12/6/07

Christmas 08: The Story

It was Christmas Eve. Last minute travelers lounged in plastic chairs, waiting for the weather to clear. Flights were either cancelled or late.

A young girl approaching puberty [say teen, or give an exact age] sat beside an old woman with a furrowed brow.

“Are you excited about Christmas?” she asked.

“I hate the holidays. “Crowds, long lines– this," the old woman said, pointing to the fog. [if they're inside, could she point to the fog? If they're looking out windows, we need to know that.]

“I love Christmas!” The girl’s smile, ordinarily infectious, had no effect on the woman’s mood.

“What’s so good about it?” she asked. “I could be home with my feet up right now, if it wasn’t for this stupid holiday.”

“Are you visiting someone special?

“Humph, not exactly what I would call a visit."

“Why don’t you like Christmas?” the girl persisted.

“It’s a lot of hoopla over nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“It’s a lie," she said tersely. "There was no miraculous birth,”

“For arguments sake, I would say that even if it wasn’t a virgin birth, it was still a miracle,” the girl replied. [vocab is too mature; sounds like two adults talking]

“How could it be a miracle if it wasn’t an immaculate conception?” [Who is your target reader? If your going for children, this won't work.]

“I think it’s a miracle that people traveled from far and wide, just to honor the baby, Jesus.”

“To me there is nothing so miraculous about traveling,” the old woman mumbled under her breath.

“How did they know when the baby would be born? How did they know where to go? It’s not like Joseph and Mary had access to the Internet,” the girl chuckled.

“That’s the way the story goes, it doesn’t mean it’s true,” the old woman’s tone laced with sarcasm.

“So what you’re saying is that we celebrate a story?”

“Essentially, yes. That’s okay, kid, we’ve all been fed the same story.”

“That’s very possible.” She gave the woman's comment consideration.

“Sure it is––like Santa Claus, he’s not real." The old woman stared into large eyes, feeling slightly cruel. “Ah, don’t mind an old lady. Christmas is for kids.”

“I agree, Christmas is for kids,” the girl retorted. “And what better way to celebrate than with a story.”

“You have a point.”

“Do you believe in God?” the girl asked.

“What’s God got to do with it?” the woman responded, clearly surprised by the question. [They're talking about Christmas. Why would the woman be surprise by this question?]

“Do you believe in God?” the girl repeated.

“Yes, I suppose I do, but I don’t believe that He would’ve let his son be born in a barn on a cold winter’s night.”

“You have a point there.”

“I know I do, it’s a ridiculous story.”

“Still, don’t you think it’s rather interesting that the greatest story ever told is about a child?”

“What are you getting at?”

“Only that some think Christmas is for children, and the story is about a child.”

“Christmas is for children,” insisted the old woman.

“I feel like a child at Christmas. I love the pretty lights, giving gifts, being with family.”

“Honey, the retailers get rich, they love Christmas too.” [too many ping-pong sentences without speaker ID; their voices aren't different enough and the reader could get lost.]

“The retailers remind us that Christmas is in the air,” the girl spoke in defense.

“More and more people object to celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday you know,” said the old woman. “So much for the story.”

“What if the purpose of the story is so that at this time of year, whether we like it or not, we all think about the child? Not only the Christ child, we have thoughts about all children, including the child within us. We think about the gifts bestowed upon the child to remind us of the gift of life. What if we are reminded to bring peace and goodwill to others by embracing the story about the child?”

“That’s a nice thought, but not everyone thinks like that. Some think it’s a time to be disappointed.”

“In what way?” the girl asked.

“Not everyone has family to share the holiday with.”

“Jesus was visited by strangers.” The girl said emphatically.

“So where does Santa Claus come into the picture?”

“What if God gave us Santa Claus so we could remember the joy of being a child? He’s a jolly old fellow. He makes us laugh. Laughing is very healthy you know, especially at this time of year when we embark upon the cold and flu season.”

“What about the children who don’t find gifts under the tree?” the old woman lamented. “Kids know about Santa, they know what he does, the seed has been planted, and just like the story of Jesus, truth be known–” The old woman paused. “It’s all about money, commercialism.”

“Lights and pretty things bring us joy. We loved these things as children. Why not love them as adults? Besides, all that commercial stuff comes to a halt on Christmas. Imagine– the whole world stops for one day while we celebrate a miracle, the birth of a child.”

“Too many disappointing Christmases I guess.” The old woman sighed reflectively.

“I’m sure there are many out there that feel the same way. Maybe that’s why the story is so important. Mary, Joseph, the three kings. The Sheppard’s, the angels and don’t forget the little drummer boy,” she added.

“How could I forget? The poor little boy had no gifts to bring.” the old woman said harshly.

“That’s not true, the little drummer boy brought music. Music brings us joy.”

“What about those who don’t have family? Those people who are lonely at Christmas?”

“I think they lost the child within. That’s why we have the story, and Santa Claus, pretty lights and give gifts. Maybe that’s why Mary and Joseph were turned away at the Inn in the story. To show us when we feel isolated, there is hope. If we remember the child within, we can find joy in the things the season offers. Animals bring joy, music brings joy, friends, family bring us joy. Joy to the world!” she laughed.

“My son is too busy for me. I go there because it’s Christmas, and then I sit alone.”

“Are there grandchildren?”

“Yes, three. They’re too busy too.”

“Read them the story of Christmas.”

“They’re too old for stories.”

“Everyone has a child within.”

“How do you find it?”

