A CHRISTMAS STORY
By Kathy Lynn
It was really starting to snow heavier now. I could barely make out the road and with dusk quickly approaching, my visibility was down to almost zero. I decided to pull off at the next exit and get off the thruway because I needed to find a place to stay for the night. Hopefully tomorrow the weather would be better and I could continue on my way.
The snow eased up a little bit as I drove into this very small town. Snow blanketed the scene before me. This late, no one was up and around. This sleepy town looked like a picture that Norman Rockwell painted. There was a center medium that was large enough so the people of the town had erected a huge Christmas tree. It was all decorated with multi-colored lights and with the falling snow layering itself on the tree made the lights look like twinkling stars that were under layers of clouds as they glowed their different colors.
Life size carolers holding song books were stationed on both sides of the tree. These were men, women, and a small child playing with a dog to complete the scene. In the one corner was a large stable tht had a brilliant star on top. This star was so beautiful and lit up the night even with the snow falling. I stopped my car so that I could enjoy wha ti was seeing in this quiet sleeping town. Joseph was standing and watching Mary as she was bending over a straw filled manager laying the baby Jesus inside to sleep. Jesus was wrapped up in a small blanket and His eyes were closed as if in a deep sleep that only babies can have. There were cows and sheep directly behind the manager and goats looking in from outside and scattered throughout the stable.
Outside shepards and their sheep were standing in line as they waited their turn to go in and see this amazing child that the star had led them too. The star on the top of the stable seemed to glow brigher as I was drawn in by the wonderous sight and this beautiful loving family.
There wasn’t a sound other than the quiet music that could be heard in the background coming from the area where the Christmas tree was located. I felt as if I had come upon a stage and all the actors had left for the night. So serene, so quiet and moving as the gentle snow softly falling and landing on my face. I could feel tears welling in my eyes. This looked like how Christmas should be celebrated. This small town knew how to celebrate Christmas. Everyone happily shopping in the stores getting all their Christmas shopping done. At the end of the street was a small white church with a picket fence around it. The steeple had a bell that I am sure called all the towns people I n to celebrate their faith.
I got back into the car as the snow was starting to get heavier again and I was becoming very tired. I was hoping to find a place to spend the night so that I could start out fresh in the morning and spend Christmas at home in my apartment with my cat Molly.
When I had almost given up hope of finding anything open, I spotted a small shop that was all decorated with colored lights and a flashing sign that said “PAPA’S AND MAMA’S SODA SHOP. I pulled over and I was so relieved that maybe I would be able to get some help from whomever was in that shop. When I opened the door a small bell tinkled. It appeared that no one was inside. It was like the soda shops that I had seen in pictures from long ago. A large counter with jars of different candies in them stood off to the side. Sign on the jars said one cent apiece. In the middle of the counter there were stools and behind the counter all sorts of different sized dessert dishes were neatly stacked. Still no one seemed to be around. “Hello, anyone here?” I said. I waited a minute or two and repeated once again, “hello is there anyone here?”
I sat down on a stool and just as I was starting to worry that maybe someone had gone home without locking up I heard a rustling coming from the back of the store. I turned and to my surprise a heavy set man with a white beard and the bluest eyes I have ever seen came smiling as he walked into the back of the counter. He looked like all the pictures I had ever seen of Santa Claus. His beard was white and fluffy and very neatly trimmed. He had a wonderful smile and I felt immediately at ease. His eyes seemed to twinkle as I looked at them. It must have been the lighting in the store that gave them that effect.
He came up to the counter and asked me what I was doing out on such a bad night. I explained that I had been upstate on business and was trying to get home for Christmas when the storm suddenly hit and I was afraid to go any further tonight. I asked him if there was a motel that I might spend the night in and get some sleep so that I could start fresh in the morning. I told him that I had started to get tired and scared as it got later and later and the storm seemed to be increasingly worse.
He quietly looked at me as he rubbed his chin. “Well young lady, there isn’t a motel or hotel around these parts for quite a ways.” He said.
My heart sank at the thought of having to get back on that thruway to find somewhere to stay for the night. He noticed my distress because he said, “Let me make a phone call and see what I can do for you.” He winked and smiled at me as he walked over to the phone and dialed a number.
“Hello, mama,” he said. “It seems I have a young lady here that is stranded in this storm and needs a place to stay and some food to eat.”
He stood there listening as the person I assumed was mama talked to him. Then he nodded his head and again turned and gave me a big smile. He hung up the phone .”Well , young lady, my wife was very happy that I called and has told me to bring you home to stay with us for the night.” “They said on the radio that the storm will pass through tonight and tomorrow you should be able to continue on your way without any problems. I thanked him and uttered a sigh of relief.
I went to my car and took out my suitcases and overnight bag and he took them and put them in his truck. We talked as he drove and he told me stories of how the soda shop was his and mama’s dream. I listened with interest and before I knew it we had arrived at his home. There were no other houses around and no lights on the road that we were on but the house ahead was lit up like it was a Christmas tree.
He helped me carry my bag. When the door opened I could feel the warmth as mama greeted us. What a wonderful sight she was! She was jolly and had on a pretty green dress with a red apron. Her hair was snow white and she had rosy cheeks and a big smile on her face as she hurried us into the house.
“Come, my child,” she said. “Papa will show you to the guest room and you can wash up and get out of those wet clothes. When you are done, come downstairs because I have dinner all ready and put out.”
