Friday, December 14

A Christmas Short Story: The Christmas Wish

I wrote this short story one Christmas when I was feeling overwhelmed by everything that needed doing. This was my way of giving myself a pep talk! As this is my last blog post before Christmas, I'd like to wish readers and my fellow Word Wranglers Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Wish

Maggie pushed her way through the crowd, feeling grumpy and tired. What idiot leaves her Christmas shopping until December 23? She sighed. It wasn’t like she’d wanted to leave the shopping until the last minute, but she simply hadn’t had time to shop. December was her company’s busiest month and she’d been working late almost every night. She was exhausted. The Christmas concert at her daughter’s school last night meant she was up until one in the morning the night before sewing sequins on Sarah’s angel wings. She’d managed to bake some Christmas cookies and address the obligatory Christmas cards, but she found no pleasure in the activities. This year even putting up the Christmas tree seemed like a chore. When had Christmas changed from the most special holiday of the year to the most arduous?

She fought her way to the cosmetics counter to buy some perfume for her sister. While she waited for the salesclerk to ring up her purchase, she looked around the store. Everywhere fake Santas and Christmas angels exhorted customers to buy, buy, buy, reminding them that Christmas was for giving, the cost be damned. Every year the Christmas decorations appeared in the stores a little earlier, the Santas showing up before the Halloween goblins had a chance to get out of the way. Christmas had turned into one more excuse to make a buck.

She was beginning to feel like The Grinch.

Maggie sighed again, thanked the harried sales clerk and grabbed her parcel.  She’d loved Christmas
Just wanted to get in a picture of my dog Lou!
as a child. She remembered the annual concert at the church on Christmas Eve, and going to her grandparents’ house afterwards to exchange gifts with her cousins. The week between Christmas and New Year’s was filled with visits to relatives, skating parties and sleigh rides, and lots of wonderful homemade food. She remembered how her mother had made it all seem so effortless. But her life now was so much different then her mother’s had been. Her mother didn’t work forty hours plus a week in a job outside her home. Her mother’s entire extended family, including brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, all lived in the same small community back then, whereas Maggie, her husband Rob and their daughter Sarah, lived half a country away from the people they loved most.

She knew Christmas could never be the same as when she was a child, but she wished she could recapture her childhood feelings for the holidays. Christmas used to mean something special. 
 She slipped on her gloves and headed out the mall doors to the parking lot. Because of all the Christmas shoppers, she’d had to park a long way from the entrance to the mall. Maggie wrapped her scarf a little snugger around her neck, and tramped through the snow, clutching her collection of shopping bags.

She heard the crunching of snow behind her, signaling that someone was following her. She quickened her steps. All she’d need this Christmas would be to get mugged. So much for goodwill to all men.

“Ma’am, wait. You dropped this.”

Maggie stopped and cautiously turned, ready to bolt towards her car at the least provocation. She was stunned to see her purse in a young man’s hand.

“I saw you drop this at the entrance to the mall but I couldn’t keep up with you.”  He gave her a disarming smile. “The snow kind of slows me down.”

He patted the arm rest of his wheelchair. Maggie stared at him, for a moment unable to speak. Finally, she found her tongue and her manners.

Mmmm...Christmas cookies.
“Thank you so much.  I don’t know what I would have done without this. My keys, my cell phone, what little money I have left, it’s all in here.” She took her purse from the young man. “I’d like to give you something in appreciation.”

She started to rummage in her purse for some spare change, but the young man held up his hand. “No, please, I couldn’t take your money. It’s Christmas. What kind of a person would I be if I couldn’t do a good deed at Christmas?”

“There must be something I can do for you?”

“No, it’s not necessary.” He started to turn his chair, then stopped and looked back at her. “The only wish I have is that you do something nice for someone this Christmas. Something that doesn’t cost you anything. Something from the heart. Have a Merry Christmas, ma’am.”

“Merry Christmas,” Maggie said. “And thanks again.”

Maggie watched as he rolled away, his head and shoulders hunched over as he fought against the bitter winter wind. Despite the cold, Maggie felt warmth radiate inside her. 

She started her car and made her way out of the parking lot. At the end of the lot she noticed a vehicle with its hood up. A woman stood beside the car, her arms wrapped around herself against the cold. Maggie hesitated for just a moment, thinking of her nice warm house and the equally warm rum toddy Rob had promised to make when she returned home. And then she thought of the young man in the wheelchair. She pulled in beside the disabled car.

Maggie rolled down her window. “Can I help you?”

A look of relief passed over the woman’s face. “I hope so, but I hate to impose on such a cold night.”

“It’s not a problem,” Maggie said with a smile. “Besides, it’s Christmas.”