12/14/08

Christmas #23: The Perfect Gift

It was Christmas Eve. Ten more minutes and Matt Parker could close up the store. It had been a long day. A busy one, but long. He was the sole owner of Parker’s Jewelry and Fine Silver store. It had been built by his grandfather after they had [watch out for passive voice] arrived here in the United States in the early 1900’s. He Grandpa had been a silversmith in the old country, and had brought his talent with him. He’d also taught his son, who was Matt’s father, the business. His Matt's father had in turn taught him. He Matt loved the work and was grateful when his father had passed the business onto on to him. He had done well over the past five years. Working hard had allowed him to give his family a good life.

Matt glanced at his watch. It was now In five more minutes and he could close. The day had been busy. He couldn’t believe how many people waited until the last minute to get gifts. He was glad he’d had made up several pieces ahead of time. As he looked in the case where he’d kept them, he noticed there was only one piece left. A delicate silver heart necklace. Maybe he should save that one for his daughter, Annie. He reached inside the case, pulled the necklace out and placed it inside a red satin box, then placed it in his pocket.

He looked out the window. and noticed it was now beginning to watching the snow. Then he remembered. This morning his daughter had reminded him, for the umpteenth time, about her singing in the pageant at church tonight. Seven o’clock, she’d said, and don’t be late. He was just about to go to the door when he noticed a car pull up in front of the store.

A few moments later, a woman walked into the store.

“Matt, I’m so glad you are still open.”

“What can I help you with Martha?” Matt’s grandmother had come over from Europe with Martha Johnson’s grandmother. Their families had been friends ever since. Martha now lived just a block over from where he and his wife, Tracy, lived with their daughter Annie.

“I’m looking for something for my grandmother. I’ve been all over town, but have found nothing she’d like.”

Matt understood. He knew Martha’s grandmother had to be in her mid-nineties by now. His grandmother had also been hard to buy for too, when she was still alive.

“Any idea what she would like?”

Martha shook her head. “No. I’ve racked my brain and can’t think of anything she’d like. I really need your help on this.”

Matt looked at each of the glass topped cases as he walked along the counters. He tried suggesting several items, but couldn’t come up with anything either. Just then, he remembered something.

“I do have something. Just a moment.” Matt walked into the back room where he did most of his work. He reached up on a shelf and pulled down the box, then returned to the front.

“I’d almost forgotten about this. Your grandmother came in with your mother a few months ago. She told me about a music box she’d had when she was a little girl.” He lifted the silver music box out of the box, then opened the top. The music playing was Blue Danube.

Martha sucked her breath in, then reached for the box. “Matt, it is beautiful. I’d forgotten about the story she’d told. The music box actually belonged to her mother. She told us she was supposed to have gotten the music box, but was unable to before they had to leave.”

“I had my grandmother’s music box, and your grandmother said it was just like hers. I had no trouble making this one. But, your grandmother fell shortly after that and didn’t come back in. I guess I should have brought it over to her.”

“No, don’t worry about it. This will make a perfect gift for grandmother.” She hugged it to her. “What a wonderful gift this will be.”

It was fifteen minutes later before Matt was finally able to lock the front door. He finished closing the store, then went to the back door. He glanced at his watch. It was now six thirty, and snowing hard, as he turned the light off and shut the back door. He got in the car and pulled out onto the road. If he hurried, he could still make it to the church in time to see his daughter sing in the pageant.

He turned on the radio and listened to Christmas music as he drove. The snow plows were out, but traffic was light. And the roads were a bit slick. He knew he’d have to be careful. As he drove, his mind went back to the silver music box. He smiled when he thought of what Martha’s grandmother was going to say when she opened the music box. Yes, it was the perfect gift. And, the necklace in his pocket was the perfect gift for Annie.

Matt was five minutes away from the church. He was making good time, despite the fact he could hardly see where he was going. Just then, the song ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’ came on the radio. Suddenly, he saw an SUV come up quickly behind him. He had no where to go, so he sucked in his breath, waiting for the SUV to hit him, but it pulled over to go around him. He let his breath out in relief, but just as the SUV was almost around him, it began to fishtail, slamming into the front of his car. He lost control, his car spinning and sliding on the road. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get it under control. He couldn’t see where he was going. Suddenly, something large loomed in front of the car, but he couldn’t stop. The last thing he heard was a loud crash.

[This is a new story. It's a little confusing at times. Needs more work.]

When Matt opened his eyes, it was dark. He was sitting on the ground next to a wagon. His head hurt. When he touched his head, he found a large knot in of his forehead. As he stood up, he found he was a little dizzy, so he leaned against the wagon for a few moments. He felt a broken wagon wheel next to his feet. A wagon? he wondered.

