No, I’m not crazy. Okay. I am crazy, but that’s beside the point.
Look, I know that those of us in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest have seen enough snow this March to throttle Old Man Winter. But regardless of the weather, be honest. Don’t you love a Christmas story? It can be uplifting, silly, inspiring, sentimental, religious, and/or romantic. The genre has a long tradition. The big one, of course, is the reason behind Christmas, the birth of Jesus. But it has been followed by stories written in the spirit of generosity, kindness, self-sacrifice, miracles, magic, and generally good feelings. We devour Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.” We love movies like “Holiday Inn,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Elf.” We queue up television programs like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” And don’t forget that slew of music and carols that fills the air.
It doesn’t have to be Christmas for us to enjoy a Christmas story. Everyone can use a lift - even on a summer day. The past few days I’ve been tweaking two of my stories. Hey, now that the snow is over (I hope), I don’t have to worry about getting down my driveway or stocking up on milk, bread, and toilet paper. Life is good.
Truthfully, I never thought of writing a Christmas-themed story until one year when I was between books and wanted to give a gift to my Saint Maggie fans. That’s when I came up with “The Christmas Eve Visitor.” The short story takes place during the dreary, snowy Christmas Eve of 1863. Maggie’s family is living in Middletown, Pennsylvania, far from their home in Blaineton and struggling with poverty and a concern over the fever that has struck little Bob, Natey, and five-week-old Faith. The air is full of anxiety, frustration, and gloom. But then an unexpected visitor in the form of a Jewish peddler comes to their door. Ira Strauss exhibits an uncanny understanding of the inner life of each person in Maggie’s family, and give them gifts that symbolically address their need. Expect some miracles to occur before Christmas day dawns. (Those miracles are a challenge to Maggie’s ever-skeptical husband, Eli!) The story echoes the magic and wonder of other Christmas tales. I’m currently doing a small re-edit of the story and will be posting the updated version on Kindle soon.
A few years later, I wrote another Christmas story. Why? I’m not sure. Probably because I could! “The Dundee Cake” takes place in 1852. Maggie has been a widow and bereaved mother for almost three years and is struggling to keep the boarding house going after Aunt Letty’s death earlier in the year. There are two familiar boarders in her house, Chester Carson, and Grandpa O’Reilly; and two unfamiliar ones, lawyer’s apprentices Geoffrey Illington and Lucius Kemp, who are in their late teens. All four boarders are affable but lacking in funds and sporadic with their rent. (What else is new? It’s a given that Maggie’s heart is much greater than her business acumen!) We also meet the childhood versions of Lydia and Frankie whose early personalities are embryonic versions of their older ones. We observe how Maggie and Emily’s friendship develops. And, finally, we encounter the details of how Emily and husband Nate Johnson come to live in the boarding house. The story has an old-fashioned, sentimental feel as Maggie’s compassion for others overrides her holiday pining for John, son Gideon, and Aunty Letty’s. “The Dundee Cake” is available on Kindle for $0.99. It even includes a recipe at the back of the book. Come on! Give it a try. It’s worth $0.99 to get a little uplift. Should you desire, the story also is available for a higher price in paperback at Lulu and the Squeaking Pips Store.
Hmm. You know what? Maybe it’s time to write another Christmas story. Perhaps a HEART SOUL – based tale? Any ideas or preferences? Let me know!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder