I thought my readers might enjoy a fiction story for the holiday! Let me know what you think, and Merry Christmas!
Ayla’s Christmas Eve
It was Christmas time in the heartland. The Midwest was covered in darkness and a cold icy chill went down my back as I heard the tinkle of ice hitting the window. We had just turned off the lights on the Christmas tree and we were pulling the covers up to our chins when we heard a sickening sliding sound. “What was that?” I asked my husband now jerked from sleep.
Harv had a talent to lie down and be immediately asleep and tonight was no exception. The noise, a crunch of metal though, that sounded a bit like a train sliding off a track that jerked even this deep sleeper from dreamland. “Listen,” he said, not moving but trying to ascertain just what the noise was.
When you live in the middle of nowhere and it is dark and cold, you wait to make sure you are really required to go out into the elements before committing yourself to ice, snow and cold, especially on Christmas Eve! It was then that we heard voices and a child crying. Well that did it, as a grandparent it was over for us. A child required immediate action.
We looked out our bedroom window, but it was so dark all we could see was the sickening glow of a headlight at a strange angle. Then they came into the view of our pole light, two people, one adult, and a child holding hands and heading towards our house. The wind was blowing their hair as the ice and snow swirled around them. Harv and I quickly donned our robes and slippers and headed for the door. “Turn on the porch light Nora,” Harv said.
I turned on the light and Harv reached for his coveralls and boots. As I started to gather my coat too Harv turned to me and said, “Stay in, they are going to need you. I need to make sure the engine of the car is turned off. There is nothing we can do but get them warm and safe, listen to that storm coming in.”
He was right; ice was already a quarter of an inch thick under a blanket of snow. How in the world this young woman and her daughter ended up on our icy country road is a wonder. “It is nuts to be outside tonight. Everyone should be off the roads, she should have known better,” Harv said as he zipped up the coveralls and headed out the door barely able to keep from falling on our icy sidewalk.
After what seemed like hours, but I know was only 15 minutes or less, Harv came back carrying a child and holding the arm of the woman. They struggled against the wind and ice. Snow and ice sickles clung to the bright red scarf tied around the woman’s throat. The child’s dark eyes were filled with tears as they entered our light filled kitchen. “I’m so sorry to wake you,” the woman said stumbling into the kitchen.
“Here, take off your coat and let me help you,” I said. I had made a pot of coffee and some toast thinking they may be hot and hungry. They were. The woman cupped the coffee mug tightly in her hand and her little girl huddled in her lap eating a peanut butter toast.
It didn’t take long to get their story. They were heading to her mother’s in a large town only about an hour away. In the storm, she had got off to get gas and had turned the wrong way trying to get back on the highway. One wrong turn led to another and they had ended up on our country door step. While we are only a mile and a half from the interstate, when the weather turns bad, it is impassable until a snowplow comes through, or in this case, the wind died down and there was some visibility. The ice was the culprit more than the snow. The trees and power lines were all etched in a frozen beauty that could easily cause untold damage. Even now you could hear the sighing of the lines from the weight of the ice and we wondered how long the electricity would last. “I’m so glad we bought that generator!” I whispered to Harv as we took their wet coats and laid them out trying to get them dry and warm.
The little girl turned to me. She was around four and her name was Ayla. “We are going to grandmas. Santa is coming to see me tonight,” she said.
I wrapped her in a blanket while Harv went back out into the awful cold to retrieve their suitcases, it was clear, at least to us, that they were not going anywhere and that they were spending Christmas with us. “Mom, we are safe, but the car is in a ditch and I don’t know how much damage there is,” Bonita, the young woman was explaining to her mother over the phone.
I tried not to listen, but this was quite a turn of events. I took little Ayla into the living room and placed her in one of our recliners covering her with blankets until she could change into dry clothes. “Why don’t you have any presents under your tree?” She asked.
Our Christmas tree was still covered with lights and decorations, but was bare beneath. “We already had our Christmas,” I said trying to explain the dynamics of our family Christmas with our grown children.
On Christmas morning we had planned to gather with relatives, but knowing that the storm was coming we had cancelled and had planned to celebrate Christ’s birthday with a Bible reading, small meal and Christmas movies. “But what about Santa?” Ayla said with tears coming down her red chapped cheeks.
