I’m thrilled to welcome my daughter, Eliana, to this space today as my guest poster! She loves writing (and has the knack for it if I do say so myself) and so I’m giving her an audience aside from me with her latest story. She usually needs very little coaching with her writing and this story was no exception. She has a huge heart and a love for reading, writing, and Jesus. Her story is about the length of two normal blog posts so keep that in mind when you’re ready to read. Her hope is that the story blesses you and gets your heart in the right place in this Christmas season.
“Moooo,” Bessie cried as I entered the barn. “I hear you, Bessie,” I said. I put the milk pail on the floor and pulled up the milking stool. “Moo! Moo!” Star yelled running around the barn. “It’s okay, Star,” I said gently, waiting until she stopped running around and trotted towards me, gently laying down, her way of telling me she wanted to be petted. So I did, behind the ears where she likes it. “It’s okay,” I repeated.
The wind picked up quite suddenly, and I shivered, pulling my warm wool sweater (made by Aunt Lill) closer around my shoulders. I finished the milking and left the barn. I looked up at the sky, turning a beautiful golden yellow, the sun just peeping up behind the hills in the distance. The wind picked up, and I quickened my pace, sprinting into the house.
I like our house. It’s big. I still remember the day we decided to turn it into an inn. Well, it took longer then a day. Momma and Poppa argued over it for a long time before they made the final decision.
I stepped through the back door, and into the warm kitchen, where Momma was flipping pancakes, and Aunt Lill was frying potatoes. “Good morning, sunshine,” Momma said, flipping the pancakes on to a plate.
“Good morning.” I said, setting the milk pail down. “Good morning to you too, Aunt Lill.”
After breakfast, Momma, Aunt Lill and I went into the basement, and carried three big boxes into the parlor. I opened the first one. “I found the wreaths!” I said, pulling the pretty decorated circles of fake pine out of the box. One for the front door, one for the basement, and one for each of our bedrooms: Aunt Lill, Momma and Poppa, and I.
“I’ve got ornaments,” Aunt Lill said pushing her box off to the side.
“Well, then I guess I got the trees!” Momma said, smiling as she opened the lid. “Anna, can you run down and get the nativity?” Momma asked, as she started pulling out the trees I had made with Aunt Lill awhile back.
“Sure,” I said with a smile as I stood up. “ Be right back.”
I ran back into the basement and found the big brown box that held the nativity. I carefully dusted it off, and carried it back upstairs. When I got there, I found Aunt Lill putting up wreaths, and Momma carrying some trees to the dining room. “You can set it up,” Momma said, tilting her head to the mantel inside the parlor, of which the door was hanging open. I nodded and walked inside.
The mantel is in the middle of one of the parlor’s white walls. I set the box down, and carefully opened it. Slowly I took out wrapped up wise men and shepherds. Each one carefully carved by my grandfather, so many years ago.
I remember sitting by him, watching as he carefully carved Baby Jesus. It was a Christmas present for Momma, the last one he ever gave her, the Christmas before he died. Every year since then, on the first day of December, when we decorated our inn for Christmas, we would carefully set up the nativity on the mantel for all our boarders to see.
For the rest of that day, Momma, Aunt Lill, and I decorated for Christmas. When Poppa came home, he and I drove to pick out our Christmas tree, and on the way home, we stopped and gathered some mistletoe, to hang on the front door.
When we got back, supper was waiting. I happily ate my green beans, pork chops, and creamed potatoes. After supper, I helped hang up the mistletoe. Then when Poppa went out to carry our Christmas tree inside, he called Momma for help, and when she stepped outside, he picked her up, swung her around, and gave her a big kiss. I looked at the mistletoe, laughing. We came back inside and hung up our stockings on the mantle, under the nativity. Poppa finished setting up the Christmas tree, and we decorated it.
I watched Poppa carefully hang the nail on the tree near the bottom. I slid it off and put it on a space of the tree near the top. Poppa looked at me.
“Why did you do that?” he asked. I looked right back at him.
“No one can see it down there, and besides, it looks better right where it is now.”
