Monday, November 25

“Make new friends, but keep the old!
One is silver and the others gold!”

The circle of third-grade girls broke apart as the last notes of the song died away.  One little girl ran over to Trixie and pulled at her sweater.  “Happy Thanksgiving, Miss Trixie!  Happy Thanksgiving, Miss Rilla!”  The little girl’s big blue eyes glowed as she looked up at Trixie, her wide smile displaying a gap in front.  Her hair made a feathery blonde aureole around her head. 

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, Robin,” she said, with an answering smile.  “Remember, when we come back to our next meeting, we‘ll begin practicing for our Christmas carol performance at the nursing home.”

“I won’t forget!  What songs are we going to sing?”  Robin was practically bouncing.

“We’ll talk about it next meeting.  Miss Rilla and I will bring some songs, and you girls think about your favorite ones.”  Trixie crouched down to get on the child’s level.  “We’ll have to choose some songs the older people like, you know.”

“What about ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’?” Robin asked with a giggle.  “It’s about old people.”

“I don’t think so!”  Trixie’s lips twitched in spite of herself.   “We’ll choose the songs next week.  Now scoot along, I see your auntie is here to pick you up.”  She handed the little girl a threadbare coat.  Robin’s clothing was no more ragged than any of the other girls’ in the troop, and—not for the first time—Trixie wished there was something concrete she could do to help all of them.  Sometimes just leading the Brownie Scout troop after school didn’t seem like anything, considering their needs.  Not for the first time, she wondered if there was something the Bob-Whites could do to make their lives easier.  Robin waved to her and ran out to the hallway where her aunt waited.  The other girls gathered coats and hats and left with the older siblings, aunts, or parents who were waiting.  Trixie and her co-leader Rilla straightened the desks and made sure there was no litter on the floor.

Rilla closed the cover of the battered piano and slipped her sheet music into a folder.  “So, today was a good meeting, wasn’t it?” she asked.  “The girls seemed excited about singing at the nursing home, too.”  She pulled a knitted headband from her pocket and slipped it over her long wavy auburn hair.

“Yes, they did.  I wish we could do more to give them a good Christmas.”  Trixie sighed as she yanked a toboggan over her sandy curls.  “Have you talked to Dan about that—something material to do for them?”

“I did.”  Rilla locked the classroom door and the two girls walked toward the exit door.  “Dan says the school counseling office has information on each family in the school, and any family with an income below a certain level is submitted to the county social service agency.  Several agencies team up to give baskets of food, toys, and clothing to each family.”

“Well, that’s something,” Trixie said in relief.  “Still, I wonder if we—the Bob-Whites—can do something extra.”  She frowned in concentration.

“Oh, your club that Dan told me about.  Do you still do group projects and fundraisers?”

“Not so much, since we’ve all been so scattered with college and grad school.  Jim and Brian, in particular, have been so busy, and now that Mart and Dan are doing grad school and working part-time jobs in addition to their regular jobs, they have no time at all.”  Trixie sighed.

“I know what you mean.”  Rilla sighed too.  “I know when I start into grad school in January, I’ll have less time than I do now, too.”   

“That’s one reason I hope I never have to go back,” Trixie said.  “I’m satisfied to have the job I do.  It’s interesting but I don’t need to have more education to keep doing it.”  She laughed.  “It’s really crazy that I used to hate writing so much, and now I’m an investigative reporter.”

“Dan’s told me about all of your detective adventures as a teenager.  Investigative reporting would fit right into that, I’d think.”

“It does.  Helped me to organize myself, too.  There are Dan and Jim now.”  Trixie waved toward two approaching male figures.  “Hey, you two!” she shouted.

“Hello, beautiful ladies!”  Dark-haired Dan flashed a smile at both girls, but reached down to give Rilla a swift kiss.  Taking her music books, he fell into step with the redhead while Jim and Trixie dropped back to walk together.

“Trix, do your parents need any help getting set up for the Open House tomorrow?” Jim asked.  He shifted a pile of textbooks from one arm to the other.  “Honey and Brian are getting in late this afternoon, but they couldn’t leave until around four o’clock.  She texted me earlier to let me know.”

“Yes, she texted me, too. I’m so glad they’re driving down together.”  Trixie reached for his hand.  “Brian’s car is practically falling apart, and anyway, I hate for him to drive when he’s really tired.  This way, they'll be in a more trustworthy vehicle, and Honey will be a more alert driver than Brian would be.”

“I hope he’ll still want to come back to Sleepyside when he finishes up his residency,” Jim said.  “By that time, I’ll have my Master’s and enough years of teaching under my belt that I’ll be in a much better position to explore different options for starting the school I’ve always planned.  Even though I know there won’t be enough work at the school to support a full-time doctor, I do hope he’ll be able to help me as a resource.”

“Jim, you know he will.”  Trixie was adamant.  “He’s always said he’d do it, and Brian always does what he says he will.  Some of us have changed our goals, but not him.”

“He’s focused, all right,” Jim agreed.  “Honey’s thrown herself into her work, too.  She’s designed a new line of easy-access clothing for handicapped children.  She pitched it to a manufacturer last week, and it was picked up as a product line for next year.”

“That is so awesome! I'm thrilled for her. When she told me she wasn't going to be a detective with me, I remember how disappointed I was.  We’d never have the agency I’d dreamed of.  But we’re both doing good work, and I have enough excitement reporting for the White Plains Register.”

“I have to admit, I’m glad to see you in a safer line of work,” Jim said with a squeeze of her hand.  “Here’s my car.  I’m going to the Manor House for dinner, but I’ll see you afterward, won’t I?”

“I’m always glad to see you, Jim,” she answered, with a flash of dimples.  “I’m sure Moms and Dad will have a few chores you can help with.”  She kissed him and the two parted, though with obvious reluctance.  Jim started up his car and backed out of his space after glancing carefully around him.  Trixie continued on to her navy blue Volkswagen Bug.  After noticing that Rilla and Dan were engrossed in each other, she followed Jim’s car out of the parking lot.

November 28, Thanksgiving night

“Once again, your parents have outdone themselves,” Dan said, patting his flat, muscular abdomen.  The Bob-White men and Bobby Belden had directed traffic all afternoon and had just cleared the last of the parked cars from Crabapple Farm’s driveway and surrounding property.  The girls had spent the afternoon helping to keep the trays replenished and whisking away empty plates and glasses.  Once the guests had gone, they put away the remaining food and cleaned up inside, refusing to allow Mrs. Belden to assist.  Now the seven Bob-Whites were relaxing in front of the fire in the Manor House den, while Mr. and Mrs. Belden relaxed in front of the television at Crabapple Farm.  Jim and Trixie sat next to each other on the fireplace hearth, Jim’s faithful old Springer spaniel Patch at his feet.  Snuggled up to the older dog was a new puppy, Chester.  Every now and then, Jim reached over to stroke Patch’s head.  Mart and Diana sat together on one end of the couch, Brian and Honey on the other.  Dan stood on the opposite end of the fireplace, leaning against the mantel.

“I’ve had an adequate sufficiency.”  Mart stretched himself and loosened his belt.  “How about you, my little turtledove?”  He pulled his fiancée close and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. 

Diana Lynch replied, “I know I had plenty—if I’d eaten another bite I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to get into my wedding dress next month.  Not that I want to be a stick, but I don’t want Honey to have to let the dress out!”

“You’ll be beautiful to me no matter what,” Mart assured her with another kiss.

“We’ll plan to do our last fittings while I’m here this weekend,” Honey said.  “But not tomorrow—tomorrow’s sacred to shopping!”

“Yes, in fact I need to go home in a few minutes, so I can rest up before we have to leave for the special three a.m. event at Macy’s,” Diana interjected.  “I have so much to do in December that if I don’t do it tomorrow, I won’t have time.”  She stretched out her hand to check the time on her watch.

