Timeless Spirit Logo Velvet Christmas

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Celebrate"
Volume 4 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Velvet Christmas
by Jennifer Kusz
formerly Jennifer Monaghan

She sat on a small wooden stool in a cold and bare room lit by a single candle. On her lap rested an open book, in her arms a tattered doll slept. These things, along with a pair of shoes too small, a dress and one set of bedclothes worn too many times, were her only possessions. She paged through the book, reading words she had absorbed so often she knew them by heart, looking up only to smile at the return of her mother from a hard day's labour. A callused, leathery hand lovingly patted her head and then set to work preparing supper. A meager supper it was, especially considering that it was the eve of Christmas Day. There were no decorations to be seen in the corners or on the walls, nor any presents hiding in the shadows waiting to be opened; no merriment filled the air in this house. It appeared within these walls to be an ordinary day, as any other. It was almost as though the holiday had been forgotten. To a passerby glancing in the window, this would seem the case.

The woman turned a weary face to her daughter as she prepared the small fire for cooking. Silently she apologized, longing for the sparkling Christmas tree, colourful presents and wondrous feasts which were commonplace to so many on Christmas Eve. She desired these things not for herself, for she had experienced many a fancy Christmas in her childhood and only wanted her daughter to know the same. A father dead and a mother left penniless and poor, the young girl knew only poverty. What she knew of Christmas celebration was seen through windows into the houses of those more fortunate. Never had the girl complained or commented on their lack, never had she hinted at a desire for more, but her mother couldn't help but grieve over these things she could not provide.

Stew, thin and watery, filled the two bowls. A piece of hard stale bread was broken in two, leaving crumbs that would later be food for mice. It was a somber scene, and yet to the girl there was enough before her to be thankful for. Her two small hands folded themselves on the table and she began to speak, stalling her mother's hands which were about to busy themselves with a spoon and chunk of bread.

"Loving Father, I ask on you on this eve of Christmas Day to please bless this meal before us and bless all meals waiting to be shared by families like us. We thank you for this food and for this house and for each other and for all that we have. Amen."

"Amen," the mother echoed quietly.

Upon the closing of the prayer there sounded a peculiar noise that almost went unheard. It came from outside the door. Cocking her head, the child listened for it again, and indeed she heard it not a moment later.

"Mother did you hear that?"

She pushed her chair back from the table and tiptoed to the door, still listening for the sound.

"It's a scratching sound, do you hear it, Mother?"

"It's probably just a mouse, dear. Come, sit down and eat with me."

Ignoring the blatant dismissal of her concerns, the child put her hand to the door, hesitant to open it, curious but fearful.

"It's too loud for a mouse," she whispered, turning a worried face to her mother.

"Open it then and see what it is," the woman said with a wave of her hand.

The door creaked open ever so slowly. At first they saw nothing in the dark shadow of night. The sound came again, a pawing sound, a scratching, accompanied by the faintest of mews. At that, the girl looked down and saw it. There, by the hem of her dress, sat a scraggly kitten the color of ash and soot. Its coat was dull, its ribs shown and its poor ears were frostbitten. It looked near to death, shivering and hungry, a sad and pathetic sight. Oblivious to the frightful state of the tiny beast, the girl bent down and scooped it up in her arms, turning back to her mother, eyes alight with wonder and hope.

"Can we keep it? Please?"

Shaking her head and making excuses about fleas and unknown disease, the mother made a feeble attempt at saying "no", but was soon worn down. After several minutes of pleading, she acquiesced, with a promise they could eat dinner before it turned cold. The child quickly slurped down most of her stew, leaving some broth and a few shreds of meat for the kitten. On the brink of starvation, the kitten ate and drank ravenously, licking the bowl clean. Later, as mother and child sat on their stools by the dying fire, the kitten found a home at their feet and cleaned itself.

"Tell me a story, Mother."

"What story would you like to hear?"

"The story of Christmas, of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus."

The child listened intently to a story she heard every Christmas, and as she listened the kitten finished its rather unsuccessful bath and pawed at the girl's feet. Unable to jump onto her lap, being yet too small for such a giant leap, the child scooped it up and held it close, eliciting a loud purr of contentment. It kneaded her lap and found a place to settle in. Absentmindedly, the mother reached over and stroked its head. When she came to the end of the story, she asked, "What will you call her?"

The child thought for a moment or two, considering. "I think I will call her Velvet."

"Velvet. Hmm. I think that is a good name. And perhaps after a real bath and a fattening up, she'll even look like velvet."

The next morning, Christmas Day, the two awoke to the muffled sound of church bells and the sight of snow falling lightly outside the dusty window. Velvet had snuggled in between them during the night, keeping warm. The little girl sat up in bed, a smile as bright as the morning sun on her face. "Merry Christmas, Mother! Merry Christmas, Velvet! I think this is the happiest Christmas ever!" she shouted. Looking up, spreading her arms wide, she praised, "Thank you, oh kind Lord, for my wonderful mother and this beautiful kitten, I couldn't have asked for more!"

Her mother looked up at her from the pillow and couldn't help but smile widely herself, eyes watering with pride. She realized in that moment that her daughter understood Christmas better than most others, an understanding of which she herself had forgotten amongst her pain and pennilessness. Her daughter's wisdom had taught her a lesson invaluable. True wealth is measured not in possession or in coin but rather in heart. The spirit of Christmas resides in this truth and for those who recognize it, Christmas is indeed the Day of days.

The "Velvet Christmas", as the child donned the holiday that year, was spent singing songs and telling stories and laughing at Velvet's mischievous antics. Every Christmas which followed was as joyous, and Velvet's coat did indeed turn as black as night and as soft and sleek as her name.

Jennifer is happily married to a wonderful woman, Lisa. Theirs is a union of true, deep, respectful love… the kind we all dream about. Of course we mustn't forget… their beautiful little fur-family! Her two cats - Max and Hazel, dogs - Daisy (and Queenie, who is frolicking in puppy-heaven), rats Charlie, Tobey, Fifi, Eowyn, and Gloria. Her hamster - Poohbear and aquatic-turtles Maximus and S.A.M.

Jennifer is embarking on a new career as a Behavioral Analyst and also works part time at a group home providing care to persons with physical and developmental disabilities.

She is also a writer and poet with a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM.

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