8/10/09

3: The Second Best Christmas Story

“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.”

Grandpa closed his worn Bible. “And that’s why we celebrate Christmas,” he said, smiling down at the children at his feet, and their parents, who had gathered behind them.

“Tell us the other Christmas story, Grandpa!” said young David.

Grandpa stroked his mustache. “Now, what story would that be?”

“You know, Grandpa! The story about the crash! And I’m in it!” Peter said, nearly bursting with excitement.

“Oh, that story,” Grandpa said. “Let me see if I can remember. Because it happened a long time ago, you see . . . ah, yes, I’m beginning to recall . . . But it’s a very ordinary type of story, about ordinary people.”

“No it’s not!” the children protested. “It’s our family’s very own story!”

“All right, then.” Grandpa smiled and the children settled on the rug again.

It all began on the day before Christmas, in a terrible blizzard. The snow came down like millions of feathers from millions of pillows, and the wind was so strong, it felt even colder [than what?]. The roads were icy and slick and drivers couldn’t see where they were going.

And driving through this blizzard was a little family, a long way from home: a mother, a father and a baby, The father saw the flashing red and blue lights of a police car ahead, so he slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. And then—

“Bang! Crash! Smash!” the children said. “They had a smash-up,” added Annie.

“Yes, indeed, they did. There were two cars behind them, going too fast. Both hit the family’s car and spun it around.”

“It was all squished,” said Peter.

But [I don't like starting paragraphs with But, but even if I let that slide, you've got two in a row. Lose this one.] The mother and father and baby were all right. So were the other drivers.

But because their back window was broken, the snowstorm came whooshing in, right inside the family’s car. Even with their coats on, they were very, very cold.

Just then a man knocked on their door. “I saw the accident happen,” he told them. “I’ve called for help. Come and wait in my car. You can get warm. By the way, my name is David.”

So they all got in David’s car, where it was warm and cozy. It wasn’t very long before a Highway Patrolman came by. He said the family needed to be checked by a doctor.

An ambulance came. It was big and it had red and blue and white lights on it, almost like Christmas lights, and the siren was wailing. The family got in and David followed them to the hospital. The doctors found that the mother had a bruise on her face and a sore neck. The father’s knee hurt but nothing was broken. And the baby didn’t have a mark on her. So the doctors said the family could go home. They gave them blankets to wrap over their coats, because it was so cold.

“But they couldn’t drive their car because it was all squished,” said Matthew. “And they had nowhere to stay.”

“That’s right. So David invited them to come home with him.”

“Even though it was Christmas Eve?” Luke asked.

“Especially because it was Christmas Eve.”

The snow and the wind had settled down some, and David drove carefully to his house, which wasn’t too far away.

A beautiful lady opened the door. Behind her, they could see the glowing lights of a Christmas tree. They heard the crackling of a log burning in the fireplace and they smelled a turkey roasting in the oven. Music was playing, too: “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Suddenly a little boy in stocking feet dashed down the hallway, over the shiny wooden floor, and nearly skidded into the little family. He looked up, and when he saw a man and woman with blankets draped over their heads and shoulders, and a baby in the woman’s arms, he said—

“He said, ‘It’s baby Jesus!’” the children chimed in.

“That’s right.”

Another boy came running in. He stared at the family, too.

David chuckled and closed the door behind them. "No," he said, "it's not baby Jesus. In fact, this little baby is a girl.”

The boys, whose names were Michael and John, were disappointed at first. But then the baby opened her round blue eyes and smiled at them.

David's wife, Anna, took off her apron and hurried to the door. “Come in,” she said. “We’re so glad you’re here.”

“Are you sure you have room for us?” they asked.

“Of course.”

Soon the little family was sitting by the warm fire. Michael and John brought some toys for the baby to play with. She sat on the rug with them and giggled when they pretended the toy cars were going to run into her.

There was a scratching noise at the back door. David opened it and in came a big German Shepherd, who shook snow all over the rug.

“Lizzie!” the boys laughed. “You brought the storm in with you!” Lizzie padded over to the visitors and gently sniffed them. The father scratched her behind the ears and she wagged her tail happily.

Soon dinner was ready. It was delicious, just as ours was tonight. And, just as we have done tonight, David read the Christmas story from the Bible.

Michael whispered something to his father. “Shouldn't we give them some presents?”

“You are a wise young boy,” his father said. “We can change the tags on a few gifts. There are so many, we won't even miss them.”

And soon there were gifts for everyone under the tree.

David and the boys climbed upstairs to the attic. They came downstairs carrying a baby's crib.

“This is where you two slept when you were babies,” their mother said, but they couldn’t remember ever being that small. She dusted the crib and took sheets and a soft baby blanket from the cedar chest, and the bed was ready for the baby.

Michael and John got sleeping bags from their closet. “They can have our room,” they told their parents. “We'll sleep in the family room.”

And soon their room was ready for the young family. The mother wrapped the baby snugly in a blanket so she would feel safe and loved, and laid her in the crib. Soon she was fast asleep.

