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One of my favorite holiday memories was when my husband, our two young sons and I travelled from Colorado to Iowa to spend Christmas with my parents. Our older son was growing skeptical about Santa Clause. After the boys had gone to bed, my dad had a great idea. He went to his closet, got out a pair of his boots, and stuck them in the fireplace. He then made boot prints with the ashes on the hearth. Chuckling the whole time, he kept saying how he couldn’t wait to see the kids’ faces in the morning. We all went to bed, and in the morning, the boys woke us up with cries of “Santa has been here! He left his footprints!” That Christmas, our older son decided that Santa really did exist. His childhood was extended for another year or two because of what my dad did.
My new novel, A Rebel Among Us, features several Christmas scenes. Here is a snippet from one of those scenes. This one takes place in 1863:
Christmas Eve was on a Thursday. The moment he awoke, a profound sadness came over him. He knew why he felt so horrible, and remembered how he had vowed to his father that he would remain behind to protect their family. But David had broken that promise, and he was guilt-ridden over it. If anything should happen to his family, he would hold himself solely responsible. After dressing, he went downstairs to see the girls gathered around the kitchen table. They looked up at him as he entered.
“David? What is it?” Anna asked.
He sank down onto a chair.
“Are you feeling all right? You’re not troubled about the party tonight are you?” She glanced at her sisters. “We’ve been practicing your words every day, and I think you’ll do fine.”
“It ain’t that,” he replied, forcing a smile.
The three sisters glared at him, compelling him to explain.
“It’s jist that, a year ago last Christmas Eve, we found out Pa had been killed at Fredericksburg.”
“Oh,” responded Maggie, a flash of sympathy crossing her face.
“I’m so sorry, David,” Anna said. “If there’s anything we can do …” Her voice trailed off.
“No, I don’t reckon there is.” He looked at the floor.
Anna quickly stood. “I’m going to make you something very special for Christmas,” she proclaimed. “We want this to be joyous occasion, don’t we, sisters?”
“Yes!” Abigail chimed in. “Oh, yes!”
Maggie grimaced. Rising from her chair, she said, “How can it be joyous, Anna? We’re in the midst of a war, and we have the enemy living with us right under our own roof.” Snorting in disgust, she stormed out of the room.
Anna and Abigail looked at each other.
“Don’t mind her, David,” Abigail told him. “The rest of us are glad you’re here.” She walked around the table and hugged him.
He couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks, Miss Abigail. That means a lot to me.”
She pulled away, smiling at him.
“Maybe this Christmas will be better,” he remarked. “Reckon it can’t be much worse.”
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