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TITLE: Christmas Love
By angela belock

This short story reflects a small insite to the night that Jesus was born and a huge insite into one family's struggle to enjoy a most eventful christmas day. This story can relate to all audiences.
The morning, Christmas day. Snug and warm we were in our bed. It had been a rough few months and Josh had worked many long hours. It was early, before sunrise, and the night had yet been chased from the sky. I snuggle into his warm embrace and enjoy the quiet sounds of a beautiful day. His snoring, though sometimes extremely annoying, today seemed to be peaceful and reassuring. Our two children having opened their presents the day before were slumbering peacefully away, and I for once was truly enjoying the peace of Christmas Day.

Then I heard the most dreaded click anyone can hear on a holiday. The click that sucks the breath out of your lungs and freezes every cheerful thought you have to your head. “Oh NO!!” I groan out loud. My husband rolls over and looks around him, grumpily he climbs out of bed and stomps from the room.

“OUCH!” He mumbles tripping over one of the many Christmas toys that never found their way to the toy box; he stumbles to the bathroom. While I snuggle further into my blankets, praying this sudden misfortune will only be for an hour or so. Praying that the cold that began to seep into the house would soon vanish. Hoping the lights and the hum of the furnace would soon return.

But that was not to be. A few minutes later as the sun begins to show it’s sleepy face above the ridge of our barn, he comes stomping back into the room. His hair sticking out on end seemed to look angrier then the cold steel of his blue eyes. Tension engulfed him as he looked at me. “Do you know how cold it is out there?”

“Freezing, by the feel of the air of this house.” I reply sleepily.

He smiled. “It is 3 degrees outside. We have ice on the porch and on the power lines. I just called the power company and they have a transformer that has failed because of the ice. Nobody can tell me when the power is going to come back on.”

Again, more explicative words as he begins to dress. Some may not understand his agitation, but anyone who lives on a back country road, will understand that a farm without electricity truly becomes a nightmare to run. We have no water to do the most natural things like flushing a toilet, washing hair, showering, or cooking food. Our house is one hundred percent run by electricity. Water pumps, stove, even washer and dryers are run by electricity.

To make matters worse we had horses, dogs, cats, goats, and whatever stray animal that runs around on our property relying on us for their every day comfort. Now we had to goto plan B. Which on Christmas Day is almost impossible to come up with.

My husband, was bundling up. He had his priorities and it was to do the worst thing first. You see we were lucky in one aspect of this cold day, we have a wetlands at the bottom of our path that divides one hill from another. Like a small valley that divides two beautiful kingdoms from each other. Today, it was anything but beautiful.

Today, like many hot ninety degree days in the past, he broke into song. But not just any song, the all time classic “Farm Living is the life for me....I get allergic smelling Hay ay AY!! “ When he starts this I know my best defense is to try and avoid saying anything at all. Because if I even attempted to calm him down I would be the one trudging up and down that cold long hill all by myself.

But I was saved by the tip toe of my sons little feet and his cold hands pressing against my face, “I want to eat!” Saved by the belly of a two-year-old. Then the cry from my daughter’s bedroom, “Has Santa been here?”

“Yeah, and he left us a very cold Christmas present.” My husband growled pulling his hat over his head and sliding his fingers into stiff farm gloves. He glowered at me and mumbled, “Animals!” and stomped out of the room and out of the door.

So as you can see our Christmas was not starting with the same Christmas cheer that millions of other people were having. But if you think about it, maybe there were other Christmas’s going worse then ours. Or maybe there were people just as cold but more thankful than we were. Christmas started out miserable for our savior’s mother. Riding a donkey, nine months pregnant, dirty, tired, and no place for her to rest.

No clean rooms, or kind faces to welcome her and her spouse into warm shelter. My family and I truly were blessed. So I grabbed my son and off we went to bundle him up. But as all bad days go this one was just getting worse. My son had nothing that matched. So I threw on whatever I could find. Sweats and striped dress shirt. He looked very odd with his cow lick and cowboy boots but definitely not ready for a four star restaurant.

My daughter was dressed in yellow striped dress pants and bright pink sweater. Her hair was brushed and she had loaded herself as usual, with every piece of jewelry we had ever given her. A true sixties girl if I ever saw one. And at 5 she was absolutely adorable.

We went down stairs after we were all dressed in our strange outfits of warmth and started working on breakfast. Which of course was cold cereal and milk. The one good thing about cold weather you don’t worry about milk spoiling or meat going bad. Though I was worried about my water lines freezing, but there truly was nothing I could do about that.

After a cold breakfast and the squeals of excitement when the kids realized that Santa had filled their stockings with surprises. One of the hardest things, for the kids, was trying to wait for Daddy to finish up.

Leaving the kids with their guessing game of what’s in the stockings I bundled my winter coat on and went down to the barn to try and help my disgruntled husband out. I fed the horses and goats grain, and I carried large flakes of hay and dumped them into each stall. I tried to pretend I was not cold and tried to smile a warm smile at Josh, but he would not make eye contact.

Finally, with his last trip made, and his breath freezing into little ice droplets onto his glasses, I couldn’t help thinking how cute he looked. I’m sure he wouldn’t have appreciated me squeezing his cheeks and going, “What a cutie patootie!!” But just for a second I thought about it.

