I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Story Contest. The task – tell a holiday story in 250 words or less that contains a surprise. Here goes!
Christmas Chaos (243 words)
by Rose Cappelli
‘Twas the week before Christmas and jolly old St. Nick had a doozy of a cold. His head felt as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey. But, the kids were waiting to whisper their wishes, so off he went to lend his ear.
Johnny wanted…a pair of snakes? Suzy requested…some jelly? Nellie clasped her hands together and wished for….a boring cook? Finally there was Timmy who simply asked St. Nick to choose something from his vest. Really?
By Christmas Eve St. Nick was feeling better, so down the chimney he bounded with his pack…and two snakes, a bowl full of jelly (that shook when he laughed like his own big belly), and the chef from the TV show “What’s Cooking?” (now that’s boring!). He filled all the stockings, and when he got to Timmy’s he reached in his vest and pulled out…reindeer treats…a lump of coal…ah… some magic dust.
By morning the house was in chaos! The snakes had slithered into the jelly and were sliding across the floor where the cook was trying to catch forty winks and everyone was suddenly awake and Timmy was trying to get to the bottom of his stocking where luckily he found… the magic dust.
“OK everyone! No whispering! Shout your wishes as loud as you can when I throw the dust! Now!”
In a flash things were almost back to normal. There were skates instead of snakes, a jelly-belly dolly, and a story book complete with…recipes?
It came through in a text message – yes, a text message! My first grandchild (a boy) is expected to enter the world in about three weeks, but last week there he was on my ipad. A beautiful face with a just-right nose and rosebud lips, 7 lbs. 9 oz., a hand at his cheek, all right there on the screen.
I love him already.
At first all I could do was marvel at the incredible technology that is capable of creating such a clear image from a sonogram. I could spend as much time as I wanted gazing at this little face whose name I don’t yet know. Then I suddenly realized that I have seen this face before, about 37 years ago on a warm May evening when my son was born. The similarities between father and son are remarkable.
I love him already.
I don’t know what other amazing things are in store for us as we get to know this wonderful new little person. Many, I hope. Technology will keep us close. One thing I do know…
I love him already.
NCTE is always filled with learning experiences, aha moments, and opportunities for reflection. But it is those hidden gems (thank you, Katherine Bomer) that provide inspiration for slices. Here’s one that describes the last leg of my journey home.
The shuttle to Park and Jet was filled to capacity. One guy even sat on the steps which was probably illegal and definitely unsafe. We were from different spaces and places, an interesting mix, all anxious to keep moving towards home. There was the couple who were returning from somewhere out west where they had gone for some special hiking, and the first time shuttle users who weren’t sure if they should get off at the hotel or the parking lot. My favorite was the gentleman carrying a long rectangular aluminum case. At first I thought perhaps it was a guitar, but then I spied the red and white cooler and I knew right away – fishing rods. He allowed the driver to store the cooler in the back, but he stood watch to make sure it was loaded properly. I think he might have been more concerned about his catch than his rods.
And then there was the driver who greeted us with “How about a little Christmas music?” I’m not a big fan of rushing the season, but I might have let this go in the spirit of peace and love and all that if it were not for the music he chose to share. No Mannheim Steamrollers or Josh Groban. Just Alvin and the Chipmunks squeaking through “All I Want for Christmas” and other cute tunes while pretty much destroying “White Christmas” (I think Bing was turning in his grave). When the door opened to let passengers out, the buzzing from the overhead light added just the right accompaniment to the Chipmunks’ high-pitched harmonies. I longed for Row 14 and my waiting CRV that would finally take me home.
But despite all that, I looked at our small group of passengers as a temporary community. When a seat opened up next to me, the guy sitting on the steps took it. It was a tight squeeze and the only way he could fit was to spread his arms out on the back of the seats. I just looked at him and laughed. “It’s all good,” he said. And it was. We were home.
