Once Upon A Christmas Eve
Once Upon A Christmas Eve
I was hooked up to Norad, tracking Santa, hoping for the best, the best is that he saw my post on FB and would actually stop by and give me a ride. Of course, I was doubtful it would happen, after all, there are 7 + billion people in the world and how would he manage to pick out my virtual letter, to Santa, out of a pile of virtual letters about the size of Mount Everest, not to mention the letters that he still gets via snail mail.
Well, if I may borrow a few lines from another Christmas Eve story, T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse’, which was not quite the way it was under my roof. I was sitting in the dark watching Norad when all of a sudden there was this huge noise and a thump that jarred the rafters and down the chimney he came, big and round and not a speck of soot on him and as jolly as I Could Have Ever Imagined.
“Well, then Donald. Take my hand and you shall have your wish, but beware, sometimes what you wish for does not always come out the way you imagine, and I have a great deal of work to do.” Said he is a most amiable tone.
I jumped about five feet out of my chair, pushed myself into my cleated snow boots, woolly hat, and parka, gloves already in the pocket and dashed across the room and grabbed Santa’s hand.
What a rush it was swooshing back up the chimney and landing with a plunk on the bench in the sleigh beside Santa.
They were all there, I mean the reindeer, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (Donner) Blitzen, and even Rudolph.
In the back seat, a trunkfish sort of space with no bench was this big red bag. Santa calls it the infinite gift bag because the space inside is infinite and only one of the magical things about the jolly fellow and his lot who, by the way, live at the north pole, the real north pole not the magnetic north pole. And yes there is a town with lots of houses for Santa’s elvish helpers and a workshop to put every man cave workshop in the world to utter shame and very magical machines that twinkle and sparkle and shoot out toys and stocking stuffers and candies and anything else that is Christmassy. But all the really good stuff is still made by the adept hands of the elvish toy makers. I saw all this when Santa had to make a quick pit stop at the Castle to drop off a package of special mint tea to Mrs. Claus, who id about as round and jolly as Santa and I think a little Elvish herself, given her pointed ears.
The reindeer galloped across the sky silently from one town to the next then on to a city and even a quick stop at an oil rig, imagine that.
I also learned that the jolly gift-giver does, in fact, keep a naughty and nice list but is by no means, mean about it. Even naughties’ get gifts, accompanied by a dream that reminds them to try and be nice next year.
We made a huge loop over London, that would be England, not Canada or any other place called London in the world., almost coming back on our own flight path but took a sharp turn north. Suddenly Santa said, in a loud jolly voice, “No Christmas Eve ride in my sleigh is complete without a Christmas Eve adventure, so off you go.” And at that, the sleigh pitched and tossed me out and down, down, down I went.
I was falling like anyone would fall from someplace above the clouds and be having a hard time imagining that Santa would pitch me out to smash into the earth. And he didn’t of course.
About a hundred feet above the ground I slowed and went the rest of the way as if I was a feather and landed gently in the middle of a village with little cottages with smoke coming from their chimneys and the smell of roasting nuts and apples and bacon and cookies and a lot of other delicious stuff to numerous to mention and some I didn’t recognize.
“Now where might this place be?” I said, but what was in my mind did not come out my mouth in any form of English that I recognized, because of course, it wasn’t English. It was, as I was informed minutes after I landed, Orcadian, so it came out something like, “A-nis càite am faodadh an àite seo a bhith.”
The words were barely past my lips when a fellow came from his cottage and said, “Fàilte gu Arcaibh.” Which I heard as, “Welcome to Orkney.” As best as I can translate.
All that said I will continue relating everything in English for the sake of simplicity.
Said I, “Santa dropped me off.” I pointed up, “He said a Christmas eve ride in his sleigh would not be complete without an adventure. So here I am.”
“And an adventure you are having Donald. He, Santa that is, informed us we would be receiving a guest. He does plan well for special gifts even though he is so busy. I am Angus, the village Chief.”
“Indeed this already feels like an adventure.” I replied, but I am not so sure my old body would be up to much excitement and rigorous activity.”
“Santa thought of that. Come with me.” Angus invited then led me into his cottages and showed me a mirror.
I near yelped but it came out as a croak and a squeak, the kind that inflicts its self on a boy changing rapidly into a man.
“Wow.” Was about all could say and said it several time though it came out like, “Whoa.”
“Come now. We are about to take out Christmas Eve meal.” Angus took me back to the kitchen and directed my attention to a table filled with food of just about everything anyone’s taste buds could crave, everything that is that a village in Orkney might offer in a medieval-ish sort of situation. One has not lived until one stuffs candied mussel into one’s mouth. It is a lot tastier than you might be thinking right now. And that was barely the beginning of a feast so grand I have never nor ever will experience again.
When the feast was done Angus took me outdoors and together we lit a Christmas Eve fire and one by one the whole village came to join us, each one placing a small piece of wood in the flames and a piece of folded parchment. Angus handed me a char pen and a parchment sheet and said, “Write down your greatest woe and pitch it into the fire.”