Bonita was off the phone by now and she looked at me with a bit of panic in her eyes. “Santa may just come a bit late this year,” she said.
“He’ll figure it out,” Ayla said with the confidence of a child. By then her attention was on Harv’s FarmToy collection. “Look, tractors!” She exclaimed.
She peered at his eclectic blend of farm toys that he had been collecting for years. “We like tractors, Harv collects them, big and little,” I told her and showed her the kind he used to use on the farm.
Bonita continued to make a few calls to her family assuring them that they were okay and telling them she didn’t know when she’d make it home. Harv had somehow made it to their car and had two small suitcases in his big hands. “Let’s get you two into warm clothes and off to bed,” I said.
It was clear that the two were exhausted and needed warmth and sleep more than anything else. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Bonita said.
“Don’t worry about it tonight,” Harv said, “You are safe here, and we can sort it all out in the morning.”
We helped them upstairs to our empty rooms that had once been filled with the laughter of our children. These days it was quieter, with everyone living on their own. We didn’t even have our old farm dog anymore so the house while filled with love was pretty sedate. Harv and I went back to bed, but sleep was elusive. “What about Santa for little Ayla?” I said.
“I don’t know Nora, go to sleep,” Harv said drifting off. In the middle of the night I noticed the pole light was off, and heard the creek of the generator turn on. The electricity was off, but we were safe and warm. “Thank you God,” I whispered as I moved closer to Harv marveling in the miracle of our two visitors who had arrived without injury on our lawn.
When I woke, Harv was already out of bed and I heard him moving around in the basement where he kept all his collectibles. I creeped out of bed dressed quickly and moved to see what we could do to help a little girl have a nice Christmas morning in our country home. Harv had already taken the matter into hand. Under the tree was a John Deere pedal tractor, a little worse for the wear, but all clean and with a big red bow on it.
I smiled at Harv and started making a Christmas breakfast that much I could do. It was still early, but I knew that Bonita and Ayla would not sleep long in a strange house. As I flapped a couple pancakes onto a Christmas plate, Ayla and Bonita trudged down the stairs. “I wonder if Santa came.” Ayla said.
“Now Ayla, I told you, he will find us at grandmas’. He didn’t plan for us to be here,” she added with a quiver in her voice. Just then, Ayla rounded the corner and saw the pedal tractor with the big bow on it under the tree. She screeched and ran to the toy and pulled it out taking the old beauty for a spin. Bonita looked at us with a question in her eyes. Harv just shrugged and said, “Santa always comes through,” and that was that.
Ayla kept busy playing with her new toy and Bonita helped me with breakfast. She explained that her husband Ed was in the army and was stationed overseas. She had been on her own, and couldn’t stand the idea of being alone at Christmas. “I really should have stayed home, but I didn’t know the weather was going to be so bad,” she said.
Her husband had been deployed earlier in the year and she and little Ayla were going to stay a while with her mom and maybe even move there until her husband came home. After pancakes and bacon, Harv read the Christmas story from the Bible. We all prayed a prayer of thanks that we were all together and that they were safe and sound. This wasn’t the Christmas any of us had planned, but it was a good one. As the wind blew around our farm house, the lights stayed on with the help of our generator and we stayed warm. We only turned on a few items so we didn’t tax the machine.
Harv didn’t even try to go out that Christmas Day. We all sat around in the living room and played games and tried to keep warm. That night we “camped out” because that room was the warmest. In the middle of the night we saw the pole light turn back on and in the morning, it was a weak sunlight, but the storm had stopped. Harv pulled Bonita’s little Toyota out of the ditch with his John Deere tractor and saw that the car would run. There was a dent in the front corner where she hit the ditch, but the car was drivable.
Bonita and Ayla gave us big hugs before loading up the “new” pedal tractor and their little suitcases for their delayed family Christmas. They promised to write to us and thanked us as they headed out. I didn’t know if we would ever hear from the little family again, but I know they appreciated their Christmas miracle and would always remember how God had provided for them. As for me, I held Harv’s hand and leaned my head against Santa’s shoulder filled with a love for this man who saved Ayla’s holiday.