Monday, December 10, 2018

The Sounds of Christmas

The Sounds of Christmas
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Winter has arrived.  I hear it when I’m very quiet and listen.
            The fireplace crackles, warming the house. Snow taps on the windowpanes and wind howls through the trees. Walking outside, my boots crunch in the snow. If I reach up and break an icicle off the shed roof, it snaps. When I hit the other icicles with it, they shatter and sound like breaking glass.

            I hear a cardinal calling and a wild canary tweeting at the birdfeeder.  A neighbor’s dog barks. A big snowplow rumbles along the street clearing snow. Snowmobiles zoom in the nearby field.
            Christmas is getting closer. I close my eyes and hear it. The electric mixer whirs. Bowls and cookie sheets clatter in the kitchen. The oven door opens with a quiet click. Ding, ding, ding! The timer rings to say the cookies are done and the oven door clicks open again.

            Time to decorate the Christmas tree! Mom wrapped a few ornaments in tissue and the paper crinkles as they’re unwrapped. An ornament shaped like a bell jingles. Another plays “Silent Night.”  Oops!  I dropped a glass one by accident and it smashed on the floor. That isn’t a nice sound. The vacuum makes a lot of noise sweeping it up.
           When Christmas gets even closer, every TV ad yells “Christmas Sale!”  I shop with Dad and Christmas carols play in every store, even stores for auto parts. Our doorbell rings often with the delivery person leaving boxes I’m not allowed to open.
            Wherever I go, I overhear people talking about Christmas. “What should I get Uncle Frank this year?” “Do you want to help me wrap?” “Don’t forget, Santa’s watching!”
            Christmas is a few days away. Mom streams Christmas music all day and dances around the house.  When we go out at night, Dad drives down streets we don’t usually drive on to see outdoor Christmas decorations and we sing. At home, popcorn popping means we’re going to watch a good Christmas movie.

            The day before Christmas has extra special sounds.  Our teacher saying, “See you next year!”  Mom and Dad’s car doors slamming— they’re home early!  Announcements over the loud speakers at the train station when we pick Grandma and Aunt Carmela up.  So many people are travelling, the station is noisy. Grandma exclaims, “You’ve grown!” when she sees me.  Aunt Carmela asks, “How are you doing in school?”
            On Christmas Eve, Grandma reads me “The Night Before Christmas” and because I like my book about turtles, she reads that to me, too. I go to bed really, really early, but I can’t sleep, so I open my window a tiny bit and try to hear Santa’s sleigh bells. I think I do, but they’re still far away. A car honks and our neighbor’s cat meows to go inside.
When I wake up, it’s 5:00.  The only thing I hear is the clock ticking. No one is up yet. I run down the stairs and see presents under the tree. I yell, “Come see! Santa was here!”
Mom, Dad, Grandma and Aunt Carmela trudge downstairs. The sound I remember best after that is tearing paper and happy laughter and for some reason, a few loud yawns.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 8, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME). 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Santa's Surprise Vacation

Santa’s Surprise Vacation
                 By Valerie L. Egar

Every year when Santa arrived home from delivering toys on Christmas Eve, he was exhausted. The elves helped the reindeer out of their harnesses and fed them, while Santa made his way to the house and tumbled into bed. Most times, he didn’t even have time to take off his boots before he fell fast asleep.
After a long nap, he awoke to a festive meal with all of the elves. Mrs. Claus was a wonderful cook, but without a good amount of Christmas magic, she would never have been able to serve Santa and hundreds of elves their favorite meals and dessert, because everyone favored something different.
Though Santa enjoyed turkey and Mrs. Claus’ delicious stuffing, the elves’ tastes varied. Spaghetti and meatballs, grilled hotdogs, buttered noodles, pot roast, fried chicken— only with magic was Mrs. Claus able to satisfy everyone.
After dinner, Santa always went to his office and started planning for the following year. “Honey, there’s plenty of time. Relax,” Mrs. Claus said. But, it was impossible for Santa to relax at the North Pole. Looking at snow from the window, he thought of sleds and snowboards and calculated how many he should make for children next year. Walking through the workshop, he sketched plans for new stuffed animals and began designing video games.
 Mrs. Claus knew that Santa needed a rest after all his work and that he would relax only if he was someplace other than the North Pole. She talked to the elves and they made a plan for a surprise vacation. When Santa came home from delivering toys and fell asleep, the elves wrapped him in a warm blanket and carried him to an airplane Mrs. Claus hired. Most of the elves climbed aboard too, leaving only a few faithful elves to take care of the reindeer and keep the house fires burning so it would be warm when they returned home.
When Santa awoke, he found himself on a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the ocean. The elves had decorated palm trees with twinkle lights and hung tinsel garlands on the bushes. A huge fir tree the elves hitched to the top of the airplane stood in front of the house, decorated with crystals that sparkled in the bright sun. 
Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves had the island all to themselves, except for a flock of pink flamingos that wandered back and forth on the beach. The white beach sand glittered like snow and it wasn’t long before the elves were jumping waves and playing water tag. “C’mon in, Santa! The water’s warm.”
Mrs. Claus handed Santa a pair of red swim trunks and one of the elves inflated a big inner tube. Santa floated on the water, enjoying the sun until the elves decided splashing Santa would be fun. Hundreds of little hands splashed water in Santa’s direction. Mrs. Claus could hear the elves giggling from the porch where she sat, enjoying the view.
 For two weeks, Santa swam, slept in the sunshine and read all the mysteries and fantasy novels he’d been meaning to read. The elves climbed trees, developed a taste for coconut milk, and built sand castles.
When they arrived back at the North Pole, everyone was tan, rested and ready to get back to work. Best of all, Santa had an idea for a new toy— a cuddly fuzzy coconut.  “The elves liked them so much,” Santa said. “And you can play catch with them.”
Mrs. Claus shook her head. “You already have cuddly soccer balls and footballs. What about a cuddly pink flamingo?”

Santa smiled. “What a good idea!”

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 1, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).