“Listen to your heart. Follow the star…” [ping-pong]

Just then an announcement came over the loudspeaker, the fog had lifted. Flights would resume shortly. When the old woman turned to thank the girl for her company, the girl was gone. On the seat was a package. The tag read “To Millie”. Her name was Millie. She never mentioned her name to the girl. How did she know? Maybe the girl’s name was Millie too? She wondered. It didn’t matter, the girl was gone. It was time to leave. When she picked up the package, the paper fell away, revealing a small book, “The Story of Christmas.” She turned to the first page, the inscription read:

To Millie,

I will remember you always...Merry Christmas!

Love,
The Child Within


The basic idea behind this story is warm and positive. We all sometimes need a reminder of what Christmas is about. I do agree with Rudolph the red-pen editor. Rudolph pretty much summed up the comments I was planning to make. Give the story more movement. Make the girl sound her age. Give us a more description and not so much back and forth in the conversation. I also liked her idea of meeting the girl various places, rather than it all taking place in the airport. It also needs a title.

What I liked best: The warm and positive feeling.

Magazine ready? Not yet, but keep working on it.

17 comments:

kpscent said...

I LOVED this story! I found myself thinking back to all the times I said "Bah Humbug"!
This story made me realize that there is more to this holiday than just eating and shopping. I will remember it when I count my blessings and I will use it as inspiration for others.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a beautiful story. I want to share it with all my brothers and sisters and their kids. It should be made into a children's Christmas book!! Thank you for writing it

redrobin56 said...

This story reminds me that faith sure of what we hope for and certain of what is unseen. We all need hope in today's world, as is illustrated in this story.

I agree, this would make a great children's book!

wordpaintervs said...

I loved the dialogue and the feeling that an angel spent some time with the old woman, leaving her a gift. It would make a nice book...especially to family members with children. What an heirloom to pass down through the family. Thanks.

Flamingo2 said...

Beautiful story. It left me with chills when the little girl disappeared and then a warmth, like sitting by a crackling fire waiting for my Christmas stocking to be filled with the wonder of the season. Great childrens book!

Rudolph the red-pen editor said...

The premise of this story is interesing, but ... (sorry to burst your holiday bubbles) it doesn't work as a children's picture book. As a short story for older readers, maybe, but a picture book for young children, no.


This post is not a vote for this story. (If I'm making a mistake by posting here I hope Ms. Publisher will do us all a favor and delete it. (: ) This post is intended to help the writer and the voters understand why this story is not suitable for a children's book, at least not yet. Hopefully the author will not take this as slamming his/her story, but will take it as critique, or constructive criticism.

1. 1,143 words is longish for a picture book. The writer needs to pare it down and re-think word choices. (Puberty is one example.)Make the conversation more befitting an older woman and a child, rather than sounding like two equally articulate adults.


2. Why do readers buy picture books? They buy them for the art. There's nothing in this story that presents opportunity for interesting, colorful art. To interest young readers, there should be more movement, more action. This story is all conversation, and takes place in an airport terminal between two people seated in plastic chairs. Have the older lady out shopping and encountering this child at the grocery store, at the park, at the department store, at the post office, as she goes about her day. (Which would then create scenes to illustrate.)

Rudolph the red-pen editor said...

PS--The writer's use of the phrase "Immaculate Conception" referring to the birth of Christ is incorrect. In Catholicism, the doctrine of Immaculate Conception has to do with Mary and that she was supposedly born without original sin and lived without sin so that she could bear Christ, who was conceived by a virgin birth.

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Immaculate+Conception

azilmay said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. It was an enjoyable read.

snowflake said...

This story engages me in my own thinking about Christmas... Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men. The message is non-denominational and ageless. When we speak, write or sing the words of Christmas we rejoice. Isn't that what it's all about?

"Arrows to Heaven", another beautiful story, another beautiful message...

All of the stories posted go straight to the heart! Thank you.

Catrinka said...

What a wonderful and warm story! Children are so superbly adept at showing the form of pure love that God himself tells us to show as he did when he sent his son to us to give us eternal life if we believe. We are commanded to love others, and children do this best...they have no prejudices and they are without the bitterness harbored by so many hardened and angy people who would like to erase the the "Christ" part of Christmas and call it instead "holiday". This old woman, perhaps embittered by abuse, loneliness, or tragedy, was shown by this girl that love transcends anything that happens to us on this earth. God rewarded her obedience to love by reaching down and leaving a physical sign of that love for this old woman. We can change lives with a few loving words. This timeless and lovingly written story bears the mark of a classic. Nicely done!

snowflake said...

I like the message in this story. I am casting my vote for this one.

kpscent said...

I believe that this story (for me) embodied the true feeling of Christmas. I vote for this story.

California Poppy said...

This lovely story paints a picture with emotions, not only with words. Each of us has experienced a time when we doubted our faith. Was the young girl really an angel, or the old woman's conscience? This is not only a story for children or teens , but we can all learn from it. If you don't feel a warmth in your heart after reading it, you may want to check your pulse.
A strong yes vote for this one.
California Poppy

CDennis said...

I love this story....love it!! I have to vote for this one! Hands down!

Anonymous said...

I vote for this fabulous story that makes you think about what is truly happening around us this time of year. Great job!

Emily M. said...

I think the story has promise; I have to agree with Rudolph the Red-Pen, though. The story is mostly debate-style dialogue, and not really the sort two strangers would have with each other. We get very little detail about the scene, what the people look like, what's going on around them. I do like the ending quite a bit, though. With a few more drafts, this could be quite powerful.

Anonymous said...

Since I lost my post, will try again:
Today, kids are wise beyond their years, so felt this banter was very palpible. Also, the pace was easy reading, albeit the content was not, since it was thought-provoking. Bravo!
Na