The storm had lived up to its gloomy predictions. Standing in her warm living room, Maureen watched the wind gusts turn the wet snowflakes into an off-white frenzy. The reflection of her Christmas tree in the window made her shiver. A fine Christmas Eve, for Eskimos!
She turned and looked at her tree, festive and bright with piles of presents underneath, all set for excited hands to unwrap. Huh, she thought, they’d sit there like that for another week. Her family had gone to her ex-husband’s. This year, she’d be alone for Christmas.
Maureen walked out to the kitchen where she’d taped Christmas cards to every surface. More decorations with no one to see. She turned on the small television on the counter while she made a sandwich for dinner. The weatherman had a map behind him with numbers indicating snow amounts. They’d get close to a foot tonight. When he pointed to a little sleigh in the air, she shut off the TV. She didn’t need to know Santa’s current location.
She thought about seven-year old Traci who would have have had her nose pressed up against the window, watching the swirling snow and worrying whether Santa would make it to the house. They’d have been making sugar cookies and watching Christmas specials on TV. Her five-year old grandson, Kevin, would be begging to open one of the presents.
Maureen sighed and reached for her favorite mug, the one with the picture of her grandchildren. She couldn’t bear to watch TV. All the family stories on Christmas Eve made her lonely.
With a hot cup of tea, a pillow at her back, and a blanket tucked around her legs, she sat down to read. The story had just gotten interesting when the lights went out.
“Oh, damn. Wouldn’t you know it?”
She put the book down and made her way to the window. “Yup. A wire must be down. All the houses are dark.”
Feeling her way out to the kitchen, she found the flashlight and lit some candles. With the wind whistling outside, the candles made an eerie glow . She went back to the living room and tried to read by flashlight. After a while she gave up.
Since it was much too early to go to bed, she wandered to different windows to watch the snow. A blinking light out front captured her attention. The electric company. As she watched, some of her neighbors appeared.
She noticed that the wind had let up a bit, so she decided to join them. She put on her long down coat, boots, hat and scarf and plowed through the accumulated snow. She greeted her neighbor from across the street and the young man who had recently moved next door.
The cold air and wet snowflakes made her think of her childhood. This is fun, she thought. Then she heard the young man asking how long it would take to fix the problem.
“I wouldn’t count on electricity for at least four or five hours, if then.”
“But I don’t have any heat and I’ve got a brand new baby.”
“Sorry, mister, but there’s nothing I can do.”
Maureen hadn’t known there was a new baby next door. She’d only seen the little boy. She tapped the young man on the shoulder. “You can’t keep a baby in that kind of cold. Your little boy will be freezing, too. I’ve got a fireplace and plenty of wood.”
“Oh, I couldn’t put you out.”
“Don’t be silly, I insist. Get your family. It will cheer me up. I’m missing my grandchildren tonight.”
The young man reached out his hand. “Donald Carson. I really appreciate this.”
She shook his hand. “Maureen Gleason. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Back in the house, as she scurried around to find more flashlights and candles, she started humming Christmas carols. The knock on the door came as she was preparing the fire.
“Come in. Come in,” she said as she opened the door.
Donald introduced his wife Sheila, his son Donny, and his baby daughter, Lucy, then carried a couple of large bags over to the table. Maureen was busy cooing at the baby and admiring the firetrucks on Donny’s pj’s..
“Did you bring the cookies Mommy?”
“Oh, I’ve got cookies here, somewhere,” Maureen said.
Donny put his little hand over Maureen’s. “But we made special cookies today.”
Donald had unloaded the bags and Maureen could see toys and food. They’d brought a large ham, rolls and condiments as well as a big container of cookies.
As Shelley rocked Lucy, she said, “I’d already cooked the ham and,” she ruffled her son’s hair, “Donny made the Christmas cookies.”
Donald yelled from the living room, “The fire’s going.”
Maureen had distributed blankets and a pillow for her little friend who’d tucked himself beside her. Donny’s huge yawns kept interrupting his stories about Santa and Rudolph. Little Lucy had already fallen asleep in Maureen’s arms. Donny followed quickly. Sitting in front of the fire with the two sleeping babies, Maureen could hardly contain her happiness. When the lights finally came on, she was disappointed.
Sheila spoke in a whisper. “What time is it?”
With a smile, Donald said, “It’s 12:30.”
Sheila stretched. “Let’s get these babies home.”
Maureen hated to see them go.
As Sheila reached down for Lucy, she smiled at Maureen. “We’ll expect to see you tomorrow around 10:00 for brunch.”
Donald leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Consider us your adopted family. Merry Christmas.”