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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Empty Greetings
By LauraLee Shaw


Mellie gazed out her kitchen window, admiring the glimmer of the noonday sunlight upon rows of icicles. She knew the postman would be coming soon, and she hoped for a good stack of mail through the slot of her front door to keep her company. Hypnotized by the jagged pieces of ice dripping into puddles of snow, she remembered having watched her children, and her grandchildren after that, tear off “old man winter’s teeth” from the windowsills in order to eat them like popsicles or use them as swords.

Long since those days. Now a phone call from any of them on special occasions would have to do. Sometimes, she felt horrible lonely, but she’d always argue away the self-pity. I want my kids to be happy. They’re just busy, is all.

She heard a knock on the door, realizing that she’d been too lost in her daydreams to notice the postman walk by. “Here’s your mail, Ms. Dodd. Have a nice day, okay?” he yelled from outside, then waved as he passed the front window.

Mellie gave him a wave back along with a wrinkled grin mouthing the words “Thank you.” She shuffled over to the front door and picked up a good handful of mail—a magazine of coupons, the utility bill, and three personal letters. Probably more Christmas cards, she guessed and hoped at the same time.

Making her way to the kitchen table, she took her letter opener and opened the first one. “Oh, it’s from Renee,” Mellie said, her eyes sparkling with delight over her grandaughter’s family photo. “A beautiful bunch.” She picked up her magnifying glass to get a closer look. Eyeing the youngest great-grandbaby, her heart ached to scoop him up and rock him in her arms. She couldn’t believe how much the other three had grown, the tallest looking old enough to drive. “Renee looks so happy. So does Don.”

I’m going to call them, Mellie decided, acting on the impulse of her elation. As she dialed the first number, she had second thoughts. What if they’re busy? “I don’t want to disturb them.” She hung up the receiver, thought it through, then picked it up again.

“Hello?” It was one of the kids’ voices.

“Uh, hello?” Mellie stuttered, surprised to hear an answer. “Which one of my great-grandkids is this?”

“Ha, gotcha! Just kiddin.’ We’re not home right now, so leave a message after the beep.”

“Hello?” Mellie asked, as she heard a high-pitched beep through the earpiece. Confused, she hung up the phone. Maybe it was supposed to be a joke or something. “Wasn’t very funny, though,” she mumbled to the faces on the card, longing to hear the voices that lay mute behind the frozen smiles.

Mellie’s heart sank further as she opened the next envelope. It was from her lifelong friend Lucille. “Lloyd had a slow and painful death,” the handwritten portion of the card read, “but I’m thankful for the 59 years God gave us together.” Sorrow-filled, Mellie remembered the year she had lost her Paul—and the loneliness that filled her the Christmas following. I’ll call her later. Note to self: “Call Lucille.”

Balancing the teeter-totter of emotions, Mellie trembled with excitement as she opened the last envelope decorated with her daughter’s handwriting. The picture on the front was a glittery manger scene, but she flipped past it without pause, hoping to find a personal message on the inside.

“Hi Mom, I miss you. I’m planning to visit you sometime soon after the holidays. We’re getting ready to host a party for Jeff’s company, as well as having a few of the kids (it’s still okay I call them that, right?) home to stay for the week of Christmas. How are you? You’re going to be with someone at the church again, I hope? We’ll be sure to call and sing you a carol. You are so very loved, Mom. Merry Christmas.”

Tears spilled onto the kitchen table. “What were you expecting, Mellie? A surprise visit or something?” Wiping away the sobs, Mellie fought her emotions with prayer. Lord, I don’t want to be a bitter old woman. Keep me focused on You this Christmas—a love that keeps giving, not expecting.

In her spirit, the Lord had already answered her plea with His gift of peace. She didn’t waste another moment wishing. Mellie added her daughter’s card to the rest of her season’s greetings, then picked up the phone. “Hello, Lucille? It’s Mellie…I got your card…”

“It is more blessed to give than receive.”
Acts 20:35b (NIV)

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This article has been read 970 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Tim Pickl11/13/08
Master-FULL writing--perfectly on topic--I can feel the Main Character's emotions thoroughout. Well done!
Marita Vandertogt11/13/08
Wow - very nicely done... you capture the MCs emotions so well.. and make the reader feel her pain. I agree - master-fully written!!!
Sharlyn Guthrie11/14/08
How sad. You captured her emotions well, along with her yielded spirit.
Joanne Sher 11/15/08
A wonderful job of showing us your MC's emotions. A wonderful lesson for us all. Beautiful.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
Very moving and timely. We had two elderly family members become widows this year and they've been on my mind with Thanksgiving coming. This confirms that I've got to call them. Thanks.
Lynda Schultz 11/17/08
Excellent story. I think the title sums it all up very well.
Debbie Roome 11/17/08
A picture of God's grace and love overcoming the pain that life brings. Very well written.
Carole Robishaw 11/17/08
A very sad reminder of how we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in what we think is important. Thank you for this.
Marijo Phelps11/18/08
You drew us in and made the MC so very real..
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
I love the emotions portrayed in this. I'm so happy that she picked up the phone to comfort a friend instead of giving in to self pity. Wonderful story. Great writing.
Betty Castleberry11/18/08
Oh, this *does* need a tissue alert. It's a very well written reminder that we can't forget those most dear to us, no matter how busy we are. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/20/08
This made me so sad and then thankful for the peace God gives. Your writing gift is tremendous.
Peter Stone11/21/08
Wonderful descriptive writing, Laura, and what a great message for people at this time of year. Sending cards are no substitute for demonstrating Christ's love for each other and taking the time to ask people to our homes on this special day (and on other days too!)