“So sorry I can’t accompany you,” Mart said with a roll of his eyes.

Trixie made a gagging sound.  “Shopping—ugh!  I’d rather do anything in the world besides shop on the busiest shopping day of the year.  If you just weren’t one of my very best friends, Honey Wheeler…”  She left the implied threat hanging in the air.

“Sacred to shopping?”  Brian laughed.  “Tomorrow’s sacred to football!”  Honey pulled a cushion from behind her back and hit him with it. 

“Shopping’s not the most important thing to me, but this year Macy’s has a limited edition musical snow globe that plays Miss Trask’s favorite Christmas carol.  They’re offering it at fifty percent off to the first two hundred shoppers, starting at three a.m.  I saw a picture of it, and it’s beautiful.  I know Miss Trask will love it.”  Her hazel eyes glowed.  “But Diana, you can’t leave until we draw names for our Christmas party.”  She jumped up from her seat on the couch.

In a moment, Honey returned with a bowl containing seven folded slips of paper.  She held the bowl out to Brian, then to Diana and Mart, Jim and Trixie.  Just as she started to cross over to Dan, the log in the fireplace crackled and popped.  A shower of sparks exploded, some landing on the hearth where the two dogs snoozed.  Chester yelped and tore across the room toward the couch.  In an attempt to keep from stepping on the pup, Honey stepped backward, stumbled over Patch, and fell awkwardly, landing on her foot as she tried to keep from dropping her bowl.  Jim reached out to catch his sister, but not quite in time.  Patch shuffled away after a single, short bark. Diana’s gasp of shock was audible as she hurried to Honey’s side, being careful to avoid the dog.  Mart reached under the sofa to see if Chester was injured, and Dan joined Trixie and Jim next to Honey. 

“Are you okay, Honey?”  Trixie had dropped to the floor next to her, and both she and Diana hovered over her with worried faces.  Brian knelt in front of Honey, taking her ankle in his gentle, skilled hands.  Honey’s lips were pressed together and she gripped Trixie’s hand.

“Can you move your foot, Honey?” Brian said softly.

“Y-y-yes.  It’s… it’s fine.”  She wiggled her toes, but her white knuckles belied her words.  “Can’t you just tape it for me, Brian?”

“It’s swelling already.” Brian frowned.  “I can put an elastic bandage on it—there’s one in my first-aid kit.  But I can tell it hurts.  You’d better forget about your shopping trip for three a.m.”

“I can’t!” she wailed.  “This is the perfect gift for Miss Trask and I’ve got it all planned out.”  She struggled to stand.  With her first step, tears slipped from her eyes, and Dan and Jim took her in an improvised sling and carried her to the couch.

“I’ll fix an ice pack.” Diana hurried away to the kitchen.

“Honey, there’s no way you’ll be able to walk enough to shop in a few more hours.”  Brian’s voice was sympathetic, but firm.  Trixie gathered all of the loose throw pillows and helped him elevate Honey’s ankle.

Diana returned in time to hear his comment.  “I’ll stand in line for your snow globe, Honey,” she offered.  “Don’t worry!”  She tucked a tea towel around her friend’s ankle and laid a gallon-size Ziploc bag of ice on top.

“But Di, if you do that, you won’t have time to do any of your own shopping,” Honey protested.  “You just said this was your last real chance to shop.”

“Don’t be ridic, Di!” Trixie exclaimed.  “I’ll stand in line for Honey.  I was going anyway.”

“Trix, did you forget we promised Moms we’d go with her to Aunt Alicia’s for the weekend?” Mart reminded her.  “You, me, and Bobby are all going.”

“Gleeps!  I forgot all about going to Aunt Alicia’s!”  Trixie’s face fell.  “Sorry, Honey and Di.  Even though I hate shopping, I’d have been glad to stand in line for you.  But Moms has been looking forward to this weekend.”

“I’ll go shopping in Honey’s place,” Brian declared.  “I can’t go to Aunt Alicia’s, because I have to be back at work Saturday night.  I’m the only logical one.”

“Go for it, buddy.”  Mart clapped him on the back.  “I went with Diana last year, and it’s an experience I can wait to repeat.”   

“Oh, Brian, would you?”  Honey grabbed his hand and clasped it.  Her tears stopped and her eyes shone with hope.

Dan snorted.  “Love is a beautiful thing.  Good luck, Bri.” 

“Of course I’ll do it, Hon.  Do you have a picture of the snow globe?  I just want to know what I’m waiting for.”  He patted her hand.  “Don’t worry about a thing.”

Brian and Diana stood outside the entrance to Macy’s.  A long line of potential customers lined the sidewalk, to the corner and around it.  Puffs of moisture from their collective breath created a thin cloud of vapor overhead, but the crisp, cold air was invigorating.  Despite the cold, he was warm after the jog from the subway station, and with a cup of coffee in hand, he was enjoying the mellow tones of Bing Crosby’s voice crooning his signature classic, “White Christmas”.  Brian was picking up on the vibrant mood of anticipation of the waiting crowd, and listened to the snatches of conversation from people around him in the line as they discussed the hot toys, electronic items, and fashions of the season they hoped to purchase.  At least two people mentioned the snow globes.  He couldn’t believe the size of the crowd already gathered outside here before three a.m. 

“Are you sure I’ll be able to get to the snow globes in time?”  He wondered if he’d even be able to find the display.  Surely they wouldn’t clog up the entrance and make it too easy for shoppers by handing them out just as people walked in the door.  For the twenty-third time he unfolded the magazine ad Honey had given him, studying it carefully.

“I’ve already counted the people ahead of us in line,” Diana assured him.  “There are about eighty of them.  You shouldn’t have any trouble getting a snow globe, Brian.  I’ll take you to the department before I start my own shopping.” She smiled and laughed.  “Trust me, I’ve done this plenty of times!”

Brian laughed in return, and decided to relax.  Bing Crosby’s voice was replaced by John Lennon with Imagine, and as he listened to the hopeful words, he offered a silent prayer that his future children would know the peace-filled world of which Lennon sang.  As the line of people grew longer and more congested, he snickered at the barking dogs singing Jingle Bells and Alvin and the Chipmunks who wanted a hula-hoop for Christmas.  

A wave of excitement accompanied the heightened buzz of conversation as a uniformed guard approached the front doors.  As people pressed in closer, Brian placed a protective arm around Diana, but she didn’t seem fazed in the least.  Soon they were moving forward at a carefully orchestrated pace; two security guards maintained order and kept people from crowding in and stampeding.

Once inside the store, Diana quickly guided him through a maze of perfume counters, women’s and men’s clothing.  His head was reeling from the various scents and the many turns they took.  Finally they reached a section filled with Christmas-themed home décor and ornaments, close to the rear of the store.  Only about twenty-five people were lined up ahead of them, he estimated.

“What song does the song the snow-globe play?” he asked.  “Do you know?”

“I think it’s What Child Is This,” Diana replied. “That’s Miss Trask’s favorite.  Here you are, Brian.  Call me on my cell after you get the snow globe and I’ll tell you where I am.  You can find me or we’ll set up a meeting place.  Okay?”

“Sure.”  He shrugged.  The things I do for love, he thought.  Diana waved and hurried off to begin her own shopping.

Listening to the people ahead of him in line, he heard a variety of reasons people were shopping for the snow globe.  Some were adding to a collection, but one woman wanted it for a grandmother who had moved into a nursing home and couldn’t have a lot of personal belongings.  A tree would take up too much space.  Another had a sick father in the hospital.  One man was getting married and was buying the snow globe to surprise his fiancée.  Another was donating it to her church’s Christmas collection of gifts for the poor.  As he listened, Brian began to feel the Christmas spirit of generosity and giving slip over and into him, like a sustaining cup of hot cocoa or a warm bath.  He started paying more attention to the people around him, smiling when his eyes met theirs.

