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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Carols/Carolling (10/02/08)

TITLE: Christmas without Papa
By Verna Cole Mitchell


“Turn that radio off, Matilda. I don’t feel like listening to carols tonight. Since Papa’s gone, it just doesn’t seem like we should be celebrating Christmas.”

“Oh, come on Gertrude, I know Papa always did make Christmas special, and I miss him, too, but we have so many wonderful memories of Christmas with Papa and with Mama, too. Let’s sit here and listen to these carols that have meant so much to us through the years."

Never were there two sisters more unlike than gently rounded Matilda, who saw sunshine peeking out from behind every cloud, and tall, angular Gertrude with her sharp tongue and prickly nature. The death of their beloved papa in August, after his long illness, had been difficult for both of them. He had lived with them since their mama had died ten years earlier.

Gertrude smoothed the doily on the back of the sofa with pale blooms that had faded through the years, just like the sisters had. Then she sat down, listening to the sound of a violinist playing ‘O Holy Night’ as she watched the twinkle of the lights on the little tree that Matilda had insisted on decorating.

“Do you remember, Matilda , when you were just a wee girl and were supposed to be singing ‘Away in a Manger’ at the Christmas program? You got right down next to the cradle where they’d laid a doll for Baby Jesus and tried to climb in. You said you were ‘seepy’ and didn’t want to sing.”

“I’m not sure if that’s really in my memory, or if I’ve heard about it so many times that I think it is. I do remember, though, when you were singing 'We Three Kings' with the children’s choir, and Mama had hemmed up Papa’s robe for you. You looked so funny.”

“How about those bags of treats we would get after we sang the last carol at church on Christmas morning! We’d be so excited when we’d open them up and plunder through them to find an apple, an orange, pecans, a candy cane, a little box of raisins, and some hard candies.”

“I recall that Papa said every year, ‘All I ever got for Christmas was an orange, and I was glad to get it.’ Also, I’ll never forget that time, Gertrude, you were acting out, and Mama told you to show your raisins. When you took that little box of raisins out of the bag and held it up, Mama couldn’t stop laughing.”

“One of my favorite memories is the way we used to sing ‘Silent Night! Holy Night!’ in our softest voices while Mama lit a candle, and Papa got the big Bible out to read the Christmas story to us on Christmas Eve.”

Just then the sisters heard the sound of carolers singing “O Come , All Ye Faithful.” Matilda went to the window and pulled the drapes back. “Look, Gertrude, it’s those precious young people from our church, out on this bitter cold Christmas Eve to sing for us. God is blessing us this Christmas, just like always.”

“I wish Papa were here, Matilda, but I guess he’s singing carols in heaven tonight. I suppose you and I could sing ‘Silent Night’ together. Then I’ll light a candle, and you can read the Christmas story for us.”

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This article has been read 1191 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 10/09/08
Aww, very sweet. Lots of good memories here.
Dixie Phillips10/09/08
This would make a great skit. The dialogue sizzles.... Love all the emotions you have evoked. Thanks...
Karlene Jacobsen10/13/08
I love "memory lane". I'm so glad you wrote this.
Betty Castleberry10/13/08
You did a great job with cahracterization. The differences between the sisters is clear.

I could see their surroundings, too. They were in their parlor. (It's large with a staircase and flowered wallpaper, BTW.) ;0)

This is a very sweet story. Kudos.
Joshua Janoski10/14/08
I agree that this would make a great stage production.

I enjoyed all of the memories that the two sisters shared. This was a sweet story. Thank you for sharing it.
Loren T. Lowery10/14/08
Perfect in so many ways; especially the memories that carol can invoke. You write with such needle-point accuracy that the scenes literally weave themselves together in front of the reader's eyes.
Joy Faire Stewart10/15/08
I love Christmas memories and the sisters are a delight. After the Christmas program at our church, everyone receives a bag of goodies as described in the story. Great vivid memories.
Leah Nichols 10/15/08
Very well done - I wanted to keep reading! You did an excellent job drawing the reader into the story. Great work. :)
Yvonne Blake 10/15/08
Ahh...love this and the way you wove all those tidbits of memories in.
Patrick Whalen10/15/08
This really made me feel as if I were sitting in a chair in their comfy room listening in. Well done!
George Parler 10/15/08
This was like watching a wonderful stage play. The scenes are vivid in the readers mind with lots of detail. Even down to the doily. wonderful writing.
Joanne Sher 10/15/08
Just lovely. I could definitely see this as a play - ala "Our Town." Delightful characters and a lovely message.
Shelley Ledfors 10/15/08
What a charming, lovely entry. I love your descriptions, characterizations...all of it! You put me right there with the sisters.
Beth LaBuff 10/15/08
Verna-- I love the descriptions and contrast of Matilda, "gently rounded...who saw sunshine peeking out from behind every cloud"and Gertrude, " tall, angular…with her sharp tongue and prickly nature." This is such a heart-warming story!
Pamela Kliewer10/15/08
This story sparkles with creativity and brought joy to my heart. I could see everything and, I agree, this would make a lovely skit.
Lyn Churchyard10/15/08
Verna, I just love your descriptions. The sisters came alive for me and I could almost hear them speaking. Great characterization.