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Authors: Holly Ambrose

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Miracles Retold

BOOK: Miracles Retold
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Miracles Retold

 

by Holly Ambrose

 

 

© Holly Ambrose 2014. All
rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover image
©iStock.com/EM_prize

 

For all my grandmothers, and
for grandmothers everywhere

 

 

 


Miracles
are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is
written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us
to see.” — C.S. Lewis

 

The Problem with Christmas
Spirit

 

 

 

The snowball hit Annie in
the back of the head, bounced off her limp brown hair and rolled
down the driveway toward the street.

 

“Boys!” Annie said, “Those
foam balls are for Carter’s school project. If you ruin or lose
them, I’m not buying more!”

 

Thank goodness it wasn’t a
real snowball that left ice in her hair, Annie thought. It was a
few weeks before Christmas, but they never had snow where they
lived in Florida. Winter usually brought crisp, clear days

but so far, it was
still rainy and humid.

 

“I’m sorry, Mom,” said
Carter, the youngest. He picked up the ball from the ground. “Ryder
threw it at me first and I
untorturously
missed
him.”

 

“Just getting you back for
what you did to me yesterday,” Ryder said with a gratified
grin.

 

“Brothers,” muttered
Hannah, the oldest.

 

The four of them gathered
their belongings from the SUV and headed to their front
door.

 

“Please,” Annie said,
“Let’s just get inside and do what we have to do. You all have
school work, and my to-do list is as long as a drugstore
receipt.”

 

“Your to-do list is always
long,” Hannah said.

 

“Why do you say that all
the time?” Ryder asked Annie.

 

“Because it’s true,” Annie
said simply. “A mother’s work is never done.”

 

Annie mentally ran down her
list of obligations: check kids’ school work, serve dinner, make
kids’ lunches for the next day, check work e-mail and arrange some
meetings, look for a missing library book, put away the clean
laundry and start working on holiday cards. She needed to make sure
she had snacks for Ryder’s soccer practice. She also wanted to make
a list of gifts she still had to buy (she didn’t know what to give
her husband, Lon), and look up a few things online. Nearly the same
list as last night. And pretty similar to the list she would have
tomorrow.

 

“Hello,” Grace called to
them cheerily when they entered the house. Grace was Lon’s mother,
and she had lived with the family for five months, since she’d had
a stroke. Thankfully, Grace could walk, but she moved slowly and
had trouble with her left arm.

 

“Hi, Grandma!” the kids
said when they got in. The family cat, Angel, had been sitting by
the door

always
eager to dart outside at the first chance

but instead jumped out of the way
to avoid being hit by a flung backpack.

 

Carter rushed to give Grace
a hug. “How many days until Christmas?” she asked him.

 

“Fifteen,” Ryder said
before dashing to the room they shared.

 

“She asked me, not you!”
Carter yelled after him. “I knew what the answer was. I can count
too!”

 

“Don’t worry about it,”
Grace said. “I know you can. How was your day, Annie?”

 

Annie smiled, but her gray
eyes didn’t. She hesitated before answering. “You keep reminding me
to think positively,” she said. “So, with that in mind, best day
ever.” She headed to the kitchen.

 

“Uh-oh,” Grace said,
giving Carter a pat. “Time to get dinner going.” He scampered off,
and Grace ambled over to the kitchen to help Annie get food
together

whatever Grace could do with her good arm.

 

“People could save so much
time if they just didn’t have to eat,” Annie said, pulling cans out
of a cabinet. “Just one more thing to do.”

 

“Dinner brings everyone
together,” Grace countered. “I’ve heard lots of families don’t even
eat dinner together anymore.” She shook her head. “I’m on the
computer, you know. The Internet. I visit sites. And it’s amazing
what you can find on YouTube.”

 

“You watch YouTube,
Grandma?” Hannah asked. She had just come in to the room to set out
supplies for a diorama project for school. Angel the cat came over
to the kitchen bar to inspect and sat on a stack of paper Hannah
had placed nearby.

 

Grace waved her hand and
walked over to Hannah. “Most of it is junk. You are probably old
enough to know not to watch the garbage, right, Hannah?” Grace
kissed Hannah on her forehead. “Don’t watch the junk. Only the good
stuff.”

 

Then to no one in
particular, Grace said, “The world needs more good
stuff.”

 

“I need more good stuff,”
Annie said. She put a dish in the microwave. “All this extra
holiday prep and end-of-the-year tasks just add stress. It kind of
takes the joy out of the holidays.”

 

“But Christmas is so fun,
Mom!” Hannah said, adjusting a paper gorilla in her
diorama.

 

Carter came into the
kitchen and petted Angel next to Hannah.

 

“Christmas day is fun,”
Annie said. “But there’s extra work for me at my job this time of
the year. Getting ready for Christmas means shopping for presents,
mailing cards, parties, and decorating

in addition to everything we
already do.” Annie sighed and looked down. “Then we just try to get
some sleep to do it all again the next day. I just wish I had five
more hours in my day. But unfortunately, there are no more miracles
in our world.”

 

Carter looked up. “No more
miracles?!” he said. “Mom, you told me miracles are everywhere.” He
pursed his lips together and squinted.