Then her parents stepped outside into the night. The storm was over and it was clear and quiet, very different from the big city where they lived. The woman looked up at the sky. “I forgot how bright stars can be,” she said. And indeed the dark sky, especially to the east, was sprinkled with twinkling stars that shone down upon the snow, making each snowflake sparkle like a diamond. They stood on the porch for a long time, their arms around each other, as they marveled at the sparkling stars and the calm, peaceful night.

When they came back inside they realized they were very, very tired. So they said goodnight to David and Anna and went into the boys’ bedroom.

A moment later Lizzie pushed her nose against their door, which wasn’t completely latched. [transition him into the hallway] David reached for her collar, to pull her away, when he heard soft voices in the room. He stood very still. The mother and father were kneeling by the crib, praying. Lizzie padded into the room and settled on the rug. David knew she would keep watch over them though the night. He smiled and closed the door quietly.

David and Anna turned off the Christmas lights, put out the fire in the fireplace, and headed upstairs to bed.

And so on Christmas morning, there were presents for everyone, and they sang the beautiful old carols like “Away in a Manger” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

That afternoon, the snow plows cleared the roads and the family was able to take a bus back to their home.

“And that’s the end of the story,” said Grandpa.

“No, it isn’t!” protested the grandchildren. “There’s more!”

“Well, now, let me think. Oh, yes.”

Every Christmas after that the two families sent letters and cards and presents to each other. And their children grew up.

“The end.”

“Tell the rest!” the children begged.

“What else is there to tell?” Grandpa asked, but his eyes twinkled. “Oh, yes. Now I remember . . .”

The children all grew up, as children do, and went away to college.

One Christmas Eve, John was at the airport, waiting to fly home to be with his family, but there was such a terrible winter storm, the airplanes couldn’t fly. And then the roads were closed, so no one could drive anywhere, either.

John would have to spend Christmas at the airport.

But John always made the best of things. There were other people who missed their planes, too, so they all decided to have a party, right there at the airport. The restaurants at the airport brought them food, and the people from the airlines gave them blankets and pillows. They ate and sang and laughed and shared stories, all of them missing friends and family they couldn’t be with, but still happy to be celebrating Christmas with new friends.

There were half a dozen students who sat in a circle with John, and each told a Christmas story of their own. Kate, a pretty girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, told hers: “My very first Christmas was spent in the home of kind strangers, after we had been in a terrible accident during a blizzard . . .”

As Kate told her story, John’s heart began to thump. Could this girl be the baby who had stayed with his family? He remembered her smiles and giggles.

“Really?” he said when she was through. “When I was three years old, we took in a little family that had been in an accident. There was a mother and a father and . . .” he looked up at the young woman, “a beautiful baby girl.”

“Did you have a dog?” asked the girl, who didn’t remember it, but had heard the story of her first Christmas many times from her parents, “named Lizzie?”

“Yes!” said the children, beaming at each other. “Yes, they did!”

Kate and John smiled at each other. And that was how they met again, on another Christmas Eve, during a terrible storm. Suddenly the airport felt warm and friendly. Everyone who heard their story came over to meet them.

And it made everyone smile.

“The end.” Said Grandpa.

“Grandpa! Tell the rest!”

“Oh, did I forget to say that they fell in love and got married a year later, on Christmas Eve? And that the boy was my son John and the girl was indeed the baby in the story, our very own Kate? And that they had three children, Annie and Gabriel (who is this? David?) and Peter? And that Kate’s mother and father are here with us tonight, too?”

“You were David, the man who brought them home from the hospital, and Grandma was Anna, who cooked the dinner and fixed the crib for Kate, my mom! And the little boy who thought she was baby Jesus was John, my daddy! It’s the best Christmas story ever!” said Annie, who sat on her mother’s lap.

Grandfather looked at his family and then at the nativity scene on the mantel, “I think we could say it was the second best Christmas story ever.”

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in . . .Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25: 35, 40


Critique: The biggest issue I have with this is tracking who is who. I know that's part of the story, but I found myself not knowing who was an adult, who was a child. To help with this, I wouldn't name the children after any of the adults. I'd also cut down the number of children in the story. Oh, and find another time transition word besides "soon".

What I liked best: I know it's improbable, but I love those quirky twists of fate.

Publication ready: Yes, as soon as the naming and who is who issues are resolved.

9 comments:

Karen Gowen said...

Out of these three, I vote for Kidnapping Mary. It's the most intriguing, and because it's written so well, you just want it to be longer.

Melissa said...

The Second Best Christmas Story.

Chas Hathaway said...

Bravo! Great story!

I think everyone's favorite Christmas stories come from their own families, and the family in the story had a great one!

Christine Thackeray said...

I thought it was almost good but not concise enough for how simple the story was. I also didn't get enough hints to make the ending satisfying- or maybe I'm just slow.

GoofyJ said...

Fun story - I enjoyed the dialogue between the children and the grandfather, but I found it interrupted the story a bit too much - I wanted it a little tighter

Anonymous said...

Good story, a little predictable, but very touching. Gets my vote.

Noble M Standing said...

I'm voting for this one. I like it. :)

Anonymous said...

I like the interaction with the grandchildren and grandfather. Interesting parallels to scriptural account of Christmas, and how the principle of service can be translated into modern settings.


I vote for this one.

Gussie said...

I think this is a wonderful story! It was so much fun to read--an uplifting story.

It gets my vote.