z2012 Unpublished

Things like this only happened in the movies; or so I thought.  It turns out, some of the ridiculous scenes in Christmas films do happen.   Only, I didn’t wake up in a big Victorian with my beautiful wife resting by my side.  There weren’t two mischievous, yet extremely charming children, slumbering down the hall.  There was no stack of silver-and-gold of gifts waiting under the tree.  My life was far less glamorous than that.  I was living alone in a one-bedroom apartment. My family was scattered all across the US.   And, despite the few friends I had still living in New Jersey, I felt alone.  The holidays were just making it worse.

I guess I had seen too many Christmas movies.  I never seemed to bump into an attractive girl, who I had once dated in high school, in town for the weekend.   I never had that harmless fender-bender that led to sharing a warm cup of hot chocolate in a cozy little Diner.  Nor did I have a co-worker, who maybe had too much wine at the holiday party, reveal she had a big crush on me. The holidays it seemed, didn’t hold any special power; at least, not anymore.

As I mentioned, I was living alone in the Stony Hill apartment complex, or “Stony Hell”, as my friends called it. It wasn’t super nice; but it was close to work, just five-hundred bucks a month, and utilities were included!  I should mention that roaches were also included, as well as a pack of rabid squirrels that lived in the attic.

I woke up tired. I hadn’t been sleeping very well lately. All night long I had been haunted, not by three ghosts, but by the fond memories of childhood Christmases past.  Now it was Christmas day and I wasn’t feeling the magic. It was just another Tuesday.  I hadn’t even put up my tree yet, looked like that wasn’t going to happen this year.

As I clicked on the fluorescent lights to my kitchen I heard the familiar pitter-patter of tiny roaches retreating to the cupboard.  But other than that, not a creature was stirring.  Even the squirrels which normally rustled above me must have had holiday plans, because they were strangely silent on that winter morning.  Everything was exactly as I had left it.  The sink was full of dirty dishes.  A forgotten gallon of warm milk and the leftovers from last-night’s dinner rested plainly on the counter.  My advent calendar was still stuck on December second. I grabbed a pack of blueberry pop tarts from the shelf and a can of Coke and started my day.

As soon as I stepped into my living room, I noticed something was wrong.  The box of fake candles I had bought for the front window sat unopened on the couch next to the spot where my Christmas tree was supposed to go. I may not be able to magically produce a Christmas tree and decorate in one day, but I [could] plug in some fake candles to go in the front window.  I quickly dismantled the box and searched for an extension cord. I had to disconnect the fish tank, but I finally found one.

As I approached my front window, I saw the large shadow of a tail in the venetian blinds.  Seconds later, a large squirrel lunged past me, slamming into my prized collection of Bruce Springsteen CDs.  Unlike the furry Hollywood variety, this squirrel clawed and shrieked at me as he leaked feces over the white carpet, like a gumdrop trail from hell.

You never plan for bad things to happen.  I didn’t wake up thinking that my apartment would be invaded by an ill-tempered squirrel.  Like most things in life, it just happened.  I wish I could tell you I rushed to face my attacker with bravery and emerged  victorious. But what really happened was much less glorious. I grabbed my keys, and then sprinted down the stairs to my car wearing only boxers.

The squirrel peered down from my second floor unit me hiding in my car, taunting me as I speed-dialed the superintendent, reaching the answering service.  They took the message but didn’t promise anything.  At that moment, it hit me.  It was Christmas Day.  There was no one coming.  I was on my own.

My limbs froze in my car, while my mind boiled with the thought of the squirrel running wild in my apartment.  I wasn’t going to let some little rodent  steal my home and my Christmas.  I finally got out of the car and ran towards the building. The courtyard was empty except for an old woman walking her dog.  She took one look at me, and headed off in the other direction.

As I climbed the stairs of to my apartment, my breath quickened.  I could hear the squirrel grinding through my living room above.  When I finally made it to the top of the stairs I stopped dead in my tracks at the door.  With my fingers on the cold brass knob, I tried to summons the bravery of the Minute Men from the Revolutionary War who flushed the Red Coats out of New Jersey. But did I really want to spend the holidays getting a round of rabie shots to the stomach?

