to make everything as tidy as possible.
A smile tugged at her mouth as she thought
about the coming celebration and her grey eyes took on a faraway look. She began to hum softly and sway back and
forth, the broom forgotten. Soon she was
dancing, turning and gliding, with her hands weaving graceful patterns in the
air around her. She danced to music that
no one could hear and it was her one great secret. Not even Eli had ever seen her dance. After all, how could she explain it? She didn’t really hear her heart’s music; she
just felt it somehow and it made her want to move to let it out. When she was alone she could forget her
poverty and her worries and dance with a freedom and joy she could not find any
It was midmorning before they finally found
themselves in the village square. Eli,
panting but triumphant, had returned at last with his tunic soaked and the
bucket nearly full.
Miriam gazed around her with wide-eyed
wonder. There were bustling crowds everywhere
with people laughing and talking all at once.
The air was filled with the smells of roasting mutton and spicy
“Look!” Eli was tugging at her arm and
pointing to a gaily striped awning that had been set up in the centre of the
square. Beneath it stood a huge chair of
finely carved cedar.
“What is it for?” she asked the man next to
her. “I thought the King was just going
to ride through the village.”
“Oh no,” he grinned. “He will stop and sit there to receive the
gifts of those who wish to honour him on his birthday. This finely woven cloth of gold will be my
gift. There is none better in all the
land. It is a gift fit for a King don’t
Miriam stared at the shimmering cloth in
awe. “Why yes, it’s beautiful,” she
Now they began to notice others who were
carefully watching over their precious gifts as they waited. Miriam had never seen such treasures in all
her life. Not all the gifts were rich of
course. For the most part the villagers
were humble folk, though not so poor as her father and herself.
“It seems like everyone has something to
give. Just look at that basket of white
loaves that Ephraim the baker is carrying,” Eli pointed out. “I wonder what a loaf like that would taste
Miriam didn’t answer. “They are giving the best they have,” she
murmured. She was looking at old Nathan,
the shepherd. In his arms he carried a
new lamb, spotless and without blemish.
Miriam looked into the lamb’s luminous eyes for a moment and reached out
to touch his silky white curls.
She turned away suddenly and headed for the
nearest side street. The King would be
arriving soon but instead of the excitement she had felt earlier she now felt
weighed down with a terrible heaviness.
“Miriam, what’s the matter with you?” Eli
called as he scrambled to catch up.
“Where are you going?”
Once out of the crowd, Miriam turned to him
and spoke in an urgent voice. “Don’t you
see? How will the King know that I want
to honor him? I have no gift to bring.” She rested her flushed face against a cool
stone wall and tried to think what to do while Eli stood silently watching
her. There was nothing among her
father’s few possessions fit to give away let alone something beautiful enough
to give a King.
Her head came up with a jerk as a new idea
suddenly flashed in her mind.
“I do have something beautiful in my life,”
she exclaimed to an open-mouthed Eli.
“At least,” she added, “it’s always been beautiful to me.” It was her secret…the music in her heart that
made her dance. Her spirit seemed to
leap within her at the thought and she swung Eli in a circle shouting, “I am
going to dance for the King!”
Miriam, have you gone crazy?” Eli squealed.
Just then they heard the sound of many
trumpets and voices raised in cheers.
“There’s no time to explain now,” Miriam cried. “Come on.”
By the time they made their way back to the
square, the King had taken his place under the awning. The richly dressed men and women of his court
were ranged behind him. The two friends
had to squirm their way to the front of the crowd to catch a glimpse of him. One
by one the people were coming forward to bow and present their gifts but Miriam
hardly noticed them. She had eyes only
for the King. He sat in regal splendor,
dressed in dazzling white with a crown of gold on his head and a golden scepter
across his knees.
“See how wise and strong he looks,” she
whispered to Eli.
As the last man set his gift at the King’s
feet and returned to his place, Miriam knew she must move or lose her
chance. Before she could change her mind
she stepped into the open space in front of the throne and spoke in a voice
“I too wish to honor the King on his
birthday. I have a gift to bring.”
She heard Eli groan and then someone called
her name in an anguished voice. It was
her father. She had never seen him
ashamed before and it wrenched her heart.
