Thursday, December 13, 2012
A Village Christmas
A Village Christmas
“Dad, are you here?” called Lonnie as the four Cummings children burst through the door.
“Daddy, Mommy, where are you?” The littlest, Sabrina was easily alarmed a week after a fire burned down the family home and business in the mountains above Camden Corners. She needed assurance that her family was together and safe.
“Here we are,” called Sally as she and Ted walked out of the bedroom.
“How come your hair is all mussed, Mom?” asked Marcie who was the fastidious one of the family.
“Oh dear, I do need to brush it, don't I?” Sally smiled at her husband who wasn't showing any ill effects of the injuries he suffered carrying Sabrina to safety. “How was the Christmas party?” she said changing the subject.
All the children were excited. They were happy to be with their friends from school. “I wish we could stay in Camden Corners forever,” said Sabrina. “I miss our house and the store but it is so pretty here. All my friends are going to meet downstairs in the lobby and sing Christmas carols all the way to church. Can we go too, Mommy?”
“It sounds like fun Mom,” said Matt. “We know we won't be getting Christmas presents this year so maybe we can do some other fun things.”
“That does sound like fun. I'm not sure Doctor Joe would want your father to be out on the town his first day out of the hospital.”
“I'm feeling great. I was cooped up in that place for so long, getting out and entertaining everyone with my fine baritone voice will be good for me. Besides, we have so much to be thankful for, it will be nice to show our gratitude by attending the Christmas service at St. Peter's. Now come here all you little urchins, and give your father a hug. You too Lonnie, I know you are too big for a hug but indulge your old man just this once.”
Sally was feeling very happy and wasn't sure why. Her family had no home, the business was gone, it was Christmas Eve and she didn't have even one present for the children to unwrap in the morning, but life was good.
After eating an excellent meal served in their suite, the Cummings family dressed in the warm, donated clothes and walked down the stairs to the lobby. People were gathering as the singing was about to start. Tracy watch the family as they left with the rest of the carolers to walk to St. Peters. She signaled the Camden Corners elves that the coast was clear. She opened the door with her pass key as the bicycles and packages were placed under the tree. Aggie filled the stockings and turned on the radio where they were playing continuous Christmas music. Everything was in its place and the elves departed for St. Peter's wishing they could see the looks on the faces of the Cummings children when they returned to The Merryweather.
Warren Nesbitt was glad to see his old friend Ted Cummings. He turned to his wife and said “Ted worked in my shop before he got the notion in his head to leave town and live in the mountains. That boy was the best mechanic I ever had. I've been thinking about this since I heard those two kids lost everything in the fire. I'm going to offer Ted his old job back. I can't think of anyone better to take over my business when I retire next year.”
“That is a wonderful idea Warren but I wouldn't push him. I remember when you told him he wouldn't be happy being so far away from everything up there in those mountains. He seems to have fared pretty well. He has a beautiful family, don't you think?”
After the service, Warren waited his turn to shake hands with Ted. Everyone was gathered around the family offering their sympathies and well wishes.
“Mr. Nesbitt, how good to see you,” said Ted when he spotted his old boss.
“Ted, you look well yourself for someone who was conked on the head only a week ago. Are you feeling alright, son?”
“I'm doing just fine, Mr. Nesbitt. My Pa always told me I was hard headed. I guess he was right all along.”
“Listen boy, you know I'm not one to beat around the bush. I know it's Christmas and no time to talk business. Maybe day after tomorrow you could stop by the shop. I'd like to offer you your old job back. We can discuss the future when I see you. I don't want an answer now, I just want you to think about it.”
Ted was tempted to give him his answer but he hadn't even mentioned to Sally that he was thinking about moving back to town. Joe told him not to make any rash decisions and he thought that was good advice to follow.
“I see you followed doctor's orders and rested in bed tonight.” Joe Mackenzie knew his stubborn friend would not follow his recommendation but had to try anyway.
“Hi Doc, you didn't expect me to follow your advice now did you?”
“No. How are you feeling? I saw you deep in conversation with Warren Nesbitt. Does that mean you are still considering a move back here?”
“Actually, he wants to talk to me about working for him. I haven't mentioned it to Sally. I'm not sure how she feels about leaving our home. Of course, there isn't a home anymore. The thing is, we won't be able to go back to the mountains until I can build a new house for us. That will take months. I don't see anyway we will be able to go back before summer. We may have to find a place to live in Camden Corners for the time being. Tracy and Holly have been overly generous in putting us up but we can't stay at The Merryweather too long.
Melanie walked up to her husband and Ted. “Hi Ted, I'm Melanie Mackenzie. I've met Sally and the children and I'm awfully happy to finally meet you. I'm married to your doctor here.”
“Hello Melanie, Sally told me you did some shopping for us. I can't thank you enough for your choices from the lingerie department.”
“I thought you'd like those, old buddy,” laughed Joe.
