Teresa sat cross-legged on the braided rug, with a photo album open on her lap, humming along with the radio. The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed the hour as she turned the pages. Fluffy, a white Persian cat, snuggled beside her purring. Katie’s voice brought her mind back to the present.
Katie sat beside her sister. “The album Gran made helps me to remember Mother.” She pulled Fluffy onto her lap.
Do you remember how Mother used to sing to us when we went to bed?” Teresa asked.
Katie giggled when she plopped her finger on a photo. “What old fashioned clothes. Can you imagine wearing them?”
“No, I can’t,” Teresa said as she closed the album.
“Father put the Christmas tree in the parlor. “Let’s decorate it,” Katie said leaping to her feet.
The hum of the sewing machine came through the open door.” I’d love to,” Teresa said as she put the album away. “I wonder what Gran is making?”
“It’s a big secret,” Katie answered, as she skipped across the hall. “I’ve tried to peek but always get caught.”
Katie and Teresa entered the parlor with Fluffy padding behind them.
Teresa looked at the Scotch Pine in front of the window. “What a gorgeous tree.” The faint smell of tobacco mingled with the smell of pine and lemon pledge.
Katie opened a cardboard box. “Here is the ornament Gran made last year.” She pulled out a delicate doll.
“Do you remember this gold ornament that Mother made when you were seven,” Teresa asked, as she picked up a fairy covered in gold sparkles.
“It’s my favorite. I had a fairy costume for Halloween that year.” Katie answered as she ran her finger over the delicate ornament.
“Put it up high so Fluffy won’t get it. Put the red and gold plastic balls near the bottom.Teressa sorted the ornaments while Fluffy watched wiggling her bum waiting to pounce.
Katie took a silver bell away from Fluffy. “Not for you.”
The girls worked silently for a few minutes. “Can you reach the top? The angel is the last thing,” Katie said as she stepped back to look.
“No,” Teresa said, as she admired the tree. “Mother made that angel, and I don’t want to break it. Father or Robert are the only ones who can reach the top.”
Katie looked in the ornament box. “What about the bird houses and birds. We almost forgot them. Tissue paper rustled as Katie and Teresa unwrapped the miniature bird houses. Katie put a little cardinal on the tree and stepped back. “There that is better. Why are Gran and Father talking in whispers all the time?”
Teresa hung up the last tiny birdhouse. “It’s the time of year for secrets.” Father and Gran stop talking every time I enter the room. A door opening and closing brought her back to the present.
“What did you ask Santa for?” Katie asked.
“A Nancy Drew mystery,” Teresa answered. I want the coat displayed at the General Store but didn’t ask. “I also asked for a pearl necklace.”
“I asked for a new dolly. The one in Eaton’s catalog with blond curls and red velvet dress.” Katie said as she looked out the window. “It’s snowing.” Katie ran to the door when the phone rang, and Gran answered. “Father is going to town. He came in talked to Gran and went out again.”
“One more sleep,” Teresa said as she scraped a hole in the lacy frost on the window. She watched as Father jumped into the truck. She listened to crunching tires on the hard packed snow as he drove away. “He doesn’t usually go to town this late. I wonder who called.”
“Come upstairs. Help me with the gifts I am making for Gran, Father, and Robert.” Katie asked.
“What are you making?” Teresa asked as they tiptoed up the uncarpeted stairs trying to avoid the squeaky spots.
“I made bookmarks for Gran.” Katie paused in her doorway. ” I made a case for Father’s eye glasses. I made a pencil case for Robert.” She took the felt case out of the top drawer. “Can you fix my embroidery? It’s supposed to be a Robin.”
“Sure. Make cards while I fix it.” A door opened and closed somewhere in the house while the girls worked. “How do you like it?” Teresa asked.
“Now it looks like a Robin,” Katie answered with a giggle. “I need wrapping paper. Gran had said to make my own. What did you make for everyone?”
“I knit potholders for Gran, scarves for Father and Robert. I still have some white paper. We can decorate it and wrap your presents,” Teresa answered with a grin. “Be right back.”
A half hour later they had everything wrapped in white paper covered with colorful bells and bows. ” Let’s put our gifts under the tree,” Katie said as she picked up her armful of presents. “What’s in that big lumpy one?”
“Never mind nosey,” Teresa said with a grin.
They were arranging gifts under the tree when Gran called them to supper. “Your father will be late.” Robert is in the shop. Help yourself and put everything back in the warming oven.”
The wind rattled the windows as Katie and Teresa hung their stockings on the fireplace mantel. “Rudolph will guide Santa’s sleigh,” Kaie said, as she put a plate of shortbread and a glass of milk on the small corner table.
“Yes, he will. There are carrots for the reindeer. I try to stay awake but never can.” Teresa answered as they headed up the steep stairs.
Teresa yawned and stretched the next morning when the smell of bacon drifted up the stairs. She had laid awake listening to the howling wind. Just before she’d drifted off, the front door opened and closed and voices drifted up the stairs. Then there was the faint sound of sleigh bells.
“You awake? Santa was here,” Katie said, as she pounced on Teresa making the bed squeak.
“I am now. Let’s go,” Teresa answered as she leaped out of bed.
The girls clattered down the steep stairs and dashed into the parlor where a fire crackled in the stone fireplace.
“Look under the tree,” Katie said as she danced around the room.
Teresa’s eyes sparkled when she took her bulging stocking off the oak fireplace mantel. “Let’s open these and then have breakfast.”
In a few minutes, the contents of their stockings were all over the floor.
“My doll,” Katie said, as she sucked on her candy cane.
“A Nancy Drew mystery and a set of pearls,” Teresa said as she looked through her stocking.
A few minutes later they joined Gran, Father and Robert in the steamy kitchen that smelled of bacon, pancakes, coffee, and eggs. Gran was just putting a large turkey in the oven. “Auntie Mabel, Uncle Henry and Charles will be over later.”
There was the scraping of chairs on the linoleum as they sat at the table. There was happy chatter and the clattering of cutlery as they ate. Father pushed his chair back. ” Who wants to open gifts?”
“Me,” Katie and Teresa said almost simultaneously.
“Katie, do you want to pass out gifts?” Gran asked as she sat on the brocade sofa.
“Love to.” Katie skipped to the tree with Fluffy at her heels. She pulled out the decorated white packages and passed them around. “Here Fluffy. One for you.” Then she took out the two big boxes. There was one for her and Teresa. “Oh, a blue coat with a wide fur collar.”
“A purple coat with a large fur collar. Thanks, Gran. I love it.” Teresa said as she opened her gift. That’s what Gran has been doing. It is better than the one at the General Store.
Fluffy pounced on the wrapping paper and investigated the empty boxes ignoring her new catnip toys. The sound of rustling paper filled the room as everyone opened their gifts.
The smell of roasting turkey, apple pie and potatoes filled the house as Gran prepared the big dinner. Teresa had finished drying the last of the dishes when they heard the crunch of tires and opening and closing of doors . A few minutes later Auntie Mabel, Uncle Henry, and Charles entered the kitchen bringing a blast of cold air with them. “Merry Christmas.”
Katie had just finished setting the dining room table with their best china when Father took the turkey out of the oven, and there was a flurry of activity as heaping dishes were taken out to the dining room. Fluffy wrapped herself around Gran’s legs purring waiting for her special treat of chopped turkey.
Laughter and chatter filled the cozy house as the family visited well into the night. The moon was shining when Teresa and Katie made their way to bed to dream about coats with fur collars, new toys, and turkey.
Read Ghostly Encounter and Other Short Stories by following the following link.