He could barely see, but ahead of him, was a town. There was a nearby bonfire, but most of the houses were dark. Just a few houses had faint lights showing in the windows. He remembered something had happened. His car, of course. His car had slid off the road and he had hit something. Maybe if I go into town I can get some help, he thought.

As he began walking he realized, he stopped. There was no snow. Something was wrong. Where am I? Suddenly, there was a bright light overhead. It lit up the area enough so he could see what was ahead of him. It was a small town, nestled near a mountainside. When he looked up, he saw a star. A very bright star. A star whose tail began lengthening towards the earth. It settled somewhere on the other side of town.

A few moments later, a group of men in robes and sandals walked quickly passed him. As he watched, he saw they were heading towards where the light had settled. Matt followed the men. The star was bright enough to clearly see the road they were on. They walked to the other side of town, stopping in front of a barn. The light of the star ended here.

“What is going on?” Matt asked the men. They turned towards him.

“You didn’t see?” one man asked.

Matt shook his head. “See what?”

“The man who talked to us.”

“No. What did he say?”

“He said the son of God had been born.”

A chill ran down Matt’s spine. “What is this town?”

“Bethlehem.”

Matt looked at the barn. He now understood. Opening the wooden door, he walked in. In silence, the other men followed him. Inside, there were wooden posts and beams. Stalls had been built in, and cattle and other animals were secured inside them. His eyes scanned the inside. A long trough ran across the back wall of the barn. There was a small trough sitting separated next to the longer one. It was filled with straw and there was a cloth laying on top. A large pile of straw was in the corner of the barn. Bags of feed were to his right in the other corner.

Behind the smaller trough was a wooden bench. Sitting on the bench was a young woman holding a baby, her husband standing next to her. They looked surprised to see the men walking in, then the woman’s face softened and she smiled. She stood up, placing her newborn baby in the makeshift cradle, then sat down again.

Matt walked up to the cradle. The baby was laying quietly, his arms stretched out, and his eyes open. He knew this just wasn’t any baby, this was the Savior. A baby so powerless now, he knew would have all power later. Without thinking, he got down on his knees, tears running down his face. Father, forgive me, he prayed. He looked up at the young mother. She smiled at him, as he stood up. He looked again at the baby. The baby was looking at him, smiling. The Savior looked at him. Feelings flooded over him. Peace, comfort. Most of all, a feeling of overpowering love.

As Matt walked back out into the night, he was numb from the feelings running through him. He now understood why he was here, and what he was supposed to learn. It brought him comfort. As he walked along the road, he pondered what he had seen and heard. Suddenly, he tripped over a broken wagon wheel, hitting his head on the wagon.


“Matt?”

Matt slowly opened his eyes, and looked into the face of his wife, Tracy. He felt his daughter’s hand in his.

“Are you alright?” Tracy asked.

“Yes. I think so.”

Tracy leaned over and kissed him. “Good to have you back,” she said.

He looked out the window of his hospital room. It was still night.

“I didn’t miss it.”

“Didn’t miss what? Annie’s concert is over.”

“I didn’t miss Christmas.”

“No, you didn’t miss it.”

Matt closed his eyes. “It was beautiful. The most beautiful scene I’ve ever seen.”

The room was quiet for a moment. Then, Annie leaned over the side rail of the bed.

“You saw the baby Jesus, didn’t you?” she asked.

He looked over at her. “Yes, I did.”

A big smile came across Annie’s face. “I prayed you’d learn the true meaning of Christmas.”

He nodded. “I sure did.” He squeezed her hand. He looked over at his wife. “I’m taking a week off from work. We are going to talk about some changes.”

Tracy shook her head. “If I’d known it was going to be that easy, I’d have hit you in the head instead of you running into that semi.”

“Is that what I hit?”

She nodded. “Yes. I don’t know what happened to change your mind, but we will talk about it.”

“Yes. You know, tonight I sold Martha Johnson a gift for her grandmother. She said it was the perfect gift. A silver music box. But, tonight, I found the perfect gift.” He looked up at Tracy. “Honey, I know I haven’t been home much lately, but that’s going to change. Tonight taught me there is only one perfect gift.”

You've got two stories here. One which is the storekeeper helping his friend find a gift for her mother. The other is the trip back to Bethelehem. Make them into two stories.

Watch out for passive voice. You've got a lot of it. Also, identify the he's and her's more frequently so your reader doesn't get lost.

What I liked most: The music box part of the story.

Magazine ready? No.

5 comments:

Heidi Ashworth said...

Beautiful story!

Shauna said...

Very sweet. Thank you for sharing with us.

Taffy said...

Great idea!

chastwn said...

Good one!! This one has my vote!!

Anonymous said...

I like it, gets my vote.