Beside the Christmas Fire

By , December 25, 2016
Christmas Eve sunrise above the Coast Range. Red sky at morning, homesteader's take warning . . . of a white Christmas, perhaps? (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Christmas Eve sunrise above the Coast Range. Red sky at morning, homesteader’s take warning . . . of a white Christmas, perhaps? (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Merry Christmas!

I’m sorting through old seasonal writing lately. I found a semi-autobiographical short story of about 1200 words that I really like, enough to edit heavily to blog length for sharing here. The original piece doesn’t have a real title yet, although I’m tempted to call it “A Child’s Christmas in Wrangell”. I hope you enjoy it.

Beside the Christmas Fire

A long time ago, when the warmth of a wife’s arms was only dreamed of, when there was only one family to think on, and hope for, and love, the darkness gathered close at Christmas.

In our home above the slate-gray sea, light glowed against the dark that came on early and stayed late the next day. If snow came, its whiteness reflected back the light from the windows, but seemed to draw it from the sky.

Carols sing of sunshine on glad Christmas Day, but for me, darkness calls the season down. Not every Christmas had snow, even in the north country, where the rest of the world supposed it snowed year ’round.

But every Christmas had darkness.

My parents taught us well the magic of Christmas. The mere mention of the word makes my head swim with the aroma of cinnamon and bayberry. Even in the sweltering summer nights of my later southern homes, I would dream of Christmas, and wake to find that I had wept for sheer joy in my sleep.

Now, not one Christmas, but many Christmases crowd my heart. Scenes from the past spin before my mind’s eye, mixing memories from all the Christmases I have known. They sparkle and twinkle like tinsel on the tree, shining forth from the past a wink at a time: first this Christmas, then that, a happy moment here, a sad one there.

There must always be a little sadness at Christmas, to throw our joy into greater relief. Doesn’t each new Christmas beg a tear for the ones past? The great circle of seasons rolls ’round, and those we love wander far from us, just as the children we once were fade in time, never to return.

Christmas is a season of miracles. How miraculous that the joys of the season can spring from boxes stored in a closet, attic, or basement, forgotten until the time comes to pull them out and open them!

Churches fill with greenery and candlelight. Light poles on Main Street hang with decorations. Christmas music plays in the stores, and Santa comes to call, with bell in hand on the street corner, or holding court in the department store.

Christmas places its hold on the mind and senses, pushing away concern for the future, and lightening everyday cares. One’s heart sings with carols as one’s eyes sparkle in the colored lights.

I remember caroling with members of the high school choir, when we went beyond the rollicking, freeform, unison singing, and practiced harmonies until we could make the night air ring like an angel choir. Then we plodded through snowy streets, blessing our listeners with sweet song, warming the homes of shut-ins and the elderly. When an activity that brings such happiness to the participant reaches out and touches others, one is twice blessed. Such is the true spirit of Christmas.

Memories layer one upon the other, drifting to be plunged into, to become lost in. They haunt me happily as I sit beside the Christmas fire, simply, silently, thankfully, welcoming Christmas once again.

4 Responses to “Beside the Christmas Fire”

  1. Angela says:

    I read this today, sitting by the fire with a hot beverage in hand.Thank you for putting into words all the emotions of Christmas. I do hope you share the full length piece some day. Happy New Year to you and yours! 🙂

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Angela! Sorry, I confused you with my local partner in crime, Angie. Our Christmas in the Haines area turned white around 3 pm, so we had the right ambiance for the story. Sounds like you did, too, at least in doors!

  3. Eva says:

    Mark, Beautifully written…we all reminence of Christmas past. I hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas and only wish you the best in the New Year.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you, Eva. Our Christmas has been everything we could hope for so far. We hope the same for you!

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