 

Grace gave Annie’s arm a
squeeze. “You’re tired,” Grace said, “and I wish I could do more to
help.”

 

“I can help,” Carter said.
“I’m hungry! I can cook. We made pretzel snacks at
school.”

 

“You do help,” Annie said
to Grace, trying not to let her youngest get her sidetracked. “You
have come a long way with physical therapy and your walks around
the block. I’m not complaining about you, or anyone. I just have
too much going on right now.”

 

“Go back to my advice,”
Grace continued to Annie. “Think positively! The extra work will
only get to you if you let it.”

 

“You’re right,” Annie said,
massaging her forehead. “You’re right. I just need to … remember
the reason for the season. And yes, I’m tired.”

 

Annie remembered not being
tired. Way, way, back, there was a time when she was … fun. Was
that the right word? There was definitely a memory there of being
fun and having fun. The memory was hazy and nonspecific,
though

like the
faded scent of cheap cologne clinging to clothes the day after
wearing them.

 

At the sink, Annie washed
her hands while she listened to Grace directing Carter in setting
condiments on the table and to Hannah singing the chorus of a pop
song Annie didn’t know. Her fingers rubbed the sapphire ring on her
left hand, passed down from her mother’s mother before she died.
The sapphire ring rested in place of Annie’s wedding and engagement
rings, which had been lost when she was pregnant with Carter. Annie
still winced whenever she thought about how she had taken off the
gold and diamond rings Lon had given her because her fingers were
becoming too swollen in late pregnancy, and the jewelry had gotten
misplaced. Annie didn’t realize the rings were lost until after
Carter was born. She and Lon looked for them off and on for months,
but taking care of the children eclipsed the effort to find the
jewelry. One day, Annie decided to slip her grandmother’s sapphire
on her ring finger, an acknowledgement that she had given up on
finding Lon’s rings. Neither she nor Lon had talked about the
missing jewelry again.

 

Annie thought back to when
she had first seen the engagement ring, when Lon asked her to marry
him. They had spent the day together, then gone to the beach in the
afternoon. Annie remembered how the sunshine brought out the gold
in Lon’s hazel eyes so that they seemed to glow. Annie and Lon sat
on the sand to watch the sun set. After the sun disappeared beyond
the gulf, Lon took her hand and kissed her. He slipped the white
gold and diamond ring on her finger and simply said, “Marry me.”
(Lon’s version of the story was that he was too nervous to say
anything at all.) Annie was dazzled by the ring, but even more
overcome by love for Lon.

 

Now the rings were gone,
but she still had the man. After almost 15 years, Annie was
satisfied with that. With three mini-thems and the obligations of
daily life, there was never enough time and more stress than Annie
would have liked, but there was always love. So she had to be
grateful for that. Lately, though, she just didn’t feel
it.

 

Annie’s thoughts were
interrupted by Lon coming into the kitchen. “Hey, everybody!” he
said. Maybe Annie just imagined it, but it seemed like everyone in
the room cheered. Even Ryder came out of his room to say hi to his
dad.

 

“Now there’s a guy who’s
fun,” Annie said, and Lon planted a kiss on her cheek.

 

“What are you talking
about?” Lon asked with a smile.

 

“He is fun,” Grace agreed,
patting her only child on the back.

 

It took just a few more
minutes until dinner was ready, and then the family of six sat down
and ate quickly. Lon and Ryder talked about football. Hannah,
Carter, and Grace talked about their school projects and Christmas
wish lists: Hannah wanted a hair styling wand and concert tickets,
Carter wanted superhero action figures and a skateboard like
Ryder’s, and Grace wanted some new books to read. Annie took it all
in and ate silently.

 

After dinner, Lon helped
Carter with his foam ball snowman project, Grace looked over
Hannah’s and Ryder’s homework, and Annie cleaned up. The boys took
baths (Hannah was a morning shower girl), and the kids went to bed.
Evening family time went by too fast.

 

Annie did a little work,
but really dreaded the thought of starting on the holiday cards as
her to-do list dictated. In fact, there was nothing Annie really
felt like doing to prepare for Christmas. The only thing Annie
wanted was to go to bed, not stay up doing Christmassy things. Lon
and Grace were watching TV, so Annie lay down.

 

“I will just settle down
for a long winter’s nap,” Annie said out loud to herself, quoting
The Night Before Christmas. “Because my heart is full of unwashed
socks, my soul is full of gunk,” she quoted from Mr.
Grinch.

 

And that was the last thing
she remembered.

 

 

- - - - -

 

 

Lon found his wife lying in
bed. “Hon, you awake?” he asked, resting his hand on Annie’s
shoulder. Angel was nestled near Annie’s head.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I thought I’d see if you
want to hurry out and get a tree?” Lon asked. “That lot on the
corner is still open. It would surprise the kids, and we don’t have
much time left before Christmas to enjoy a tree.”

 

“Go on without me,” Annie
mumbled. “My face is having a meeting with my pillow.”

 

“How about gift shopping?”
Lon suggested. He started to massage Annie’s back. “You said
something about the kids’ teachers’ gifts. We could get some cocoa
while we’re out.”

 

“I got them gift cards,”
Annie said. “And the weather is too warm for a hot
drink.”

BOOK: Miracles Retold
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