When it was his turn to approach the counter, he pulled out his wallet and paid, taking the box in a Macy’s bag.  He didn’t even look inside, because a snow globe was set up behind the counter, playing What Child is This while revolving continuously.  It was a very pretty snow globe, he decided.  Miss Trask probably would like it.  He moved on, tossing his loose change into the bucket of a Salvation Army volunteer as he walked.  Diana had suggested he could do some of his own shopping, but he was sure sitting on a bench near the entrance would be a better use of his time while he waited for her.  He checked his watch—3:47 a.m. How much longer could it take? 

An hour later, he was awakened by a sharp-edged feminine voice. “Brian!”

He was dozing on the bench, the bag containing the precious snow globe sitting on the floor between his feet.  At the sound of the voice, he jumped.  “Dr. Belden here,” he muttered, without opening his eyes.  “What is it?”

“Brian, wake up!  Haven’t you bought a single thing besides the snow globe?” 

Brian’s eyes snapped open.  Diana stood before him with a filled shopping cart and he recalled where they were.  “Ah, well, no.”  He fumbled for a good reason not to have been shopping his heart out.  “I… um, forgot to bring my shopping list,” he offered, with what he hoped was a winning smile. 

“You’re hopeless,” she said, rolling her eyes but smiling back in spite of herself. “Come on, I’ll help you choose some things.  The bargains today are fabulous.”

He stood and stretched, then picked up his single bag and followed her lead.

“Here, you’ll never see a better deal on these ties for Mart,” she suggested in the men’s department.  “And all of his currently have ketchup stains on them.”  He nodded and dropped three ties into the cart. 

“What about your dad?  Couldn’t he use a few shirts for work?”  Once again, Brian nodded and Diana selected two white dress shirts in his dad’s size.  “My brothers love these pullover sweaters.  Maybe Bobby would, too.”  Back in the women’s department, she found hand lotion in his mother’s favorite scent and several colorful pairs of knee socks for Trixie.  While appreciating that his future sister-in-law was trying to help him, he wished they could just leave already.  The inner glow he’d felt while waiting in line for the snow globe had faded, and the Christmas songs had begun to run together.  Black Friday shopping seemed to symbolize the whole over-commercialization of Christmas.  His feet hurt and he wanted to go to bed.  Finally, they joined another line to pay for their purchases.  Before he could ask her which way was out, Diana had stopped stock-still, exclaiming over a gaily decorated Christmas tree in front of the cash register station.

“Look, Brian, it’s an angel tree.”  Diana moved closer to study the ornaments, which Brian could now see were paper cutouts of angels, each labeled with a name.  “Do you want to get an angel?” she asked him.  “Each ornament is for a needy child.  The ornament has a list of what that child wants.”   

“Sure,” he agreed.  “As long as it doesn’t take too long.”  He covered a yawn, and she pointed the cart back to the toy department.  

As Diana tossed Legos, a Barbie doll, art supplies and a couple of storybooks into the cart, he found himself getting excited again, despite the bone-tired feeling that always overcame him between three and five a.m.  “Hey, how about a couple of Matchbox cars?  All boys like those.”

“Sure.  And look!  Paper dolls!”  Diana almost squealed.  “I used to love those when I was little.”  Her eyes danced.  “Let’s get Tyrone and Monica a winter coat and gloves, too.  Their sizes are written on the ornament.  But I don’t want you to spend too much money,” she hastened to add.

“I’m OK,” he assured her.  Not surprisingly, Diana chose a bright purple coat and a lavender hat and gloves for six-year-old Monica.  In turn, Brian picked out a dark green coat with black accents, and a black toboggan and gloves for seven-year-old Tyrone.  

“I think we’re ready now,” she said.  At the checkout station, Diana asked the clerk what they should do with their Angel Tree gifts.

“You can take them home, wrap them, and label each package with the number on the card.  Then the gifts may be returned here to the store, and the Salvation Army will pick them up and distribute them to the children,” the clerk explained.

“Thanks!  Merry Christmas!” Diana replied.  “Come on, Brian.  Let’s get back home.”    

He checked his watch again—it was nearly seven o’clock.  But somehow the shopping trip didn’t feel as onerous as it had a half-hour earlier. 

They headed for the subway station.  Diana carried four large Macy’s shopping bags, but had arranged for most of her purchases to be shipped to her home.  Brian felt conspicuous, with only two bags.  Although he’d insisted Diana should let him carry some of hers, she’d insisted equally strongly that she was fine and had everything balanced just so. 

“Just help me when we board the train,” she suggested.  “You can carry some things then.”  They took the subway out of the city and transferred to a commuter train that would take them back to Sleepyside.  By that time, dawn was breaking; the eastern sky was a weak pink and orange.  At Sleepyside, they moved all the bags into Diana’s car, and she backed carefully out of her parking spot to head home.  A fine, sleety drizzle, mixed with snow, had started during the train ride.  The road was already getting slick, and before they passed the last stoplight, her knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel tightly.

“Brian, do you mind driving the rest of the way?  I’m going to pull into the Hot Dog Heaven parking lot and let you take my place, if you don’t mind,” she said.  “I just hate driving on slick roads.”

“Sure, no problem.”  Brian wasn’t crazy about driving on ice, but he wasn’t afraid, either.  Anyway, it was only a couple of miles.  She pulled over and they switched places.  He drove to the Lynch estate first, and helped her carry her bags into the house.

“Take my car home,” she said.  “You can bring it back later on after the roads are scraped.  I won’t need it today, that’s for sure.”  She walked him to the front door.

“If you say so.”  He grinned.  “Thanks.  I’m hoping Honey and I can get on the road fairly early.  I’d like to have enough time to get to Boston before it gets dark, but my first priority is going to be sleeping.”  He started to head back to the car, but remembered something and turned back.  “Hey, thanks for taking me shopping.  It was fun getting the Angel Tree stuff.  Got me into the Christmas spirit.”

“Sure thing,” she answered.  “Merry Christmas, Brian!”  

He whistled Christmas tunes all the way back to Crabapple Farm to stay awake.  When he finally reached the driveway of his home, he sighed in relief.  It was after eight o’clock, and he was bone-tired.  He’d pulled all-nighters many times during medical school and residency, but one of the things he looked forward to most was being able to assign newer residents to that duty.  He parked Diana’s car into a spot where his parents could exit the garage and driveway without having to move it.  Deciding to leave most of his purchases in the car, he grabbed only the bag that held the snow globe.  The other things wouldn’t be harmed if the temperature plummeted, but the liquid inside the globe might freeze, he reasoned.  He opened the door and put one foot on the ground.  Congratulating himself on acquiring the snow globe Honey was so set on, he exited the car and took three steps toward the house.  Without any warning, his feet flew out from under him, so quickly he had no time to react.  Taken completely by surprise, he slammed flat onto his back and the bag went flying.

Brian lay on the asphalt drive for a moment, stunned.  How could I have forgotten the sleet? he asked himself.  I might have known the driveway would be icy.  But he was able to move everything and after a minute, sat up and got cautiously to his feet.  Ignoring the pain in his tailbone, he hobbled across the driveway to pick up his bag and looked inside, praying all was intact with the precious gift.  Amazingly, the fall didn’t seem to have damaged the box.  He hoped the globe inside was equally unscathed.

Trixie sat at the table in the warm, cozy kitchen, drinking a can of strawberry pop.  “Did you get it?  Did you?” she asked, jumping up and trying to take the bag from him as he limped inside.

“Watch it!” he warned.  “How do you know I don’t have a present for you in here?”  He wrinkled his nose.  “Ugh, how can you drink that stuff?  And why are you still here?  I thought Moms wanted an early start.”

“She decided to take a later train because of the weather, and was able to change the tickets,” his sister answered.  “As for this drink, it’s my coffee, smarty-pants.  Nectar of the gods.”  She grinned at him.  “But did you?  Did you get it?”

