Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Maybelle Witherspoon was in a tizzy. Christmas was four months away but she just received a letter from her niece in Greensboro. Katrina was in the family way and Maybelle would be needed to tend to her during her infirmity and the birth of her child. Maybelle was happy about the baby but the timing couldn't have been worse. How in the world would she be able to plan for and present the annual Camden Corners Christmas Pageant from Greensboro.
Molly Edwards had been her assistant for the last few years. Molly was the second grade teacher. She dreaded the Christmas Program planning. Oh she loved everything about Christmas especially the excitement of the children but helping Maybelle Witherspoon was a challenge she wasn't looking forward to.
Maybelle fancied herself a talented singer. Not a soul in Camden Corners would ever want to hurt Maybelle's feelings with the truth that her singing was worse than a slew of caterwauling cats. Maybelle broke the news to the planning committee that she would not be involved in the Christmas program this year. The group feigned regret and congratulated Maybelle on the upcoming blessed event.
Molly saw Maybelle off at the train station as Maybelle boarded the train she was issuing orders concerning the program. Molly tried to hide her glee as she stopped for a cup of tea at Looking Back Antiques.
Nettie Dawson who had moved to Camden Corners just a few months ago wanted to know what the program was all about. Molly explained that it was the same year after year. The school children would gather on stage while Maybelle Witherspoon recited The Night Before Christmas and then sang several Christmas carols always ending with Silent Night when the Children would join her in humming along.
Luke Shannon happened to be passing by the ladies on his way to chat with Jonas about a fishing date for that afternoon.
“Oh! The dreaded Christmas Program” Luke exclaimed. “Just when I was planning an enjoyable afternoon with a fishing pole in my hand, you have to remind me of that debacle.”
Luke was the sole proprietor of the Village Toy Shop. He and Molly had been courting for quite awhile but marriage didn't seem to be on the horizon. Molly loved Luke but couldn't imagine being married to a grown man who played with toys for a living. Luke loved Molly too but shied away from proposing since he wasn't sure he would be able to provide for her and the family they would have. He worked diligently in the toy shop trying to make ends meet. He had a bit of a cash flow problem because his generosity interfered with his profits.
Luke grew up in nearby Chesterton. His mother was widowed when Luke was only 7. He had three younger brothers and money was scarce. His mama had barely enough money to put food on the table for four hungry boys let alone buy toys for any of them. Luke didn't mind so much for himself but he wanted his brothers to have games and teddy bears and all the things little boys liked to play with.
Mr. Peabody, owner of the general store in town, taught Luke how to whittle and gave him leftover pieces of wood to carve toys for his brothers. Luke and his brothers all developed overactive imaginations playing with little wood carvings. Luke's mother eventually remarried and Luke's stepfather was able to provide well for the family. When Luke turned 10 years old, Mr. Peabody hired him to sweep the floor of the store and tidy up after school. Luke continued to work in the store even though extra money wasn't needed at home anymore. He graduated from high school and went to business school to learn the ins and outs of accounting. Mr. Peabody had heard that the Village Toy Store in Camden Corners was available for sale. He knew Luke would be a perfect match for the toy shop and he was right. Luke had saved enough money for a large down payment and was ready to fulfill his wish to provide toys for every boy and girl in Camden Corners.
Molly giggled at Luke in spite of herself. She had to agree with his assessment of the usual program. Luke was happy to hear that Maybelle would be out of town and unable to entertain this December. Molly informed him that she was now in charge and she was appointing him as producer of the program.
She thought he would balk at the suggestion, but he tilted his head and said
Nettie, who was aware of Luke's quest to provide toys for every boy and girl, told Molly not to worry, Luke was a good man and would make her proud. Nettie wanted to shake Molly and make her see what a catch Luke Shannon was. She knew they were in love with each other and didn't want them to waste another day denying their love. Nettie knew first hand that the opportunity might not come again for a long time. She smiled as she thought of how love had come into her life again in the form of Mr. Oscar Crowley.
Later that afternoon, Luke stopped by Molly's house. He had an idea for the program. Molly listened as Luke reminded her of the fictional story of how the famous Christmas hymn, Silent Night was written. Luke's excitement was catching. Although there were only two main characters, with a little imagination they would be able to involve most of the children in the school in the skit and the others would be responsible for creating beautiful scenery that would lead to the inspiration for the song. Molly fretted about how Maybelle would react when she discovered the program would be entirely different than it had been under Maybelle's direction. Luke insisted it was time for a change and they could make this work. The children would be the stars of the show. Molly finally agreed with Luke and eagerly began jotting down notes.
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.