Before I could turn the knob, my superintendant came bounding up the stairs.  I smelled alcohol on the old guy’s breath as he blew past in a bright red jogging suit.  He could have passed for a Santa, a mall Santa anyway.  Just like the real St. Nick, he went straight to his work.  This pretty much included swatting at a squirrel with a broom stick.  “Open all the windows!” He yelled.

I froze in the middle of the room as the squirrel bounced around the apartment like a pin ball.

“Go on! Open up!” My superintendent screamed loader this time.

Finally, I sprung into action.  With my head down, I plowed through the living room towards the front windows. I jimmied the locks open with the skill of a master locksmith.  Mission accomplished, I swept through the rest of the apartment clearing multiple paths to the outside world, or egress as the military say.

The whole ordeal jump-started my body.  I felt the rush of adrenalin pumping through my veins.  I felt alive again, like I could run a marathon.   I wouldn’t say it was Christmas miracle because those don’t typically happen when you’re naked. But, for the first time in a long while, I had hope that things could only get better.  I would start with the apartment.

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“Mommy?” asked the little green-eyed girl with long piggy-tails, “Why don’t Grandpa and Grandma Smith love us?”

“What do you mean, honey? Of course they love you; they’ll be on their way to visit us in a few days.”

“Really?” Ann’s eyes sparkled with happiness. “They’re really coming for Christmas? They’ve never come before! Yeah!!”

“Hold on a minute Ann. They are coming for a few days but they need to drive back to Idaho before Christmas. They’ll be leaving all of the chores to Uncle Dave and he can’t do them alone for very long. They’ll stay for a few days and then they need to get back home.”

“Oh,” Ann sighed. “So they really do love us less.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, my friend Jacki said that both of her grandma’s come to see her every Christmas. She said that since I never see Grandma and Grandpa Smith for Christmas, it must mean that they love my cousins in Idaho more than me.” Ann looked at her mom with worry and hurt. “I wish they loved me too.”

“Oh sweetheart,” Mommy reached down and scooped up five year old Ann. “Grandma and Grandpa live far away and it’s hard to drive through all of the snow to get here. They tell me every Christmas how they wish they could be here. They’ll be here in a few days to see you and your brother and sisters. They love you very much.”

“They do?”

“Yes, sweetheart, they do.”

MaryJo and Ann sat perched on the back of the couch looking out the big bay window in the living room. Gazing into the light snow that was falling Ann asked her big sister, “Do you think they will still come?”

MaryJo looked out into the snow that was beginning to cover everything they could see. She sighed and in her best grown-up voice, the seven-year-old said, “Yes. They’ll come. Grandpa can drive in this no problem. Remember Grandma said he used to ride those wild horses in the rodeo?”

“Yes,” Ann replied still a little worried.

“Well, I figure if he was brave enough to do that, then he’ll be just fine driving in a little snow.” MaryJo gave Ann a reassuring hug and they looked out into the snow once more looking for the old red pickup.

“MaryJo, Ann! Come and eat dinner! Daddy, will you find Janice please? She might be upstairs with Bobby and Sharon,” Mom called from the kitchen.

“But mom! You said grandma and grandpa were going to eat with us!” MaryJo said annoyed.

“Yeah! Grandpa will be hungry. We better wait for them.” Ann added.

“No ladies.” Mom said glancing out the window. “Come and eat dinner now please. I’ve saved some for grandpa and grandma so they can eat when they get here. The snow is slowing them down. Come on.”

Mom ushered the girls into the kitchen and they sat at the table waiting for Daddy and the others. Nine year-old Bobby marched in with the toddler Janice.

“Mom! You’ve gotta keep this pest out of my room! She’s gonna break everything.”

“You’re just mad because she found your cars and had one of them in her mouth. Big deal,” sighed almost 12 year-old Sharon.

“Be quiet, big mouth. You…”

“Hey, stop it. Let’s say a prayer. Ann, will you say the blessing please?” asked Dad.

“Okay. Dear Father in Heaven. Thank thee for the food. Thanks for mom making bread and cake for grandpa. Please bless the food so we can be healthy and strong. Help Grandpa drive good in the snow and help Grandma to close her eyes and not be worried about Grandpa’s driving. Bless them to hurry. Amen.”

Mom and Dad smiled at one another and said “Amen.”

MaryJo just rolled her eyes.

“Why aren’t they here yet Daddy?” asked Ann running past the dirty table to her daddy who was loading dished in the dishwasher. “You said they’d be here for dinner and we already ate all the food.”

