Flash Fiction: The Pile

 

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Courtesy of Alethia Young. 

 

The Pile

Christmas Eve.

Mouths opened. Lungs expanded. Eyes gleamed.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

23 sleeps ago.

The Five, armed with saw and wagon, hurried out into Grandma’s fields, hunting just the right tree. In the back pasture they examined tall trees and short, round and skinny. Each child voted yes or no. The tree had to be perfect. It would take the center, Norman Rockwell stage for the whole month. Victorious, they return home over the small hills and dells, scratched but happy. Decorating and off-key singing ensued.

The holly green, the ivy green, the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen…

14 sleeps ago.

Boxes arrived. Big boxes. The Five immediately helped unpack.

“The tree doesn’t look lonely anymore,” the youngest said.

“Everyone keep your fingers to yourselves,” Mom said. “Don’t touch the pile.”

8 Sleeps ago. 

From under the prickly cedar tree, trussed up with lights and handmade decorations, spilled the pile. It spread into the narrow living room, cutting off the path from the kitchen to the bathroom. The Five huddle around it in the dark morning, dreaming of toys and more toys. Waiting. Waiting. The countdown dragged. The older ones swore the pile extended further into the room than any piles had before. Each present had been examined. Each of The Five knew which present was theirs, and the noise it made when shook. The Five had the entire pile mapped out.

1 sleep to go.

Christmas Eve sauntered in. Anticipation reached a breaking point. Tomorrow the paper would be ripped off and the toys would be theirs. Just a few more hours. One more sleep.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

Dad held out his hand to Mom and the two of them retired from the kitchen table for what The Five prayed would be a short winter’s nap.

Their parents’ bedroom door shut.

Screams of joy erupted.

In a moment of real Christmas magic, The Five gathered the dishes, ran hot soapy water in the sink, wash, dried, cleared, and cleaned the kitchen without a word of disagreement. Not one single squabble arose. No one pushed, pulled, glared, or even joked. Instead, carols erupted from them, swirling about the room on winds of excitement.

…it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Sunlight streamed into the tiny mobile home as The Five went about their work. It splashed across the pile, the wonderful, huge pile.

Dad, king of his castle, lord of his family, general over the ranks of the Five, had superseded the holiday.

“I have an announcement, but I don’t want to hear a word. Not a single sound,” Dad had declared, as they sat around the table on that now famous Christmas Eve, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese. “Are we agreed?”

The Five shared a glance, then nodded in unison.

“Good.” Dad smiled. “Mom and I are going to take a nap. During the nap I want the table cleared and the dishes done.”

The Five waited. That was normal. Nothing about that part of the announcement would induce anything but sighs.

“After we get up,” Dad took a deep breath, “we’ll open presents.”

Five mouths opened. Lungs expanded. Eyes gleamed.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

The End


On January 1st, I’ll be posting on a new blog and other social media sites. If you follow me here, please hope over to the new blog and follow me there. That way you won’t miss any new articles or updates.

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Christmas Traditions 

The Joneses/Planers have lovely Christmas Traditions that are expected to be followed to the letter. 

The morning starts bright and early with Price and I opening a few gifts we got for each other, then it’s over to Dad and Mom’s for the unwrapping of presents. (Yes. We’re all adults now, but we still love presents.) 

Then! Breakfast! Sausage patties, eggs, cinnamon rolls, coffee, eggnog, and orange juice. It’s a beautiful thing.  

Once that’s all been cleared away, we head out to Glen Rose and spend the rest of the day grazing until we sit down to a dinner of brisket and sides. Somewhere in there we usually open gifts with the girls, go shooting, and loudly vent about politics. (We’re a loud family. )

Late in the evening, we head home, full and happy.

This year, with the Lord’s Day and Christmas coinciding, we won’t make it out to Glen Rose or have breakfast. We’ll all have our own quiet separate mornings and then go to Dad and Mom’s after church for feasting and merry making. Granddad and Wanda will join us along with Aunt Sheila. It will be a busy, wonderful day! 

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Traditions (Part 24): How Christmas Traditions are Born

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland. – Diana Krall

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Once upon a time, in a small mobile home, on a small bit of land up in the Ozarks, in the early winter, five brothers and sisters eyed the overflowing pile of presents under their humble Christmas tree. The tumultuous anticipation of opening all the bright paper to discover the toys within trembled through them almost constantly.