“Yes.  It’s right here.”  He reached into the bag and pulled out the box containing the snow globe.  Trixie reached for it with eager hands.

“It’s pretty,” she said.  Brian could tell she really wanted to open it and look.  But she didn’t ask, and held the box out for him to take back.  “Hey!  Why are you limping like that?” she asked suddenly.

“The driveway is a sheet of ice, thanks to the sleet this morning,” he said.  “I guess I was so glad to be this close to my bed again that I just jumped out and started walking without paying any attention.  Went flying and landed flat on my back.  Probably fractured my coccyx.”  He rubbed the offending spot.  “Better tell Mart to put down some sand or something else gritty on the driveway before Moms goes out.  And be careful yourself.”

“I’ll call Honey and let her know you got the snow globe,” Trixie offered.  “You look beat.”

“Okay.  Tell her I’ll call her after I get a little sleep.  We need to get on the road early this afternoon, because I want to make Boston before it gets too late, in case we have more bad weather.”  With a final wince, he continued toward the stairs and headed towards his bed.

Six hours later, refreshed by a nap and freshly showered, shaved, and dressed, Brian made his way carefully downstairs.  Someone had thoughtfully brought the rest of his bags inside.  Must have been Mart, he thought.  A glance outside had told him Diana’s car was gone, so Mart must have taken it back to her before leaving for the train that was taking Moms and the three younger Beldens to Philadelphia.  Good, one less thing I’ll have to do.  Now all I need to do is to walk over to the Manor House and Honey and I can get going.  With a groan, he realized he’d have to take his purchases back upstairs and stash them in the attic in order to have any hope that his younger siblings wouldn’t peek at their gifts.  I’ll call Honey first, he decided.

“Hey, beautiful,” he greeted Honey when she answered the phone.  “How’s your ankle today?”

“It still hurts, but Jim took me to the hospital for an X-ray early this morning,” she said.  “No break, but the doctor gave me an aircast and crutches, and said to keep it up and stay off it for at least a week and then get it rechecked.”

“Was it hurting that much?  I should have taken you last night,” he blamed himself.

“I didn’t even want to go to the hospital, but Jim had a good point.  ‘Make sure it’s okay before you go back to Boston,’ he said.  ‘It won’t be so easy for you to get around with Brian working, and if the weather gets worse’—well, you know how he is.  And Mother and Daddy backed him up.”  She sighed, but it was an affectionate sigh.  Honey’s parents still traveled frequently, but they had made real efforts to be together as a family during holidays.  However, neither of them enjoyed driving and Brian knew Jim was only too happy to keep them off the roads.  Besides, he probably felt guilty his dog had caused her fall.  

“I’m glad there wasn’t a fracture,” Brian said.  “I know we’d planned to leave tomorrow,but if you’re ready, I’d like to start back as soon as we can.  If it starts with the sleet and freezing rain again, we won’t have to worry about getting home in time for me to get to work by seven p.m. tomorrow.”

“Sure.  My bag is packed and I’m ready when you are.”

“I’ll head on over, then.  See you in a few.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”  He heard the smile in her voice, and imagined her twirling a strand of honey-colored hair as she spoke.  Not for the first time, he felt a rush of joyful incredulity that Honey loved him.  Sure, he’d dated other girls.  When he’d first met Honey, she seemed so much younger than he was.  But she was grown up now, not just his little sister’s pal, and the age difference wasn’t really that much.  She was bright, interesting, and beautiful.  In the past year, they’d become good friends and more.  Much more.

He checked to make sure he’d packed his clothing and toiletries.  His bed was made and the gifts safely stashed away—as safely as they could be at Crabapple Farm.  He grabbed his bag and the bag containing the snow globe.  Honey would want to see it, he knew.  But a corner of the bag gave way when he lifted it from the floor, and he set it down.  Reaching into the Macy’s bag, he realized something was wrong, very wrong.  The box was wet.  He felt his heart plummet into his stomach and his mouth went dry. 

With shaking fingers he pulled the box out and carefully opened the flaps.  A styrofoam clamshell had provided protection for the snow globe; it was still there, but one side of the styrofoam had crumpled and split.  He lifted it out and teased apart the two halves.  The snow globe was half-empty of liquid, and a hairline crack defaced the back side of the globe, allowing the liquid to leak out.

It must have happened when he fell.  The package had gone flying.  Honey had really wanted that gift for her beloved former governess.  He felt like a total loser.  What in the world could he do now?

His mind cast about desperately for a solution.  Buy another globe?  No, the store had only a limited quantity and Diana had assured him they would sell out.  Could he replace it in Boston?  Even if one of the stores there carried it, they might have sold out as well.  Could it be repaired?  He didn’t know if that would be possible.

His mother was gone, and so was Trixie—not that Trix knew anything about things like that.  He didn’t want to admit to Honey that he’d broken the snow globe.  Not until he knew there was nothing to be done.  Asking Miss Trask, of course, was out of the question.  Wait—Diana! She had all of that art background and she was practically a professional shopper.  If anything could be done, she would know. 

Quickly, he entered her number into his phone, praying she’d pick up.

Diana hadn’t been able to offer him a sure-fire solution, but she’d promised to research the problem and see if it would be possible to replace or repair the globe before Christmas.  Brian would have to be satisfied with that.  She promised to call him within a week to let him know what she’d learned.  He hobbled downstairs again and fetched a bowl to hold the upside-down snow globe so that the remaining water wouldn’t go all over his bedroom floor.

“Hi, Brian!  What took you so long?” Honey asked when he reached the Manor House.  He bent his head slightly to drop a quick kiss on her cheek.  Her parents, Jim, and Miss Trask were all in the family room with her.

“Sorry!  I remembered an important phone call I had to make just as I was about to leave.”  Brian hated to even tell the white lie.  But it was nothing to what he’d have to say when she asked to see the snow globe.  “Are you ready?”

“Yes, let’s go.”  She stood and balanced on her crutches, then took off with a very creditable technique for the front door.  The rest of her family followed.

“Be careful, Brian,” urged Mrs. Wheeler.  “I hate for you children to be on the road.  Thank goodness it’s cleared up this afternoon.”

“Brian’s always careful, Maddie darling,” Mr. Wheeler reminded her.  “And Honey’s car has new snow tires on it.  They’ll be fine.”  But Brian noticed he had a furrow between his eyebrows.  

Jim carried Honey’s bag to the car while Brian spotted her on the wide, shallow steps of the stately home.  They weren’t slippery at all, since someone had spread salt or another ice-melting substance on them.  After making sure she was safely ensconced in her seat and belted in, he stowed the crutches in the back. 

Honey lowered her window as soon as Brian turned on the ignition.  “Bye, Mother!  Bye, Daddy!  Bye, Miss Trask!  Bye, Jim!  See you at Christmas!”  The Wheelers waved back and she raised the window again as soon as the car was in motion.

“So!  You said you were able to get the snow globe.  Can I see it?” she asked as soon as they had left the Manor House grounds.  Brian’s mind froze.  Naturally, she was anxious to see the special gift. 

“Jiminy cricket!  I forgot to bring it with me,” Brian responded.  He didn’t look at her, but kept his eyes strictly on the road, although it really wasn’t bad now.  The road crews had done a good job.

“Oh.”  Her voice was low and carefully neutral, but he recognized the note of disappointment.  Minutes ticked by and neither of them spoke.  Finally, he couldn’t stand it.

“Honey, I’m sorry, I lied to you.”  He sighed.  “I did get the snow globe.  But I slipped on ice in our driveway and lost my grip on the bag.  Everything seemed fine when I checked it after I got inside.  I didn’t want to open the box without you seeing it first, and it had protective packaging.  But when I woke up, a lot of the water had leaked out and I opened it then.  Honey, the globe must have cracked on impact with the ground.”

“Oh, Brian!”  She reached over to put her slim hand on his arm.  “I thought you were walking funny when you got to our house.  Were you hurt?”

