Castle Roland

Short Story

Published: 24 Dec 15

Homemade Holidays

Copyright © 2015 by Mary and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

"Will Santa find us?" Sorcha looked up at her big brother Liam for the answer.

Liam froze, the idea that Santa was still going to come to the United States during a war had not even occurred to him. In his eight years, Santa had always been a visitor at Christmas.

Liam looked at Elijah, his best friend for help. Elijah stared back, shrugged, as if to say, 'Who you asking, the Jewish boy?'

Both boys turned to little Sorcha, not wanting to destroy the four-year-old's belief in Santa and what little bit of normalcy they had achieved. Leaving their parents in Chicago to help Uncle Cappy, the long bus ride to Kettle Falls, with the hunger and fighting on the road had frightened them. With setting up a home, the five young people had finally started to realize they were safe.

Angie, the eldest at seventeen, listened from the door.

"Santa will, Sorcha. No way he will miss you. As a matter of fact, we need to get the house ready for him!"

Elijah looked around the living room of their little home. Basic furniture, no frills, nothing. The kitchen had basic foodstuff. He looked back at Angie with skepticism.

Supplies were tight she thought, but scrounging would find things others discarded. She remembered her favorite childhood stories of 'making due' during the Civil War, Pioneer Days and the Depression. Her great-grandmother had still been alive when she was small and had loved to show her how to do things.

After Sorcha had gone to bed that night, the kids sat around the kitchen table, offering ideas on where to find things.

Mark, home from work at Camp Trebier with Mr. Francer, thought he might be able to bring home pinecones, berries and tree branches, maybe a little tree.

Elijah and Liam realized that they were all over the town every day and knew where people left stuff that they did not want. Cans, foil, wood, colored paper, all could be used.

Angie knew of discarded scraps of fabric and art supplies she could use at the Community Center. She would also check the town's library for cookbooks. Must have cookies for Santa.

Mr. Francer looked at Mark's face the next day as he explained what he needed. Although tall and rangy, the thirteen-year-old was still small when compared to this huge man.

"So you see sir, we only will use what is on the forest floor." Mark listed what he thought was possible and asked, "Do you know of any little pine trees that might need a home?"

Laughing Mr. Francer said, "Mark, how about we pot one up that could be planted later in your front yard?"

"Really?! That is a great idea, when can we do that?"

"Closer to Christmas, we need to find the right one. Not too little nor too big."

Mr. Francer puts his arm around the boy, steering him towards the forest, "Let's see what we can find for now. I will show you where some good stuff is."

Elijah and Liam checked all dumpsters during their runs around town. When they found one with things they might use, they spoke to the owners of the shops and homes for permission and to arrange for things to be set aside for them. They offered to sweep, rake or shovel snow around the shops and homes in return.

Angie researched at the library and wrote in her notebook, recipes and instructions for decorations she had not thought of.

Telling the librarian about her ideas, the librarian said they had older books that were worn and due to be thrown out. They could be fixed up, and would still make nice gifts.

Angie saw an assortment of boys and girls books from preschool to high school age. The covers were a bit worn, pages a bit faded and torn, but they included some 'Harry Potter' books. She knew that Mark had to leave his set back in Chicago. A child's How it Works encyclopedia for Elijah, some detective and science fiction books for Liam and basic reading books for Sorcha.

While not the most exciting gifts, they were something.

As the adults around the town keyed in requests to Dizzy for items, a pattern was observed and Dizzy reported it to Bug, who contacted them and discovered the needs of one small girl and her family. When Bug spoke to Mrs. Murten and Mrs. Brown about this, they realized that many of the families would be facing the same dilemma, too.

An underground network of adults was formed and they went to work. The Community Center had small, late night classes on doll and teddy bear making.

Bakeries filled boxes with assortments of cookies and fudge. Christmas cookie ornaments of lemon, vanilla, gingerbread and chocolate were created and hanging ribbons attached.

Parents around town dug through their children's old toys and freshened them up. Bicycles, games, cards, crayons and coloring books were secreted in one of Mr. Brown's warehouses.

The local animal shelter saw a need to add the comfort of a cat or a dog for free. All shots, spaying, neutering and grooming paid for by the local veterinarian.

