A Christmas Story-‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Dr. Carrie Wachsmann

(inspired by a true event) Originally posted December, 2015. Some stories are simply worth repeating.

“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.

‘Peace on the earth, good will toward men’,

from heaven’s all gracious King!

The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.” 

Christmas music gently filled the little coffee-house. Unlike the carol heralding a ‘midnight clear’, this night was everything but. Snow fell fast and thick.

In the corner, a young man sat alone.


The young man © 

He looked out the window and watched as the last patron of the night plowed their way out of the parking lot.

“Young man, we’re closing.”

He nodded, put on his coat and made his way to the exit. He looked to be about fourteen, fifteen at the most.

As the door closed behind him, the cold quickly bit into his face and hands.  He pulled his collar up close to his face.

“Do you have a ride?” a voice called to him.

The young man turned to see someone standing in the shadows of the building.

”No, I’m good,” he answered firmly.

The man persisted. “I’m not so sure about that. It’s Christmas eve. Shouldn’t you be home with your family, sitting by the fire and enjoying hot chocolate, or something?”

The lad shrugged his shoulders as if to say… yah, so what. Who cares anyway.

The man stepped out of the shadows.


The old man © 

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” 2 – Carrie  ©] 

The young man saw that he was an old man. Old enough to make him wonder what someone this old was doing out in a snow storm at this hour of the night.

The old man continued. “Where you’re headed… it is not worth it… You do have options you know.”

The young man was beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable. He stared at the old man not sure what to make of the encounter.

“How do you know where I’m headed?” he finally asked.

“I know that place, under the bridge.” The old man continued.  “You won’t find what you’re really looking for out there. Running away isn’t the answer.”

Now the young man paused.

How did this old man know that he was going to that “homeless place” where he might make it through the night?

Maybe if he was lucky someone would share their Christmas “spirits” with him.

And how did this old man know that he was running away?

The old man smiled knowingly and said. “I’ve been young and now I am old…but I have never seen God’s children forsaken”… The old man talked so strange…and yet he was most compelling.

“I know a place.  A place where you can get a hot bowl of homemade soup, and a good night’s sleep.”

“Follow me,” the old man continued.


The mysterious old man leads the way © 

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” 3 – Carrie  ©

The old man began to make his way through the deep drifts of snow. The young man hesitated but only for a second or two. “Man…what do I have to lose,” he mumbled.

He began to follow in the old man’s footsteps.

After some time, the old man stopped at a building with a sign that read, “The Welcome Home Centre”.  He turned to the young man. “They will take care of you.  You can stay as long as you wish.” Then he paused, looked the boy in the eyes and added, “God loves you, you know. He’s got plans for you”.

The young man did not know what to think. No one had ever talked to him like this before.

They stood in silence and waited.

Eventually a pleasant sort of man answered the knock on the door. The young man’s last bit of resistance melted away as he breathed in a blast of warm fragrant air. He smelled something wonderful.

“Come in… welcome,” the man said sincerely.

“I…ah..need a place to hang till this storm’s over,” the young man said, hesitantly.

“You’ve come to the right place then,” came the reassuring answer.

The young man sighed.

He turned and started to thank the old man but no one was there.

“That old man, who was here with me. He brought me here. He was just here,” the bewildered young man exclaimed .

“I didn’t see anybody but you, lad,” came the answer.

“But he was here, I followed him here. He told me about you…he knew stuff about me…he…”

Bewildered, the young man took one last look out into the white night. He saw only lonely, empty  streets and a fast disappearing single set of footprints that lead to The Welcome Home’s front porch.

footprints in the snow

Putting a kind hand on the young man’s shoulder the man at the door said, “It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened son. “I do believe you.  Come…I want to hear all about it.”

It’s now midnight and that brings our 2015 Christmas eve story to an end.

Yes, this young man’s life was changed forever that Christmas eve.

What will this Christmas bring you?

