Beth grew up feeling as though she never really had a memorable Christmas; for, she could not recall ever hanging bulbs on a tree or a stocking on a hearth. It just wasn’t like that at the home of her foster parents. Searching for ways to satisfy her emotional needs, she left home when she finished high school. The day she left, she met Laura on a park bench. Three years her senior, Laura had a similar background. Before either girl realized it, the conversation yielded intimate life issues. Laura sensed Beth’s basic needs were just like hers and invited her acquaintance to look into renting an apartment near hers.
Fully furnished, the suite was all Beth needed, but the cost of rent concerned her. She met with the owner and they agreed on a pay-back plan allowing Beth to take possession that day. Things happened fast and, following a brief interview with Laura’s boss at the library, Beth was hired on.
The young women were sure they would find themselves alone at Christmas so decided to share coffee and cinnamon rolls at Laura’s place on Christmas morning. “Let’s get a charlie-brown tree and have a story-telling time,” she suggested. They pooled their pocket change and then sparsely decorated the scrawny tree with their collective trinkets.
Early Christmas morning Beth went out for the goodies. Arriving at Laura’s, startled to find a little girl the size of a three-year old whimpering on the front steps of the apartment building, she inquired. “Why are you out here? You must be freezing.”
“Uh huh,” she uttered through tears. “I can’t find mommy and daddy.”
Extremely disturbed, Beth thought perhaps the child had been abandoned. With Christmas spirit, she got down to the wee one’s level and said, “Come inside till we find them. Okay?” Taking her hand, she led her up the steps to Laura’s.
“Merry Christmas to you…and who have we got here?”
They hugged as Beth explained, “I found this little one alone outside, Laura! She’s freezing! Who’d do that… leave a child?”
Warming Joanie Lea up, they queried her as she dug into the bag of gooey cinnamon rolls. She answered them simply. “Mommy told daddy I was in the car… but, I liked playing behind the dumpster with the kitty and her babies.”
“Oh, my word,” Beth gasped. “They didn’t know you weren’t in the car…? And, there’s a litter of kittens back there?”
“Uh huh, and they’re stuck together.”
Relieved to hear the innocent truth, Beth put her coat on and went out and checked on the family of felines while Laura assured the shivering child her parents would be back to get her soon.
Moments later, Beth came in with a mama cat and two kittens inside her jacket. Each of the women laid claim to a kitten. Beth watched for a car to stop outside and, minutes later, the Leas pulled up in front of the apartment. Beth greeted them with news that she’d taken their little girl in to warm her up. The emotional reunion ended with them all chatting like old friends while being entertained by the kittens.
The more they talked, the more gratitude and empathy swelled the Lea’s hearts. “You two must come up to the lodge with us!” Mrs. Lea suggested. Her hubby chimed in, “You don’t want to be all alone on Christmas day!”
“Oh, thank you, but maybe we should stay with the kittens today.”
Cuddling the mother cat, Mrs. Lea smiled, “Let’s take them with us! I kind of identify with this one. When her kittens aren’t nursing any more, we could give her a home!”
What a morning of celebration it turned out to be. The ‘homeless’ and the ‘lost’ were found and given safe havens. At the resort, the rustic setting with a tall sparkling Christmas tree truly thrilled Beth. Plus, she gobbled down a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Joanie stayed preoccupied with the felines curled on a plaid blanket on the hearth. The Leas shared goodies from the stockings which hung from the fireplace mantel.
Over time, that group of friends repeated this story and, in recognizable photographs, Joanie Lea personally relives the day the little blond girl, who today is the ‘inner child’ who keeps Joanie’s ‘second-childhood’ exciting, was not lost but found! The traditional festive dinner in the lodge carries on annually as the fire, crackling with yule logs, elicits flashbacks to them all of a long-ago memorable Christmas day.
– Rita Joan Dozlaw resides in Kamloops, B.C . She is an award winning author and poet.