Each gift had been mapped out.

Each sibling knew in exact detail which gifts were theirs, what shape they took, and what noise they did or did not make when shook.

The high-hopes they had for that pile had been gnawing away at them for several days. Never had then been so many presents. The older three assured the younger two that they’d never seen the presents spill out to this point of the living room. The sat in a comfortable clump of arms and legs discussing and comparing previous Christmases with the loot gleaming before them.

See, these five children and their two dear parents had very little. The children had no allowances. There was no extra spending money. Many birthdays consisted of one small toy and necessary things like socks. The children, being children didn’t notice these things. They had goats, chickens, ducks, rubber boots, friends nearby, and lots of exciting places to explore. The lack of money went unnoticed even when they had to hike their Grandma’s land to chop down a cedar tree to bring home and decorate, with gloves, for Christmas. For the five siblings, all was right in the world because they were together.

But the gifts? The overflowing pile of gifts, you ask? If the parents bought socks for birthdays and stuffed underwear in stockings for Christmas, where did the gifts come from?

I will tell you. The gifts came from a very loving and very dear Auntie and Uncle, with no children of their own just yet, who thought it best to lavish their five nieces and nephews with every cool thing they could find. This left only the burden of the stockings for the children’s parents, so all was right with the world as far as the children were concerned.

Now! On this particular Christmas, the Auntie and Uncle had outdone themselves. The gifts swept out into the living room. The children were overcome with excitement.

One more day.

It was Christmas Eve.

Tomorrow all the gifts could be opened and the anticipation relieved.

One more day.

The sun shone brightly across the table as they gathered for a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup, unaware of the fact that their family would never be the same after this Christmas Eve.

“I have an announcement,” Daddy said. He liked to make announcements. “But there will be no noises made after I make my announcement. Not a scream. Not a peep. Nothing. Not a sound.”

The five children shared a glance. No noise? That was an odd requirement. What could Daddy possible have to say that made it necessary to demand their silence? Where they moving? Where they having another baby? Was it going to be a good announcement? Or a bad one?

“Agreed?” Daddy asked. “Not a sound?”

“Yes. Okay.” The five agreed. How could they not? They wanted to know what Daddy was going to say.

“After lunch, your Mother and I will go take a nap while you do the dishes, and afterwards we will open the presents.”

Open presents? Those presents? The ones spilling out under the tree?

Five mouths opened.

Five sets of lungs expanded, taking in air for a most joyous shout.

“Not a sound,” Daddy said.

Five mouths snapped shut.

Oh the delicious horror of attempting to hold back the scream of delight that so wanted an opportunity to express itself. It waited through the rest of a very quiet lunch. It waited through Daddy and Mommy slowly slowly retreating to their room for a mid-afternoon nap.

The door shut.

A tremendous shout went up.

Dancing and singing ensued.

Hushing from the three older kids. Hush. Hush. They’ll hear us and make us wait. Hush.

Never before, nor after, was the table cleared, the food put away, and the dishes done in such a magnanimous manner. Everyone wanted to help. The more who helped, the quicker things would be done. And the quicker things were done, the sooner they could open presents.

The joy and fun of that surprise change to the normal holiday schedule changed Christmas forever. Daddy changed Christmas forever. From that day forward, all Vincents, and the men who married the Vincent girls, and the women who married Vincent boys, and all the little children that came from those marriages, celebrate Christmas together on Christmas Eve. And it is never, ever, a quiet affair. Daddy only got quiet for a few minutes after his announcement and never again after that.

The End

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Traditions  

This Christmas season has been a bit of a doozy for my whole family.  One sister is pregnant and throwing up all the time, my other sister has her oldest in kindergarten for the first time, one brother is down to one vehicle, and the other lives a few hours away. I got a part time job and my husband is getting ready to go back to school. Mom doesn’t have her tree up yet, trying to help everyone.  On the other side of the family, my extra Dad is on dialysis three days a week, and we’re moving our traditional Christmas meal to their house this year cause of Christmas being on a Sunday, but skipping our normal Christmas morning.

We’re all out of sorts this year. 

There are some traditions that we just can’t do this year: spiced cherry bells, ginger snaps, Sister Baking Day, Christmas breakfast. 

