This is a Christmas story taken out of my book,|
"Suddenly It's Forever".
The book is about my mother and grandmother.
I hope you enjoy it...
The principal characters are:
James - my father
Ellen - my mother
Ronald Lee - my oldest brother
Morris - my older brother
Dorothy - *Shy grin* that's me
Patsy - my younger sister
Peggy - my youngest sister
Junior - my youngest brother
- AT THE BARN HOUSE -
~ A Christmas Remembered ~
Morris' big, round eyes were full of apprehension. He was sure he had heard
the faint sound of Santa's tinkling bells.
"I'm going to buy these bells," James had laughed when he told Ellen of his
plan to fool their kids into thinking Santa was coming, "and when I jingle
them, the kids will think it's Santa. Then I bet they'll lay still and go to
sleep real quick."
Once more, James gently shook the tiny sleigh bells he had purchased
"Mother! Santa's coming!" Morris sat up in the pallet-bed he was sharing
with his two brothers. "I hear his sleigh bells!"
"You kids had better get to sleep," James' voice boomed out from his and
Ellen's partitioned off bedroom. "Or, Santa may not stop!"
"Mother!" Dorothy called out from the girls pallet-bed. "Hurry! Get the
dishes done and the lights out. We want Santa to think we're asleep!"
Ellen laughed and said she would hurry. "This is the best time of the year,"
Ellen thought as she turned out the lights.
James and Ellen had bought their children one Christmas gift each, and made
plans to get up in the wee hours of morning to sneak their special presents
into the house.
Earlier that year, when James had found a job close to Nora and Henry's
(Ellen's mother and step-dad), they had converted one of Henry's barns into
a house and moved in. The barn was only about a mile from Nora and Henry's
farm. On the backside of the barn-house was a sliding door, large enough for
an elephant to walk through. During the summer, Ellen often left the door
open to let cool breezes in. Now, as she walked passed it in the dark, she
felt the frigid, winter air oozing through. What had been a sweet pleasure
in summer had become a source of trouble during winter. James had tried to
winter-proof the door, but when the wind was blowing as it was tonight,
freezing air easily seeped through.
"Do you have the alarm set?" James whispered, as Ellen pulled the covers
back and slipped into bed.
"Yes, and I put a towel over it to muffle the sound," she answered as she
snuggled down into the warm bed.
Their bedroom stayed chilly throughout the winter months. It was partitioned
off from their only source of heat; an old, regal-looking, pot-bellied,
wood-burning stove that held sovereign attention in the winter.
"It sure is snowing hard," Ellen mumbled as sleep gently clothed her mind.
"Probably a blizzard," She barely heard James' answer.
The clock's deadened, insistent clanging broke into Ellen's slumber. She was
enticingly warm and hated to wake up. But, when she remembered the Christmas
presents, she quickly sat up.
"James, let's get the toys out," she whispered as she nudged him awake.
"Oh, hum," he stretched and yawned. "Boy, was I sleeping good."
"Yeah, me too," Ellen answered softly as she crawled out of bed and walked
to the window.
She forgot about trying to be quiet as she looked outside at all the
"Good heavens! James! Come here and look out this window!"
"Sh-h-h!" James hushed her. "You're going to wake up the kids."
"It's pretty deep snow," James whispered in her ear as they stood looking
out the window.
"I'll say," Ellen lowered her voice. "Well, let's get the gifts out."
"What do you mean, let's?" He quietly joked with her. "You're not the one
who has to tromp outside to the car."
"Well, that's what you get for being Santa," Ellen muffled her laugh.
James tiptoed to the front door and tried to open it without making a noise.
Ellen crept between the pallet beds to check the fire in the old stove.
James had banked it with wood just before going to bed.
As Ellen lifted the stove lid, the grating noise disturbed Ronald Lee. He
stirred a moment, as if to awaken, then settled back down into sleep.
"Ellen, come here," James called in such a low voice Ellen barely heard him.
Satisfied the stove didn't need more wood, she slid the lid back onto it and
tiptoed to James.
"What is it?" She asked.
"I just wanted you to see how much snow is piled up against the door before
I knock it away," he answered as he opened the door even wider.
"My word! I've never seen anything like it. Not in this part of the country
anyway," Ellen exclaimed in open-mouth wonder.
"Sh-h-h," James grinned at her.