Instead I marched myself into the house praying my cell phone would work. That’s another unpredictable thing about living in the country–cell phone service. It is now around nine in the morning and I had to get a hold of my father- in- law before he made his journey from the warm Southeastern part of Ohio up to the Arctic cold Northeastern part.

But you can’t cancel Christmas. Everyone must eat and celebrate. I mean Christmas isn’t about the tree lights, or the gifts. It’s not about the toys or the stockings. Christmas truly is about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But at that moment looking at my children hungrily eyeballing their bulging stockings, and listening to my phone ringing in my ear, all I could think about was the disappointment this holiday was becoming.

Soon a cheerful voice on the other end of the phone brought me back to reality. “Well hello, Carolyn! How are you?”

“Not Good, I’m afraid. We have no power. So we have no turkey dinner. I wasn’t sure if you wanted to leave your nice home to come here after all.”

John took everything in stride and asked what Josh wanted to do. So as my husband had just walked inside the house and placed his ice cold hands on my daughter, Pollie’s cheek, who was shrilling with surprise and laughter, I asked him.

His intelligent response “BAH HUMBUG!!” This coming from a man with a masters degree in college just struck the whole mood of our holiday. So I graciously told my father- in- law to give me a half hour and I would try to figure out what we were going to do.

After about forty minutes of grumbling and twenty five minutes of watching the kids tear through their private stockings and a sullen moody man arms across his chest made my decision for me. We were going to a hotel. We were going to have a Christmas wether anyone else liked it or not.

So I called John back and told him to meet us at the Holiday inn at three. It was now ten thirty and he was game for that. My husband just went along with the plan because everyone else wanted to do it. He was the dog at the end of the chain that truly did not want to learn how to walk.

The next step of our new direction was to find a real breakfast. So we checked into the hotel at 11 and realized that nothing was open. We ended up asking the hotel clerk what restaurant might be serving food. She shook her head at us, “Nothing is open but the Serbian Culture Center. But they are closing at noon. So if you’re going to make it you’re going to have to hurry.”

Well we couldn’t even get showers. We couldn’t change the kids clothing. I couldn’t even take care of Max’s hair. Josh, who was dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and steel toe boots looked at me and said, “This day is just getting better and better.” But what choice did we have. The grocery stores were closed. Josh was starving, Max, the two-year old, was ready for Lunch, and Pollie had never been to Serbia before so she was more then excited.

Off we marched. Our spirits low. Granted we were not as hungry or dirty as Mary and Joseph must have been after their travels but we felt grungy. We felt like everything we tried was doomed to failure. And some people might have given up by now and just scrapped the rest of the day. Not us. We jumped into our car drove the fifteen minutes to the Culture center and jumped out.

As we walked into the building our jaws hit the floor. Standing before us was a young couple in their forties dressed in mink coats and hundred dollar dresses paying their bill. Hair and make up perfect and the men dressed in their Sunday best and shiny shoes. As they turned you could definitely feel their eyes gazing at us. My hair had been brushed but it still held that just slept in look. My husband smiled and told them to “Have a Merry Christmas!”

The Hostess looked at us uncertainly as we walked over to her. Josh said, “A table for four please.”

I held my breath expecting to be kicked out the door– instead she sat us at a fine table and poured us our drinks. We sat looking around us and Pollie saw a young girl in her Christmas Dress, and I saw the baby’s mother staring at us with pity in her eyes. Max interrupted our uncomfortable feeling by promptly spilling his glass of water all over the table cloth. Forcing us to move down the table so that they could change the table cloth.

To top the whole experience off before we got up to help ourselves to the buffet the waitress came with the check and told us we must pay first. Well, we were too hungry to argue and so we paid for our food and tipped before we even ate. But food never tasted so good. Or the friendly smile that the chef gave my daughter as she walked up to the guy who was preparing eggs and asked for “Yellow eggs, Please.”
Which of course I had to explain to the chef yellow eggs were really scrambled eggs.

True if you think of the first Christmas day, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were probably just as thankful for the warmth of that stable and the gentleness of the wise men who came with gifts when they had nothing. How truly refreshing and emotionally giving that moment must have been.

As we sat in the warmth of the building enjoying our first Christmas meal together as a family, my husband’s eyes lit up with laughter. He looked around at his mismatched family and said, “A four star restaurant that will serve the likes of us is truly a step above the rest. I mean anybody who can’t find a man with a skull hugging bicycle hat, shorts, and steel toe boots a hoot sitting here with all this finery doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Josh was truly having a good time. All the bad was washed away just by the absurdity of our whole situation. And after we ate such a fantastic meal we went to our hotel exchanged gifts with my father- in- law and truly had one of the most enjoyable Christmas’s I have ever had. Sipping wine from a Styrofoam cup and watching our kids crashing cars into each other on the floor of the hotel room made me truly thankful that I had a wonderful family and a joyful spirit.

I will always thank God for giving me a brief look into reality and into the journey Jesus took to come into this world. His introduction into this world was not an easy one, but without his family’s strife I wouldn’t be able to wish all of you A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Love your family and be appreciative for what you have because some day you may wake up on Christmas with nothing but the love of family.
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