She tried to reassure him with her eyes and the crowd fell silent as the
“Come, child, and bring your gift to me,”
he said gently.
Miriam took a few hesitant steps and
faltered. She looked around as there was
a murmur from the people and wondered how she could bring herself to move. Her feet seemed rooted to the ground and the
only music she felt was the pounding of drums…or perhaps it was only her fear
pounding along with the beat of her heart.
Then she looked back at the King and his
eyes seemed to be speaking to her, saying “Look at me…look only at me.”
As she looked, she forgot the crowd and the
pounding drums. She saw love in his
steady gaze and it washed over her and filled her with wonder. Then she felt it. The music was there, soft and insistent and
beginning to grow. And she thought she
understood at last where it came from.
The King smiled and nodded and she began to
dance. She danced as she had never danced before. She danced to honour the King on his
birthday. She danced to music that the
people couldn’t hear. It was music in
her heart and when she looked at the King, she felt sure he heard it too.
When at last she was done, no one
spoke. Neighbors turned to one another
and shook their heads, smiling in wonder.
She paid no attention though.
She only looked at the King who rose from
his chair and walked over to her. He
placed his strong hands on her shoulders and smiled down at her.
“No gift you could have given would have
pleased me as much as this one has. You
have honoured me indeed,” he said.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
A Light in the Darkness
By Ruth Smith Meyer, December 2010
streetlights illuminated the gently falling snow. There was no breeze, so the
snow stayed where it fell. It was Christmas-card perfect to the eye, but within
Greg a storm was in the air. He walked, outwardly calm, beside his wife, her
arm hooked in his to steady her on the slippery sidewalk.
glanced down at her petite form. After thirty years of marriage, he still
occasionally saw her with the eyes that first drew him to her. Catherine’s
burgundy knit tam with a piece of holly pinned to one side, set off her dark
hair and white leather coat with the fake fur collar. The bits of snow that
clung to her hat, enhanced the picture. Under the street light, her cheeks
knew her well enough that he could sense her mixed emotions—happiness at having
him come, and tension because she knew he didn’t really want to be there. They did
agree on the latter.
years, he had dutifully gone to church with her. Gradually it changed to now
and then, while the children were growing up. Even after he had given up the
pretense of regular church attendance, he still went on special occasions like
the Easter service or Christmas Eve.
recent years, he’d even given up on that, giving the children some excuse of
not feeling well or some emergency at work.
call me Scrooge,he thought, but except for family
gatherings and the gift exchange, I could do without Christmas! Catherine’s always at the church, it seems.
One in a family’s enough, isn’t it?
was a source of contention between Catherine and him, but for the most part
they had come to an uneasy truce by not talking about it.
of them, their son Steve and his young wife Sheri walked through the snow
forging a path for the rest of them. Steve carried four month-old Jacob, their
first grandchild. It was Sheri who had begged
him to come with the family for Jacob’s first Christmas Eve.
second son, Chris and his fiancée, Wendy brought up the rear of the Carmichael family
entourage. In between, their daughters Sue and Mary Ellen, chattered, their
excitement like tinkling bells, added holiday cheer.
was just a few blocks from their house to the church—enough time to make Greg
uncomfortable with the idea that he was actually going, but not enough to get
so perturbed that he would turn back.
they neared the old brick building, the organ could already be heard playing
Christmas carols. Before entering, they brushed off the snow that clung to
them. Greg did a swift side-step to avoid the pastor who was busily greeting
Don’t need him making a big fuss about me
finally coming again!
He wished he could be invisible to
everyone but his family.
weren’t sitting long before the choir filed in to the strains of O come, o come Emmanuel and took
their place on the platform.
A few of the words penetrated his busy
mind: Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.
Now that last line is one I can agree
had become more and more,
a path to misery.
Same old job,
In spite of
the happy family that surrounded him,
his own life
rated a “Bah! Humbug!”
One of the choir members stepped
forward to the microphone.
“The Word was first,
the Word present to God—God present to the Word.”
Greg had never heard the Bible,
if that is really what it was,
read with such intensity and excitement.
The reader paused,
then, eyes sparkling with exhilaration,
The Word was God,
for God from day one.
Everything was created through him;
not one thing!—
into being without him.”
