Hello everybody, here we are again at the end of another year - and what a year. Our Round Robin Blog for December 2020 is similar to that of 2019, so here is another short story for you to, I hope, enjoy.
Ellie Harding rested her chin on her hand and stared
out of the window across the valley, relaxing as she always did at the sight of
the tall spire of the parish church surrounded by mellow stone cottages
nestling under their Cotswold stone roofs.
daughter-in-law, Lori, came in from the garden balancing a wicker laundry
basket on her hip.
“I will be so glad when Christmas is over.” Lori
heaved a dramatic sigh. “It’s nothing but rush and fuss, and no one is ever
satisfied. One week left, and I still have to mail cards, shop, clean, and for
what? Just one day. And as for peace and goodwill, will you listen to that lot?”
Sounds of discontent burst from the
living room where twelve-year-old Matthew and eight-year-old twins, Molly and
Hannah, were arguing over television programs.
“And not only that,” Lori continued,
“David is due home from Singapore on December 22nd, and,” she paused
for breath, “Mother and Dad are arriving the same day.”
“As David has been away for almost six
months, isn’t that rather inconsiderate of them?” Ellie murmured. She tried to
keep the tone of censure out of her voice and her brow puckered as an
additional thought sprang into her mind. “I thought your parents were spending
Christmas in Germany with your Aunt Sophie.”
Lori snapped a tea towel, making it
sound like a flag in a strong wind. She folded it in half, smoothed it out with
the flat of her hand, folded it again and added it to the growing pile of clean
laundry on the kitchen counter.
“They were, but Mother fell out with
Aunt Sophie over goodness-knows-what and decided that she and Dad would come
here,” Lori explained. “Oh, Ellie, what am I going to do?”
“We’ll have a cup of tea, dear.”
Ellie, a staunch supporter of that particular beverage’s restorative properties,
thoughtfully put the kettle on. As it began to boil, her eyes began to sparkle
“Park everybody,” she said suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Lori asked,
“I’ll take the children,” Ellie said.
“That should give you time for everything you need to do. Book your parents
into a hotel, and yourself and David into another. That will give you one day
to yourselves, and on Christmas Eve, you can all come to my house.”
Lori’s eyes opened wide. “But I
“Yes, you could. Don’t think about it,
dear, just do it.”
Between them, Ellie and Lori helped
the children pack and loaded them and their backpacks into Ellie’s battered
blue Audi. Matthew sat silently beside her on the drive out of town, plainly
not in agreement with the plan.
“What are we going to do at your
house, Gran?” Molly asked. “You don’t even have a TV.”
“I’m sure we can find something to
do,” Ellie replied, keeping her eyes on the narrow, two-lane road where she had
to stop for a flock of sheep passing from one pasture to another.
“We could do a nativity play,” Hannah
said as she watched the woolly bodies crowd either side of the car.
“There’s only three of us, and we
already did that at school.” Matthew sounded glum at the prospect.
“Yes, but did you design and make
your costumes?” Ellie asked.
“Well, no,” Matthew admitted. “We
just used the ones from last year.”
“Ooh, Gran, can I make a crown with
sparkles on it?” Despite being restrained by her seat belt, Hannah bounced on
the back seat with excitement.
“I’m sure we could arrange that,
dear. You three will be the Wise Men, and everyone else can be shepherds.”
“And you have to be the angel, Gran,”
chorused Molly and Hannah in unison.
“Can we invite friends from school?”
“I don’t see why not.” Ellie drove
through her gateway, minus its gate, and pulled up in front of a solidly built
ivy-covered stone house. “Who would you like to invite?”
“Well, Jamal, because he was new at
school this term and doesn’t know many kids yet and Oliver because he doesn’t
have a dad.”
“And can we invite other people too?”
the twins chorused.
“Yes, you can,” Ellie assured them.
“Two friends each. The more, the merrier, don’t you think?”
“Then I’ll ask Yasmeen and Adeera,” Hannah
said. “I hope their parents will let them come.”
“Yes, and Susan Howell and Dawn Fry,”
Molly added. Hannah nodded her agreement.
Ellie parked the car, and the
children poured out of it and in through the front door. They hung their coats
on pegs in the hallway and deposited their backpacks at the foot of the stairs.
“We’ll have hot chocolate with
marshmallows,” Ellie said as she headed to the large kitchen at the back of the
house. “While I make it, you can start designing your costumes.”
She took sheets of paper and coloured
pencils from a drawer and put them in the table’s centre. In no time, the girls
sketched outfits for the shepherds while Matthew, now warming up to the idea,
designed crowns for the Three Wise Men.
Over the next couple of days, Ellie
produced lengths of fabric, sheets of art paper, fancy buttons, glue and
glitter, rolls of florists’ wire and strands of ribbon. On a brisk afternoon
walk, with a light wind gusting from the south-west blowing the clouds inland
over the hills, they collected sheep’s wool from the barbed wire fencing around
“This will make the beards for the
Wise Men,” Ellie said as she held out a plastic bag for the children to fill
with the wool.
“How?” asked Matthew.