Mr. Francer had contacted a local Christmas Tree farmer, who had not been able to ship and sell the trees grown for this year. The farmer offered them for free to everyone in the local communities. Mr. Francer still had one special one put aside for a little girl.

Dr. Murten was fitted for a Santa Claus costume, fake beard included.

Back at the children's home, the older kids worked on decorations for the tree and gifts after Sorcha was in bed. Paper and foil chains, fabric and ribbon ornaments, pinecones were carefully painted with silver and gold and berries, stars cut out of paper and origami figurines. All set aside for the Christmas tree. Angie made four Christmas stockings by herself, embroidering the kids' names.

Mark was to collect the small tree from Mr. Francer but found him organizing a small army of trees from the tree farm and the elvish gophers preparing to deliver them to neighborhoods in Camp Trebier, Kettle Falls and Colville. Mark was added to the workforce of Elves that night.

Mark told him about the homemade ornaments that they had been working on. Mr. Francer had Angie describe the decorations and how they had made them and other town adults started to make them too.

By the morning of Christmas Eve, each of the homes had a little tree on their doorstep. A decorated box sat next to it, filled with ornaments and the package of cookies and fudge.

Christmas Eve night, Santa led his elves with festooned Gators, in handing out gift boxes to everyone with children throughout Kettle Falls, Colville and Camp Trebier. Carolers, led by Father Doherty and Reverend Wallace, followed. A special Gator was filled w/cats and dogs, decked out in holiday best, bowls, food and medical records. As a family agreed, the animal was smuggled into the house.

Santa and his elves led a parade to the Community Center, where a radio broadcast from Chicago, with Mayor Capo speaking to the American people, and especially to the Chicagoans in Kettle Falls. They were persevering and reminded their friends, families and loved ones that the American Spirit was a shining light and hope was in the New Year.

Christmas morning, Sorcha with Mark, Elijah, and Liam following her into the living room to find stocking for each of them and a little black cat with a bent tail, whom they named Elf.

"Santa came! He remembered me! He found me!"

"Look, I have a stocking, so do you guys!"

The boys looked at one another sideways, then over their shoulders at Angie. She was smiling in the doorway, a camera in hand. Shooing the boys to the gifts, she started snapping away.

Stockings were pulled by each of them and small discoveries were made. Shaken, a tangerine, nuts in their shells, stickers, and wrapped candy poured into their laps.

Angie then asked Sorcha to hand out each gift. Seriously studying the names on the tags, she carefully placed each one in that person's lap. One for Elijah, for Mark, for Liam, for her! Another for her! And another!

Sorcha unwrapped her book, Dr. Seuss's, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! She turned to Liam, "Is Ashpoop the Grinch?" "Not a very good one," he replied "and don't swear!"

"A catcher's mitt!" Mark shouted to the others. His had been left in Chicago.

Liam looked down at the copies of Starship Troopers, Beast Master and a The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers book. He had some serious reading for later!

Elijah stared in wonder at the dreidel. He had missed that on Hanukkah. Angie had prepared potatoes latkes and jam-filled donuts for dinner the first day. A small menorah had been set-up and was now on the mantel, nestled into the pine boughs. He had missed his parents, but now, it was complete. His new family had included him into their special day.

Elf pounced on the wrapping paper and popped into boxes, tipping them over.

At the very bottom of the pile, was a box with Angie's name on it.

"What?! I, ah, well... " Angie shot looks at the boys, who looked back in shock. Carefully opening the gift, Angie found a first edition of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, her great-grandmother's name written in cursive on the inside cover. Clutching it to her chest, Angie gathered the children into a hug. Her gran was still with her, along with Santa.

Children and their families throughout Kettle Falls, stockings, a small pile of gifts under the tree, and a cat or dog or both repeated the scene! The one lone ferret found a home with the UNIT kids, along with a big package of cookies and fudge.

Christmas afternoon, Kettle Falls joined together in town to celebrate with food, music and laughter.

A wish to keep one little girl's belief in Santa Claus had spread to the whole community supporting the refugees. As the adults and teens looked around, they realized they had had the best Christmas ever.