Friday, December 25, 2015

12 Days of Christmas--Day 12--I'll be Home for Christmas--conclusion

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! Wait, what? IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!!! :D I can't believe it! How can it be here already? Also, this is the LAST day of the "12 Days of Christmas" blog series"! I can't believe it's already over. . .the time flew by so quickly! I've had so much fun and I just want to give Faith P. a HUGE thank you for all the work she put into all of this. I know I enjoyed it all immensely
Okay, anyway. . . I am looking forward to a quiet peaceful day. . .our baking day yesterday turned into a lot more then the "one batch of cookies" it was intended to be. ;P
What are you most looking forward to today?
Here is the conclusion to "I'll be Home for Christmas"! Let me know what you think of it!
Merry Christmas and have an amazing time as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!

The house was quiet. The pies were cooling on a shelf in the kitchen, the turkey was in the oven and the side dishes had all been prepared. The sun was sinking low beneath the western sky and the dim streetlamps had turned on, lighting the nearly deserted town.
Mary closed the door behind her as she stepped out into the snow. The ladies were busy putting the finishing touches on the Christmas feast and Uncle Mark and Uncle Baker had the children on the living room and were quietly reading them stories.
That gave Mary a few minutes to herself before the evening festivities began.
She took a deep breath of the cold air and slowly wandered down the sidewalk. The town was quiet and the streetlights added a festive glow to the darkening skies.
Mary talked past the stores and leaned up against the small rail fence that overlooked the snowy white fields that were illuminated with the setting sun. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she thought back to another field at another time in history. Only it hadn’t been snowy and darkness had fallen over it. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” Mary paused for a moment and silence surrounded her. It was as though she was the only person alive remembering that precious, holy night. She continued, “ And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For--” She stopped abruptly with the sudden feeling that she was not alone.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” The masculine voice took up where she left off.
Mary put a hand on the top rail of the fence to steady herself. Could it be possible? Surely she was dreaming! That voice. . .she knew that voice.
She turned slowly, and for a moment her heart seemed to stop. It couldn’t be true, there was no way her eyes were telling her the truth. But there he was, a soft smile on his face as he continued. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.’” He paused for a moment and grinned. “Well, I’ve finished your favorite part, Mary. Are you going to give me a hug?”
Mary covered her mouth with her hands. “Nate. Oh, Nate. You’re home, you're alive!” She threw her arms around his neck and buried her head in his shoulder as her body shook with sobs.
“Hey, now Mary.” Nate softly stroked her hair. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I thought you’d be happy.”
Mary nodded, keeping a tight hold on him, afraid that if she let go he would disappear. “Oh, I am happy. I couldn't be happier. Oh, Nate. I was so worried. We all were so worried.” She at last released her hold on him and stepped back, keeping his hand hand in between hers. “But how did you get here? The last thing we heard is that you were missing in action.”
“Well, I was. I was hit by shrapnel in several different places and it hit a tendon in my left arm. I still have the arm,” he motioned to it. “but I can’t exactly do much with it.”
Mary gasped as he drew up the coat sleeve to show the stiffened arm.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt. And it was my ticket home.”
Mary’s eyes shone. “I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe you’re really here.”
He laughed, “Believe it, believe it! I wanted to make it home yesterday, I know how much Christmas eve means to you. . .” his voice trailed off. “Oh, and I’m not alone.” he turned. “Mary, this is Sergeant Blank.”
“Yes, that is my real name.” The young man who stood off the the side had wavy brown hair and dark gray eyes. He smiled and held out his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Mary. Nate’s told me so much about you.”
Mary wiped the tears from her face and smiled. “My goodness, I can’t believe I didn’t see you standing there. I’m sorry.” She met his hand in a firm handshake. “It’s nice to meet you as well.”
He laughed, “Don’t worry about it. I know you were happy to see your brother.”