Again the reader paused.
She looked as though she was bursting
the most thrilling surprise ever.
“ What came into existence —was Life,
and the Life was Light
Life-Light blazed out of the
she paused, then proclaimed)
And the darkness couldn't put it out.
The Life was Light to Live by
on Greg’s mind.
reason he couldn’t fathom,
wanted to sing “tee hee!”
–and the darkness couldn’t put it out!
It was as though that light was
breaking through the
He shook his
head slightly and cautioned himself,
Now don’t get carried away with this, Greg!
The choir began another song,
but those same
words kept repeating themselves in his mind.
The Life was Light to Live by….and the
darkness couldn’t put it out.
The same enthusiastic reader
stepped forward again
reading the familiar Christmas story that Greg remembered.
time it wasn’t read in the usual ‘church’ tone
She made it
sound as though it were happening today,
Arguments rose out of his depths
—light and dark fighting it out inside
as Sheri handed Jacob to Steve.
Would he want Jacob to grow up to be
like his grandfather?
A voice reminded him how much Catherine had wanted him to
join her on Sundays.
I know I haven’t been a model husband over
the years, he argued back,
but there are lots of
husbands way worse than me!
“The Life was Light to Live by
and the darkness couldn’t put it out!”
looked around and saw how many families were sitting together,
and remembered how many years his family sat
here without him.
Probably I haven’t set the best example for
couldn’t put it out!”
The mirrored star that hung above
the choir slowly turned
natural movement of air.
Right at hat
moment that a reflection of light
in Greg’s eye,
the reader pronounced “ASavior was born for you.”
Greg jerked in surprise but hastily
She doesn’t mean YOU, dummy!
But then she repeated,
“Yes, a Saviour was born for YOU!”
It was almost as if she had read his
Just like that light reflecting
in his eye,
suddenly the words shone
He’d always thought you had to be born into the right kind
to believe all this stuff.
But right at that moment, suddenly it seemed
it just maybe
could be for him, too.
As the choir sang on,
interspersed with other readings,
his mind mulled over the thoughts so
new to him,
wondering, Could it
really be so?
Then another phrase sliced through
to his conscious thought.
“Where meek souls will receive him still the
dear Christ enters in.”
He didn’t usually think of himself as a meek
but with all
that had happened,
definitely feeling meek and rather awed.
So, did I really want Christ to
Do I want that Life-Light to blaze
into my darkness?
He struggled with the thought but then
What do I have to lose?
reserve gave way and he nodded his head.
noticing the movement looked up at his face.
He was sure she
saw the tear that had formed in his eye,
for her face
registered a big question mark.
Just then the choir and
congregation, singing Away in a Manger,
began the last verse.
were on the overhead.
He reached for
Catherine’s hand and sang:
“Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay,
close by me
forever and love me, I pray.”
And he meant
it! He really meant it!
Love me, love me, his heart echoed.
he knew this Christmas was going to be different.
The congregation was asked to
stand for the last song.
As the choir came down the aisle
with lighted candles,
Greg’s one arm
other hand rested on Jacob’s little head,
Steve’s arm pause
sang as he had never sung before
to the World, the Lord is come!”
By Ruth Smith Meyer, December 2010
December 2, 2016
Well done Patricia and thank you for sharing this
heart-warming, thought-provoking Christmas story.
Patricia Ann Elford
It was a beautiful ornament. It had hung on family trees
since Mother's great-grandmother was a tiny child. It had been handmade,
somewhere in Europe, they said.
Each year, Father had hung it. There had been a special way of doing it—never
before the star, but right after, Father would put it on a top branch. No one
else was allowed to touch it.
But Father wasn't with them anymore. Billy's throat had a lump in it that
wouldn't go away, and his chest hurt. His mother, Ellen, now worked at a
hateful temporary job that barely kept their household going. She became
furious as Billy swallowed, over and over. She yelled at him to stop. But he
couldn't stop -- it hurt too much.
Last night, after her last day at work, Ellen dragged out all the ornaments and
set up the tree. But she was too worn out to decorate it, except for the star.
Instead, she went to bed and cried herself to sleep.
Awake early next morning, Billy smelled the tree before he saw it. Wonderful!
