WHO’S THIS ONE FROM?
Izzy’s death grip on her favorite Christmas shoe box tightened as she plowed through the scattered legos on the floor. She plunked down her treasure on Nana’s knees. The sock on her left foot barely hugged onto her heel. The four year old wasn’t sure what kind of magic these images held over her favorite snuggler but she knew when the snowflakes were falling, and this box was brought to these knees, that sugar cookies and cocoa and marshmallows and wonderful stories all followed. At least it had happened last year.
Izzy knew things were different this year as soon as momma dropped her off. Nana was stiffer, sadder. No gingerbread smells filled the house, no cheery chimes sounded above the mantle. The Christmas trees lights were off and the decorations were fewer. The fireplace that had danced up the chimney last year was a glowing ash heap this year. The house was colder, older, darker. Since Papa had gone to be with Jesus Nana hadn’t been the same. Now, neither would Christmas.
“Batman” one-hopped off the coffee table and landed on nana’s lap before Izzy could haul herself up. The Japanese Bobtail’s hooded black mask earned him his name. Izzy reached out and stroked the short white hair with the black saddle mark. Batman’s incessant meows began as an accompaniment to the compassionate chatter from Nana and the strokes from Izzy. The one blue eye and one green eye almost closed in pleasure.
Izzy nudged her crimson and green treasure box toward the feline intruder. It took a minute but Nana got the hint. She tugged her tangerine cardigan closer, laid Batman gently onto the floor, set the shoe box onto the coffee table, and announced “It looks like it’s time for some sugar cookies and cocoa.”
Instead of heading for the kitchen, Nana shuffled toward the front window in her slippers, reached for the drape cord and pulled. A winter wonderland appeared and Nana stood mesmerized until Izzy quietly took her hand. “Papa and I used to make snow angels with your momma right out there.” “Snowmen too.”
A dozen minutes later Izzy led her grandma back to the rocker by the fading fire. Batman lay curled up on the cooling hearth. Nana added kindling and two pine logs to the coals then folded herself into her chair. Izzy patiently handed over the lidless Christmas box and took her place in Nana’s lap before Batman yawned and stretched. The first flames flickered to life.
Izzy began her ritual. She sifted through the pile of Christmas cards stuffed into the shoe box until she reached bottom. A faded pink bit of stationary was withdrawn and placed in Nana’s shaking fingers. Tears rolled down Nana’s face as she stroked the rose shaped design on the card. Her words came out in a whisper.
“Papa gave me this on our fifth Christmas. He surprised me.” Nana looked toward the door as if she expected to hear Papa’s knock. “He was in the war you know. Got himself shot bad. It was Christmas Eve. The snow was falling. I was feeling so lonely. We’d only had one Christmas together before he had to go. I was getting ready for bed when I heard a knock. When I finally got dressed up I opened that door and there he was. Still on his crutches. Snowflakes all over his head and coat. He almost looked like Santa. I nearly knocked him over – I hugged him so hard. It was that night that he gave me this card by the fire. Papa used to build such great fires.”
Nana shifted Izzy off her lap and knelt before the fireplace. Four more logs were placed in the flames and Nana and Izzy stood mesmerized until the heat drove them back to the rocker.
Izzy extracted another card – a nativity scene embossed across the front. Nana went starry eyed again. “This card was also from Papa. First time he took me to church on Christmas. First time I heard about Jesus. First time I knew that God loved me even more than Papa did. Papa gave me this card and told me that now I would know that even when he was away we would always be together.”
Again, Nana shifted Izzy off her lap. She walked a little straighter and quicker. She stopped to plug in the Christmas lights. “Come, Izzy, I think I hear some sugar cookies asking to be baked.”
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