“Yeah, well, Sergeant Blank was--is--my sergeant. We ended up in the same hospital and both got sent back home.” Nate motioned to the stump of the Sergeant's right arm. “James here tried to convince them he could still shoot just as good with his left arm, but they wouldn't have it. He lives in Washington so our house is on his way home. I talked him into stopping for a night or two.”
James nodded. “all true. And of course,  after all he’d told me about his home, and about you, I just had to stop and see if it was all true.”
Mary grinned, “how’s his honesty been so far?”
James smiled, “So far, everything I’ve seen has exceeded my expectations. Nate truly is a blessed man.”
“Well, come on, let’s get back to the house. I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction when they see you, Nate!”
He smiled, “Well, let’s hope they’re less dramatic than yours.”
Mary only chuckled as they made their way through town to the house.
As she opened the door, Uncle Baker looked up. “Oh, Mary, You’re back just in time. We’re about ready to start supper.”
Mary couldn’t keep the smile off her face, “Uncle Baker, Uncle Mark, I have a surprise.” She turned. “Come on in, Nate.”
Nate grinned as he stepped into the house and waved. “Hey everyone. Merry Christmas.”
Uncle Baker looked like he’d seen a ghost and all the noise of the dishes in the kitchen suddenly stopped.
Aunt Josie appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Nate? Oh, Nate, you’re home!”
She rushed over to him and engulfed him in a hug. That seemed to shake everyone else out of the shock of seeing him in the doorway and Nate was soon surrounded by all the family.
Mary took a step back, still holding Nate’s left hand. “Why don’t you come in, James? I’m sure it must be cold outside. I know we’re all in the entry way right now, but,” she smiled. “I’m sure there’s enough room for you to squeeze in and close the door.
James smiled, “I’m warm enough just seeing Nate home. You know, that’s all he ever talked about. Home.”
Mary noticed the faraway look that entered his eyes. “Do you have family waiting for you?”
He smiled sadly and shook his head. “Not really. I mean, my dad’s still alive, but he’s not going to be too anxious to see me.”
Mary motioned to him, “well, you’re part of our family for tonight, because everyone needs to be with family on Christmas. Come on, come in. Don’t worry, they’ll notice you when Nate can shake them off.”
James hesitated, but finally nodded and stepped inside. “Alright, but I will blame you if they reject me.” His eyes twinkled.
Mary playfully cuffed him. “They won’t reject you.”
Nate suddenly seemed to remember the sergeant and turned to introduce him. As Mary had predicted, everyone immediately welcomed him.
Within minutes they were all gathered around the table. Mary took a seat to the right of Nate, and instead of placing Joseph next to her left, like Mary had assumed, Aunt Josie directed James to sit there instead.
Everyone stood behind their chairs, waiting for Uncle Mark to speak. A sudden quiet fell as he stood up. “Well, at one time I had a speech all planned, but I think I’ve completely forgotten it.”
There was a general laughter and he waited till it quieted down.
“All I can say is that I can’t say how thankful I am that we are all gathered here together. If you had told me an hour ago Nate would join us for our evening tonight, I would have told you you were crazy. But here he is. He’s home and he’s safe. We’re all together to celebrate the birth of our Savior. He came to earth two-thousand years ago to be born as a baby, but he was born to die. Born to die for us so that we might live. As we continue through the night, let’s keep that thought in our hearts and minds. Now, the ladies have done their best to provide us with a Christmas feast, even though we are in the middle of a war. Let’s sit and pray so we can eat before the food gets cold.”
Everyone took their seats, Nate reached over and pulled May’s chair out her her and she glanced up at him with a smile.
As soon as everyone had been seated and folded their hands,  Uncle Mark prayed. When he finished the prayer, Nate leaned over and whispered. “I’m home for Christmas, Mary. Just like the song says. You got presents on the tree? I see you did manage the snow and mistletoe.”
Mary smiled. “You bet we do. Gifts for everyone.”
James, who had heard what Nate said, leaned in, his voice a whisper as well. “And while it’s not Christmas eve, I’d say the love-light is gleaming pretty bright.”
Mary nodded contentedly. “It is. God’s love for us is shining brightly tonight, and the love he’s given us for each other only adds to the glow.”
James grinned, “out of the latter category, I’d say your love for your bother is shining the brightest of all.”
Nate smiled. "Merry Christmas, Mary. I never thought I'd be able to be here and say it in person, but I am." he smiled and pressed a kiss onto her curls. "Merry Christmas."