Will you let God’s love bring you a miracle this Christmas?

I wish for you, a life-changing kind of Christmas.

One that you will remember forever because it was…well…life changing.

You can find me on Facebook here:  – Carrie Wachsmann – Storyteller 

& here: Roadblocks to Hell – book

The Hayloft

Feature image (2015): Grandpa’s barn doorway which leads to the stairs and the hayloft. Cats and kittens are welcome on the farm. They even have their own ladder and window entry for their safety and convenience.

Are you a fellow boomer who remembers the thrill of playing in the hayloft; climbing up the stacks of bales, jumping off and flying through the air, landing in a pile of prickly hay?

In 1984, a lovely “spinster,” who was my favorite Sunday School teacher and who often shared her treasure of books from her personal library with me, organized and put together a book called Horndean Heritage. I was asked to submit a special memory that reflected our little country pumpkin town.

I chose to write about grandpa’s hayloft…

The Hayloft

“Little Carrie struggled with the heavy barn door, leaning against it, and then pushing with her whole body. Slowly the massive piece of hardwood creaked open, groaning and complaining as if it did not want to be wakened so early in the morning. Carrie wrinkled her freckled nose in distaste as a strong whiff of warm, pungent barn air hit her full in the face. She stepped inside and scampered up the worn, creaky stairs to the hayloft. Ahh! The sweet fragrance of fresh hay greeted her as she reached the top stair.

A beam of bright sunlight streaked across the center of the otherwise dusky room, revealing particles of dust floating lazily. Bales stacked up to sixteen feet high lined the sides of the hayloft, and in the center of the room was a large pile of yellow hay. Carefully, Carrie clambered to the top of a stack of bales and looked down. Even though she had done this many times before, she still hesitated just a little, and her heart still fluttered just a little faster than usual.

Memory of Grandpa’s Hay loft©

Then she jumped. Her body flew downward gracefully. Her stomach took off on a flight of its own, like a bird swooping through the sky. She sucked in a mouthful of air and held it there. Then she hit the yielding prickly mountain of hay and sank deeply into it. Carrie lay there for just a moment, looking high above her at the vast ceiling with its great curved beams.

A few seconds of leisure and the itch became unbearable. Carrie scrambled out of the hay and began picking the straw off her body. It always seemed to find its way under her shirt and behind her trousers, in her hair and even in her socks. She brushed the last straws from her hair and stuck one in her mouth, thinking how much it tasted like the chamomile tea her mother often gave her before bedtime.

Carrie turned towards the open loft door when suddenly she tripped over a very irate brown and white speckled laying hen. She squawked and screeched and flapped her wings wildly, as she scurried away in fear, or perhaps exasperation and anger at all the commotion. Carrie was rather frightened herself and let out a surprised yell as she stumbled to the floor.

Then she saw the eggs. Carefully she slipped one into each pocket of her trousers, thinking how pleased Grandma would be when she gave them to her. Carrie looked out the loft door and waved to her grandfather who was feeding the pigs. He waved back and smiled, telling her not to come to close to the edge and to be careful.

Hayloft door where Carrie would sit and hang her feet off the edge ©

Here was the place Carrie liked best when she wanted to be alone. She would sit and dangle her feet off the edge and watch the world from a different perspective. She bent down to do just that when…crunch!

Yuk!… she had forgotten about the eggs!”

Published in Horndean Heritage, 1984 – Carrie Wachsmann

Set the Scene and You Set the Mood

Why is the setting in your story important?

 

Your characters need a time and place in which to move. The setting answers the “when” and the “where” of your story, giving it a frame of reference. This adds authenticity and credibility to your storytelling.

When you “set the scene,” you “set the mood,” the atmosphere.

 

Spooky scene Creative Commons https://pxhere.com/en/photo/744081

 

Creepy and spooky

is quite different from

sunny with ocean salt-air and sandy beaches.