And I did, though I did not know to what purpose until another fellow, with grizzled white hair and a long gray beard said, “The fire will burn your woe to cinders, and it will be gone.”
Said I in a whimsical voice, “Should it be so easy.”
And he said, “Belief and it is.”
Suddenly the sky opened in a show of light so brilliant it could have been the day. Waving against the backdrop of stars came the Aurora Borealis clear and vivid and it seemed as close that I could reach out and touch it.
And as if it could get no better the image expanded, and the night sky was filled with falling stars and Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and Minor and Draco came out to play and alone and most brilliant of all the stars seemed to explode into life. And as the Christmas star beamed we all stared in awe for only the natural world could offer such a delight for our eyes to witness.
I think in all my life I have never heard a quiet quite as I heard in those few minutes, yet it was not silent for upon the wind came a song, not a song of worlds but of the sweetest music, these ears have ever been blessed with.
Then, as quick as it came it was gone and the night sky was flooded with great rolling, gray clouds and from them came a fall of snow so that it was hard to see beyond the length of my arm. And voices cried out, “To your homes. To your homes.”
I ran toward the only glimmer of light I could see and as it happened it came from the cottage of Angus, my host. But once inside and saw all his family there but not him or the youngest of the children I turned about, raced back into the storm, now ragging with wind and crying out, “Angus, Angus, where are you?”
I heard only a distant cry in response, but it was enough and after grabbing a torch from the fire went in that direction.
No, my dears, I am not the grand hero who rescued Angus and the child, but I did find them, or should I say they found me or is it we found each other in that harangue of weather. Nor did we find our way back to the cottage soon, instead of taking refuge as we could in a quickly dug snow cave. Angus worked amazing fast, much like a mole digging for safety from a taloned predator. The wind song changed its voice into a monstrous roar.
There was barely room for three and comfort was at a premium, but we were warm enough, and Angus kept the opening clear to allow fresh air to circulate.
The child began to cry. He was thirsty and hungry and thought I could do nothing for hid thirst I remembered having tucked a bit of supper folded in a napkin I had planned for a snack later in the night. “Here boy. Eat.” And he took it willing, to ravenous to be thankful just then. Then I melted snow in my hands and wet his lips. Angus was silent. Too silent.
I shook him once, then twice but not until the third shake did he stir and cough, and moan. What ailed him I did not know but I did what I could and gave him what water I could melt. After that, I remember nothing until I woke in a bed, in a cottage with a delightful, smiling, warm, round face looking down on me through brilliant, sapphire blue eyes and she was gently mopping my face with warm water.
Outside it was light, but the storm raged on. We had been found by a search party who went out at dawn and found us, not by skill or guile, but by the sound of the child wailing in hunger or terror. But in the end, they could not fight their way back.
“Where am I,” I asked, my voice was once again old and when I looked at my hands they too were old.
“You are in the home of Santa Claus and I dare say you are lucky to be here.” Said the round-faced woman.
“What of Angus and the boy?” I asked anxiously.
“My husband is delivering them home and when he returns he will take you back to your Barrie Island.” Mrs. Claus explained softly.
“I would have liked the chance to say goodbye to Angus and his people,” I whispered, I thought to myself.
“I am sure Santa will see to that.” Mrs. Clause said then the world was aroused by a clatter of bells and the jolliest HO, HO, HO I could ever imagine hearing and a second later the jolly old fellow himself was there.
“Come Donald. Take touch my sleeve and away we go.”
I an HO, HO, HO, and the blink of an eye we were soaring above the clouds coiling up, up, up, then we did a back loop and went down and there we were landing in the village where Angus and all his folks were waiting to greet us and bid me farewell, over a hot cup of honey cyder with just a hint of a bite to it. I believe they call it Mead in some places.
“Now you must go home, Donald.” Said Santa. And he took me there though I do not remember arriving.
I do however recall the journey in part for we went so high I thought we might touch the moon and the stars seemed bigger and I could have sworn I saw a great sailing ship flying a skull and cross bone banner and the star at the right where if you turned you would go on to Neverland. But of course, most of that was only my imagination.
I woke in my bed. It was Christmas morning and I could smell coffee brewing and bacon in the oven and bread in the toaster and Mary singing, We wish you a Merry Christmas.
I would have believed it was all a dream until a little later when I put my parka on and in the pocket was a little cotton wrap that I had tucked away a morsel which I had given to Angus’ boy, buried neath the snow in a rude cave. Then, there came another telltale souvenir that made my dream come to life. In the other pocket of my parka was a tiny piece of paper and on it was written. “All your woes will vanish if only you believe.
Well, folks. That’s my story. You can make your own decision whether it was a dream, or it really happened but I might give you this to ponder. There are those who believe, maybe rightly so, that dreams are but another dimension of life as real as this our waking world. I hope you had a merry Christmas and that your new year is all you wish it to be. Wishes do come true.