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve'll find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12 Days of Christmas--Day 11--I'll be Home for Christmas--part 4

Hi everyone! I hope you're all doing well. I can't believe it's already Christmas eve!!! Can you? Are you all ready for Christmas? I also can't believe that there is only one day left in the "12 Day's of Christmas" blog series. I've had so much fun with you all that I don't want it to end.:( 
But anyway, Merry Christmas eve!! We have a busy day of baking ahead and then we're headed off to Church and our Grandparents house tonight! What are your plans for today?
Here's the 4th part of my story. I hope you all are enjoying it. :) Let me know what you think!

Christmas Day
“Let me see! I want to see what I got!” Levi exclaimed as he clapped his hands impatiently and waited for Uncle Mark to hand him his stocking.
Mark’s eyes twinkled. “Alright, here it is.”
The children all exclaimed in delight over their gifts. Mary looked around the room. From the oldest to the youngest, everyone wore a smile. The adults were happy to see the children happy, and of course the children were ecstatic over their gifts. Each stocking contained candy, an orange, two wooden cars for the boys, and for the girls a small doll.
Mary wandered into the kitchen. “anything I can do to help?”
Aunt Josie smiled, “Nope. Just call everyone in; we’re ready to eat.”
Mary nodded and headed back into the living room. “Everyone come on and make your way into the kitchen. There’s fruitcake on the table.”
“Can you come help us with the snowball fight,  Mary?” Sadie asked when the meal was finished.
Mary glanced up from where she was washing the dishes. Before she could answer, Aunt Nettie smiled.  “Now you go right along and have some fun.” Aunt Nettie playfully shoved her away from the soapy water and took the dishrag from her hand. “Besides, that’ll get the little ones out of our hair for the moment.” she winked conspiratorially at Maey.
“Oh, I see.” Mary chuckled as she relinquished her claim to the dishrag. ‘I’m just a babysitter.”
“No, you’re more then that,” Aunt Nettie said as she squeezed Mary’s shoulders. “But I think we all will admit it can be nice to have someone else watch them sometimes.”
Mary returned her hug, “I know, and I was only teasing. I’m happy to help and I love spending time with them. Plus, the break I get from doing dishes is a good advantage anyways.”
Aunt Josie laughed. “Yeah, I’ll say. Well, I think we’re about finished with the cleanup from breakfast. While Mary takes the children outside, we need to get the pies in the oven so they’ll be cooled in time for the meal tonight.”
Mary left the kitchen and pulled on her boots, mittens, scarf and jacket before making sure everyone else was warmly dressed.
“Mind if we join you?”
Mary turned to see Uncle Mark and Uncle Baxter standing in the entryway, both dressed for the snow.
Mary laughed, I would have thought you two would want a break from all the noise. Also. . .” her gaze traveled down to Baker’s stump of a leg and the crutch that was nestled under his arm.
He caught her meaning and the teasing smile left his eyes. “Just because I may not be perfect doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with my children.”
Mary nodded, turning so he wouldn't see how his cold tone of voice had hurt her. “I didn’t mean to imply anything, Uncle Baker. I know we’d all love to have you come out with us.”
