The wind howls outside bending trees to its will, while falling flakes swirls in every direction like a freshly shaken snow globe. With each gust the home shivers. Inside a fire flares to life, flames twist to a silent dance of the night, their shadows casting images of a different time and memories past, but not forgotten.
Without care children run and chase each other with games born of imagination, abandoned toys lay amongst the torn and shredded wrapping paper. The time for them is past, an indulgent lasting only moments. It is the comradery of family that captures their attention now. Simple in thought yet wonderful to experience.
Laughter fills the air around the table as adults tell stories of yesterday’s follies and play cards to pass the time. The half-eaten turkey remains in the center of the table, one or two brave souls continue to pick away at morsels of meat, while exclaiming how full they are. Soon the dainties will arrive to fill in a gap that isn’t there.
Alone in a chair by the fire sits an old man, lost in thought, indifferent to the festivities around him. In a way he was. The house gives another involuntary shudder, as does he. The storm outside reminds him of another Christmas long ago, his mind is captivated by an event that molded a family and gave birth to a tradition. To a time when something lost, was returned. An item so precious he would give all his worldly possessions to have once more. Closing his eyes, he breathes in deeply and lets his mind drift back to that other time.
Farming on the prairies was unforgiving and endless, back then holidays were for the rich or for those that worked a regular job, whatever that was. A farm never had days off, and so it was on this day, Christmas morning. Upon waking he and his two siblings realized their father had already given them their first gift of the day, no work. He was gone and let them sleep, usually it would not matter the day, they all had their chores to do, but not today, today he let them rest.
The wind blew hard all night, and it didn’t appear to have let up. From the kitchen window the barn was invisible, white snow blew sideways like bed sheets hanging on the line caught in the wind. Presents lay wrapped under the tree, waiting for their father to return. His mother laid out the breakfast feast, encouraging the children to eat up. She would warm a plate for their father when he came in from the cold. Breakfast came and went, and his father had not returned.
The smells of Christmas dinner being prepared and of baked apples hung in the air, but these aromas did nothing to distract their minds. The temperature had plummeted, and the storm raged on. His mother hid behind a false smile, saying everything was fine. The children were not fooled, they lived in this land, they knew it could be unforgiving. He watched as his mother whispered words in secret to his older siblings. Soon after he watched as she donned her winter clothing, boots, coat, scarf, and mittens. With a smile she exits. There was a rope tied to the home which led to the barn, in case of whiteouts, he knew she would hold tight and hopefully find father there, tending to the animals. If she let go, even for a moment in this storm.... he didn't want to think about that.
Time went on, his sister continued to prepare the Christmas supper, His brother brought in more firewood to keep their modest home warm. The items in his stocking were long since dismissed, except the orange, he ate that a long time ago. The wind battered upon the walls, shaking the panes of glass. His brother bundled up quickly and ran outside, he could hear through the sounds of the howling winds, shutters being closed, the late afternoon light, what little there was, dimmed, their home became a refuge in the wild. Candles and lanterns were lit. His sister began to sing a Christmas hymn. Her beautiful voice floated among the smoke and smells of supper. With a slight smile she brought him freshly made cookies and offered them to him before they ate supper.
Before he could finish his second cookie, a gust of cold wind entered the room, making the fire sputter and the candles shiver. The stomping of feet echoed throughout the wooden timbers. He and his sister ran to the front door and watched as his mother and father kicked snow off their boots. His father’s beard was filled with icicles and frost. His deep-set eyes scanned the home, then looked at his sister.
“He went out to cover the windows.” Was all she said.
Without a word his father left the warmth of the home and entered the world of ice and snow. His mother quickly removed her winter garments and entered the kitchen, requesting the table to be set. The same look of fear never left her eyes, even though she smiled.
What seemed like a lifetime later another gust of wind stole its way inside, only this time laughter blew in with it. His father and brother were knocking snow off each other’s coats and heads.
The food that night never tasted better, the conversation was full of love and laughter. They all chipped in to clean, including himself. Then gathered blankets to wrap themselves in, the two oldest decided to sit on the floor next to the fire, close to the chairs where his parents sat. He, being the youngest, would sit on his mother’s lap, while his father told the story they waited all day to hear.
The old man closed his eyes, as old as he was, just once more would he love to be held in his mother’s arms. Curled up within her loving embrace, as he placed his head upon her chest, her heartbeat warming his soul. He can still hear the crackle of the fire and his fathers voice as he told them the tale.
These memories floated through the old man, making him tremble with a deep loss, but at the same time filling him with a warmth that no winter chill could diminish. Realizing that this Christmas could be his last, he was content. For his heart and mind had many Christmas’s and he was lucky to have seen it relived, through his children and now his grandchildren.
As he opens his eyes, the children gather around him. Quietly watching him, waiting. He gives a slight nod. The children squeal with delight. The adults in silent unison rise and gather chairs. Sitting in a semi-circle around this old man. The firelight reflects a childlike wonder in their eyes, as they smile at one another. As the youngest child climbs upon his lap and snuggles in his arms, he begins the story about a man and a women who traveled to a town called Bethlehem, and of a baby who was born in a manger a long time ago.
I would like to thank you for reading my tale.
You never forget a prairie winter, or Christmas as a child. This is for my parents who always gave us the best memories and for families who share them.
About the Creator
I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, never professionally.
I wish to now share my stories with others, lets see where it goes.
Born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, I currently reside on the West Coast. I call both places home.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!