Authors: Dana Landers
A Lilac Creek Christmas
©2013 Dana Landers
All Rights Reserved
There was no place on earth, as far as Julia was concerned, as beautiful as Lilac Creek at Christmas time. She drove slowly down the main street, taking time to enjoy the lights and decorations that every shop owner had taken great care to put in place. The old fashioned lamp posts were adorned with live greenery and red bows, and strings of white lights stretched across the narrow cobblestone street. A recent snowfall had turned the whole town into a true winter wonderland full of the magic that was Christmas. She was looking forward to getting home to her family and the evening that lay ahead. It was tree decorating night, probably the biggest Christmas event next to the arrival of Santa himself. She knew everyone would be waiting for her, the lights and decorations all laid out. Sam would have made a big pot of chili for a quick and easy supper, and the girls would gobble it down in their haste to get to the decorating.
The chorus of voices greeted her as she opened the door. Jasper sauntered over for his usual ear scratch and gently licked her hand to let her know he too was glad to see her. Julia gave his scruff a little extra ruffle as she looked into his cloudy brown eyes. “Hi my good dog,” she whispered right into his ear. She knew he probably couldn’t hear her, but she never stopped talking to him anyway. Within minutes she was swept into the excitement of the evening. Just as she predicted, supper was gobbled down and tree decorating began.
curled up by the fire watching the activity in his house through droopy eyes that wanted to sleep. His people were bustling about more than usual and he could sense the excitement in the air. He couldn’t hear their voices anymore but he was an expert at reading body language and facial expressions and he could sense the love…always so much love coming from his people, but right now especially there seemed to be a real surplus of good feelings coming at him. Brinn was practically jumping up and down with excitement and he could tell Emma was just as excited but she was trying to be more grown up about it. The thing that was causing all this flurry of emotions was something they called Christmas. Jasper knew that it came around every year when the weather turned cold and snow covered the ground. He remembered trips into the woods when he would have a heyday chasing squirrels and rabbits while Henry looked for a special kind of tree. He would chop it down and they would bring it home and stand it up in the living room. More recently, Jasper had accompanied his new family while they too hunted down the perfect tree to bring home. It had always been one of Jasper’s favorite outings. He didn’t chase squirrels and rabbits anymore because his vision was going and the world now seemed to be covered in a kind of haze. He was still invited to come along, though, and he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Just being with his people was enough. He still enjoyed the smell of the outdoors and of all the critters that lived there, and as he sauntered along behind his people, he replayed the glory days of many a chase in his mind. Now he was content to lie here and watch as his family transformed the house from everyday to magical.
“It’s perfect!” announced Brinn as the final decoration, the star at the top of the tree was put in place.
Every year they took turns placing the star. Last year Emma had been given the honor of placing the star, and this year that honor fell to the youngest member of their family, Kaylee. Kaylee was born the summer after they had moved to the old farm. It was here that they had also met Emma, and taken her in, first as a foster child, and now as a permanent member of their family. Kaylee was too little to put the star on by herself but Sam had easily lifted her to his shoulders so she could reach. Kaylee clapped her chubby little hands as she stared at the tree, and everyone else joined in. It was a perfect tree.
Sam sat Kaylee back down gently and put his arm around Julia’s shoulders.
“A perfect tree for a perfect family,” he declared with a grin.
“Can we put some presents underneath now?” asked Brinn excitedly. The practical, organized one of the family, Brinn had done her shopping early. Her gifts had been wrapped in pretty paper for days now, just waiting to go under the tree. Brinn was a giver, and enjoyed the anticipation of
others opening the gifts she had chosen almost as much as she enjoyed her own gifts. And she was also a tease. There was nothing she loved more than giving out little hints and enticing people to guess what might be hidden beneath the festive wrappings. Most often the shape and size of the parcel gave no indication of what was really inside. Brinn had also become a master of deception when it came to disguising gifts. It was all a part of Christmas and Brinn loved every second of it.
“I think the tree is ready for gifts now,” agreed Julia. “But maybe we should make a rule that they can
’t be poked, shaken or sniffed.”
“No way,” said Sam shaking his head. “That’s the best part!” Everyone laughed.
With the tree now decorated, the house was officially ready for Christmas. Garlands, wreaths and lights had all been put up on the first of December. There was nothing left to do now but wait for the big day and enjoy all the festivities of the season. As everyone got comfortable in the living room to enjoy the tree, Jasper finally closed his eyes. He could just rest for a while now, while the sounds of his people drifted slowly around him. Life was good.
Julia had just added the last item to her Christmas grocery list when the phone rang. As was her custom, during the holidays, she answered with a cheerful “Seasons Greetings” instead of her usual hello. Generally the voice on the other end responded in the same manner regardless if it was friend, family or as was often the case, a salesperson or telemarketer. But this time the voice that responded to Julia’s happy greeting was deep and somber.
“Would this be Julia Baxter?” the voice enquired. Taken somewhat aback by the absence of holiday spirit, Julia replied more seriously.
“Yes it is. May I ask whose calling?”
“Mrs. Baxter, this is Dr. William Armatage from the
Wilmot Long Term Care Facility. I have you listed here as a local emergency contact for a Henry Thompson. Is this correct?” Julia’s heart skipped a beat.