She opened the door and stepped outside, standing still for a moment while her eyes adjusted to the brilliant glare of the sun on the white snow.
“Got you!”
Mary gasped as a cold snowball hit her in the face. Levi’s cheeky grin told her exactly who had done it.
“Oh, I’ll get you for this!” she exclaimed as she bent down and scooped up a handful of snow.
“She said she’d play, she’ll do a snowball fight!” Levi ran squealed to the other. “Come on, I want boys against girls!”
“Now that’s not fair,” protested Mary. “That would mean that you get both Uncle Baker and Uncle Mark.”
Mark grinned, “Sorry, Mary. I guess that’s the way it’s going to have to be.”
“If Nate was here, he’d play with me.”
Baker grunted. “Then it’s a good things he’s not. Or we would lose. Alright, come on boys. We get the back of the yard and the girls can get the front.”
As the boys retreated to the back, Mary motioned for Sadie and Esther to come closer. “Alright, they have five against three, though Joseph probably won’t be too much help. We can use the car as our fortress since technically they can’t go over there. Now come on, let’s start making the snowballs. We’ll get some ammunition stocked up, and then Sadie you can continue to make them, Esther, you hand them to me, and I’ll fire them at our enemy. Sound good?”
The little girls nodded, their eyes sparkling.
The game continued on for nearly an hour. Neither side advanced, and the boys finally called a truce when Aunt Josie appeared outside with cups of hot cider.
Mary sent Sadie and Esther to the porch while she took off her scarf and shook out the powdery snow. Her black curls tumbled down and spilled over her shoulders.
“Lovely hair, Mary.”
Mary turned as Baker gently pulled at one of the curls. “Oh, Uncle Baker, don’t tease me.” She pulled her hair away from him.
He raised his eyebrows. “And do you mean my teasing by saying your hair is pretty? That can’t be teasing because it’s true. If you’re saying my pulling it was teasing. . “ he smiled with a suspicious twinkle in his eye. “You might be right.”
“I can see just where Levi gets his mischievousness,” Mary said with a smile as she wrapped the scarf around her head.
“Mary,” Baker turned serious. “I wanted to apologize for how I spoke to you earlier. It wasn’t right.”
Mary shrugged. “It’s okay. I knew better than to mention it.”
“No, that's just it, Mary. My injury isn’t something you should have to avoid talking about. It’s as much a part of me as the war was, and the way I spoke to you is never how a guy should speak to a lady. Never. And especially not his own niece.”
“Well, I forgive you. And thank you for playing with us. It was a lot of fun.”
“Even is Nate wasn’t here to help you?” he winked at her.
“Even if Nate wasn’t here.” The smile faded from her face. “I just hope he’s alright.”
“Listen, Mary. I know how things are over there. It’s hard. Hard to survive, hard to see. Hard to even imagine you’ve been there when you're back home. But Mary, when he does come home, things will have changed. With him and with you. Don’t expect everything to be exactly the same.”
Mary bit her lip, “That’s what I’m afraid of. How can anything be the same after this? Things will never be normal again, will they?”
Baker hesitated, then gave her a hug. “There will be a new normal, Mary. And God will help all of us adjust to it. Now come on, let’s go and get some cider before it’s all gone.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'll be home for Christmas--part 3

