A Texas Cousins Adventure: Happy Endings

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time the sun didn’t rise. Dark clouds blew in over the flat Texas plains with booming thunder and bright flashes of lightning. The wind shook Grammie and Grandpa’s little house. Hobbes, the Lab, laid his head on his paws inside his dog-house waiting for the storm to pass. Clyde, the donkey, stuck his nose deep in his trough of hay thankful for a place to escape the rain.

Aunt Abby sat in the living room next to the fireplace with four rowdy nephews and five pretty nieces gathered around her. Cups of juice and mugs of hot chocolate and coffee filled everyone’s hands.

A loud clap of thunder made the cousins jump. Remi and Rook screwed up their faces ready to cry.

“Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Can you tell us a story?”

“I think a story is a great idea.” Aunt Abby sipped from her mug. “Stormy days are perfect for stories.”

“Will it be a scary one?” Bruce asked.

All the cousins turned to Aunt Abby to see what she would say. She pondered for a minute.

“You know Bruce, all good stories have scary parts, but the best of stories have happy endings. The very best story of all time had very scary parts: Jesus had to die to save his people. But! He rose again from the dead. See, it has to be scary before it can be happy.”

Joshua frowned. “Why?”

“Because than the happy ending means more. If it’s just happy all the time we would all take it for granted. Aren’t cookies better after you’ve had to eat all your veggies? Wouldn’t you get tired of cookies if that’s all you ate all the time?”

“No,” all the cousins chorused together.

Aunt Abby giggled. “I think it’s just the way the world is. Christmas is more special once a year in winter than all the time. Jesus could only defeat death if he first died. Aslan could only save Edmond by dying. Nemo only appreciated his dad after he lost him. It’s just the way the world works. Happy endings are best after scary parts.”

“I don’t like the scary parts and Mommy says I have to fast-forward when Aslan dies,” Bruce said.

“Yes.” Aunt Abby nodded. “There are different levels of scary and I promise this story won’t be too scary. Just a little scary.”

Ellie leapt to her feet. “I’ll be brave.”

“Me too!” Imogene jumped up.

“Too!” shouted Remi grabbing Imogene’s hand as she stood up.

Jude growled and joined the girls. Not to be outdone, Bruce, Julie, Constance, Joshua, and Rook all came to their feet.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes!”

A loud clap of thunder startled everyone. They looked out at the storm raging around Grammie and Grandpa’s house. Lightning brightened up the dark day for a second. Another crash of thunder shook the windows.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked again.

“YES!” Nine cousins screamed jumping up and down, up and down.

“What is going on here?” Grandpa yelled appearing suddenly in the room.

Nine cousins and Aunt Abby screamed in fright and hugged each other.

“You scared us Grandpa!” Jules said.

“I scared you??” Grandpa smiled.

“It is a scary sort of morning.” Grammie came up behind him. “Is Aunt Abby going to tell you a story?”

“Yes,” Constance said, “with only a little bit of a scary part so we can have a happy ending.”

“And I’m going to be brave.” Ellie pointed at herself and grinned.

“Me too,” everyone else said.

“Good.” Grandpa sat down. “I’ll listen to the story too.”

“I’ll hold your hand in case you get scared.” Remi took Grandpa’s hand.

“Do you know what Grammie says about stories with scary parts and happy endings?” Aunt Abby said. “You know, ‘those best of stories’?”

“No, what do you say Grammie?” Jules pranced over to Grammie and took her hand. Her eight other cousins gathered around Grammie.

Grammie sat down taking Jude into her lap. Imogene snuggled down on one side of her and Ellie on the other. The older cousins arrange themselves cross-legged in front of her, and Constance pulled Rook close.

“Stories, good ones, let us practice being brave before we have to be.”

The nine cousins looked questioningly at one another and then back at Grammie.

“What does that mean?” Joshua said what they were all wondering.

Grandpa explained. “There will be things in your life that might be hard, or scary, or sad. But if you’ve read the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you can remember that Aslan beat the witch, ended winter, and Christmas came back. You can remember brave King Peter and brave Lucy and that can help you be brave.”

“And,” Aunt Abby said. “You can remember how even after being so mean and selfish, Edmond was forgiven. That will help you have courage when you need to ask someone to forgive you when you’ve been mean.”

“I want to be High King Peter,” Bruce said.

“I want to be Lucy,” Ellie said louder.

“Yes!” Grammie clapped. “We can practice being brave with them when they go through the wardrobe, and when they have to fight the White Witch, so that when it’s our turn to be brave we’re prepared.”