“Only my pride, sweetheart.”  He gave her a rueful grin.  “I’ll be right as rain in a few days.  But I don’t know about the snow globe.  Diana felt sure it would sell out, and even if it hasn’t, I really can’t afford to replace it at full price.  But I called Di, and she’s going to check into whether it could be repaired or something.  I’m so sorry—I know you had your heart set on that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Honey urged him.  “I’ll think of something else.  It’s just that Miss Trask is so hard to shop for, and I’d made up my mind this gift would be perfectly perfect for her.”

Brian didn’t feel much better, but he tried to console himself with the thought that at least he’d been honest with her.

Monday, December 2

Monday afternoon, the little girls stood in a semicircle in front of Trixie and Rilla.  Each held up two fingers as they recited the Brownie Promise.

“On my honor, I will try:
To Serve God and my Country,
To help people at all times,
and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” 

After making their pledge, the girls plopped down on the sit-upon cushions they’d made at the start of the school year.

“When are we going to start practicing Christmas carols, Miss Trixie?” asked Robin.  “You promised we’d do it after Thanksgiving.”  She wriggled on her seat with excitement. 

“We are.  We’re going to practice a couple of Christmas songs now, and then we’ll take some suggestions on gifts to make for your families at home.”  

“Cool!  Can we sing the Chipmunk Christmas song first?”  The other six little girls clapped their hands and chorused, “Please!”

“All right.”  Trixie laughed at their excitement as Rilla went to the piano to prepare the music.  “We’ll try it.  Someone will have to sing Alvin’s part.  Who wants to do it?”  She looked from one girl to another.  All seven of them waved hands in the air.

“Let’s do eenie-meenie,” suggested Desiree, another of the Brownies.  The candidates put out their fists and Desiree began the counting game.  “Eenie-meenie miney mo, Catch a tiger by his toe…”

By the end of the count, Robin was the winner for Alvin’s part.  “Now, Robin, if we have any more special parts, it will be someone else’s turn to sing,” Trixie reminded her.  “Okay?”

“Yes, Miss Trixie.”  Robin nodded.

An hour later, the troop had practiced six songs and Trixie wrote down the titles of each song they’d voted to use in the caroling expedition.  “Great work, girls.  Now, Miss Rilla and I have four ideas for a family gift we can make.  Look at the pictures she’s holding.”

Rilla held up four she’d printed off the internet, and the girls took turns holding and studying them.

“Let’s make the reindeer ornaments with felt,” Desiree suggested.  “I love the googly eyes!” 

“No, I like the ice skates with paper clips.”  Kim nodded her head so vigorously that her braids bounced.

“The snowman with pom-poms is so cute!”

“We have a baby and I could bring baby food jars for snow globes!” Shonna bragged.

They voted again, and snow globes had the highest number of votes.  “Maybe we can make some for the nursing home people,” Kim suggested.  “If Shonna has enough baby food jars.”

“That’s a wonderful idea,” Trixie agreed.  “The nursing home residents don’t have space to have a Christmas tree in their rooms.”

“I don’t know how many snow globes we could make—or carry to the home,” Rilla cautioned.  “We don’t have an awful lot of time, and we’ll need help to take more than ten or twelve of the globes from the car to the residents’ rooms.”

“We can work that out,” Trixie assured her.  “If you girls work hard, we can make a lot of globes.  It’s very thoughtful suggestion, Kim.”

“I’ll get my mama to bring a bunch of jars to the meeting next week,” Shonna promised.

“All right, then.”  Rilla collected the pictures again and put them back into her music folder.  “It’s a plan.  Now, who would like to help serve the snacks?”

While Desiree fetched paper plates from Trixie’s box of supplies, Robin handed each girl a napkin and Shonna helped Rilla pour apple juice.  Kim served each Brownie a scoop of Trixie’s homemade trail mix.  When they were finished, Makayla collected the trash and she and Trixie took it out to the dumpster.  The girls formed their circle and sang the Girl Scout song.

Once all of the girls had gone, Trixie and Rilla locked up and left the building.  “They’re so excited about making the snow globes and singing at the nursing home,” Trixie said.  “I’m getting excited, too, just thinking about it.”

“We need to make a trip to the crafts store,” Rilla reminded her.  “The article I read said if you don’t have any of the materials, they’re all available very inexpensively.”  

“We can go now—if you have time.”  Trixie stopped suddenly.  “Oh! Did I tell you?  “Jim said he and Dan would help with driving to the nursing home.  We’ll have plenty of room for everyone and for the snow globes.” 

“Good!  Dan had told me he was pretty sure he could help.  He’s going to bring his guitar, too.”  

Inside the large crafts store on the outskirts of Sleepyside, Trixie and Rilla wandered the aisles.  Christmas music played over the speaker system and Trixie hummed along with her favorites.  “Look!  Here are some tiny reindeer figurines,” Rilla said.  “They’ll be perfect.”  She scooped a handful of the reindeer from the shelf and dropped them into Trixie’s shopping basket.

“Here are some Santas, too.”  Trixie tossed a half-dozen of the Santas into the basket.  “How about some angels?”

“Yes, those are cute.  Some little Christmas trees and mangers should give us enough variety for everyone.”  As they continued through the aisles, Trixie added a couple of packages of flaky artificial snow and glitter, while Rilla found silicone sealant and checked off the items. 

“What else is left?” Trixie asked, pushing an errant curl away from her face.  They’d been up and down nearly every aisle and she was tired of shopping.  The mental picture of the girls’ excited faces was the only thing keeping her going.

“A bottle of glycerin,” Rilla replied.  “It’s supposed to keep the flakes from falling too fast.”  She threw up her hands.  “I’ve never bought glycerin before and have no idea what it looks like or where we might find it.  Let’s try to find someone who works here.”

Luckily, they found a helpful employee at the end of that aisle, and in another ten minutes were headed for the checkout line.  “Look!”  Trixie grabbed Rilla’s arm.  “How did we miss this when we came in?” she asked, pointing to a large Christmas tree decorated with paper cutouts of angels.  “Let’s look at the names.”

“Sure!” Rilla agreed readily.  “Hey, I wonder if any of our Brownies’ names are on the tree.”  All of the Brownies came from the low-income neighborhood around Hawthorne Street, and Trixie had not given up on trying to find a way to make their Christmases brighter.

The two girls began inspecting the paper angels.  “Here’s a Robin,” Trixie crowed.  “It might not be her, but Robin isn’t a very common name.  I’m taking this one.”  She tucked it into her purse.

“I found a Shonna,” Rilla reported.  “Do you think Jim and Dan would want to take one?”

“I know they would.  Here’s a Kim and a Makayla.  I think Mart and Honey would want one, too.”  She plucked two more names from the tree—Jade and Tabitha.  “Diana told me she and Brian shopped for angels on Black Friday.”  

“Now we’ve got everything we need here,” Rilla said.  “I can’t wait to shop for my angel.”

“Neither can I,” Trixie agreed.  “But not today.  It’s time to head home and work on my new story for the paper.”

Rilla laughed.  “I need to practice our songs.  They aren’t hard arrangements, but still…”  After paying for their purchases, the two headed back to the school parking lot and Trixie dropped Rilla off at her car.

Trixie had just finished washing dishes after supper when her phone vibrated.  She pulled it out of her pocket and checking the display before answering.  “Hi, Di!” she greeted her old friend.  “What’s up?”

“Trix, you know the snow globe Brian bought at the Black Friday shopping trip for Honey?”

“Yes, what about it?”  She waited for a few seconds before her curiosity got the better of her.  “What about it, Di?  Honey was thrilled—she thinks it’ll be the perfect gift for Miss Trask.  Is there a problem?”

“Well… ” Diana hesitated again.  “Did he tell you it got broken?”