Part 3 coming your way on the tenth day of Christmas!!. :)
The fire blazed cheerily as everyone gathered around in the living room. The Aunts and Uncles and all the cousins had arrived earlier in the day. Now, after the evening meal, they all sat around the the living room with the fire blazing cheerily.
Mary’s eyes scanned the living room for a brief second. Aunt Ellie sat on the corner of the couch, nestled comfortably up against Uncle Baker who had an arm around her. Aunt Nettie sat with Aunt Josie on the couch, both of them with knitting of some kind in their hands. Nettie's eyes lit up as she laughed at something Baker said. Uncle Mark sat in the room's only chair, deep in a conversation with the others.
 On the floor near Uncle Mark’s chair, seven-year-old Esther and five-year-old Sadie played quietly with their dolls and Levi and Brian were thoroughly engrossed in the wooden train set that had been brought down from the attic. Four out of five. Mary looked around the room for Joseph, the youngest of her charges. How in the world does he disappear so fast? 
“Oo wead me a book, Mawy?”
She turned, relieved to see Joseph standing next to her, a book in his hands. 
“Of course I’ll read you a book, you dear.” she lifted him onto her lap and bent down and kissed his curls. “Let’s see, what book is this?”
“It the stowy about Mawy and Joseph and Christmas. Like us. My name is Joseph and you is Mawy.
Mary chuckled, "that’s true! Okay, let’s see.” She opened the book to the first page. “Can you tell me what’s happening in this picture?”
Joseph scrunched up his face, “dey awe widing a horse.”
“Donkey,” Mary corrected. “Mary is riding a donkey. See? They’re on their way to Bethlehem.” She turned the page. “And what’s happening here?”
“Dey awe in a bawn. And dere are de animals all ‘wound and de baby Jesus is sleeping in de hay.” Joseph pointed to the manger and then sat back, satisfied he had narrated it correctly. 
Mary smiled, “you’re right. Now how about on this page?”
“On dis page de shepherds and de wise men all came and gave de baby Jesus presents on his birthday.”
“That’s right! See you read the book to me! I didn’t even have to read any of it.”
Joseph smiled, both of his adorable dimples making an appearance on his chubby face. “I can wead the pictures. I can wead them all to you.”
“Yes, you can. You’re getting to be such a big boy, aren’t you?”
Joseph nodded, “I be twee. When I be twee, then I be big.”
“I see that. Three is a bigger age then two, isn’t it? Well, since you’re  a big boy, how about reading me another book?”
Joseph nodded and toddled over to bookshelf. At that moment, Brian started arguing with Levi and Mary walked over to the boys. "What happened with your train set,  Brian?”
“Levi took my caboose. He won’t give it back.”
“No, it was mine, I had it first!”
Mary put out her hand, “give me the caboose.”
Levi looked up at her, “But--”
“No buts. The caboose, please.”
Levi frowned, but handed it to her.
“Thank you. Now I will keep it until little boys can learn to get along.”
“And speaking of getting along,” Uncle Mark’s voice filled the room and Mary turned as he stood up and addressed everyone. “The better you play together, the more likely it is that Santa will come. And remember, he can’t come until everyone is asleep.”
“Uncle Mark is right,” Baker’s eyes twinkled at the boys. “So why don’t we all go and get in bed.”
“Oh, I can take them, Uncle Baker.” Mary quickly added as he started to stand on his crutches.
He nodded and eased himself back down onto the couch. “You boys be good for Mary, you understand?” He leveled his gaze to Levi and Brian.
“Yes, papa.” They said together, nodding solemnly.
Mary held back her laughter; the twins never failed to amuse her. She picked up Joseph and turned to Aunt Josie. “The little girls will sleep with me and the boys are in the room with their parents, right?”
Aunt Josie smiled, "that's right. And little Joseph is sleeping with his mother, so just put him down on the bed in Nate’s room.”
Mary nodded, “all right, come on upstairs, guys. Oh, and don’t worry, Aunt Josie. I’ll come and put their toys away later.”
“No need,” Baker grinned and winked at Mary. “If you can handle the troublesome twins and my princess, I’ll be more then happy to pick up their toys.”
Mary laughed, “Thank you, Uncle Baker.” She turned and started up the stairs, the fours cousins following her. “Levi and Brian you two go and use the bathroom first. Get your teeth brushed and change into your pajamas. Esther and Sadie, you can go and play quietly in my room until they’re finished if you’d like.”
Both Sadie and Esther's eyes lit up as they took their dolls and headed into the room. 
Levi frowned, “That’s not fair. Besides, I thought it was supposed to be ladies first.”