Melanie smiled. “I heard you say you may be looking for a place to live in town. I was talking to Mrs. Anderson just the other day. She and her husband are planning to leave for Florida the week after Christmas. She was saying she would like to be able to rent their house out for the winter so she wouldn't worry about it being vacant. It's a big house, she told me she and her husband raised six children there. It's right on the lake, just a few doors down from us.”
“I remember Mrs. Anderson, she baked the best pies. That's a good idea. I'll have to pay them a visit.”
“Hi darling, Hello Joe, Melanie. I was just talking to Brian Anderson, you remember the Anderson family. He was telling me his folks are leaving for Florida after Christmas and they would like to rent out their house for the winter. I told him it was just what we needed and that I would talk with you about it. What do you say? We will need a place to stay until we decide what we are going to do about the future.”
“I agree. Melanie was just telling me about the Anderson house. It will be great for the kids to be so close to school and their friends.”
“Old friend, I'm going to play doctor again. Sally, this guy should be in bed. He thinks he's strong as an ox but he does need his rest. I think you'd better take him home.”
“Good idea. Come children. It's time to go. You can see your friends tomorrow, your Dad needs his rest.”
Everyone wished the Cummings family a Merry Christmas as they headed to the door. Dick and Susie Marino were waiting for them. “We can't have the invalid walk all the way up that hill tonight. We'll drive you, hop in.”
“You children have been so good about not having any Christmas presents. If the Anderson house works out, we'll celebrate Christmas again after we get settled. Sally, why is the staff staring at us?”
“I felt that too. They probably just feel sorry for us. Everyone was so sympathetic tonight. You are healthy now and I am happy. No reason to pity the Cummings family.”
Ted slipped the key in the lock. “It sounds like Christmas music inside. I guess we forgot to turn off the radio.” He opened the door. The Christmas lights were blazing and there was a fire burning in the fireplace. The children's eyes were as big as saucers. There were dozens of gaily wrapped presents under the tree, the stockings were overflowing and there were four brand new, shiny bicycles with huge red bows on the handlebars.
Sally was so overcome with emotion she had to sit down. She started crying. “Oh Ted, I know you love it in the mountains but I don't want to go back. I love it here in Camden Corners and I love the people.”
“I do love it in the mountains and I love the life we had up there. It will always be a part of us. I was thinking we could build a cabin on the property and visit on weekends. Without the store, and all the repairs and work involved we would even have time for skiing. Mr. Nesbitt has offered me a job in his shop. I didn't want to say anything yet because I wasn't sure how you felt about living in town.”
Tracy poked her head in the open door. “I hope you don't mind, I opened the door for Santa Claus with my pass key. We don't like to intrude on our guests privacy, I hope you will forgive me.”
“Tracy, you can disturb us any time. I can't believe how wonderful you and everyone in town has been to us. We will never be able to make up for your generosity.”
“Don't be silly, everyone enjoyed themselves. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, we forget other people may need our help. What happened to you could happen to any one of us. I'm just happy we could help to make this a merry Christmas for you and the children. Kids, have you looked outside, it's snowing.”
Tracy said good night. She couldn't wait to get home to her new husband.
“May we open just one present, Mommy?” cried Sabrina.
“Just one and then it is definitely time for bed. It's past midnight.” Sally looked at the man who made every Christmas a merry one for her. “Merry Christmas, darling.”
Ted's eyes were half closed. He smiled as he held a sprig of mistletoe over his wife's head. “Merry Christmas, love.”
Everyone slept peacefully that Christmas Eve night. Sabrina thought she saw Santa Claus peeking in the window. He winked at her as he hopped on his sleigh. Her mother told her it was a dream but she knew Santa was real because he brought her the doll she had wanted since last July and she never told anyone but him when she wrote him a letter.
Christmas Day was a happy one. The resort had sleds for the children to use on the hills surrounding the resort. They were invited to the Marinos for Christmas dinner. Mr & Mrs. Anderson asked them to stop by for eggnog and have a look around the house. It was perfect for the family and so much more room that they'd had in their mountain home.
Warren Nesbitt not only offered Ted a job, he asked him to be a partner. Ted had some studying to do since it had been awhile since he had worked on many makes and models of automobiles. He was a natural and was able to catch up quickly.
Sally found she had time on her hands with the children in school and no store to worry about. She began volunteering at the hospital. She helped out in the school and joined the theater group Melanie was organizing. It turned out she enjoyed acting and was pretty good at it. She delivered meals to the elderly and volunteered at the senior center. She said she would never be able to repay all the people who helped her, but everyone agreed she was well on her way.
The children were all happy in their new lives. They talked about the mountains and missed some things about living there, but they had friends to be with and so much more time before and after school because they didn't have the long bus ride.
Lonnie delivered newspapers just like his father had when he was young. There was a young girl who waited on her front stoop for him to ride by on his bicycle every day. He never noticed her. Lonnie was like his father in many ways.