“Broken?  Gleeps, Di!  What do you mean?  It was fine when he got home—I saw it!”  She raked a hand through her curls in shock, then listened in silence as Diana told her about Brian’s call.  “So he didn’t check it until he got up and found out it had leaked all over the box?  I bet he was sick!”

“Anyway, Trix, the reason I called is because I did some research today to see if maybe the snow globe could be repaired, and I found out it shouldn’t be too hard to just replace the globe.  It would be just like new, except the box might be messed up from getting wet.”  Diana stopped to catch her breath and then continued.  “Brian said he left it under his bed, with a bowl to catch any more water that leaked out.  Anyway, the materials to repair it are easy to find.  I thought I’d go to the crafts store tomorrow.  Do you think we could get together one day this week and work on it?”

“Sure, of course we can!”  Trixie was still trying to process the news that the globe had been broken.  “I wonder if he told Honey?  Her heart was set on that musical globe!”  

“I had the feeling he didn’t want to tell her, but you know Brian—he couldn’t keep something like that from her.”  Diana sighed.  “He was pretty upset about it.”

“Oops—that reminds me!  I need to call Honey to let her know we picked an angel from the Angel Tree for her.”  A thought occurred to her.  “I know she can buy the gifts anywhere, but wonder if she’ll be home again before Christmas to deliver them back to the store?”

“She’ll be happy to get an angel, Trix.  And she’ll find a way to turn the gifts in.  Don’t worry about that!”  Diana insisted.  “So, when do you want to get together?  I’m free tomorrow and Wednesday night.”

“Tomorrow’s fine.  Hey, can you believe it?  My Brownie troop is making snow globes with baby food jars for Christmas.  Rilla and I just bought our supplies today.”

“Well, by the time we get finished fixing Honey’s snow globe, you should be a pro!” Di said.  “I’d better get going now—Mother and I are going to address some wedding invitations.  See you tomorrow!”

“Bye!”  Trixie ended the call and ran upstairs to check under Brian’s bed.  Sure enough, the globe’s water had leaked out completely.  She tested the musical mechanism and was relieved to find out it was working just fine, then emptied the water in the bowl and replaced the globe as she’d found it.  The box wasn’t too bad, she decided.  After all, it wasn’t going to be on display. 

Next, she called Mart to let him know she’d volunteered him for an angel, along with Dan and Honey.  “I hope that was okay,” she apologized, running a hand through her hair again.  “I shouldn’t have done it without asking you, but I was so excited to think I might be helping the girls in my troop to have a good Christmas.”

“Don’t be ridic, Trix,” her almost-twin insisted.  “Of course it’s okay with me, and I know Dan won’t mind, either.  Get with me tomorrow and give me the information.”

Tuesday, December 3

Diana and Mart arrived at Crabapple Farm the following evening just before supper, at Mrs. Belden’s invitation.  She had prepared a big pot of turkey noodle soup with the last of the leftover turkey from the Open House.  As always, Trixie enjoyed both the meal and the company.  Although Mart had his own apartment in the village now, he still ate meals at home several times a week.  It would be odd in another month to have him married and not around so much.  She wondered how different life would be for her when she, too, married and moved away.  She and Jim had talked about marriage, but the timeframe was pretty hazy.  Jim wanted to focus on his graduate studies right now, and she’d agreed that if he was at least more than halfway through, he would be more relaxed and ready to make plans for the future.

When everyone was finished and the last bit of pumpkin pie was eaten, Mart used his napkin and pushed back from the table.  “Moms, go on into the living room and relax.  I know Trixie and Diana have a project to work on.  Bobby and I will clean up, won’t we, Bobby?”  The youngest Belden was already heading for his room, but he tuned around at Mart’s words. 

“Sure.  Moms, you did the hard work, we’ll do this.”  He slid his phone back into his pocket.  “I’ll call Barbie later.”

Diana insisted on helping to clear the table, since she and Trixie had planned to use the kitchen table for their work area.  The two brothers worked with a minimum of horseplay, loading the Beldens’ new dishwasher and washing up the few items that wouldn’t fit.

Trixie fetched the snow globe from Brian’s room and Diana brought out the supplies she’d purchased.  Removing the cracked globe was easier than they’d expected it would be.  Trixie cautiously pried the globe away from the base and twisted it while holding it upside down.  She felt it give and separated the two pieces slowly, taking care not to scrape the figures.  In an hour, the new globe was filled with water.  Diana added a few drops of glycerin and a handful of opalescent glitter, then held it with the opening up, while Trixie laid a bead of silicone adhesive down on the base.  She inverted the base and twisted it onto the globe again to seal it.   

“It looks like new,” Diana said delightedly.  “I can’t wait until it’s had time to cure and we can set it down again.”  Carefully, she balanced the inverted globe in a small bowl Trixie had set out for the purpose. 

“I think the new globe is a tiny bit bigger, do you?” Trixie asked, squinting at it.

“If it is, it’s so close I don’t think it could make any difference,” Diana assured her.  “It’s perfectly perfect, as Honey would say.”

“I’m so glad we could fix it.  Brian will be so relieved.”  Trixie stood back to study it more carefully.

“You girls did a great job,” Mart praised them. 

“It was a Bob-White team effort,” Diana said.  “You helped me find all the materials at the crafts store.”  She tilted her face up and kissed him.  “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Sure you could,” Mart disagreed.  “But I’m glad if I saved you some time.”

“I’m going to call Honey right now and let her know it’s fixed as good as new.”  Trixie pulled out her phone and took a picture of the snow globe, then entered Honey’s number.  “Honey!  Guess what?”

Making snow globes with the Brownie troop was an interesting experience, Trixie decided after the Brownie Scout meeting the following Monday.  Shonna’s mother had shown up with twenty-five baby food jars.  After their Christmas carol practice, each girl was able to complete two globes during the meeting, but there was a surprising amount of glitter on the floor afterward, not to mention what ended up in the girls’ hair and on their fingers.  They were excited and seemed to enjoy themselves, though.

“There are a whole lot of jars left,” Robin worried at the end of the meeting.  “Will we be able to finish them next week?”

“We’ll see,” Trixie temporized.  “It’s messier than I thought it would be.”

“But we want to make snow globes for the nursing home people, and we don’t have enough yet.  My auntie said some of the people won’t have a Christmas except what they get from us, and that would be sad.”  Tears stood in her big blue eyes. 

Trixie felt ashamed of her impatience with the mess.  The girls had grasped the true Christmas spirit.  She smiled—really meaning it—and promised, “Yes, we’ll make more snow globes next week.  It will be fun for us and the nursing home residents will get a Christmas present.”

By Sunday, she was starting to feel frazzled.  She’d finished her shopping, but hadn’t had time to wrap any of her gifts—a chore she hated.  Saturday had been full with the Lynch family’s annual cookie-baking day, and today she’d been pressed into service for the Register when the features reporter had fallen ill and unable to report on Santa’s visit to the hospital at White Plains.  On the way home, she and Jim stopped at Wimpy’s for a late lunch.

“Jim, I’m turning into Scrooge!” she exclaimed.  “I was all into the Christmas spirit, but now it’s getting overwhelming.  We’ve got to finish all the snow globes with the Brownies tomorrow, our Christmas party for work is Wednesday, your party is Thursday, we take the girls caroling Friday, and Christmas is Wednesday.  Moms needs me to help her with some cooking before Christmas Day.  I don’t know when I’m going to wrap my gifts!”  She raked her curls in frustration.  “Even the music is getting on my nerves!”

Jim smoothed her ruffled hair.  “Don’t worry, it’ll all get done, Shamus.”  He smiled and covered her hand with his.  “I’m looking forward to the caroling.  And guess what?  Honey’s coming home tomorrow.”

“She’s getting off a week before Christmas?  What’s that about?”  Trixie was curious.  Another thought occurred to her.  “Brian’s not coming home this early, though, is he?” 