Mary bit her lip to keep from smiling, “normally it is, but not today. Now scoot.”
He muttered something under his breath, but followed Brian.
Mary opened the door to Nate’s room and set Joseph on the bed as she rummaged through the suitcase. “Okay, here are your Pj’s buddy. Can you take your shirt off for me?”
Joseph nodded and did his best to undress himself before Mary decided to take over. Soon he was snuggled into his pajamas and she pulled back the blanket on Nate’s bed. “Alright, climb in and when you get up in the morning, you can run downstairs and see what you got from Santa.”
“But we don’t celebrate only Santa on Christmas. Mamma said he’s not real. We really celebrate Jesus, right?”
Mary tucked the covers around his chin and nodded. “That’s right. He came to earth to save us, because we were sinners who couldn't save ourselves. Now, you go to sleep, okay?”
“Okay, Goodnight, Mawy”
Mary bent down and kissed his forehead. “goodnight, Jo.” She left the room and closed the door behind her.
The sound of water splashing in the bathroom made her roll her eyes. What trouble have they gotten into now?
She opened the bathroom door and a sudden silence fell over the room as two boys looked up at her with guilty faces. Neither of them were wearing their shirts and it was clear they had not been doing what she had asked.
“Would you like to tell me you two are up to?”
“We’re pretending we’re in the pacific ocean! See, my toothbrush is a submarine and it’s going to shoot Brian’s toothbrush. His is an enemy ship.”
“Why do I always have to be the enemy?” Brian’s lip stuck out and it looked as though he was close to pouting.
Mary surveyed the scene in front of her. The sink was filled with water and a large amount of it had sloshed to the floor.  “Right now neither of you should be the ally or the enemy. You’re supposed to be getting ready for bed.” She reached into the cupboard and got a towel. “Get your shirts on and get in bed. Now.” 
The boys nodded as they quickly threw on their shirts and then gathered their old clothes in their arms and trooped out of the bathroom. 
Mary cleaned up the water that had spilled on the floor and emptied the sink. She hung the wet towel over the shower door, turned off the light and headed to her room. Esther and Sadie were sitting on the bed, both of them holding their dolls in their hands.
“Your turn in the bathroom now, girls," Mary said with a smile.
They both nodded and set down their dolls before taking their nightgowns and heading to the door. Taking advantage of the privacy, Mary quickly changed her clothes and then grabbed the flannel robe off the hook before heading towards the guest room to check on Levi and Brian. To her surprise, they both lay in the bed that had been put out for them, covers pulled up to their chins. 
“You boys going to sleep?”
Levi nodded, “We want to wake up soon, so we decided we needed to go to sleep right away.”
Mary nodded, “that sounds like a good idea. I’ll see you tomorrow.
She closed the door and leaned against it for a moment, half expecting to hear them jump up and play. When they didn’t, she sighed and headed down the stairs. 
“Are they all down, Mary?” Aunt Josie looked up as she entered the living room. 
“All except the girls. They’re brushing their teeth. I’m going to head to bed with them, I wanted to tell you all goodnight.” She walked over to Aunt Josie, who set down her knitting to give her a hug. “Alright then, You have a good night's sleep.”
Mary smiled, “I will. Goodnight, all. Oh, and thank you again Uncle Baker for picking up the toys.”
He grinned, “you bet. How’d the boys do?”
“Well, aside from the bathroom becoming the pacific ocean and their toothbrushes submarines, they did pretty well.”
Aunt Ellie chuckled, “yeah, that sounds like them. I do declare, they never slow down. Thank you for taking them, Mary.”
Mary nodded before heading back up the stairs. Both Sadie and Esther were already in bed, and she smiled as she lay down between them. “Are you girls having fun so far?”
Esther nodded, her eyes twinkling, “I can’t believe we get to sleep with you. It’s like a sleepover.” 
Sadie nodded in agreement. 
Mary smiled, “Well I’m glad you could stay in my room with me. Since it’s a sleepover, is there anything you’d like to do before we go to sleep?”
“No, we wanted to go to sleep fast so tomorrow will be here soon.” Sadie reminded her.
“But can you sing us a song?” Esther asked. “I love Christmas songs!”
Mary nodded, “okay. What one would you like me to sing?”
“Oh, sing I’ll be home for Christmas! Please?” Esther begged.”It’s my favorite song because my daddy came home for Christmas, just like it says in the song! Please, sing the first verse for me.”
“Alright.” Mary lay down and tucked the blanket up over them and then softly began to sing. 

