Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Christmas Show~Part 2
The next day Molly called a meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary to discuss the plans for the program. All the ladies were overjoyed with the idea. They all offered their services in helping the children learn their lines and design the scenery. Molly made sure all the children would be participating. Some were anxious to be on stage and others were just as happy painting scenery.
Luke was busy writing the script with the help of Sarah and Max Harcourt. There were plenty of embellishments to the original story making it truly an original play.
Mr. Lane gathered the high school children asking if any of them would be willing to sing in the Christmas program that year. The moans were deafening as the students remembered the agony of sitting through Miss Merryweather's Christmas Programs of the past. Mr. Lane explained that unfortunately, Miss Merryweather would be out of town and a new and different program would be performed. Mr. Lane had no trouble recruiting after that announcement.
December was fast approaching and the Christmas program was the talk of the town. The children were busy learning their lines and painting the beautiful Christmas Eve scenery on backdrops. The skit was clever and funny, something the children and their parents could both enjoy. Mr. Lane's students were practicing Silent Night and some of them had beautiful voices. He knew the program would be a success.
Luke, however was worried that he wouldn't be able to provide every child with a toy for Christmas. His supply had been getting low and he wasn't sure how he was going to pay for the order he received that morning. Luke didn't think anyone should make a large profit on the sale of toys to children so the prices in his shop were much lower than most. He didn't have to be concerned with making a large profit because he wasn't making any profit at all.
Nettie Dawson stopped in his shop and saw Luke going over his books again. Nettie knew something had to be done to help Luke with his dilemma. She took it upon herself to go from shop to shop and business to business collecting money for a toy drive for the children. She explained Luke's problem and everyone generously contributed. Molly had stopped at Tempting Treats Candy Shop on her way home from school. She knew Luke liked Maddie's peppermint fudge and was picking up a pound to surprise him with.
Nettie was there with her collection jar. Molly heard Nettie telling Maddie of Luke's plan and how he was coming up short on funds. She had no idea Luke was doing this. As it turned out, he did it every year but Molly didn't know. She suddenly realized she had underestimated Luke. He had taken over the Christmas Pageant and worked hard making sure every child had a part in the program. She remembered little Susie White was limping last week because her shoes hurt. That evening she saw Luke through the window of the shoe store and the next day Susie was wearing a brand new pair of Mary Janes. Molly looked at Nettie and her eyes filled with tears. How could she have thought so little of Luke when all along he had been a generous and loving man.
A few hours later, Nettie walked into Luke's store with a list she had gotten from the parents of the Camden Corners children. She handed the list to Luke and said if he would kindly gather up all the toys on the list she and the ladies auxiliary would be back in an hour with pretty paper and ribbons to wrap each gift.
Luke was overwhelmed with the generosity of the folks of Camden Corners. As he was about to pick a pretty little doll off the top shelf behind the counter, Molly walked in and offered to help. Together they collected each toy on the list just as the ladies were entering the shop laden with gift wrap and ribbon. When they were finished with their wrapping, Luke and Molly helped carry the beautiful packages to Len Branson's waiting buckboard.
The ladies left and Luke and Molly were alone. Luke's heart was full knowing all the children would have a Christmas present this year. He took Molly in his arms and asked her to make this his happiest Christmas ever by agreeing to be his wife. Molly didn't hesitate for an instant before saying yes.
Finally the day of the pageant arrived. The scenery was all in place in the Royal Theater. High school students escorted the patrons to their seats. April Hawthorne played the organ as the program began. Laughter filled the theater as the children performed their parts to perfection. The story written with the combined efforts of Luke, Max and Sarah was funny and tender at the same time. Everyone was so mesmerized by what was happening on stage no one noticed the door opening and a lone figure finding a seat at the back of the theater.
The finale was the singing of Silent Night as the high school children joined the younger ones on stage. The audience demanded an encore with their clapping and shouting bravo.
The children sang until a stout gentleman in a red fur trimmed suit came marching down the aisle shouting “Ho Ho Ho”.
The children were too excited to continue singing as Santa Claus, who looked a lot like Mr. Christopher Pringle, called out the names of the children and handed each a package to take home and put under their Christmas tree.
When all the packages were handed out, Luke and Molly came on stage to thank everyone for their participation in the program.
From the back of the room came the unmistakeable voice of Maybelle Witherspoon. The room was silent as Maybelle made her way to the stage. Luke stood in front of Molly protecting her from Maybelle's wrath when Maybelle turned to the audience and exclaimed
“As you know, I was forced to leave Camden Corners to care for my sister a few months ago. As director of the annual Christmas show for the last 42 years, I left Miss Molly Edwards in charge of this year's program with explicit instructions to proceed with the established program. Now I say to you, citizens of Camden Corners, aren't you glad she and the toy shop fellow here didn't listen to me? Let's congratulate Molly and Luke on the wonderful presentation this evening and ask them to be in charge of next year's production too. My only request is that they allow me to take part. I would like to paint some of the scenery and I assure you, I am a much better artist than I am a singer.”
The audience stood and clapped for Maybelle as she left the theater. She was in a hurry to board the train back to Greensboro to be with her niece who was due to give birth any day now.
As the train left the station, Maybelle recalled the words to The Night Before Christmas. She was sure her new little niece or nephew would enjoy hearing their Auntie Maybelle recite the poem to them for many years to come.