Bruce stared into the fire for a minute. “Aunt Abby? I don’t mind if the story you tell has a scary part.”

“I promise it will have a happy ending afterwards.”

“Well, tell the story!” Jude exclaimed.

Grammie and Grandpa moved closer to the fire. Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, Ellie, Imogene, Jude, Rook and Remi filled laps and gathered close up on different sides. Outside the thunder boomed, boomed, boomed. The lightning flashed. The wind howled around the eaves. No one gave it a second thought because inside they were warm and comfy. The fire burned brightly. The hot chocolate warmed them, and Aunt Abby began her story:

“Once upon a time . . .”

(To be continued)

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remit! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remi! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

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Writing Journal: Always Winter and Never Christmas

Santa-Clause1

“Always winter and never Christmas,” is one of those lines that is used, in excess, in my family. Any time someone says anything about winter a chorus of voices says “Always winter and never Christmas.” The magic of this statement is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis.

I have always loved the idea the evil magic kept Christmas from coming and that Santa Claus actually works as one of the King’s servants. I love it when he comes to Peter, Susan, Edmond, Lucy, and the Beavers and says, “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.”

He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.…
Now that the children actually stood looking at him… he was so big, so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.

It is a wonderful feeling as a child to have such a joyous representation of the coming of Aslan. Every child given the chance to celebrate Christmas knows the thrill of the holiday. They know all about bells, sleighs, the man in the red suit, carols, special food, and presents.

I have always wanted to share my love of Christmas in my writing. Many of my books take place in the fall and early winter, but I’ve never had one that worked with the Christmas holiday. The other ones were too short and dark. The light and delight of Christmas seemed harsh and garish in that setting. I had not established a world where it soothed the soul like it does in ours. There was zero soul soothing in my first world.

In my YA story, Jonah has been rescued from Prison by the sacrifice of a man named Soul and brought to live in a new place: Greenhome. Greenhome is a magical place of safety and joy. Families are made there. Men and women take in the worst of children and give them a home. The childless and the parentless come together in Greenhome. Jonah comes from the Streets—a dirty, dark, and violent place—and finds himself awed not just the abundance of food and clothing, but by the celebration that’s about to take place.

Jonah has never celebrated Christmas. He’s never been given a present and he has never given a present.

Lights, candles, garlands, trees, holly, presents, and songs surround him. (While I work on these scenes, I often sing “What’s This?” from Nightmare Before Christmas.) His head spins with all the traditions that are so new to him.

Using Christmas to juxtaposition the difference between the coldness of the Streets and the warmth of Greenhome has tickled my heart. I love Christmas. I have more fun, and sometimes funny, Christmas stories than I have time to write, though one year, maybe this year, I’m going to try to record some of them. I have written about why Vincents celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but have I written about the year the yard caught on fire? Have I written about the magical Christmas where it snowed and my brother got to come home? Have I ever written about my first kiss being on Christmas Eve?

In book 2, after all the things that could go wrong have gone wrong, the joy of Christmas will be part of what holds Jonah up through the darkness. The light of Greenhome decorated for the holiday will remind him that not all the world is lost in shadow, war, and hopelessness, for that is what Christmas does, right? Christmas is the celebration of God coming with a peace-offering to a dark and lost world. He is the light and he came down to us offering peace. His Son came and willingly subjected himself to a body, poverty, betrayal, suffering, and then death for us. This is the great and deep truth of Christmas. This is the under-girding foundation of all that is wonderful and magical about this holiday.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2/14

As a writer, you pour bits and pieces of yourself into your worlds and your characters. Christmas, in all its glory and magic, is one of the ways I’ve done that in my story. It makes me so excited!

A sound made him pause. Voices lifted outside his frosted window. People were singing. He listened wondering what kind of songs they sang here in Greenhome. Where they bawdy songs filled with cursing like the one Christopher taught them? Or maybe they were the haunted sad song the crones sang? Sometimes an unborn would be harvested that could sing. They usually died quickly on the Streets. Singing wasn’t a helpful skill. The words came to him: born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

The song made little sense to Jonah. It did draw him in a way, a quiet way. It didn’t feel dirty like Christopher’s song and it didn’t make life seem darker like the crones’ song. There was a powerful joy in the voices raised and the words sung. He’d have to ask Soul what it meant. Maybe it had to do with this Christmas thing everyone seemed so excited about.

– Icicle Rain by Abby Jones