Hoping against hope, he crept into the living room. Surely Father would be
there, decorating, as usual. But ... The room was chilly. The tree star
twinkled ... The ornament boxes still sat, undisturbed, on the floor.
Billy opened them up. He knew what came next. Mother had been so sad lately. He
would surprise her. Carefully, he opened up the crinkly, dark-blue tissue. The
ornament sparkled up at him from its paper nest.
It was a clear, blown-glass ball, silver on one side. Billy looked through the
clear side into its centre. There, as in every year, was the tiny, hand-carved
figure of the Baby Jesus cradled on the hay. The ball almost seemed to have a
light of its own.
Billy pulled out the step-ladder, the way
Father used to. He pushed it close to the tree. And, in a gruff voice, he said
the words his father always said at this time in the little ceremony:
"Can't really have Christmas without Baby Jesus, now, can we?"
Carefully, he lifted out the ornament. He climbed higher and higher. He leaned
out to put it in its special place near the star. He reached over, his tiny
fingers pushing the thread over the prickly needles, pulling the branch down.
His little body swayed at the top of the step-ladder. There, that should do it!
As Billy let go, the branch swung up and down
violently. The sparkling ornament fell with a crash. Splinters of silver shot
across the room.
Billy froze on the ladder. "No! Oh, no!" he cried. He heard the
crash. He saw the flashes of light, and, yet, he hoped it would be all right.
It had to be! He shook with cold as he came down the ladder. Billy crunched
across the glass. He didn't notice the sharp pains in his feet as he picked up
the tiny figure of the Baby Jesus.
Awakened by the noise, Ellen ran into the room. The light reflected from the
glass shards. She saw the dark blue wrapper. She saw the box. She saw the glass
pieces. She saw her son, crouched under the tree.
No more job! No more husband! And, now, this precious family
link is smashed by this obnoxious child who keeps swallowing! It is too much to
Enraged, Ellen grabbed an umbrella. She would hit Billy. She would hit and hit
him! He'd learn not to take away her last joy.
Billy's stricken face made Ellen even angrier. He shrank back against the tree,
holding out the miniature Christ Child in small cupped hands.
Exhaustion and anger, hate and despair had raised Ellen's umbrella to strike.
But as she looked at the Christ Child trembling in her son's hands, awareness
and awe, shame and love brought her arm down to her side. She dropped the
umbrella and fell to her knees.
Ellen hugged her child to her. She cradled her beloved son, as he cradled the
Baby Jesus, sobbing out his story of what he had tried to do.
A star above them. A mother and child holding each other and holding the Christ
Child close to their hearts. A precious bauble lies broken, but precious broken
hearts are healing.
December 1st, 2016
Let's begin with our first story.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Our first story for December 1st, 2016 - CHRISTMAS IN THE CLASSROOM, was written by Barbara Heagy.
Christmas in the Classroom
by Barbara Heagy
year in my classroom, as we approached the winter holiday season, I asked my
gr. 1’s what ‘Christmas’ was all about. I got a variety of answers.
said to them, “It’s somebody’s birthday. Do you know who?”
one knew. So I told them the original Christian story of Mary and Joseph and
the baby Jesus visited by the wise men and shepherds and angels.
I was reading them a story about the nativity scene and Cameron asked, “Who is
Christians say he’s the son of God,” I answered.
that make Joseph the step-dad?”
in a way.”
if God’s his real father, what does he look like?”
is a spirit. God doesn’t look like people.”
piped up. “God isn’t a he or she. God’s a spirit.”
a spirit?” asked Ashley.
a spirit is kind of like a ghost…”
Casper?” asked Cameron.
maybe like the tooth fairy,” I fumbled, trying to think of images that they
could relate to. “Or, perhaps more like Mother Nature. In some magical way, the
sun comes up, the sun goes down, the seasons change and seeds grow and animals
are born. God’s the energy that makes all that happen.”
created us,” Lily said.
Christians say that. And they say God created Jesus Christ magically inside
Mary’s belly or womb.”
still puzzled, said, “Well I know who Jesus is but who is Christ?”
Christ is one and the same person. Just like you are Nathan Wood, Jesus has two
he smiled, happy to understand. “Mr. Christ!”