The house was a wonderland of tiny snowflakes and bells, of gingerbread men and spritz cookies and fudge, and of wreaths of every size in every room. Scents of cinnamon and orange peel lightly infused the air. Candy canes bunched together in a cut-glass jar. On the dining room table stood a gingerbread house, carefully baked and designed with loving hands. And on a bookcase shelf near the mantel, not too obvious, but fitting in just so, the crèche.
Her eyes roamed over each scene as she walked casually from room to room. She’d always loved Christmas and her habit of decorating for The Day was one of the few things that had outlasted her troubles. The only thing that was missing was the star. She had one at one time and not too long ago, either. A few Christmases ago, it had fallen from the top of the tree and broken beyond repair. That was the year she had retired. It was the year she had been diagnosed with something that sucked the life from her until modern medicine and sheer determination had killed it. And it was the year she had sat alone in silence just as the last minutes of the day had ticked away, and city dwellers were welcoming in the new year with little horns and midnight kisses.
Oh, she didn’t mind the silence. Before – before she’d battled death – she’d loved joining in life with those around her. But she’d changed. Since her illness, she’d become a bit of a loner and quietness soothed her more often than not. Still, at this time of year when families were traveling long distances just to spend the day together and friends gathered for dinners and teas and parties, her quiet life tweaked her. She thought maybe she should read again the Christmas cards sent to her and send her own in return. Perhaps she should join the coffee party announced for the next day by old friends, the annual event she had ignored during her silent years. Maybe she should go to church. An inaudible, dismissive laugh escaped her lips. No, of the many things she could think of only the loveliness around her merited her attention.
She looked at the beautiful tree placed in front of her window. She’d done at least that; a gesture to those passing by that someone in her house believed in the light of life. But it still bothered her that the topmost branch of the Christmas tree from where the little star had pronounced its benediction for over forty years was now bare. It troubled her that the tree’s top missed the star which most assuredly belonged there.
She turned off each light, sat for a time in the dark, then stretched out on the couch thinking of better days and happier times. She must have drifted off, for it was two in the morning when she woke. She rubbed her eyes, then rubbed them again. There above the crèche was a little light. It wasn’t the shape of anything, but it made her happier than she recalled ever being. And she watched it as, in the stillness of the night, it glowed with a warmth she had forgotten. As she watched it in its tiny place above the Christ child, peace flooded her spirit. It was as though goodness, itself, was in the room with her, filling her up with hope and love.
She glanced at the clock. Who cared for sleep? If she hurried, she could address those unsent Christmas cards and still make it in time for the coffee party.
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