James kicked the snow away from the door and trudged out into a pure white
stillness. Ellen stood in the doorway and looked out. The beauty of the
night took her breath away. Earlier that afternoon a winter storm had
brought freezing rain, but by nightfall it had turned to snow. When the
storm was over it had left behind a snow capped, crystal world. The trees
were solidly iced, with great clusters of icicles hanging off their
branches. The sky was sparkling clear, with a bright, silver moon casting a
soft glow over the glimmering, snow-clad earth. Heavenly lights were
twinkling so brightly, it seemed as if they were laughing in silent glee at
the exquisite beauty they were gazing upon.
"Something like this sure makes you wonder if there is a God," Ellen thought
as she drew her robe tighter and closed the door upon the splendor of the
iced marvel. "Sometimes I want to believe in God so much it hurts. I guess
everyone needs a crutch to dispel the ugliness of such a cruel world", she
Ellen began thinking about how James had settled down and was thankful that,
lately, there hadn't been a lot of fussing. James had stopped gambling, and
peace, it seemed, had descended upon their world. How long peace would last
Ellen wasn't sure, but she was grateful for the lull.
"Here you are," James whispered as he opened the door and handed her part of
the packages he was carrying.
"I never knew the sound of paper rustling could be so loud," she giggled in
the sweet joy of being secretive.
Ever so gently, Ellen laid each doll beside its owner. Patsy, unaware of the
treasure she reached for, hugged her doll. The boy's presents were laid at
the foot of their pallet bed without a stir from them.
"There, now, let's get back to bed before one of them wakes up," James
"First, you need to eat those cookies and drink the milk put out for Santa,"
Ellen reminded him. She smiled at the memory of Patsy and Dorothy preparing
"Mother, Santa's going to be proud of us, huh?" Dorothy had asked with a
cookie filled mouth.
"Yeth, he is," Patsy had spoke up while filling her mouth with cookie dough,
"cauth he gonna be hungry. He gonna like our cookeeth, huh? Mudder."
"Yes, he'll be proud of you and he will love your cookies," Ellen had
James picked up a cookie and handed it to Ellen; bringing her out of her
reflections. "I'll tell you what, you eat one and I'll eat one," he grinned
at her. "But, you're going to have to drink the milk yourself."
"Okay," she agreed as she turned up the milk and drank it down.
"Let's hit the hay," James suggested in a low voice. They were still trying
to silently move about.
"Boy, this bed sure feels good," Ellen stated, as once again she snuggled
down into the deep softness of covers. She smiled, thinking of the pleasures
of Christmas morning, as she allowed sleep to overtake her mind.
"Look! Look! Santa's been here! Santa's been here!"
The joyful cries, that only a happy Christmas morning could bring, broke
into Ellen's deep slumber.
"Daddy, Look!" Squealing with delight, Dorothy ran into Ellen and James'
small sleeping area. "Mother! Look! See my new doll that Santa brought."
"Well, well, would you look at that," James exclaimed and winked at Ellen.
"I'll get coffee, if you'll put wood in the stove," Ellen bargained with
James as they bestirred themselves amid cries of joy and pattering of little
"Sounds like a good deal to me," James agreed.
"Later on, if you'll fix ice cream, the kids and I will fill our old wash
tub with snow."
"You're on," Ellen agreed as she fixed coffee.
She knew she had to scrub the galvanized tub, before anyone put snow in it,
because it served as the Saturday night bathtub. She was stirring pancake
mix when Morris interrupted her thoughts.
"Mother? It's cold outside and I need to go potty."
"Well, you're a big boy. You can bundle up and go to the out-house," Ellen
encouraged him and wondered how long it would be before James and Henry
added an inside bathroom.
"But, it's cold outside. Can't I just use the potty bucket you have under
"Morris, that pots for old women and little babies," James admonished him.
"Now, which one are you?"
"Who cares if I get pneumonia and die?" Morris mumbled under his breath as
he put on his coat. He closed the door with a bang. James and Ellen laughed,
but when it came Ellen's time to go she began to wish James had added
mothers to his list of who could use the chamber pot.
James and Ellen moved from that barn-house, taking their memories with them.
They would be migrating as gypsies for the rest of their lives. It seemed as
if James saw a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. Ellen, craving a
stable home, often became weary of it all. But James always talked her out
of her wistful longing for a place to call her own. And, before she knew it,
she would be looking forward to another place, ...and another adventure.