A setting in the country

offers vastly different opportunities and possibilities

then one in the city.

 

 Since October is Halloween month, let’s work on a spooky kind of setting.

 

Creepy crow – Creative Commons  https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1215912

 

Fatigued and fighting fear, I followed the mostly hidden pathway through the misty forest glades. Perhaps it would take me back to the familiar.

I have no idea how long I had been struggling to find my way. In the early hours of the morning, I came upon a quaint and rather strange little cottage. Relief and then apprehension washed over me. How odd. Something one might find in a Grimm’s fairy tale, I mused. It had a spooky charm about it. The faded wood and moss-filled roof gave it plenty of character, and it was surprisingly well-kept.

The warm, flickering candlelight cast an eerie glow through several stained glass windows. I stopped for a moment, transfixed by their ethereal beauty.

My skin began to tingle. The cottage was inviting in many ways, but my instincts warned me to enter with caution.

 hdwallpaperup.com – /fantasy-girl-house-land-wallpaper/

I really have no choice, I reasoned. The glow from a hanging lantern guided me to the entrance. I’m lost and cold. I’m hungry, I’m tired, not to mention, scared. At that point, I realized I was more scared of being lost than of what I might encounter behind the creepy door.” 

Carrie Wachsmann ©

An “In Light of Eternity” Story

His name was John

 

We first met one afternoon when my husband and I stopped to shop for fresh vegetables at our local Fruiticana. He was slouched on the sidewalk, wearing a dark hoodie covering most of his eyes, a small bag beside him and his back to the wall. He waved as we entered the parking lot; I waved back, noting his tattered clothing and dirty hand.

 

As we left the parking lot, my husband felt compelled to stop. I was glad when he pulled out his wallet and called the man over. A single front tooth stood out as the man, who identified himself as John, smiled a big, broad smile. He thanked us for our “kindness” and then told us that Jesus was the reason he was here today and if it weren’t for Jesus, he would still be trapped by his addiction to alcohol. He added, “It’s been years since I’ve been free.”

 

That was the beginning of a rather unusual and rewarding relationship.

 

After that day, each time we visited Fruiticana, and John was sitting in his usual spot, my husband or I would stop to chat and leave him with a little something we prayed would make his life just a little easier.

 

On one occasion, I noticed a neighboring shop clerk stop to chat with John as she took her “coffee/smoke” break. On another occasion, I noted a bread truck driver hand John a soft loaf of freshly baked bread. He also took the time for a short chat. It appeared to me John had found community. In some small way, I determined I would be part of John’s unusual but caring community.

 

Once, in conversation with John, we talked about that no matter what happens, one day we will see each other in heaven. This journey on earth is for a time, but our forever lives are still to come.

 

2017 was one of the coldest and longest winters Abbotsford had experienced in many years. The weeks came and went, and I didn’t see John. I wondered, “Was he warm? Was he safe? Was he well? Was he still with us? Until one day while driving down Gladwin Road, I saw him walking down the street. Yes, John was still with us, and he seemed to be doing ok.

 

Finally, spring arrived. It was a wet and chilly April day, and this time Superstore was our grocery shopping destination. My heart did a little skip when I spotted John, sitting on a cement block in the underground parking lot, away from the bone-chilling, freezing rain.

 

I walked over to him, and he greeted me with his usual bright and cheerful, toothless smile. I shared some of what I had with him, and this time John shared back. He handed me a bunch of organic bananas. He asked if I would like to have them. He said he had too many bananas right now and they would just go bad. “Everybody gives me bananas,” he said.

 

I hesitated, but only for a moment. With a broad smile of my own, I took his bananas and thanked him. I told him I needed bananas and that he had just made my day. After all, I was part of his community, and that’s what you do in community. You share. I felt deeply honored to be officially accepted into John’s little community.

 

That was the last time I saw John.