“No, Brian’s not getting off until Christmas Day, but Honey’s work is actually shutting down for two weeks.  So she’s driving down tomorrow.”  Jim took a bit of his burger before continuing.  “Mother and Dad will be home in a couple of days, too.  I’m probably going to stay out at the Manor House until Honey goes back so we can have more family time.  I’ll be closer to you, too.”

“If you were trying to cheer me up, it worked,” Trixie told him.  She sipped her milkshake for a minute, feeling more cheerful.  “Hey!  Maybe Honey will wrap my gifts for me.”

Monday, December 16

All day, Trixie felt like Monday would never end.  But the Brownies finished all the remaining baby-food jar snow globes and they’d done a great job on their singing practice.  “You girls are ready for the big performance,” she told them.  “Now don’t forget—be back here right after school on Friday and we’ll go to the nursing home.  We’ll have two more drivers here, so there will be plenty of room for all of us and for all of the snow globes.”

“I can’t wait!”  Kim jumped up and down.  “They’re going to be so happy.”  She pulled on a coat that was much too thin for the cold, and a mismatched pair of gloves.  Trixie hoped fervently that Kim, her Kim, was one of the angels she’d plucked from the angel tree.  A warm, pretty coat with matching hat and gloves would mean a lot to this little girl.

“Thank you, Miss Trixie!  Thank you, Miss Rilla!”  Shonna said, giving Trixie and her co-leader a big hug.  She pulled two packages of LifeSavers from her pocket.  “Merry Christmas!”  Shonna’s shoes had holes in them, and Trixie imagined her in a new pair of warm, sturdy shoes.  She and Rilla hugged Shonna and thanked her for the candy.

Robin approached her, shy for once.  “Here, Miss Trixie and Miss Rilla, I made something for you both.”  She thrust a small box at each of them.  Trixie studied the box for a few seconds before opening it.

“This box is made from a Christmas card, isn’t it?” Rilla asked.  “It’s very pretty!”

Robin nodded.  “Yes, my auntie made it.  But I made the present.  Hurry and open it!”  She hopped from one foot to the other.

Trixie and Rilla opened their boxes.  Inside each one, nestled in a crumpled piece of tissue paper, was an angel made from pasta shapes, with a wooden bead for a head.  The angels were painted white and had halos made of silver pipe cleaners.

“This is so cute, Robin!  Thank you.”  Rilla hugged the little girl.

“I can’t wait to hang mine on my Christmas tree,” Trixie said with a hug of her own.  “Thank you!”

“I made one for my teacher, too,” Robin boasted.  “It’s fun making presents for people.  Well, my auntie is here.  Bye-bye!”  She ran to the door, dragging a shabby coat behind her.

When all of the girls had gone, Trixie turned to Rilla.  “Gleeps!  I sure hope our girls will get some warm coats for Christmas—and some nice toys, too.”  She dashed a hand across her eyes as they unexpectedly filled with tears.

“I do, too.”  Rilla’s lip quivered and she turned away with a little choking sound.  “When I think of Dan being on the street on his own… he wasn’t that much older than our girls.  It breaks my heart.”  She blew her nose in a tissue and drew a deep breath.  “Come on, Trix, we need to see if we can get any more glitter cleaned up off the floor before we go!”

Trixie laughed and the somber mood lifted as they worked to finish the cleanup.

By the time she was back at Crabapple Farm, she felt sure Honey must have arrived at the Manor House.  She forced herself not to call her best friend, in case she was still on the road; Honey would call her as soon as she was home.  She could barely enjoy her mother’s tasty meatloaf and mashed potatoes for waiting.  So it was a relief when her phone chimed with the first notes of Honey’s favorite Christmas carol, Silent Night.

“Honey! When did you get home?” she exclaimed as she activated the “talk” function.

“Just now,” Honey said.  “Can you come over for a bit?”

“As soon as I finish cleaning up the kitchen.  Maybe twenty minutes?”  She glanced anxiously at the clock on the stove.

“Trixie, dear, go on over to the Manor House,” her mother said.  “I’ll let you out of cleanup duty just this once.”  She smiled and patted Trixie’s shoulder. 

“Hey, Trix, bring your gifts.” Honey was speaking again.  “I’ll wrap them tomorrow.”  

“Are you sure it won’t be too much trouble?”  Trixie had joked about asking Honey to wrap, but she felt guilty about actually asking her to spend time doing that detested chore.  “You must have other things to do.”

“Not really!”  Honey laughed.  “My ankle is a lot better, but I can’t do a lot of walking or standing for a long time, so I’m definitely not going shopping tomorrow.  Wrapping is something I can start and stop, too, in case Mother and Daddy get home.  It’ll be perfectly perfect.”

“Okay, you talked me into it.”  Trixie had made her way upstairs while talking and pulled several bags from her closet.  Shrugging into her coat, she galloped back downstairs.  “I’ll bring the snow globe, too.  You won’t believe it was ever damaged.  I’m driving over since I’ve got all this stuff.  See you in a sec!”   

Friday, December 20

Friday afternoon was sunny, although cold.  Snow covered the ground, but the roads were clear when Trixie and Rilla met Dan and Jim at Washington Irving Elementary for the Brownies’ trip to Sunrise Manor.  The Brownies split up between Trixie’s and Rilla’s cars, while Dan and Jim loaded the boxed-up snow globes and Dan’s guitar into Jim’s vehicle.  At the nursing home they all piled out and Trixie stopped at the reception desk to find out where to go.  Receiving directions, she led the way to a large bright room with comfortable sofas, armchairs, and a piano, with a view outside to a patio edged by a row of birdfeeders.  Several years earlier, the Bob-whites had built the patio with a flower garden border as well as a couple of ornamental trees and some garden benches.  It was a lovely spot and she felt happy that the residents had such a nice place to enjoy the outdoors.  Today the garden spot was covered with snow, and it was already too dark to watch the hardy chickadees that frequented the feeders. 

Rilla took her seat at the piano and set up her music.  She played softly while they waited for the residents to arrive.  Dan sat on a straight chair near the piano and tuned his guitar.  Jim stationed himself in a corner on the opposite side of the piano, the boxes of snow globes at his feet.  Trixie arranged the girls in a semicircle behind Rilla, and made sure each one had her program ready.

Elderly people shuffled into the room, some using walkers or holding onto railings on the wall.  Young nurse’s aides wearing bright Christmas-themed scrub tops pushed frail-looking elderly men and women in wheelchairs.  Soon, the room was nearly full.  The residents’ faces brightened at the sight of the little girls, and the girls smiled back, but Trixie could tell they were feeling a bit apprehensive.  She smiled encouragingly and crouched down in front of them.  “You girls are going to be amazing,” she said.  She squeezed each one’s hand.  “And you can give the globes out after the singing.  Nurse Marnie has given me a list of names of all the residents here, and Miss Amy, the nursing assistant, will help you give them out.”  

All of the girls nodded solemnly, their eyes big.  Every chair had been filled, and the procession seemed to be finished.  Rilla played louder and Trixie recognized the introduction to “Jingle Bells”.  She nodded to the girls and they began to sing.

By the time the girls had sung two songs, Trixie noticed that most of the elderly residents were smiling; some were tapping their feet in time with the music.  Impulsively, she invited them to join in.

“Everyone, please sing along if you want to!”  The next song on the program was I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and several of the older people did join in with the beloved classic.  Trixie decided it was the best version of the song that she’d ever heard, especially when she saw that Jim was singing, too.  The mixture of young and old voices gave a special piquancy to the words.

The Little Drummer Boy, Up on the Rooftop, Sweet Little Jesus Boy, O Christmas Tree…  One after another, the children sang.  Trixie was amazed that they’d been able to learn so many songs in the few weeks they’d practiced.  Some of the girls weren’t very skilled readers and she hadn’t been sure they’d be able to follow along with the programs Rilla had printed.  But here they were, doing a great job.