“Well Ann, the weatherman on TV said that this is a pretty big snowstorm. Most of your grandparents’ drive is in this snow. It’s pretty hard to drive in snow. It’s hard to see and the roads are slippery. I’m sure Grandpa is driving slowly to be safe.”

Putting his arm around Ann, Daddy pointed to the northwest towards the dark sky. “That’s where Grandpa and Grandma are coming from. Those clouds are full of snow, and that snow is slowing them down. But they’ll be here soon.”

“Are they okay?” Ann asked scrunching up her forehead.

“I’m sure they’re fine. Can you go help your sister clear up the table now?” Mom called up the stairs, “It’s time for bed everyone! Go get your jammies on please.”

MaryJo and Ann both ran down the stairs to argue. “But mom! They aren’t here yet! We have to watch for them to make sure they find our house.”

“What do you mean?” Daddy asked walking into the room.

MaryJo rolled her eyes again. “We have our flashlights and we are shining them out the window so Grandpa knows which house is ours. They all look the same in the snow!”

Dad tried not to laugh and Mommy sighed. “Jammies please. Then get into bed.”

MaryJo and Ann ran quickly past Bobby who was making faces at them from the stairs. They raced to get their pajamas on first then ran back down the stairs. “Fine, we have our jammies on now mom. But we need to say our prayers. Did you forget?” Now it was Ann’s turn to roll her eyes. Picking up her kitten she said, “I’ll say it.”

“No way!” argued MaryJo, “You said it at dinner and last night. Remember Dad? She asked for another kitten!”

“Well it worked last time didn’t it?” Ann yelled back, while stroking the kitten’s back. “We have Quick now don’t we!”

“Girls!” Dad called out. “That’s enough. Yes Ann, you can say the prayer. But no more pets. And wait until Bobby gets here.”

“Heavenly Father,” Ann said beginning the prayer a minute later, “Thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Sharon and Bobby and Janice and even MaryJo. Thank you for my kitty. Please bless the prophet and my primary teacher. Please don’t let Grandpa and Grandma get lost in the snow. Please hurry them up so mommy will stop biting her fingernails. Bless Grandma and Grandpa Hansen too. Amen.”

“Daddy?” MaryJo asked quietly at few minutes later, “Why is mommy crying?”

“She’s a little worried, that’s all. Girls, give your mom a hug and kiss. I’ll read to you tonight.”

Ann walked over to where her mom sat by the big window. “Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“Grandpa and Grandma are almost here.”

Mommy looked puzzled and asked “How do you know?”

“Well, when I prayed for them to find us and to hurry, I got a fuzzy feeling in my heart. Heavenly Father told me not to worry because they were almost here.”

“I hope you’re right ladybug. I hope you are right.” Mommy gave Ann a big hug and got up to help Daddy read a book to the three younger girls.

“Okay, up to bed now,” Dad said after he finished Dr. Seuss again.

MaryJo and Ann started to argue as they followed Daddy up the stairs. He was carrying Janice who was almost asleep. Half way up the stairs MaryJo yelled, “Be Quiet!”

“What?”

“I heard something. Be quiet!” She said again.

Ding Dong rang the doorbell. MaryJo and Ann ran down the stairs and flung open the door. It was Grandpa and Grandma! “Yeah!” cheered both of the girls. “You’re finally here!”

“I told you they’d be chomp’n at the bit waiting for us, didn’t I Grandma?” Grandpa chuckled. “Well, here we are. And boy am I hungry.”

“Mom made a cake grandpa! And MaryJo and I helped to decorate it! Let’s go eat it!!” Ann took Grandpa by the hand and MaryJo took Grandma and they led them into the kitchen with their parents and siblings trailing behind.

“Maybe they should eat some dinner first then have some cake.” Mom said giving Grandpa and Grandma a big hug. “I’m glad you made it. I love you.”

“Good morning ladies,” Grandpa grinned early the next morning. “Come and look out the window.”

The two girls ran to the big window and looked out at the snow. “Grandpa!” MaryJo squealed, “I can’t see your truck!”

Grandma walked into the family room laughing. “Come and eat some breakfast girls and maybe you can talk grandpa into making a snowman with you.”

“Okay! What’s for breakfast mom?”

