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Curiosity Corner: A forever Christmas
December 24, 2015 Gretchen Deter   

Read more by Gretchen Deter
The small sod school house was almost buried in snow. The white piles of frigid flocking came up to the middle of the only two glass windows in the classroom. It had been snowing all day but fortunately the children’s parents had come to school, some on horseback and some in wagons, to collect their bundled up sons and daughters. Surely all were home safely by now.

Miss Margaret (Maggie) Coulter sat at her desk with her face in her hands. Her red tangled hair was now undone from her earlier neatly tight hair bun; small strands looked like Raggedy Ann’s hair dangling around her face and down her neck. She slumped over with a sigh, looking at her desk, which was piled high with papers, colors, scissors and glue. As she closed her weary blue eyes, she thought about what had become of her. How had she ended up in this old sod, two-windowed school house in the middle of the prairie, alone and on her own?

Maggie was born in Boston to a wealthy family who was anxious to get their thirty year old daughter married. However, none of the many potential suitors in Boston seemed to please Maggie. They were too haughty, selfish, or brackish. Maggie’s refusal to find a suitable husband led to a pretty radical decision by her parents. She was told (not asked- but told) she was going out west to find a job and a husband. Maggie was only a little disappointed at the decision for she didn’t like Boston with its snobbishness. Moving out west seemed like quite an adventure. Her chances for finding a rugged, handsome, independent western cowboy suited her nicely.

But on this cold and snowy Christmas Eve, she was beginning to have second thoughts about her parent’s choice for her future. Here she was, alone in a shambled school room full of piles of pre-holiday mess. The children had been practicing all day for their holiday program leaving little time for learning or, in Maggie’s case, teaching. She had done what she could to prepare the children for the traditional community Christmas Eve event but not all had gone well. Jackson, playing Joseph, was a very naughty boy and had not been listening to her directions and was never in the right place at the right time. Emily, playing Mary, had a huge black eye, the result of a snowball well-thrown by naughty Jackson. Emily cried and fussed over the swollen purple eye and wanted nothing to do with practice. Maggie could see a disaster in the making.

Families would not arrive for another two hours, so she had time to pick up the clutter and light the candles on the Christmas tree and in the windows. She got up from her desk, straightened her hair and started to circle the room picking up “leftovers” from the making of paper snowflakes and decorations.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Maggie heard a soft rap on the door. With a bit of alarm, she went to the door and slowly opened it. There, standing before her, was a very tall man in a long black coat, snow covered black hat and soaking wet boots. He was just what she had expected to find when she moved out west. He was rugged and very handsome, but there was something else about him that she hadn’t expected. He had a calmness about him with tender eyes and a soft, unassuming smile which momentarily took Maggie’s breath away. She invited him in out of the cold and asked if he needed help. The man said that he needed a place to stay until the next day. Maggie explained that they were going to have a Christmas program in just a few hours and that someone might be willing to take him in for the evening.

The man looked pleased and introduced himself as Paul Mason and that he was looking for a nearby church that would be having a Christmas service in the morning. By this time, Maggie had the coffee ready and was telling Paul about the struggles she had preparing the children for the program that evening. Paul smiled and asked if he could stay for the Christmas Eve event and that, possibly, he could help with the children.

Maggie’s heart skipped a beat, not knowing why she fluttered and sputtered. Could Paul be the handsome rugged cowboy she had been waiting for all these many years? Maybe so!! He took off his wet coat and hat and began helping Maggie finish getting the room ready for her guests.

After her families all arrived and the children were in their places, Maggie asked Paul to introduce himself. He spoke quietly with a twinkle in his eyes as he said: “Thank you for including me in your special Christmas Eve program. My name is Reverend Paul Mason and I am looking for a place to stay tonight and a church to pray in tomorrow, Christmas Day.” He looked back at Maggie and winked. She knew that her Christmas Eves had forever changed.
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