Last Friday I was inspired by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s post on The Poem Farm to write a Tanka about my recent experiences at Highlights.
It was my sixth time at the Highlights Foundation and my first unworkshop. I have written about Hightlights before and how much I get out of being there in the company of other writers, but this time was extra special. The four of us first met at a workshop there about a year and a half ago. We’ve stayed in touch and have seen each other occasionally at some SCBWI events. It was wonderful to spend time hearing each other’s stories, offering ideas, soaking up the inspiration. We were lodged in the Farmhouse, surrounded by memorabilia, the ghosts of writers past, and the magic that is part of this incredible mecca for writers.
Old friends and new meet
Where laughter and hugs abound.
Share stories and spend
Time alone and together,
Inspired by new ideas.
Until recently, I wasn’t familiar with the term “smash cake,” those small cakes made just for the birthday boy or girl. The guest of honor can just dig in, and while it can be very messy, it makes for great pictures. I understood the term a little better after attending a birthday party for our neighbors’ one-year-old grandson last weekend.
The birthday boy sat in his high chair. He wore a small crown, a ribboned bow-tie, and suspenders attached to his short pants. No shirt. If you’re thinking a Chippendale-in-training, it was actually something like that, but very cute. There were balloons, presents, decorations, and lots and lots of food. People, too – friends and neighbors (mostly adults), with just enough kids to remind everyone that it was a party for a little guy. We all crowded around as the cake was presented. Immediately, Charlie sunk his hands into the soft mass of blue and white in front of him. Then carefully, he licked the icing and bits of cake from his fingers. Bit by bit, very neatly. Slowly, the other kids inched closer and started to help. Charlie didn’t mind, there was plenty for everyone.
Until…not sure if the tray wasn’t fastened right or someone leaned on it, but in a flash the tray slipped, the cake was on the floor, and Charlie was tumbling down, caught in the arms of his mother at the last second.
Soon everything was back to normal and Charlie was once again seated on his “throne.” Miraculously, the cake was only dented a bit on one side, probably held together by all that blue frosting. As it was placed back in front of Charlie, one of the kids commented, “I guess that’s why they call it a smash cake.”
Makes sense to me!
Laughter and applause drifted through the walls from family story time in an adjoining room. In another area young boys and girls entered with bags of books, scoured the shelves, picked a favorite…or two. I was in a new space, the children’s section of the Free Library of Philadelphia, where I had come with some fellow writers from my critique group. But it wasn’t just a visit and a chance to share our latest work in progress. We were privileged to be meeting with the curator of the children’s literature research collection. Housed at the library are a range of original artwork and manuscripts from leaders in the world of children’s literature – Newbery winners, Caldecott winners, classic and contemporary authors and artists. I had to almost pinch myself when I realized I was standing among one of the largest collections of primary source material for children’s literature in the country.
As we sat around the table and introduced ourselves to Christopher, the curator, I had an immediate sense of my identity as a writer. Christopher asked about our background, but he was more interested in what we were currently working on and our role as authors in the larger community of authors and illustrators. It reminded me of how important it is to take such interest in the young writers we work with. When you ask about the writing work they are doing, you are acknowledging that they are writers.
One of our members is also an illustrator interested in collage work, so we were treated to viewing, up close, some of the original works of Ezra Jack Keats. So precious. So beautiful. As the others talked about technique and style, all I could imagine was Mr. Keats in his studio, creating. All I could think about was this wonderful collection housed in this space shared by the community. All I could think about was being a part of it all.
Imagine a space built into the trees along the forest walk, where children of all ages can experience the joys of nature.
Imagine that in that space there were huge horns where visitors can listen to the sounds from the forest and nearby meadow.
Imagine a wagonload of inviting books and puppets ready for play.
Imagine the opportunity to use magnifiers to examine leaves and gourds up close.
Imagine children gathering in that space for stories and finger plays and songs.
That’s how I spent my morning – helping with Family Story Time at Longwood Gardens. What a treat!