And yet, we will all be together, Lord Willing. 

We’ll be home for Christmas.

That is really the only tradition that really matters. We’ll be together.

So, have yourself a merry, little Christmas!

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Carols and Two Kingdom Theology

A better translation.

A better translation.

“Glory to God in the Highest,

And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!”

 I love Christmas carols and Christmas songs. I love the very Americanized version of this Christmas holiday with songs about snow and Santa and presents. I love the Christian side that rejoices at Christ’s incarnation. What could be more wonderful than celebrating the first Eucatastrophe in human history: God became man and dwelt among us? We should be humbled and awed by this turning point in history.

And yet, as I grow in my doctrinal understanding, I often have to sing and enjoy these songs through heavily shielded Two Kingdom Theology Goggles. So many of them seem to think that the above passage means that at some point in our earthly history there will be no more war. Many Christmas songs seem to believe that God is in the business of saving this world.

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My response, as I hope to have a character in my story say, “The King isn’t in the business of saving this world. This world isn’t going to be saved. The King is in the business of saving his souls. That’s what he’s doing. He saving his souls out of this world. Not saving this world.”

There will never be peace here, on this earth, but that doesn’t mean God is dead. “God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail, and right prevail, with peace on earth.” This line is true. Just not in the way intended in the context of the poem. God isn’t taking sides in man’s petty wars. (Though I believe in fighting for what’s right.) So that the good guys win. (Thought I’m thankful when they do.)

This is one of those cases where you have to understand and define what’s being said. And dear reader, if you do, the world makes more sense, and the Christmas Carols take on a whole new depth of joy!

Peace on Earth isn’t about a lack of bickering and fighting. It is about God himself breaking into time and into our hearts and ending the war between us. From birth, we have all in a bitter, violent war against God that we are going to lose. You can’t win a war against God, but we’re fighting it anyway. And we’re not fighting it in a valiant Ragnarok/300 way: fighting because it’s right even if there’s no hope of winning. This is outright rebellion against good, right, light, and hope. This is us clinging to small rebellions when better has been offered to us. This is your three year old throwing a fit over a small piece of trash when you’re trying to offer her a new toy. It’s mean, petty, and ridiculous. Honestly, it’s sad. And yet we keep proudly plodding along in our fight against God.

Who would save us? We wouldn’t, couldn’t stop. We are at constant war with God.

Eucatastrophe.

God came to us.

He didn’t come in pomp, or pride, or might…which he could have. He came in humility, born into this world like we are, born in a cold dirty place, and living a cold dirty life, and dying a tortured death. All this and more he endured for us! To bring peace. We couldn’t bring peace, so God himself brought peace.

“Peace on earth, goodwill towards men” is one of the greatest lines in all of history. For some of us, those called, chosen, elected, the war is over. Gently, God has taken the trash we so vainly screamed over and given us something better than a toy.

So, Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice. God rest ye Merry Gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, remember Christ your Savior was born!

Could there be a more amazing, awesome, joyous event to celebrate than God ending the war that we started?

This earth will burn. It will be judged. God isn’t here to save this place, or make it a nice place to be, or make us nice to each other. God is here to gather His people home. The people He is now at peace with. Those who still fight this horrible war against Him aren’t at peace. There is no goodwill. They have refused to repent. They have not had their hearts broken by God.

But, for those of us who have had their hearts broken, who have agreed with God’s assessment of the vile wickedness of our sin, who have experienced an undeserved rescue:

“Glory to God in the Highest,

And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!”

are some of the most beautiful words in history.

 

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Christmas Traditions (Part 12)

Christmas dishes are a huge part of my Christmas Cheer. My Mom had very special Christmas dishes when we were growing up, and it is something I’ve continued…being me, none of mine match. 

Every year I try to add a new dish to my collection, especially if I see one with a deer on it.

Several years ago, Potter Barn featured a set of dishes based around the 12 Days of Christmas. I circled, stared, and pointed it out in the catalogue to my extra parents when they asked what I wanted for Christmas. They are my most favorite Christmas dishes! I love unpacking them every year and I hate packing them away! 

I use the big platter with a Partridge in the Pear Tree to hold all my Christmas cards every year. 

They make me sooooo happy!

Merry Christmas!!!