“We’ll cut lengths of cotton fabric
and stick the wool to it, leaving a gap for your mouths,” Ellie said. “Then
we’ll cut a length of elastic so that it fits your heads, sew the ends to each
side of the fabric, and you can just slip them on.”
“That sounds pretty easy,” Matthew
said. “I say, Gran, can I be in charge of the costumes?”
“You certainly can, dear,” Ellie
Her angel wings fitting filled an
entire afternoon with the children measuring wire and fabric and calculating
the best way to affix them to Ellie’s back.
“Donny Williams sat on Carrie Davis’s
wings in class and broke them,” Hannah told her.
“Yes, and she cried,” Molly added.
“Well, after all this work, we’ll
have to make sure we hang my wings where no one can sit on them,” Ellie said.
Together they draped and stitched the
fabric and, once all the costumes were made, Ellie sat the children around the
table again and helped them write their invitations. Molly and Hannah decorated
theirs with sparkles, sure the recipients would be pleased with them.
Their invitations were hand-delivered
and, when Christmas Eve finally arrived, so did the rest of the family and all
the guests, including Yasmeen and Adeera’s parents. After a happy and noisy
reunion with their father, Matthew, Molly, and Hannah helped everyone into
their costumes. Ellie couldn’t help but notice that Lori’s parents, Margaret
and Richard, looked somewhat bemused to find themselves clad in tunics made
from old bedsheets and cinched around the waist with frayed scarlet cords from
thrift store velvet curtains. When everyone was dressed, Ellie clapped her
hands which made her wings wobble frantically.
“Quiet everyone,” she said. “Now, who
can tell me what the Three Wise Men did?”
“Oh, Gran, I know, I know!” Hannah’s
hand shot up as if she were answering questions in school. “They followed the
“Indeed, they did.” Ellie nodded
sagely. “Now come this way.”
She took everyone outside and then
clapped her hands again. From the dark at the bottom of the garden, a bright
white light appeared amongst the old and gnarled apple trees. Its silvery glow
illuminated the whole area. She watched the children’s eyes open wide in wonder
and smiled as they stopped, in total astonishment, at the edge of the lawn.
There, its legs folded neatly beneath
it, sat a camel. With a graceful movement of its long neck, it turned its head,
looking at them from beneath long lashes with liquid-dark eyes. A small tubby
man, sporting a large moustache and wearing a red fez, stood beside it.
“This is Fred,” Ellie said. “And
this,” she patted the camel’s neck, “is Harun.”
Margaret sniffed. “Don’t expect me to
get on that filthy beast.”
Ellie hid a smile as she heard
Richard say, “Don’t worry, dear, only the Wise Men rode camels. You’re a
shepherd. Here, hang on to your crook.”
Fred helped the children onto the
saddle, showing them where to put their feet and where to hold on as Harun
stood up. His spongy feet made no sound as he lurched and swayed across the
“Mother, how on earth did you manage
that?” David asked as he caught up with her.
Ellie patted the hand he slipped into
the crook of her elbow.
“Oh, a phone call here and favour
there,” she said casually. She clapped her hands once more, and the light in
the trees winked out before appearing again further away in the paddock next to
“It’s over Mr. Donovan’s stable now.”
Molly couldn’t keep the excitement out of her voice as she pointed over the hedge to the next door neighbour's property.
“And there’s a light in there, too,” added Hannah.
Mr. Donovan himself opened the gate set in the hedge and welcomed them all.
The little procession came to a halt
outside the stable. Harun obligingly collapsed his legs, and the children all
but fell off him in their haste to peer in at the stable door. The sweet smell
of hay assaulted their nostrils, and they heard the rustling of straw as they
looked in on a cow contentedly chewing her cud, a donkey who flicked his long,
fuzzy ears at them, and a ewe with twin lambs. A young woman wearing a blue
robe smiled a welcome and invited them to sit on some straw bales placed in
readiness for the visitors. Beside her, a tall, bearded man wearing a brown
cloak welcomed everyone. Between them, laid in a wooden crib, a baby kicked its
feet and gurgled happily.
“Oh, Gran, this is magic,” Molly
whispered. She went to the crib and knelt beside it, staring down at the baby
as if she couldn’t quite believe it was there. Hannah, Matthew, and their
friends were more interested in the animals.
“Well, Ellie, I think you have
surpassed yourself,” Richard said, still looking around and taking in every
little detail with an expression of wonderment on his face. Even Margaret seemed
“This is so cool, Gran.” Hannah
looked up from the lamb she cuddled while Matthew and Jamal petted the donkey.
Matthew’s eyes opened wide as a
thought struck him. “Christmas isn’t about what things we get, or what food we
have. It’s all the…the other stuff, isn’t it, Gran?” His pre-teen voice had a
croak in it.
Ellie nodded. “That’s right,
Matthew.” Her voice was soft. “It’s all that other stuff. Christmas is for loving
and caring, sharing and,” she looked at Lori, “peace and goodwill.”
I'm looking forward to reading my fellow Round Robin bloggers' Christmas posts. I hope you'll join me and check in with:
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blo
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.w
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/b
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-29F
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpre
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspo
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.co