by Jody Klaire
It’s the time of year that, whatever your thoughts or feelings about faith, stirs emotions. For some it is painful. Scars are rubbed raw with reminders and, for others, it’s an exciting time of celebrating with family and friends. For me, it was hectic, trying to scurry around and make enough crumbs to feed a family.
I lived and worked in one place, a servant I guess, clearing up after those who visited. I was the eldest so it was my job to help out my parents. They were good parents too. I loved them and was proud I got their genes. They’d taken in my uncle’s children when he and my aunt… Either way, with my brothers and sisters and the extra mouths to feed, it was a push. I’d moved up into the very top of the building to account for it. I was a bit young to be on my own but I needed the peace and quiet sometimes.
Christmas Eve was always busy. People would stay long into the night and I’d have to scamper up and down the flagstone floors trying not to get underfoot. They were all so busy focusing on sharing cards and love with each other that none of them really noticed me. I was small so I guessed that had a lot to do with it and, judging by the disgust of those who did take the time to look at me, I was happy being invisible.
Music filled the place and I padded along humming the tunes to myself. One of the best bits was that I got to listen to the rehearsals. The guy in charge terrified me with his booming voice and he demanded that his singers give him the very best. People would pack the place to watch and he wanted it to be memorable.
There was one section where a soloist would get up and sing such an uplifting melody that I had to stop and listen. It was hard not to sway along and I’d sing the parts with her, quietly, as not to draw attention from her. That Christmas Eve, she sang with such an energy that I stopped working for a few minutes, lulled into a daze.
Then a visitor in the middle of the row dropped something and I sighed hurrying over.
Back to work.
The visitor didn’t even notice as a tenor took over the proceedings so I cleared the whole lot.
There were a couple of us working and as the crowds began to leave, I called out a Merry Christmas to them as they headed home. I had a couple more things to do and went through to the back where the lady who’d sung was sitting rubbing the bridge of her nose. I could see that she was fighting back tears and sighed. I’d been told never to talk but maybe it was the Christmas spirit, I didn’t know, but I couldn’t leave her like that.
I went to the table and nudged her hand. She snapped open her eyes with an ‘oh,’ before smiling at me. I looked up at her and took a breath. “You were wonderful. I love your voice.”
She cocked her head at me. I tensed, ready to run in case she swiped for me. “You’re up past your bedtime, aren’t you?”
I nodded as she pulled at the white band she wore around her collar. She spent a lot of time here and always made people who came in smile. I’d see her comforting those who were really upset or offering guidance. I liked her but from experience I knew that wasn’t always mutual.
“Why are you crying?” I asked. I hoped that she’d understand. I could understand her but I knew that we spoke a different language.
“It was busy tonight wasn’t it?” she said dragging over a lunchbox and pulling it open.
My stomach rumbled at the smell. She always had nice sandwiches. Sometimes, when she’d left the crust, I’d finish it off. I knew she wouldn’t mind. She never ate her crusts.
“It’s nice to see the place full.” She leaned on her fist and pushed the sandwich, a full sandwich, toward me. “You must be hungry.”
I glanced around. My stomach rumbled again and I sniffed the delicious aroma. “Are you sure?”
She nudged it closer and I grinned. Yum.
She watched me eat, a beaming smile on her face. “It never stops feeling special,” she whispered. “I was so focused on all the material things. I spent years chasing after a dream.”
“What dream was that?” I managed between mouthfuls.
“I wanted to be a star and one day my manager sent me to do a Christmas concert in some pokey little church.” She chuckled. “I went along with it.”
“What happened?” I sat down, fixated by the tears in her eyes.
“I started to sing and something changed in me.” She closed her eyes for a minute, her tears trickling down her cheeks. “The sound filled my heart with everything I’d been missing. Love poured through me to such an extent that I couldn’t keep it locked up.” She smiled at me. “It burst from me and changed every dream to new ones… better ones.”
I nodded. I got that. I could hear it when she sang.
“Twenty years,” she whispered. “And every year it happens again. Every Christmas I feel that wave of love.”
I finished the sandwich and cocked my head. “You do?”
She picked me up and I held onto her fingers as she stroked the top of my head. “Love for all things. That’s what Christmas is about, goodwill, reminding others that they are very much in your heart.” She pointed to the floor, there was a massive bag of something and—I licked my lips—more cheese.
She stood and I scurried up her shoulder. She pulled open the bag of food and walked right over to my parents’ front door. She knelt down, my stomach lurching as she did so, and filled up a metal dish. I sniffed at the air. There were nuts, seeds, oh boy. There was enough to feed the family and then some.
“Merry Christmas,” she said, picking me off her shoulder and holding me up so she could see me.
I didn’t have arms big enough to hug her so I sniffed at her nose instead. “Merry Christmas.”
She blinked a few times as if she had understood me, then shook her head and placed me on the floor. I turned and sniffed up at her. “God bless you.”
She blinked again. “And you, little mouse.” She beamed and her laughter rang out around the room. “And you.”