He looked at me, puzzled. “Do you not know? The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom. You’re not supposed to notice it. It is a reminder for us that Jesus died for us. That He was born to save us. And Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’s birthday. And…”
“Yes, I know.” I interrupted, taking the nail off the place I had put it, and back near the bottom. “There, happy?” I asked. Poppa shook his head at me, but he continued decorating.
Late that night, long after everyone else had gone to sleep, I tossed and turned. Poppa’s words kept coming back to me. “The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom. You’re not supposed to notice it.” What kind of ornament wasn’t supposed to be noticed? And why had Poppa looked at me that way after I put it back? These thoughts kept me up late into the night until finally, exhausted, I fell asleep.
A week passed before we got our first visitors. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Mason. The Masons had come from Maine to visit their grandchildren. They’d be leaving after Christmas. They took the room on the second floor, right in the middle. “Not near the back, but not in the front either,”Mrs. Mason explained. Then she smiled and nodded as if that explained everything. It didn’t.
I helped them unpack, and I was taken by surprise when I saw how many wrapped gifts Mrs. Mason had. “How many grandchildren do you have?” I asked her.
“Ten,” she replied proudly. I helped her stack all of her presents into a pile in the closet, and took Mr. Mason’s wrinkled shirts downstairs to be ironed.
Throughout the next few days, more people came for a place to stay. I was kept busy helping people with whatever they needed, and making presents for Momma and Poppa (Aunt Lill is helping me make them scarves), and Aunt Lill (I bought her some perfume). But one day, I found myself with some free time, so I wandered into Aunt Lill’s room.
I found her knitting a deep red blanket. So I sat down on her bed where knitting yarn and needles lay in a basket. And we both just sat there in a peaceful silence. Finally Aunt Lill spoke. “What brings you to my room honey?” I shrugged and didn’t answer. She went back to her knitting and I went downstairs to help Momma.
I found her in the kitchen, chopping up carrots and cucumbers for a salad. “Hey sunshine,” she said as I entered the room.
“May I help?” I asked her, “I don’t have anything else to do.” Momma shook her head absently and I sighed and left the room.
Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself on the couch in the parlor, staring at the Christmas nail, Poppa’s words coming back to me, over and over again. The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom…You’re not supposed to notice it…The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom…You’re not supposed to notice it…The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom…You’re not supposed to notice it. I began to feel dizzy, and the more I thought about it, the dizzier I became, and suddenly, my body fell limp and I dropped into a trance, my head laying on the couch, and the words slowly melted away. “The Christmas nail is supposed to be on the bottom. You’re not supposed to notice it.”
When I woke up, I found myself in a stable, lying on some hay, “Where am I?” I asked myself out loud and suddenly, two people entered the stable. I ducked behind the hay I was laying on to keep from being seen. One of the people was a young woman, the other a young man.
“We can rest here for the night, Mary,” the young man said to the young woman. Mary nodded and eased into some hay nearby.
I don’t know exactly how much time passed after that, but suddenly I heard Mary cry, “Joseph! He is coming!” Joseph ran to Mary’s side and comforted her. For a long time I just sat behind the hay, listening to Mary’s heavy breathing. Suddenly, I heard a baby cry.
Startled, I looked up over the haystack, and saw a little baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough. I looked at the little baby, and couldn’t help but smile. Soon, young men came into the stable, sheep following behind them. I watched them as they sat near the baby, smiles on their faces.
I don’t know how long after that, but then three wealthy looking people came into the little room, each dressed richly and holding something in their hands. They placed these things near the baby. Then, one of them turned to Mary and asked with a smile, “What’s his name?”
Mary looked at the man and smiled too. “Jesus.” I felt dizzy just then, and fell back onto the floor of the stable.
As I woke up on our couch, I repeated Mary’s, words thoughtfully, “Jesus.” I looked at the nativity and I suddenly realized that I had dreamed the Christmas story. I got up off the couch feeling dazed. As I walked into the hall, I heard the doorbell ring. I turned and walked to the front door.
I swung it open and found a young woman and a young man. The man spoke. “Please, my wife is due with a baby, and we are both quite tired. Do you have a place we can stay?” I looked at the man whose arm was around his wife. I didn’t know where they had come from, but I wanted to help them. I nodded.