 

Today, June 7, we stopped at Fruiticana to replenish our fruits and vegetables. When I saw the neighboring shop clerk taking her smoke break, sitting near where John usually sat, but this time alone, I walked over to her and asked her, “Have you seen John lately?”

 

“No,” she replied, “he passed away not long ago.”

 

I have to say my moment of sadness was but a moment, for you see, John is in heaven and most surely having the time of his forever life.

 

 

Heroic Newfoundland Dog on the Titanic

Image – http://cheddarbay.com/0000Tea/Titanic/crew/murdoch/rigel.html

(If you enjoy dog stories, you might enjoy my book – Newfies to the Rescue  on Amazon.)

 

The great Titanic’s demise –  April 14, 1912

Did you know the captain of the Titanic, William McMaster Murdoch, had his Newfoundland dog, Rigel, on board the Titanic?

Did you know Rigel was responsible for rescuing the passengers on Lifeboat #4?

If you appreciate and love the Newfoundland dog as I do, you will know they are bred for water rescue (among other things – draft purposes, acting as nannies, search and rescue, etc.).

Because of their water rescue instincts, “Few ships in the 18th and 19th century set sail without a Newf on board. Their reputation for heroic water rescues was unparalleled.”

http://www.newfoundlanddogclub.ca/index.php/brief-history-of-the-breed

Since the Titanic was “unsinkable” and since Captain Murdoch was intent on reaching their destination (New York) in record time, Rigel along with 12 other dogs, was housed in the lower level in the Titanic’s fashionable, safe and comfortable kennel.

In the dark of night on April 14,  surrounded by a thick fog, the crew did not see the enormous iceberg until it was too late. The iceberg tore into the side of the ship, and the Titanic did the unthinkable… it began to sink.

 

titanic-sinking

http://www.in.com/sting/gallery-10-interesting-facts-about-rms-titanic-261709-22781848.html

 

The captain did not have time to release his beloved companion from the kennel. While trying to lower a lifeboat, a large wave washed Captain Murdoch overboard, and he disappeared forever.

A brave unknown passenger took the time to release the dogs from their cages. The smaller dogs that found their masters who were able to board lifeboats were saved. The others did not survive. Except for Rigel.

Newfoundland dogs are well equipped to survive harsh conditions and icy ocean. Their feet are webbed, their tails are strong and thick and act as a rudder.  Their double, water-resistant coat helps them swim and like the polar bear, keeps them from freezing.

Record has it, Rigel swam around looking for his master. Eventually, he swam alongside Lifeboat #4.

More than 2 hours after the Titanic slipped to the bottom of the ocean, the passenger ship, Carpathia, came to the rescue the survivors. Lifeboat #4 had drifted some distance from the other lifeboats. The fog was still low and the passengers too weak to call out for help. After sweeping the area with search lights and finding no more survivors, the Carpathia began to leave the area. The little Lifeboat #4 was directly in their path.

If it had not been for Rigel barking to announce their presence, Lifeboat #4 and all its passengers would have been crushed by the Carpathia. When the captain of the Carpathia heard barking, he ordered the ship to stop. Rigel swam in front of the lifeboat announcing their presence until a crew member spotted the lifeboat and rescued the passengers.

The following day, the New York Herald told the heartwarming story of Rigel’s heroic rescue. Rigel found a home with one of the crewmen and lived out his days in well-deserving comfort and peace.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201203/the-heroic-dog-the-titanic

After my grandfather died, I found this book – Das Ende Der “Titanic” among his possessions that were designated for the thrift store.

titanci-book-1912

I leafed through its fragile pages and discovered notes and markings throughout. Someone said, “Your grandpa was always fascinated by the Titanic.”

Since no one else found the book valuable, I claimed it for my own.

The book is a German translation of an English book written in 1912 by William H. Lee.

Sketches have English notations.

There were many other heroes on board the Titanic that day… but that’s a story for another time.

titanic-greater-love

One woman, whose name my grandfather noted in the book, was one of those heroes.

