Mary Christmas

Written by Stephen Schelling

“Daddy, why is my name ‘Mary’?” six-year-old Mary asked her father, Christopher. They were sitting on a sofa together, Mary resting in her father’s warm arms, a warmth that was accentuated by a blithely dancing fire. She was in her pajamas. Her father was wearing a thick cardigan over his undershirt as he tended to do in winter when he returned home from work and took his work shirt off. He was still wearing his work pants and work socks even though Mary often complained how stinky the latter were. He was holding a mug of hot lemonade that he let Mary sip from as long as she was careful not to burn her lips or tongue. Chris pushed up his large-lens glasses so that the wireframes rested comfortably on the bridge of his nose until they would inevitably slip down again later. A record played Bing Crosby through scratches and the hum of the wood-cased speakers.Daddy, why is my name ‘Mary’?” six-year-old Mary asked her father, Christopher. They were sitting on a sofa together, Mary resting in her father’s warm arms, a warmth that was accentuated by a blithely dancing fire. She was in her pajamas. Her father was wearing a thick cardigan over his undershirt as he tended to do in winter when he returned home from work and took his work shirt off. He was still wearing his work pants and work socks even though Mary often complained how stinky the latter were. He was holding a mug of hot lemonade that he let Mary sip from as long as she was careful not to burn her lips or tongue. Chris pushed up his large-lens glasses so that the wireframes rested comfortably on the bridge of his nose until they would inevitably slip down again later. A record played Bing Crosby through scratches and the hum of the wood-cased speakers.

“Where the treetops glisten, and children listen,” the immortal crooner sang.

“You never got to know your grandparents on my side, did you, dear?” Christopher said looking down at his daughter.
“No, Daddy,” Mary replied, looking at him and then back to the fire. “Who are they?”

Christopher smiled.

“Well, believe it or not, I had a mommy and daddy, too, just like you.”

“Really?” Mary asked, amazed.

“Really. Just like Grandma and Grandpa Kaye are your mom’s mommy and daddy.”

“Oh,” Mary acknowledged.

“Would you like to hear a story, dear?”

Mary popped up and down on the sofa.

“Yes! Yes! Yes I do, Daddy!”

“Whoa!” Christopher exclaimed with a smile. “Be careful or you’re going to spill this wonderful hot lemonade your mother made for us all over your pajamas and the sofa.”
Mary stopped her bouncing and looked up attentively at her father. Her eyes sparkled from the flames of the fireplace and her heart.
“Please, Daddy, tell me the story,” she said, her anticipation surging within.

Christopher began the story of his parents.

“What might seem like a long time ago to you – but actually isn’t very long at all – my parents decided to buy a farm. This was a time when you could do that sort of thing. They worked really hard and saved everything they earned and bought a farm with it. Only, it wasn’t any ordinary kind of farm. No, it wasn’t the kind of farm that had cows and pigs, or corn and wheat. Oh no, it was nothing of the sort.”

“What kind was it?” Mary prodded.

“It was a magical farm. It was a…Christmas tree farm!”

“Oh, good! That’s the best kind of farm I’ve ever dreamed of!” Mary smiled, the light from the fire reflecting from her white teeth.

“Well, they worked hard on their farm for many years. They eventually had a son – that’s me – who grew up on the farm and learned everything his parents taught him. Their trees were amazing, almost as if they were infused with magic. Your grandfather had a special touch, some say. People came from far and wide to buy your grandparents’ trees. They sold thousands upon thousands of trees throughout the years, and everyone who came and went from their farm was always happy. Your grandparents were the happiest of all because they got to see the joy they were spreading throughout their town and the world around them.

“But one day, your grandmother started to not feel well. She got worse until, sadly, she passed away. Your grandfather was heartbroken. With resolve he told me, ‘Son, now it’s your turn to spread joy to the world.’ That day we buried your grandmother on the western side of the farm. I went to bed that night and when I awoke, something had happened. My father was gone. I frantically searched all around, but I couldn’t find any trace of him. I finally went outside. I walked around to the western side of the farmhouse, and what I saw made me stop in amazement.”
Christopher exhaled, reliving the memory.

“Two magnificent evergreen trees taller than the sky had appeared overnight. One stood above your grandmother’s grave, and the other stood next to it. At the base of the second tree, I found my father’s glasses.”

The record had stopped playing. There was only silence. Christopher continued.

“Your grandpa’s name was the same as my name, and your grandma’s name was the same as yours: Christopher and Mary Christmas. Now, what do you think about that?” Christopher asked, looking down at his daughter. But Mary didn’t reply because she was fast asleep. Christopher smiled at his daughter, whom he loved with his entire being. He set the mug down on the floor and carefully picked up Mary as he wrapped her in her blanket. He gently carried Mary to her bedroom and laid his daughter in her bed. Christopher kissed her on her forehead and softly closed the door.

At that moment, he remembered he had left his wallet and keys in the office. He walked back down the hallway, past the fireplace, and to the front door where his shoes and coat were. He put both on and quickly ducked outside into the cold. There were already four or five inches of snow on the ground and light flurries blithely danced through the air until they joined their snow brothers and sisters below. Christopher’s office wasn’t far – it was a trailer about 100 yards from the house. That was one of the perks of working on a farm. He patted the chilled, wooden sign his dad had made over 40 years ago: “Christmas’s Christmas Trees.” About twenty yards before he got to his office trailer, he paused. He looked over toward the western side, where a pair of giant evergreens soared more than a dozen feet above all the others. One was slightly taller than the other, but both treetops glistened in the moonlight. Christopher smiled at them. The treetops swayed back and forth amid the dancing flurries and he listened to their hushed sound.
“Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad.”

THE AUTHOR

Stephen Schelling is a writer and teacher, a pickler, and an Eagle Scout from America with a B.A. in journalism from Marshall University.

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