Thursday, December 9, 2010

flash fiction friday and a little christmas spirit

today is a double post first a Christmas story that always makes me smile, then a flash fiction Friday, which I haven't done in quite sometime so I am a bit out of practice. however lets start with what Christmas is all about....
You can scroll down to the Flash fiction Friday if you would like!!

 Better bundle up; the goosebumps will freeze you!! I think I need to read this every year at Christmas.

"Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

 It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was 15 years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason, I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the bible. After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self pity. Soon pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that i could see. We already done all the chores, and i couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when told to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what....

Outside I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood- the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa", I asked, "what are you doing?" "You been by the widow Jensens's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a  crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?" Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children- sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out. "We brought you a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last a while. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "god bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. This list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the sizes right. Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The Turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't quite have enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life."

I just love Christmas and remembering why we celebrate, I hope you enjoyed this message and now for a flash fiction Friday!!! Every Friday, or Thursday night, write a short story, poem or prose of 55 words, no more, no less and then report it to the G-man!!!!

"Christmas cards are in the mail- check
Dinner planned and guests invited- check
Pictures with Santa, the big guy,- check
Tree trimmed and lights on the house- check
Stockings hung up for Santa to fill,
Presents wrapped and ready to go,
Shoot it looks like I will be up all night on Christmas eve again!!"

Here you go G-man, OK i am out of practice i can barely count to 55 anymore!! i am going to try on wedding dresses tomorrow and and i just found a ton of things i need to do for Christmas still!! Can you believe it is in a few weeks!! My sisters Christmas party is this weekend, my "A" is taking her ACT on Saturday again, next Wednesday the bean turns 4 and the double b-day party is on the 18th, mom is coming the 17th. oh and she just called and told me her TV is going out!! go figure!! i told her when she comes for Christmas we would take her shopping for a new one!! God i hope she don't buy one!! but hey, did i call that or what?!? I love this time of year!! i hope to stop by later tonight or in the morning to check on the Friday players!!!

Today's thought;"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for."
- Epicurus


G-Man said...

Hi Susie-Q
I'm so excited for you.
Thanks for remembering albeit a tad early...
Loved your 55.
Thanks for playing.
You Rock baby...
Have a Kick Ass Week-End...G-Daddy

Brian Miller said...

hehe...did some prep last night actually so i dont have to be up on christmas eve...all locked away now in santas secret space...

and what a cool story...heartwarming...

moondustwriter said...

Epicurus was a wise man
and your story is wonderful
can I borrow you my list never gets done

happy weekend

Moonie smiles

lime said...

excellent story and quote by epicurus to sum it all up. thanks for the reminder of what's truly important.

Syd said...

What a great story with a great lesson. Something to remember this Christmas.

KB said...

Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

Thom said...

Wow I'm glad for you my friend. What a story. I really enjoyed reading this. You are such an inspiration :) Have a great Friday :)

HOOTIN' ANNI said...


As is your 55. I remember those days from long ago, but perhaps I'll be up all night on Christmas eve, insomnia.

Here's mine

Hope you can find time to visit.
Happy Friday
Happy weekend.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Spot on! Beautiful beautiful story Suzie!

Love the quote too!

Thanks for sharing the beauty you find in the world!

Eaton Bennett said...

Hey Susie, you made me me drop a few tears too, with your Christmas story!

Cute 55, it's great to check stuff of a list of 'to do's'. God Bless you and your family!!!!


Busy Bee Suz said...

What a great story.
Love your 55...working on my list too.

Monkey Man said...

Great story and 55. My 55 is HERE .

Mama Zen said...

Mother's never sleep on Christmas Eve!

Her Big Sad said...

okay, now my eyeballs are leaky. Thank you Suzie!!!Seriously a beautiful story and so what this season is all about!!

BIG HUGS!!! I wish I could see the dresses you try! ENJOY!!!!

Scott said...

great 55 and that story, wow! where did you find that? what a beautiful story, had to get the tissues... thank you for the early Christmas gift!

Scott said...

That story blew me away! May I use it? I might use it in my jr high CCD class, read it to my kid, post it to my blog, who knows... Curious, where did that come from?

I'm a follower, addicit, alkie myself. Stop by for a visit some time!

Be well, Merry Christmas!

Akelamalu said...

Just when you think you have everything under control you remember something else! LOL

Great 55.