I came down the stairs and the house was full of delicious aromas. She met me at the dining room door and showed me to my seat all the time smiling and talking about how happy she was that I was there with them. I hadn’t seen that much food in a long time. Since I was a young child and my parents, brothers and sisters all gathered together for Christmas. Mom and dad both passed away and everyone lives so far away that we very seldom see each other now. As far as Christmas, I am the only unmarried one so I spend my day alone at home with my cat. Mama came out of the kitchen with a huge platter and a succulent turkey sat on it sending a wonderful smell throughout the house. Papa brought mashed potatoes and salad in too. Bowls of different vegetables were brought in also. On the sideboard were two steaming apple pies and the cinnamon aroma filled the room. So many wonderful smells and two caring and lovely people.
The food was a feast and I thanked my hosts over and over for inviting me into their home an sharing this wonderful meal and giving me a room for the night. Mama brought coffee and apple pie into the living room and we all sat around by the glowing fireplace and ate dessert. I felt like I belonged here. I have never met such lovely people.
Between the glowing warmth of the fire and all the food I ate , as we talked I caught myself nodding off. I was so embarrassed and apologized for being rude. Mama and papa just smiled at me and said” You have got to be exhausted young lady.” “Why don’t you go up to your room and get a good nights sleep.”
I was so grateful because I was extremely tired from the tedious drive and so I climbed back up the stairs and entered the guest room and changed into my nightgown, crawled under the down quilt and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next thing I felt was the warmth of the morning sun as it came through the window and shned into my eyes. I was completely rested and quickly washed and dressed , made the bed and straightened up the room and took my suitcases downstairs and left them by the front door.
I heard voices from the back of the house and so I wandered down the hall and papa and mana were at the kitchen table having their breakfast and coffee. That coffee smelled heavenly and mama got up and nodded for me to take a seat . she walked over to the oven and took out a plate of bacon and eggs that she had kept warm for me. Poured me a big mug of dark rich coffee and set it in front of me. Everything smelled so good I ate like I was starving.
They asked me how far I had to travel to day to be with my family today to spend Christmas with them and I told them all about how we were all spread out and me being the only one unmarried I usually stayed at my apartment . A few friends of mine would stop over before they went to their families for a drink with me so that we could wish each other a Merry Christmas and exchange gifts with each other. I told them that I had been on a business trip and on the way home when the storm hit. I told them all about my cat Molly and how she loved the lights from the tree and all the wrapped packages under it. They both listened intently and then asked me if I would like to stay and spend this day with them and go home tomorrow. I graciously declined their offer and said that my friends would be worried about me if they came over and didn’t see me home. I told them that I really didn’t mind being by myself with my cat Molly. I usually watched a movie,” It’s A Wonderful Life” each year. I never got tired of James Stewart in that great movie classic.
Papa had somehow brought my car to their home and he helped me put my suitcase in the trunk. Mama came out of the house and handed me a big bag filled with food. “For the trip home ,” she said. I tried to assure her that I would be fine , but she made me take the bag with me. Papa took me in his arms and gave me a big bear hug and I actually squeaked because he squeezed me so tightly. Mama laughed and came over and hugged and kissed me and told me to drive carefully.
I had about thirty miles to go before I would hit the city but the day was sunny and bright. I knew I would make good time and be home in about another hour. I followed the directions that papa had handed to me and found the main road into the center of town.
This quiet sedate town I had pulled into last night was full of people hustling and bustling . there was the huge Christmas tree and the carolers and the stable. Everything looked just like it had the night before when I pulled into town.
As I rode down the street I looked to my right to take one last look at the soda store that saved me from an uncomfortable and scary night. But “Papa’s and Mama’s Soda Shop” was not there. On that corner was an empty lot. There was no sign that a soda shop was ever there.
Instead of a soda shop it had a gazebo and benches scattered here and there on the lot. Christmas poinsettias were put in lovely arrangements by the gazebo and around the benches. In the gazebo soft music played as a merry go round turned around and around. I parked the car and got out to take a better look because I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked on the path to the gazebo and watched as the merry go round turned and the music played.
Just then a couple came up and stood next to me smiling as they watch the horses go up and down on the merry go round. I asked them if there was ever a soda shop on this corner before and they told me that it had been there for many years. The lady said that when she was a little girl she used to go there and have a soda and that papa and mama were the best people she had ever known. They always helped anyone in the town that needed help and never turned a child away that needed a place to stay. The man said that he had been a foster child of papa and mama and that he grew up knowing that he was loved. He also said the after they passed on they left this land to the town and enough money to build this small park so that the town could enjoy coming there.
I just stood there and smiled at them. I thanked them for all their help and got back in the car. I had a feeling that if I went back to that road and drove down it ,there would be no house decorated for Christmas.
Driving the rest of the way home I tried to reason out what had happened to me and could not come up with a logical explanation.
After I carried my suitcase in the apartment and put my things away I remembered about the bag that was on the back seat of the car. I threw on my coat and went outside to bring the bag into the house. I opened the bag to put the food away and found that mama had packed large containers of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and a whole apple pie. There was a box full of different kinds of Christmas cookies too.
At the very bottom of the bag was a box wrapped in Christmas paper with a large red bow on it. I set down on a chair and opened this small gift. Inside was a pair of gold earrings in the shape of Christmas trees. I noticed an ornament on each of the earrings and bent to take a closer look. Then I smiled. On the one earring was a jolly man with a white beard and it said Papa on it and on the other earring was a jolly woman in a green dress with a red apron with the word Mama printed on it. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I have never told anyone about my night in that small town or the soda shop that was open on that stormy night, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. But every year since then I wear my gold Christmas earrings with my Papa and Mama ornaments on them.