“Yes, that’s correct,” she answered, holding her breath.
Please don’t let there be something wrong with Henry,
” she thought to herself. The girls, especially Brinn were so looking forward to Henry coming for Christmas Day. Brinn talked about it constantly and never missed an opportunity to remind Jasper about it either. If Henry were to miss Christmas it would put a damper on the celebration for sure.
“Mrs. Baxter, we have a situation here at the center and we were hoping we might count on you to help us out.” Julia let her breath escape slowly. This didn’t sound too serious. Surely if something were wrong with Henry they wouldn’t be asking her to help out with a “situation!”
“I’d be glad to help any way that I can.”
“Well, to make a long story short, there has been a fire here at the centre. Please don’t panic. Mr. Thompson is just fine. We have suffered two casualties, however, and substantial damage to the building. One wing has been
completely destroyed and the others have been damaged by both smoke and water. The rooms are not safe for the residents and we are trying to relocate those who are most mobile to temporary placements.”
“Oh, I’m so very sorry,” Julia said. “Of course we can help. We were planning to have Henry for Christmas Day anyway. He can simply come for a longer visit this way. Would you like us to make arrangements right away?”
“The sooner, the better,” the deep voice replied. “If you can come by today, that would be appreciated. A nurse here will go over everything you need to know about Henry’s care and will supply you with all the necessary supplies and medication. Fortunately, Henry’s care is not very complicated, and you should be able to mange with a visiting home nurse for the duration of his stay.”
“I can be there in an hour or so, if that’s okay?”
“That would be great.” There was a slight hesitation, and then the man continued. “There is one other thing I should mention, while we’re speaking. One of the casualties of the fire, Mrs. Anna Wainright was a good friend of Henry’s. They had become very close over the past few months, and he seems quite distraught at her passing. The family has made final arrangements already and there is to be a simple service held at the Wilmot Chapel on Thursday. Henry has indicated that he would like to attend. Do you think that is something you could manage?”
out hesitation, Julia agreed. “We’ll see to it that he gets there, Dr.”
Julia could almost feel the man’s relief across the telephone line. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Baxter. We’ll see you in a while then.”
Julia said her goodbyes and pushed the end button on the phone. These were not quite the plans she had for the day, but something that had to be done nonetheless. Since they had been expecting Henry over Christmas, she pretty much had things prepared already. There was a bed in the office off the living room on the main floor. Since Henry couldn’t climb stairs, that would be perfect. He would also have easy access to the washroom, kitchen and living room from there. There was really very little else she would need to do to prepare the house. As she surveyed the room, she noticed Jasper watching her intently, as though he could read her mind and knew something different was going on.
“Well, old boy, this is really going to make your Christmas,” she laughed and gave him a scratch. “Yours and Brinn’s!”
Satisfied that there was nothing else she needed to do to prepare the room, she started making plans for the trip to get Henry. She called Sam and explained the situation. He said he was almost finished for the day anyway and would head home right away to watch Kaylee. He would also explain what was going on to Brinn and Emma when they got home from school so they would be prepared for Henry’s arrival. Best that they know that he might be a little sad instead of his usual jolly self. “
Brinn will be good for him
,” Julia thought to herself as she puttered around tidying a few things in the office.
She paused for a moment, reflecting on how the relationship between an old man, a
toddler and a shaggy brown dog had evolved. By a strange turn of events, the old dog had found his way into their home at the same time as his owner had been admitted to a long term care facility and couldn’t care for him anymore. And a traumatized Brinn, who hadn’t spoken a word in over two years, was so enraptured by the love of the shaggy brown mutt that she had finally started talking again. Now here they were, all one big happy family about to celebrate Christmas together.
had just started pulling on her boots when she heard Sam’s car pull into the drive. Kaylee was watching from the window and flew into Sam’s arms the minute he opened the door. Sam scooped her up in a big bear hug, and smiled over the curly blond head at Julia.
Daddy play,” Kaylee shouted gleefully. “Daddy play Kaylee!”
“You betcha,” Sam replied. “Let’s just see your Mom off first shall we?”
“Give Mama a kiss, sweetie,” Julia said, reaching up on tiptoe to say goodbye. The little girl released her grip on Sam’s neck and gave Julia a hug and a kiss.
“Bye, Mama,” she squeaked. “Now, Daddy play?” Julia and Sam laughed together.
“Guess I better get out of here so she can have her way! I’ll be back as soon as I can. Everything is ready in the office.”
Sam gave her a kiss and told her to drive safely. Julia turned to Jasper who had been waiting
patiently to see what was happening. He knew she had put her boots on, so he was eagerly anticipating his invitation to come along. As if reading his mind, Julia turned to the old shaggy mutt.
“Come on, Jasper, old boy. You wanna go see
Henry?” Although Jasper couldn’t hear the words that his master spoke, he could tell by her expression, and the way that she tapped her leg that were going for a ride. He did his best to jump to his feet. His back end was less agile that it used to be, but that didn’t stop him. When he finally made it to his feet, his bushy brown tail waved like crazy. If there was a ride in the car on the agenda for the day, he was all in!