“I made cinnamon monkey bars and orange juice and grandma is making some scrambled eggs. Do you want some too?”

“Yes please.” Ann quickly answered. “Do we have any cantaloupe?”

“Sorry kiddo,” Mom smiled. “We do have bananas though.”

“Okay. I like them too!”

“Oh Grandpa! That’s the best snowman ever!” The girls grinned, with their red noses and shining eyes their excitement glowed. “It’s even bigger than Michael’s isn’t it MaryJo?”

MaryJo nodded. “He didn’t put on any buttons or arms. Our snowman has everything! He has arms and buttons and a hat and scarf. Look! Grandpa is putting the old broom by Mr. Snowman too.”

The children played with grandpa all day long. They played fox and geese outside in the snow after lunch, Bobby even let the dog out and she played with all of them too. They played cards and colored with Grandma after coming in from the snow while Janice napped. It was a wonderful day. It was always fun to visit the farm in the summer and help Grandpa with the cows and pigs, but they had never played in the snow with Grandpa!

“Time to get ready to go see the temple lights,” called mom from the stairs. “Come on and get changed, we’re going to eat dinner downtown and then see the Christmas lights.”

After dinner Ann and MaryJo took Grandma and Grandpa by the hands and led them through Temple Square.

“I’ve never seen the lights before,” Grandma said quietly. “It’s so beautiful.”

“You’ve never seen them before?” asked Sharon shocked. “We see them every year!”

“I know honey. But Grandpa and I live too far away to see them. There’s usually too much snow to drive out here, just like the snowstorm that came yesterday. It was a pretty scary drive.”

“We prayed for you Grandma. I knew you were okay.” Ann replied solemnly.

“We did, Grandma. We knew you would be protected and watched over even though the roads were slippery.” MaryJo added. “Wow! Look at that tree! It’s all blue! That’s my favorite color in the whole world! Dad? Can we have a blue Christmas tree next year?”

“Well, I don’t know honey. I think we need to stick to lots of colors so we all have our favorite colors on the tree,” Dad said while hiding a smile. “Let’s go look at the Christus.”

“What’s that?” asked Ann while reaching down to pick up some snow.

“That’s what the big statue of Jesus is called,” MaryJo answered all knowing.

“Don’t eat that snow Ann,” Mom said as Ann put it up to her mouth.

“But mom, it’s not yellow,” protested Ann.

“Yellow? It’s dirty, please put it down.”

“Oh. Well Bobby said I could eat it as long as it wasn’t yellow. Good job Bobby” Ann then flung the snow at her big brother catching him on the shoulder.

“Okay, let’s stop this and get in and get warm. We can go in that door to go see the Christus.” Dad looked at Bobby and Ann who looked ready for an all out snow war. “Let’s leave the snowball fights at home.”

“It’s beautiful isn’t it grandma?” MaryJo asked. “It’s my favorite part of Temple Square.”

“Mine too,” chimed in Ann.

Grandma stood quietly for a few minutes and then replied quietly, “Yes. It is very beautiful. It’s my favorite part too. The lights are beautiful and fun, but Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Thank you so much for bringing grandpa and I here tonight.” Grandma turned and gave each of the kids a big hug and kiss.

“It’s about time to go kids. Grandma and Grandpa have to get an early start tomorrow.”

“I wish you could stay and see what Santa brings us,” MaryJo mumbled quietly. “I really miss you.”

“We miss you too, pumpkin,” said Grandpa as he leaned down and picked her up. “That’s one reason we decided we needed to come and see you this Christmas season, even with all the snow. We aren’t getting any younger and we just felt that we needed to come down for a few days. But we’ve got the cows and pigs at home that we need to get back to. We love you very much and we just wanted to tell you that.”

“I love you too Grandpa,” MaryJo snuffled hiding her head in Grandpa’s shoulder.

“I love you too!” Hollered Ann from below, not wanting to be left out.
Sharon walked over and gave her grandparents a hug, “We all love you! We’re glad you could come for a few days. Thanks for everything.”

“I wish Grandpa and Grandma Smith didn’t have to leave the other day. It would be fun for them to go to Grandma and Grandpa Hansen’s tonight for Christmas Eve.” Ann looked at MaryJo trying to decide if MaryJo’s costume was okay or not. “You don’t look like an angel MaryJo. You look like a ghost.”