“Follow me,” I said. I led them into the parlor. “I’ll be right back,” I told them and then disappeared into the kitchen to get Momma. After they got settled, Momma sent me up with a tray of cookies and coffee.
They had the room closest to the back. I balanced the tray in one hand and knocked on the door with the other, then gently pushed it open. “Momma thought you might be hungry,” I said as I entered. The young woman was sitting next to her husband on their bed, and they were looking through some sort of book. “What are you looking at?” I asked them, setting the tray down.
“This is our scrapbook, starting from the day we became engaged,” the man explained.
“That’s cool,” I said awkwardly.
“Yes, in fact, we were just about to take a picture of us here,” the women said smiling. “Would you like to take it?” She got up and took a camera off of the nightstand next to the bed.
“Sure,” I replied, taking the camera from her.
She and her husband posed, and I snapped the picture. It was the kind of camera where you take a picture and then the photo comes out of the bottom. “Thanks,” the man said. “I’m Joe by the way, and this my wife, Maria.” I smiled at them and then left them to work on their scrapbook.
The next few days passed smoothly, with daily visits to Joe and Maria, along with the nail on the bottom of the Christmas tree, until suddenly, it was Christmas Eve.
“Anna! I need help with the biscuits!” Momma called to me.
“Coming!” I called back. I sprinted from where I was sitting in the parlor, and into the kitchen. All day, I wrapped presents, cooked, cleaned, and waited on Maria, who was growing restless. Then Momma, Poppa, Aunt Lill, and I went to the Christmas Eve service. When we returned, I helped Momma and Aunt Lill dish up peach pie and ice cream to Poppa, Joe, Maria, and a family called the Carsons. The Masons and the rest of our boarders were with their family and friends. We all ate our ice cream and pie, and got ready for bed. I placed my presents under the tree, and noticed a light snow falling out the window as I slipped upstairs and into my nightgown, and brushed my teeth.
Late into the night, I was kept awake. I thought about Maria and her baby that was due. I thought about the Christmas nail, and how tomorrow was Jesus’s birthday. At one point I thought I heard a baby crying, but it must have just been my imagination. Finally, I fell asleep.
“Waaaaaaaaa!” I shot straight up. That was not my imagination. I looked at the clock. 6:05. “Waaaaaaaa!” I heard it again; I lay back down for a few minutes, then looked at the clock again. 6:09. I slipped out of bed, and into my slippers, and then I crept into the hall and downstairs.
The house was dark, only a hint of light came from out of the windows. I crept into the parlor and sat down on the couch. I looked at the Christmas tree, bright with lights, and a delicate angel on the top. I searched for the nail, but I couldn’t find it hidden behind all the presents under the tree. So I just sat there, sat there as the sun came up, and people with it. Sat there as a tired looking Momma slipped into the kitchen to make breakfast, and then finally, I went to the kitchen to help her. After all our boarders had eaten, and left to spend the day with family, some taking their bags with them, others not, Momma and I joined Aunt Lill and Poppa in the parlor. And what I saw, or rather who I saw brought tears to my eyes.
It was Maria, holding a little baby boy. He was sleeping peacefully, all wrapped up in the blanket Aunt Lill had been working on. “What’s his name?” I asked Maria. “Gabriel, Gabe for short,” she told me smiling.
Joe entered the room, and then we exchanged and opened presents, Momma putting on her scarf, and Aunt Lill dabbed a bit of perfume behind her ears. I marveled over my new dress (from Momma), new mittens (from Aunt Lill), and my favorite, a china angel from Poppa.
It was as we were cleaning up wrapping paper that I thought of something. I turned to Maria and asked, “May I take your picture? You know, for your scrapbook?” Maria nodded, and I disappeared, and soon returned with their camera. “Smile!” I said, and ‘click’ went the camera. I grinned as the picture came out. I looked at Maria and Joe smiling, but my favorite part, was baby Gabe, their Christmas baby, resting in Maria’s arms peacefully. And at that moment, I felt the true meaning of Christmas in my heart.