by Sharon Haley
Two rabbits were making big puff holes in the snow drifts as they hopped about. Their ears were the only things that could be seen because their round little bodies were the same color as the snow.
“This is FUN,” squealed Tuffy.
“It’s cold,” said Muffy. “I don’t know how the children can play outside without fur like we have.”
“They wear heavy coverings to keep warm,” said Tuffy.
The rabbits stood very still with their ears cocked when they heard children’s voices. They tried to hide, but kept slipping and falling in the deep snow. Finally they scrambled under a bramble bush near the edge of the pond. Two twitching noses were barely visible as several children came into view.
The children loved Sutter’s Pond because every winter it froze into a splendid skating rink. It was perfect for sledding, skating, or just sliding. The big boys pulled the small children on a large sled and everyone laughed whenever someone fell down.
“I think we could slide like that too,” said Tuffy. “Maybe after the children leave we could try.”
Just then two girls with red cheeks and noses sat on a log which was quite close to the rabbit’s hiding place. They fixed their scarves and brushed the snow from their coats.
“Angela, what are you getting for Christmas?”
“I asked for a pair of ice skates. What are you getting?”
Julie sighed, “What I really want more than anything is for Grandpa to come for Christmas.” We haven’t seen him since my Grandma died two years ago.”
“Do you believe in Santa Claus?” asked Angela.
“There are so many surprises at Christmas there has to be a Santa Claus. People act nicer this time of year, but I don’t think all the kids believe.”
“I guess it is kind of hard to believe that a jolly man in a red cap and jacket with a long beard goes all over the world giving presents to everyone at Christmas,” said Angela. Come on, “I'm freezing and hungry, let’s go home,” shivered Julie.
Angela ran on ahead but Julie turned and looked toward the bramble bush where the rabbits were hiding and whispered, “So long little bunnies stay warm.” Then she ran to catch up with her friend.
“Do you think that little girl saw us?” asked Muffy.
“No. but I wonder what a bunny is. Did you hear what they said about Santa Claus? If he gives presents to everyone, maybe we'll get one too?”
“Don't be silly, that’s just for humans not rabbits. Mama will be looking for us, besides I'm hungry too, let’s go home.” At that the two rabbits hopped away.
That night as Tuffy lay curled up in his cozy nest he closed his eyes very tight and whispered, “Please Santa Claus come and visit us too.” Muffy poked him and giggled, and then the little rabbits fell asleep.
At the same time, Julie was also making a wish. “Dear Baby Jesus, please bring Grandpa home for Christmas? Oh, and please keep the rabbits warm. Amen.
Meanwhile back in Jackson, Michigan Grandpa dozed in his big stuffed chair in front of the fireplace. Suddenly, his head jerked up and his eyes flew open as though someone shook him awake.
“What did you say?” he stammered.
His sleepy head began to clear, and he knew he'd been dreaming again. Ever since his wife, Nell had passed away dreams of her had haunted the old man. Grandpa missed her very much and felt as though a part of him was gone too. He got up and placed a large stick of wood on the fire. A huge stack of forgotten mail had accumulated on the table and he started sorting through it. Most of it was thrown in the fire till he came across an envelope from Pleasantville, Michigan. It was from his granddaught er, Julie. He took out his pocket knife and carefully slit open the side and pulled out a homemade Christmas card. A picture of two bunny rabbits was carefully drawn and colored on the front, and they were looking up at a bright star in the night sky. On the inside written in neat block letters was a poem.
Two Little Bunnies are asking the star
to guide you to me from afar.
I'm wishing with all my might,
that you'll follow its light.
The best present on Christmas Day,
Would be for you to come and stay.
Tears formed in his eyes as he stared at the card. She must be about ten he thought. Julie and her parents lived nearly two hundred miles away, near the Upper Peninsula, and he hadn't seen his only grandchild in two years. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve he thought, and I'm going to spend this Christmas in Pleasantville. The next morning before the sun rose, Grandpa climbed into his old Ford pickup and started north towards Pleasantville.
Brilliant sunshine coming through the bedroom window woke Julie. She looked out at the freshly fallen snow which sparkled like diamonds. Its Christmas Eve she thought, and I have a feeling something wonderful is going to happen. She dressed in a warm sweater and jeans and hurried downstairs. After washing the breakfast dishes, Julie asked mother if she could go to Angela’s house.
“Dress warmly, its bitter cold today,” said mother. “If you like you girls can help finish decorating the tree while I make Christmas cookies today.”
“Thank you Mama, see you later.”
The houses on Julie’s street were on large lots and were separated by huge pine trees which grew everywhere and stood like majestic sentinels. The fresh snow made everything look like it was covered by a white, woolen blanket. By the time she arrived at Angela’s house Julie was shivering. The hot cocoa Angela’s mother offered warmed her from the inside out.
“I'm worried about the rabbits that live near Sutter’s Pond,” said Julie. “It’s so cold they might freeze. I'd like to go check on them.”
“It’s too cold to go down to Sutter’s pond,” complained Angela.
“I guess it is,” sighed Julie. “Want to come to my house and help decorate the tree?”
