|Curiosity Corner: An Uncommon Christmas Story|
|November 25, 2016 Gretchen Deter|
The following is reprinted from the December 25, 2014 edition in the Gering Citizen.
Miss Rebecca looked out the window of her tiny school room to see the black sky draped over the downy blanket of snow comforting the frozen treeless prairie. An arctic chill seeped into the cracks of the school house quickly cooling the classroom now quiet and empty. It was Christmas Eve and Miss Rebeccaís eight children were excitedly hurrying off to their homes, happy to be out of school and eager to be with their families for a few days of Christmas vacation.
She turned back to the classroom and saw the brittle Christmas tree with its strings of stale popcorn, withered cranberries and delicate paper snowflakes. She toyed with the idea of staying a little longer to clean up the remnants of their simple little Christmas program but, if she did, the Wilsons would worry about her if she came home late on such a bitterly cold night. She decided to close up the building, saddle her mare, and head down the well-travelled road to her home away from home.
As she neared the Wilsonís two story ranch house, she could see the flicker of candles in the windows and the twinkle of lights on the Christmas tree framed so lovely by the large parlor window. Miss Rebecca had so many mixed emotions. She was hundreds of miles from her own family and longed to be with those so dear to her but she also was very thankful that the Wilsonís had opened their home to her. For when Rebecca took the teaching job in her one room school house, far removed from even the smallest of towns, she needed a place to live. The only option was to board with a local rancher and the Wilsonís offered her an upstairs room. In return for free room and board, Rebecca was to help with the ranch chores. She fed and tended to the horses, sheep, and what few chickens the Wilsonís had in their barnyard. These were really not chores to Rebecca who loved animals and knew as much about husbandry as any local rancher.
As she neared the stables, ďOle Joe,Ē the Wilsonís favorite sheep dog, bounded through the snow to welcome the young teacher home. She got off her horse and hugged her special companion as he licked her cheek and dusted her with snow. Together they went to the barn, unsaddled her mare and started doing the evening chores. As Rebecca finished feeding the horses, she walked through the stable and saw a stall bedded with fresh straw. Though this was not uncommon, she peeked over the stable door and spied Mary, one of her favorite ewes. Rebecca gave Mary an extra scoop of grain and checked to see that all was well.
Satisfied that the animals were safely bedded down, she followed Ole Joe across the farmyard and onto the back porch of the twinkling farmhouse. She kicked off her boots, hung up her wet, snow covered coat and opened the door to the kitchen. The warmth of the fire and the smell of fresh bread saturated her senses. The spirit of Christmas slowly crept over her as she hugged Beth and kissed old Williamís wrinkled, whiskered cheek. She looked around the kitchen and saw the ordinary kitchen table transformed to a banquet table. Bethís white table linens were covered with her best china, red cloth napkins and her silver-rimmed goblets. In the center of the table was a bowl filled with colorful dried fruits and berries. It was stunning to see how festive the plain and simple kitchen looked on this special eve of Christmas.
While Rebecca changed her damp clothes and cleaned up, Beth put the finishing touches on their Christmas dinner. The three of them sat at the glorious table bowing their heads while William softly said a special blessing. Rebecca thought to herself how truly blessed she was. She quietly prayed for the health of her far away family, wishing they were nearer, but also thankful for the loving acceptance of her friends, William and Beth.
During dinner, Ole Joe seemed unusually nervous. He didnít settle down by the warm stove on his favorite rug but paced between the table and the back porch door. William excused his behavior as Christmas Eve excitement. The dog sensed that things were just a little bit different. Rebecca watched him, thinking that Ole Joe was trying to tell her something. Was he just excited about the delicious aromas in the kitchen or did he know more than he could tell?
After dinner Rebecca decided to take Ole Joe outside, more to satisfy her own curiosity than to settle him down. Ole Joe dashed straight for the stable expecting Rebecca to follow. She put on her coat and boots then crossed the yard toward the barn. As she neared the stable door, she looked up at the clear black sky to see the twinkle of stars, much brighter on this Christmas Eve. Something very special must be happening again tonight as it did over two thousand years ago. Ole Joe quietly padded over to Maryís stall. He lay down by the door making no sound but the thumping of his wagging tail against the wooden stable wall. Rebecca lit the lantern and followed him. His eyes sparkled as his tail thumped.
Rebecca carefully opened the door to the stable stall and saw Mary, the mother ewe, lying in the bed of fresh straw looking up at Rebecca as if she wanted to say: ďIím glad youíre here, my friend Rebecca, for tonight is a special night. Tonight is very special indeed.Ē Rebecca moved closer, careful not to disturb the ewe. As she lowered the lantern, she saw what was so special tonight. There, in the straw, lay not one nor two but three newly born lambs. They were beautiful, looking like three tiny bundles of perfectly placed angel hair. They bleated softly welcoming Rebecca to their stable. She was amazed that on this cold and bitter night there lay on the golden straw such precious gifts from heaven. Rebecca sat in the fresh warm straw and took one of the lambs in her arms. She looked out the stable door and once more saw the twinkling of stars in the dark, dark sky. It was uncommon for ewes to give birth in the mid of winter but Rebecca believed these three new lambs were her Christmas present. She bowed her head, looked down at the lamb and said another prayed to her Heavenly Father for the wonders he had so bountifully bestowed on her. For Rebecca, this was a very special Christmas story, an uncommon story of birth and life symbolic of a young child born so long ago and so far away; a story that leaves us with the true meaning of the Christmas season.