In the meantime…

I took a few photos from grandpa’s, Das Ende Der “Titanic,” to share with you.

Most of my grandfather’s notes were written in German.

titanic-book-1

 

titanic-book-4

 

titanic-book-22

Today, this book along with a few other treasured items that belonged to my grandparents, lies safe underneath the glass of my coffee table in our living room.

 

A Funny Memory Worth Remembering

This funny happening,  happened several years ago – and still makes me laugh.

 

I went to my local House of Fine Art (HOFA) store for some Alizarin, Crimson artists’ oil paint.

Max Gumbacher paint

 

 

At the time of this humorous occurrence, I was a frequent visitor to this fine little art store.

The owner  was the president of our city’s Abbotsford Arts Council.

As I was paying for my tube of Alizarin, Crimson oil paint,  he invited me to come to the Abbotsford Arts Council (AAC) AGM meeting that evening.

He said, “tonight“, and wrote down the details on the back of his business card.

 

He also asked if I would consider being on the board and naturally I asked, ” What do I have to do to be part of this elite group?”

“Just come to meetings once a month.” He said “The AAC is part of the city’s planning and direction for the arts, and supports the many art groups in the community with their projects.

My response – “I can do that – that sounds like something I would actually like to do.”

 

I grabbed my receipt, tucked my purchase into my purse and made my way to the door. As I left he said, “See you tonight at the Kariton House.”

6:56 PM I arrived at the Kariton House where I was greeted by someone I didn’t know – I looked for Mr. HOFA but he was nowhere to be seen, so I assumed that this someone else was covering for him. Funny, I don’t recognize anybody, I thought to myself.

 

The “leader” asked, “Are you a new member” and I said, “Not really – I’ve been a member for a while now but this is my first meeting”.

 

“Well, what do I know,” he answered, looking somewhat puzzled. Then he said that I would be pleased to know that on Saturday they were going on an outing, somewhere up past the city of Hope into the mountains.

 

Stunned that I knew nothing about outings, I responded by saying, “I didn’t know you do outings. That’s interesting.”

 

“Oh yes”, he answered, “that’s what we are all about.”
I pondered that for awhile thinking, “Mr. HOFA never mentioned any outings. That sounds a lot more involved than one meeting per month.”

 

I know…you see it coming, but my lightening fast mind still hadn’t put the pieces together.
Here’s how the rest of that evening went:

 

The meeting starts and I look at the agenda. It is then that I realize….I am in the wrong meeting!
To my chagrin, I am in an Abbotsford Rock and Gem Club meeting. That explains those chunks of rocks on the table and that rock chart taped to the side of it! LOL
I must admit, my first emotion –  embarrassment, but that changes very quickly. No need for embarrassment, I tell myself. This moment is just too humorous to be wasted on embarrassment.

 

So I speak up at the first opportune moment (actually I butt in and have to be put in order) and I address the group – saying” Please excuse me. You can all have a good laugh at this…(I take a deep breath)… You see…” and I explain myself.

 

The room is awkwardly quiet for what seems like an awfully long moment. Then thankfully everyone begins to laugh, after which a few sympathetic individuals try to unsuccessfully entice me to stay – to become one of the rockin’ Rock and Gem Club enthusiasts. I insisted that I must find that Abbotsford Arts Council meeting. One individual asked, “The Abbotsford Arts” who?

 

At that point I realize this meeting is just not going to happen for me, at least not tonight.

Confused but still in good humor, I take my leave and make my way back home.
As it turns out, I would still have the opportunity to attend this very important meeting –  the next day.

I suppose I could have double checked and consulted my latest “Eye on the Arts” newsletter for meeting dates, before leaving my house instead of after I got back.

 

But then I would have missed out on a funny memory worth remembering –  and a a funny story worth telling.

You can find me on Facebook here:  – Carrie Wachsmann – Storyteller 

& here: Roadblocks to Hell – book