“That sounds like fun,” said Angela, and the two girls bundled up in their winter clothes.
As they trudged through the deep snow, they began throwing snowballs at each other. It wasn't long before they forgot how cold it was. When they came to Julie’s house, an old Ford truck parked in the yard caught their attention.
“It’s Grandpa,” hollered Julie, and she burst through the side door with Angela close behind her. Grandpa was taking off his red plaid jacket and hat just as the girls ran into the kitchen. Julie stopped short and stared at the tall man with the white beard.
“Yes, it’s me Julie,” laughed Grandpa, “With a beard.”
Julie flew into Grandpa’s arms and her cold nose disappeared into his soft beard.
“It’s like having my very own Santa,” she giggled.
As Grandpa took a closer look at Julie, he noticed how much she resembled Grandma Nell. She had the same blue gray eyes and peaches and cream complexion. Her light brown hair was pulled back in a barrette, just like Grandma wore hers when she was a girl. Julie was a carbon copy of her grandmother. Grandpa hugged her hard and said, “I know this is where I'm supposed to be this Christmas.”
The rest of the day was spent putting the finishing touches on the Christmas tree and eating cookies. Mother fixed a special dinner to celebrate Grandpa’s visit, but Angela couldn't stay. She hugged Julie and wished everyone a Merry Christmas as she hurried home. Julie and Grandpa spent all evening talking and getting to know one another. Julie even told Grandpa about the little rabbits by Sutter’s Pond, and they decided to take a walk out there after breakfast the next day. Everyone woke early Christmas morning and gathered around the Christmas tree to open gifts. Mother received the first gift which was a soft blue scarf Julie had knitted.
“I love it Julie, it’s my favorite color,” said Mother as she wrapped the scarf around her neck.
Dad got handkerchiefs from Julie and a cardigan sweater from Mother. Julie loved the poetry books Grandpa gave her. She cried when he told her they were her Grandma’s books. She received a bathrobe and slippers from her parents and a journal to write her poems. Julie loved her gifts but having Grandpa there was the best gift of all. Mother and Julie fixed a big breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup and sausage patties, while Dad and Grandpa sat by the fire in the living room. After breakfast, Julie and Grandpa pulled on their boots and coats and walked to Sutter ’s Pond. It was bitter cold, but they were filled with the warmth of Christmas. There were no footprints in the snow but when they got to the pond they found rabbit tracks. All of a sudden they saw the rabbits. They were huddled under the bramble bush where Julie had last seen them.
Muffy and Tuffy sat there looking at the huge man with the red coat and cap and long white beard.
“Look, it’s really Santa Clause isn't it?” cried Tuffy.
“I don't know, you'd better watch out it might be a trick” said Muffy.
This was quite a picture to see, Grandpa and Julie staring down at the rabbits and the rabbits staring up at them. No one moved an inch.
“They aren't running away Grandpa,” whispered Julie.
“I notice,” chuckled Grandpa.
Grandpa reached very slowly into his coat pocket and pulled out a little plastic bag filled with celery and lettuce leaves. He bent down and held the greens so the rabbits could see them.
“Look, he has a gift, he is Santa Claus!” said Tuffy.
Muffy twitched his nose and said, “It smells good.”
Grandpa crept a little closer making gentle sounds and teasing the rabbits with the fresh greens. All of a sudden, Tuffy stood up on his hind legs with his front paws delicately poised and began nibbling on one of the lettuce leaves. Soon Grandpa had the little rabbit cradled in his arms and Julie was stroking the soft fur of the rabbit’s neck. Muffy sat there staring at the strange scene. Grandpa tossed him some celery sticks and Muffy began nibbling on them after hesitating for only a moment.
“Oh Grandpa, can we keep them?” cried Julie.
“No they need to run free, but I wouldn't be surprised if they look for you to bring them treats from time to time.”
“I will, it'll be like having my own pets.”
It didn't take long for the rabbits to eat the food and Grandpa gently sat the rabbit down expecting him to run away, but he didn't. He was more surprised when the other rabbit came and sat next to him.
“This is like magic,” said Julie. “My wishes for Christmas came true only better. Not only did you come for Christmas, but you also coaxed the rabbits to be my friends.”
“I think it’s the magic of Christmas,” said Grandpa and held Julie’s hand as they started down the hill towards home.
“I told you Santa Claus would visit us,” cried Tuffy, “And he really did.”
“It’s just hard to believe, and I was a little scared,” admitted Muffy. “He was kind of nice wasn't he?”
“That’s because he’s Santa Clause,” clamored Tuffy. “Of course, Santa Clause is nice. Doesn't he go all over the world giving presents to everyone? Didn't I tell you he would come? Didn't I tell you the children were nice and would like us to play with them? I told you so! Say I wonder how he goes all over the world so fast? Tuffy chattered endlessly as they hopped back to their warm nest to tell their mother about Santa Clause.
Mrs. Haley's eight grandchildren are her biggest inspiration for the many stories she writes. Besides children's stories she has written poetry which has been published in a chap book as well as several local newspapers. She received Honorable mention for a poem about her grandson. She belongs to the Cumberland Writers Group and is currently working on a novel. Contact Sharon.