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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: Christmas Cottage
By John Chang


In the wee hours of the morning the day after Christmas, Hazel woke up. This was unusual. She tended to sleep much longer than her older sister. But the excitement of the previous day must have left its residue in her. She happily drifted down memory lane. The events of the previous day came fresh to her but strangely enough, it was what brought about the events that brought gratitude to her heart. She could almost traced the hand of God over the last couple of months.

The previous day highlight had been the opening of presents. Discarding their normal financial reticence, Mum and Dad had given permission to just tear away at the gift wrappings instead of unwrapping and folding carefully for future use. The living room floor – an hour or two later – was a happy mess. Sixty six presents – her sister and her had counted them a few days ago when Dad’s friends drove up their driveway in a truck and unloaded them. And then slowly the pieces came together.

A few months after moving to Maine with her Dad and Mum and sister, Christmas presents were a distinctly unlikely possibility. Dad had just graduated and together they moved to a small town in Maine despite the church honestly openly informing Dad that they were unable to pay him. But Mum and Dad were convinced this was the place the Lord wanted them to be and they served willingly. Money was obviously tight. Mum and Dad prayed a lot. Money will come in the mail or as a deposit into their bank account. Somehow, there was food on the table and gas in the car. Christmas presents – unlikely. And Hazel knew it.

What she and her family did not know was the tradition of the church Christmas tree. They did not particularly noticed the little cards which intermersed among the tinsel and ornaments – appearing and then disappearing – though they could not help noticing the pile of presents which gathered at the foot of the tree and could not help wondering if some of these were for them. The cards represented needs. Not one need per person since none of us are confined to a single need. It was family life at work. Some were looking out for each other; some became the means to provide the needs for which other eyes have seen. And Hazel and her family were recipients of sixty six of these.

In bed, Hazel could also recollect the roast turkey they had for Christmas dinner - her mum’s first attempt. Her Mum had followed closely the recipe. But it was the story behind the turkey that brought gratitude to Hazel’s heart. For a while, she thought the best her Mum could pull off for Christmas dinner was deep fried meatballs – frozen packages from the charitable food pantry to which they had been turning to a lot lately. But someone had donated turkeys for each of the church staff and her Dad had been accepted as one. Not only that but Pastor Jeff – the Senior Pastor – had passed on his to Dad. They had two. Hazel was not complaining. Turkey was a much needed entrée to the previous mix of one.

Hazel got up to switch on the light. The soft light which flowed from her bedside table lamp illuminated the room. She gazed up to the wooden rafters and lovingly dwell on the beauty of the room. Though this was not her room, she was grateful to be in this room. She smiled when she remembered how Aunt Geri had called Mum asking if the family wanted to travel to Aunt Geri and Uncle Peter’s lakeside cottage in New Hampshire for Christmas. Mum had been concerned. She was anxious as to whether they could afford the gas for the trip. But Dad did some calculations and figured they could just about pull off the round trip. They had arrived the day before Christmas.

And on Christmas morning, when Mum went to prepare breakfast, she found surprises. Aunt Geri and Uncle Peter had not only invited them to use the cottage for Christmas; they had stockpiled it. And left enough hints and messages that the food was to be consumed.

Hazel smiled as the recollections came. It sure adds up to a delightful Christmas day. Sixty-six presents, food galore plus all the trimmings of a perfect Christmas – thick snow outside, a blazing fire inside and a Christmas cottage to wrap them all in.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 12/04/08
Lovely story--sounds like a wonderful Christmas!

I had a question...if the church was big enough to have a "staff" including two pastors, why couldn't they pay him? And I don't think "intermersed" is a word--perhaps you meant "interspersed"?

I could practically hear the bells and taste the Christmas dinner--this was a fun read.