I'll be home for Christmas. 
You can plan on me 
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

As she finished, her eyes wandered out across the room to the window. The stars shone brightly and the knowledge that somewhere Nate was looking at the same stars made her smile. Yes, he was with them. Maybe not in person, but he was in their thoughts and prayers. She turned over and closed her eyes and soon slipped into the land of dreams. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

12 Days of Christmas-Day 9-"I'll be Home for Christmas"-part 2

And. . .here's part two! :) 

Mary carefully placed the last gift she had wrapped beneath the tree. There weren’t many, but she knew they would be appreciated by everyone.
The fire had slowly burned itself down to embers and the radio had been turned off when Uncle Mark left the room. A lonely silence filled the house, a memory of who was missing. She remembered last year when Nate had helped her wrap the gifts for their aunt and uncle and then sneak them under the tree. He had winked at her as he pulled a small item from his pocket. “I know it’s not Christmas yet, but this is for you, Mary. Merry Christmas.”
Mary reached up and felt the small chain that hung around her neck, the gift he’d given her. The locket had once been their mother’s and now it was hers.
She stood and switched off the light before slowly starting up the stairs. She passed Nate’s room then opened the door to her own. She left the light off as she quickly changed into her nightgown, then walked over to the window and opened it. Closing her eyes, she let the the light snowflakes softy brush her cheeks. Taking a deep breath of the cold air she smiled. Yes, even though it didn’t seem like Christmas, the magic of the season was still there. But it’s not just the snow, she reminded herself. God’s gift to us is the best thing we can ever celebrate.

Christmas Eve
“Come on, Mary. Time to get up or I’m going to bombard you with these snowballs.” Nate’s voice was full of teasing. “Come on, M. Well, I guess you asked for it!”
Mary gasped as she came fully awake. Sitting up, she realized that Nate hadn't thrown a snowball at her, but instead light, powdery snow covered the quilts she had been covered with.
Her eyes flew to the window and with a start she realized she had left it open the night before. She shivered as she looked at the dusting of snow that covered about half of the room. Wow, it must have snowed a lot last night. And I have to walk through all that to get to the closet. At the very thought she shivered, even though she was still covered with the heap of blankets and quilts. Better get it over with. She threw back the blankets and raced to the closet. She quickly grabbed a skirt and long sleeved sweater and threw them on before grabbing a pair of socks. She was halfway to the door before she realized she had better close the window. She tiptoed through the snow on the floor and closed it shut before running and opening the door and stepping out into the much warmer hallway.
Aunt Josie smiled, “Good morning, Mary. Why, child, what’s the matter? You look as though you slept outside!”
Mary smiled, but she knew it looked more like a  grimace. “I left the window open last night. My room looks like the outside. At first I thought Nate was pelting me with snowballs like he normally would, but I opened my eyes and instead realized I literally got a white Christmas. In fact it may have been a little too white. And cold.” She bent over and pulled the warm wool stockings onto her feet.
Aunt Josie chuckled, “really? Well, why don’t you come down and warm yourself by the stove. I’ve gotten the fruitcake that we made out and it’s ready for breakfast. There’s also some warm hot chocolate.”
At that, Mary’s eyes lit up. There wasn’t anything she liked more on a snowy day then hot chocolate. She followed her aunt down the stairs and into the kitchen. “But I thought we were saving the fruitcake until tomorrow morning when everyone else would be here.”
“We are, but I figured three pieces wouldn’t be missed too much.”
“Well, what do we have here?” Uncle Mark smiled as he took a seat at the table. “this looks good enough to eat.”
“It is, I made it,” Josie teased as she set the fruitcake down on the table.
“Ahh, the it must be scrumptious. Your cooking always is.”
Aunt Josie brushed off his compliment, but Mary could tell she was pleased. “We need to hurry and eat before the others get here. Once they do it will be nothing but noise and chaos.” Aunt Josie announced as she set a cup of cocoa down in front of Mary.
Mary chuckled. It was clear by the look of anticipation on both her Aunt and Uncle’s face that neither of them would mind the noise or the chaos.
Uncle Mark folded his hands, “well, what do you say we bless the food so that we can get it eaten before everyone else gets here?” The question was directed at Mary who smiled and nodded. A silence fell over the room as Uncle Mark led them in prayer.