The last song was Away in a Manger.   As they finished, the girls dipped their heads shyly while the residents and workers clapped.  Then Jim came forward with the first box of snow globes.  “We have a little gift for each resident here today,” Trixie announced.  “The Brownies made these during our meetings and hope you will enjoy looking at them through the holidays.”  She handed a globe to Desiree, who walked with one of the nursing assistants to the first recipient, an elderly man in a wheelchair.

“Merry Christmas,” Trixie could hear her whisper.  The man accepted the globe and patted Desiree’s hand.  “I’ll keep it right next to my TV,” he said in a rusty voice, giving it a shake and watching as glitter swirled around and then drifted down.

Each of the girls took turns handing out the snow globes, and by the time they left Sunrise Manor it was completely dark outside.  But as they drove through the residential neighborhoods, Trixie began to hear Robin, Shonna, and Makayla ooh-ing and ah-ing over the Christmas light displays. 

“Look at that one!”  Robin pointed to a house with a larger-than-life, floodlit inflatable Santa, sleigh, and reindeer on the lawn.  Multicolored lights lined the roofline, and decorated two large evergreen trees in the front yard.  Trixie slowed so they could watch the reindeer’s red nose flash on and off for a few seconds.  Farther on, another house featured all white mini-lights along its roofline, with lighted evergreen swags and single “candle” lights in each window.  Lighted mini-trees accentuated the red front door, decorated with an elaborate wreath.  She thought it was the prettiest, but the girls declared it boring.  “It doesn’t have enough colors,” explained Makayla.  They passed houses with illuminated wire-framed reindeer, a floodlit display of painted wooden carol singers on the Main Street shopping area, homes with multicolored or all-blue lights, one house that featured music over a loudspeaker and several animated lighted displays on the lawn.  For each one, the girls exclaimed in delight and commented on why they liked the display or not. 

On the lawn of the Catholic church that Diana’s family attended, a beautiful life-size Nativity that resembled carved wood was arranged in a pose of expectation.  A spotlight shone down on the empty manger, while figures of Joseph and Mary stood in a thatched stable, and several sheep clustered around.  An angel knelt behind the manger, holding up a lighted “candle”.  “I love that one the best,” proclaimed Shonna.  “My mama says on Christmas Eve the Baby Jesus will be in the manger.”

The girls all agreed the church display was pretty, but each had a different favorite.  As Trixie turned onto Hawthorne Street, the displays became smaller and simpler, but she still saw illuminated Santas on shabby porches, lit Christmas trees showing through windows, and a floodlit sleigh piled high with gaily wrapped boxes in one postage-stamp-sized yard.  She consulted her list of addresses and soon all of the Brownies had been returned to their homes.  After dropping off the last one, she called Rilla’s phone to find out where she was. 

“Are you and Dan going to your work party now?” she asked when her friend picked up.

“Yes, I’ll just have time to stop at home and change clothes,” Rilla replied.  “I’m sure we’ll get together sometime during the holidays.  Have a great weekend if I don’t see you!”

“You too!” Trixie said.  “Bye!”

The opening notes of White Christmas had Trixie pressing the “talk” icon on her phone.  “Jim!  Where are you?”

“Right behind you.”  She heard his soft chuckle.  “How about a Wimpy-burger?”

“Sounds great to me, I’m starving,” she answered.  “Meet you there?”

Wimpy’s was quiet—they were the only customers.  Christmas music played softly over the speaker system.  Trixie and Jim gave their orders at the counter and were soon settled into a booth.  “It was fun listening to you all sing and watch the people’s faces when the girls handed out the snow globes.”  Jim’s eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and Trixie knew she’d never get tired of looking at them.  He played with the fingers of her left hand as it rested on the table.  “How did you make them, anyway?”

Trixie explained the process to him while they ate.  “It was messy, but a lot of fun.  The girls loved making the globes.  They made some for their families as well as those for the nursing home.”  She wiped her lips with a napkin.  “I’m glad we did it, because it really felt like what Christmas is all about.  I wanted to help them through the Angel Tree, but I think they helped me more.”

Jim nodded and they sipped their shakes in silence for a few minutes.  Then he reached into the pocket of his jacket.  “Hey!  Look what I found,” he said, holding out his hand.  A baby-food jar snow globe rested on his palm.  Glittery snow swirled around a tiny plastic reindeer surrounded by miniature plastic sprigs of cedar.  Trixie stared as the glitter drifted to the bottom.  “I guess we must have left someone out,” she said.  “We’d better head back to Sunrise Manor.”

“I don’t think so,” Jim replied.  “This one’s just for you.  Take a closer look.”  He placed it in her hand.

“What?  What do you mean?”  But she took it and held it up to her face.  The reindeer had something around its neck.  A thin gold ring, with an old-fashioned diamond setting, flashed with a reflection of the pendant fixture over their booth.  Heat suffused her neck and face, and she looked away from the jar and into his eyes.  “What… what’s this?”

“Trixie Belden, will you marry me?”  The laughter had gone from Jim’s eyes, and he looked like he was holding his breath.  “I know we talked about waiting until I finished my Master’s program, but I don’t think I can wait that long.  I couldn’t even wait until Christmas.  You’re the most important person in my life, I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Jim!”  She jumped up and in two strides she was face to face with him.  “Yes!  Of course I will!”  Still clutching the snow globe, she threw her arms around his neck and locked her lips with his.  Jim stood up too, lifting her off her feet.  He spun her around in the empty diner until she was dizzy, then sat down with her on his lap at a nearby table.  Taking the snow globe from her, he inverted it and twisted the lid off.  Although it took a couple of tries, he fished out the ring and slid it onto Trixie’s finger.  “I’ll be home for Christmas,” he told her, smiling tenderly.  “I’ll always be home for Christmas when I’m with you.”  He replaced the lid and shook the globe again, setting it down on the table.

Over the sound system, Mariah Carey crooned All I Want For Christmas Is You.  Flakes of glitter swirled and drifted around the tiny reindeer.  Trixie and Jim didn’t even notice.


Author’s Notes

12,150 words

This story is written especially for the lovely Robin, a real-life Girl Scout leader.  I wanted to pay tribute to your work with the Scouts, and it seemed like something Trixie would do.  My college roommate led a Brownie troop in a poor neighborhood back in the day, and I dug back in memory to those experiences.  Robin, I hope you enjoyed your special story!

Many thanks to my faithful editors, Ryl and Trish. They were a great help in making this story better!

Does Macy’s have shopping carts?  I don’t know.  It seems like more department stores have some kind of wheeled carts than they used to, and for a big shopping event I thought it would be easier to load up if Diana did have a cart.  So call it artistic license if you will J

Originally, I wanted to set this story into my main universe, but it was unbelievably easy to find directions for both making and repairing snow globes on the internet.  Who knew?  When I decided to set it in the present, it gave me a great chance to play around with the popularity of cell phones and their function in the lives of young adults!  Also it was fun to include All I Want for Christmas is You, a newer Christmas song that I like.  That wouldn’t have worked in the 70s, although I had a couple of other options in mind.

Is it glycerine or glycerin? I found it both ways, but Trish looked it up and glycerin was the most modern usage.  Since my story is set in modern times, I used that spelling.

Background tile from Microsoft Clip Art.  Header image is a real Fontanini Nativity snow globe, from this site.  I don’t own the rights to the image, but I hope Fontanini will consider its use free advertising.  My sister-in-law has a similar snow globe and it’s really pretty.  I do have a Fontanini nativity set I put out each year and I love it.

Thanks to CathyP and all of the current owners of Jix, and thanks to everyone in the community—authors, readers, and message-board buddies!  Being a part of Jix has enriched my life in so many ways, most of all with new friends!

Merry Christmas, Robin!

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Title image from istockphoto; graphics on these pages copyright 2010 by Mary N.

Copyright by Mary N, 2011

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