“Oh stop it Ann. I’ll put my halo and wings on at Grandma and Grandpa Hansen’s house.”

Hours later the nativity scene had been presented and gifts passed out; at home the girls raced to change into their new nightgowns. After family prayer was said, the three youngest were tucked together in one room. After all, no one wants to be alone on Christmas Eve! “Night e’ryone,” Janice mumbled as she crawled into her sleeping bag on the floor.

“Night,” MaryJo giggled. Ann and MaryJo talked and giggled as Janice slept on the floor. Soon mom came to the room and said that on the news Santa had been spotted in the neighborhood, that meant they better get to sleep or he wouldn’t be able to stop. Soon the girls joined their little sister sleeping soundly and dreaming of dolls and dishes and games and candy.

“Wake up MaryJo!” squealed Ann kicking the underside of the bunk bed. “It’s Christmas!”

“Stop it! You’re going to knock me off the bed! Let’s wake up Janice and Sharon. I bet Bobby’s awake already.”

Mom and Dad heard the children waking up and came to line them up to go find the gifts from Santa. First in line was Janice, then Ann and MaryJo, Bobby and last of all Sharon. The children ran to the living room and soon found where Santa had left their gifts and stockings. Soon all of gifts were opened.

“Before we have breakfast and open the family gifts, there are a few boxes in the garage that Grandpa and Grandma Smith left for MaryJo and Ann. They are too big for Daddy to carry in so get your slippers and we’ll go see what they are.”

Daddy cut the tape off of Ann’s box first and she pulled away the cardboard…A big white cupboard! “It’s a cupboard!” cried Ann wrapping her arms around herself, “Wow! There’s a cabinet on top for my dishes and counter space so I can cook dinner and more space for my dolls underneath!”

MaryJo soon had Dad cutting the tape off of her box as well…A desk! “Where did Grandpa get them from?” she asked examining her new desk.

“Grandpa made them.” Mom smiled, “He’s been working on them for months and planning to bring them to you. He and Grandma really wished they could be here to see you open them, but with all the snow and their farm, well, they really needed to get back home. But I hope you know they love you, every one of you. They left gifts under the tree for you other three. They said to tell you Merry Christmas and that they love all of you very much.”

Ann stepped aside and looked out into the winter wonderland through the garage window. She smiled as she gazed on the melting snowman and whispered “Thanks, Grandpa. I know you love me. I love you too.”

 

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11 Mr. Berlin’s Merry Christmas

December 10, 2012

The Christmas Fair Committee met after school that day.  “So, we have just about everything ready, except for someone to play Santa,”  said Mrs. Kramer, the advisor.  “Any ideas, folks?” Jackie snorted and glared over at Steve, the biggest guy in the school.  “How about Steve?”  she asked derisively. Steve almost choked on his Twinkie.  […]

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09 Daryl’s Dear Dog

December 8, 2012

The spiraling lights were clinging to the tree branches, flashing along to a silent rhythm. Daryl, celebrating his sixth Christmas, was crouched on the floor, chomping away on every piece of candy pulled from his stocking. “Did you get everything you wanted?” his mom asked as she tossed crumpled wrapping paperinto stray garbage bags. “No,” […]

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08 Missing Santa

December 7, 2012

Irene W. Smoot was the oldest member of the Spring Valley Ward. That was a fact. Everyone knew it. She lived in the same window-filled house on Spring Valley hill that her husband, Earnest Smoot, God rest his weary soul, had built with his own hands fifty years before. She always arrived at church exactly […]

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07 Snow Angels

December 7, 2012

Lezlie Anderson’s short story, Snow Angels, is being published by Cedar Fort in October 2014. In accordance with their request, I have removed it from this site. Congratulations Lezlie!

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05 The Candy Cane Carnation

December 6, 2012

In Memory Of My Father, Ernest J. Orgar Sr. The little boy heard the door slam and his father’s heavy footsteps thud through the living room into the kitchen. “What you mean my supper ain’t ready?  Fool!  You know I like a hot dinner when I get home!”  The boy shuddered up in his bedroom […]

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04 Black Socks

December 5, 2012

Jarvis trudged through the snow with a scowl, thinking about how much he hated Chrismas. As he neared the shopping center, he tried to remember what was on his blasted Chrismas list . . .  Ah yes, some black socks. Well, now was a good time for new socks, that much at least was true. […]

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