Last year, just before Christmas Eve, I was really worried. Chloe was going to be really disappointed to see Martha.
I met this old lady, Martha outside of church a week before Christmas. Told me she just moved in our block. We chatted for a while and I gathered from her that she had no one to spend her Christmas Eve with. I invited her to our place for Christmas Eve dinner without giving it a second thought. Chloe needed someone to spend holidays with, besides her mother and Clay, our beagle. But Martha wasn’t probably the best choice. She didn’t look very kid- friendly and Chloe was a very curious kid by nature. She would ask Martha many uncomfortable questions and when she would not get her thirst for knowledge quenched; she would throw a tantrum and make everything tense. Plus, I had told Chloe that we had a very exciting guest coming over and maybe if I had to tell her again I’d not have used the word “exciting”. Chloe probably thought it was some celebrity.
Anyway, as soon as the doorbell rang, Chloe and Clay rushed to the door thrilled at the prospect of having an exciting guest over. A wrinkled scrawny woman walked in. The small gray bun on top of her head was so tight that it pulled the skin back giving her a strained look. Her nose was a hawk’s beak; her small eyes were sharp as she scanned the room. She looked angry already and she’s only just walked in. After some awkward introductions Chloe and Clay sulked off to their room, disappointed.
A few minutes later they barreled into the living room without any warning. Chloe eyed Martha’s cane which stood erect on its four-footed base.
“Why do you have a cane?” Chloe wanted to know.
Martha hadn’t expected my daughter to address her and so she hadn’t heard the question. She looked at me for help. “What does she want to know?” she demanded of me gruffly. I repeated her question, embarrassed. Martha gave a short explanation. Then, to my surprise, she invited her to try it. Chloe looked at me for permission and stepped towards the cane, took it in her hands and went on a tour of the whole house. Then she returned the cane with a smile.
I went into the kitchen to work on the homemade Christmas dishes I make every year. Snowflake mix, chocolate nut cookies, mellow mincemeat, salted caramel fudge; these were the items without which Christmas for our family was incomplete. Anyway I worked on them for about thirty minutes and then went back to the living room.
By the time, Chloe had snuck over to Martha, wordlessly crawled into her lap and gave her a hug. After the initial shock, Martha beamed. In an instant she was hooked on my daughter.
The two started chatting like old friends. Chloe didn’t seem to mind that Martha was older. They held interview sessions for each other. Martha asked Chloe what her friends she has been up to. If she was given a choice to grow anything in our yard, what would it be. If stuffed animals could talk what would they say. If Clay could talk what would he say. Chloe was naturally overwhelmed (in a good way) as she had no one ask her questions like this before. She gave elaborate answers and in turn asked Martha what her third favorite amphibian was. This was followed by an hour-long discussion on salamander.
They were really getting into it. I heaved a sigh of relief. It wasn’t a disaster after all. I called my husband (who was in an important meeting in Ohio) and let him know that we were having a great time.
The two kept talking even when we were having dinner. They didn’t pay any heed to my constant reminder to them that it is bad manners to talk while eating. When it was time for Martha to leave, Chloe wouldn’t let her go. She was almost on the verge of crying but was comforted when I told her that she would get to visit her the very next day.
Christmas morning, Chloe woke up excited. Santa had managed to tick off all the boxes of her wish list of gifts. There was a sea of gifts in front of the Christmas tree. Chloe opened all of them in two minutes, delighted. She asked me when we would visit Martha like I promised. She said she had a present for her. I took her to Martha’s place which was about three minutes from ours. To my utmost surprise Chloe gifted the Princess Castle Play set (which took Santa visits to almost a couple hundred stores before Santa finally found it) to the old lady. The last day, Martha had told her that she had a doll house when she was of her age but it broke down. Chloe forced Martha to accept her gift. She said that Santa would be very pleased with her if Martha accepted the gift. Santa surely was.
They became best friends. Every day after school, Chloe would spend an hour or two in Martha’s house. Martha told me that Chloe was like the granddaughter she never had. I always thought Chloe had trouble opening up but with Martha it was completely different. Chloe wasn’t nearly half as comfortable with any child of her age as she was with Martha. The age difference didn’t seem to matter.
It was indeed a Christmas miracle for this odd pair.
This year, with Christmas around the corner again, several relatives will be coming over from Canada. My husband has taken a week off from work. So this Christmas will not be like the last one where we had only one guest. We invited Martha over again (of course). Chloe’s wish list is ready already which means more work for Santa. The Christmas tree is decorated. The holiday mood has set in.
It’s that time of the year again. Christmas has come with all its joys.
Wish you all a Merry Christmas!