The Christmas Bow
By Jean C. Fisher
It was silent in the big, old house -- chilly and dark...
The family that lived there was off visiting one of their grandmothers, so not a soul was home to light the Christmas tree, turn up the heat or turn on the other lights...
The brightly colored wrapping paper that had been so carefully wound around all the boxes of gifts had been wadded into giant, colorful snowballs that lay scattered, here and there, around the room -- and the last dying embers of the fireplace were yawning and winking out -- one by one.
One by one, they went to sleep -- dreaming of being back in the raging fires of Little Ember Heaven from whence they had come. . .
Around the colorful snowballs of wrapping paper snaked yards and yards of Christmas ribbon of all widths and colors -- some narrow, some wide, some curly, some flat. . .
Earlier, the prettiest, sparkliest, golden ribbons (the kind with the wire along the edges) had been scooped up by the little girls of the family and tied into bows for their hair just before they left for their Grandma's house. . .
"Look!" little Janie had exclaimed, "Now we look just like Christmas presents, too!"
Mom and Dad and the boys had all laughed as they trooped out the front door and into the snow for the trip Grandma's house and the roasted turkey and ham, the mashed potatoes and gravy, and the hugs and smiles that awaited them there. . .
The living room -- that had once been full of the warmth of the fireplace and the squeals of pleasure of the family members as they unwrapped their new Christmas toys and perfume and ties (the Mother always gave the Father ties -- even though he never wore any ties. . . Maybe she just hoped he would, and that's why she kept on giving them to him. . .) -- was now cold and empty and dark as the snow filtered down silently -- outside in the night.
And one little Christmas bow, all red and green and gold -- that one of the children had stuck to the top of a wrapping-paper snowball -- was busy trying to free itself from the paper as it muttered outloud:
"Unch! Umph! If I could just --OUCH! -- get this other side unstuck -- OUCH! -- maybe I could go and find one of those little girls and tell her that she should have worn ME in her hair! RUUUNCH! OW! Darnit! After all, I have red -- OUCH! -- AND green -- UMPH! -- AND gold on me and I would look ever so much prettier in her hair than that plain, old, gold, wirey thing she put in her hair instead! Rrrrrrriiiiiiiiip!"
With that, the Little Bow finally managed to wrench itself free of the snowball of wrapping paper and tumbled, like a wheel, rapidly toward the fireplace.
"OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" screamed the Little Bow as it cartwheeled toward the dying embers of the fire, "I'll be burned ALIVE!!!"
And, quickly, the Little Bow said its prayers because it knew that, once it touched one of the embers in the fireplace, its life was over -- Poof! -- just like that!
"..and bless the spool and the factory and ribbon shop and..." the Little Bow mumbled as it careened toward the gaping mouth of the fireplace -- its eyes tightly shut. . .
All of a sudden, the Little Bow felt as though it was being lifted up in the air! Having been caught the rush of air going up the flue, the Little Bow found itself flying up the chimney!
As the Little Bow was swept up and out of the chimney and into the crisp, cold Christmas night air, it felt giddy and free. It opened its eyes just in time to see the roof of the house grow smaller beneath it and soon it was lost to view as roof fell further and further away and the air became more and more crowded with snowflakes. . .
The Little Bow noticed that all the snowflakes were revolving -- cartwheeling -- just like it was, as they swooped and dove and rose on the currents of air in the cold wind. . .
"WEEEEEEEEEEEE!" giggled the Little Bow, "Nothing has ever been so much fun as dancing with all you snowflakes up here in the cold, crisp Christmas air!"
"Watch out when you hiiiiiiiiiiiit!" yelled one of the snowflakes as it cartwheeled past the Little Bow.
"It's not so much the fall that'll hurtcha," yelled another as it wheeled around the Little Bow in the air, "It's that sudden stop at the eeeeennnnnnd!"
And, just at that moment, the draft of air that was carrying the Little Bow, disappeared from beneath it and it began to tumble and fall down, down, down -- rapidly toward the ground.
It landed in a small bush just outside the front door of a house it had never seen before... and stuck to the branch.
"Oh, gee! UNCH! Now I hafta unstiiiiick myself, again -- OW! -- from this thing!"
Suddenly the bow was encased in a warm, little hand.
"Look, Mommy! Auntie must've stuck this bow to the bush for decoration! It's preeeety. . ." said the small voice that belonged to the warm, little hand. . .
"Now leave that alone, Katie..." said the mother of the warm, little hand, "If your Auntie put it there, it's because she wanted it there. . ."
"Awwwwww... couldn't I put it in my hair?" pleaded the little, warm-handed voice. "It would look so pretty, Mommy, pleeeeeeeeeze?"
"Now that's the voice of a true bow connoiseur!" thought the Little Bow proudly, "C'mon -- Let the kid put me in her hair, ya big, ole' party pooper!"
"No, Katie, I said to leave it alone," the mother's voice snapped sternly, "Come on now, we're late for Christmas dinner!"
The Little Bow sighed as it watched the owner of the small, warm-handed voice and its mother walk up to the front door of the strange house and knock on it.
Pretty soon, the door opened and the warmth and golden light inside reached the Little Bow that was still stuck to the branch of the bush. . .
"UUUUUuuuuu." said the Little Bow, "It looks nice in that strange house -- so warm and bright. . . Darn! And I'm stuck out here in the dark!"
Just as the door shut, the Little Bow managed to extricate itself from the branch, and the suction that the door created sent the Little Bow off again on a wild ride on the wind. .
"Weeeeeeee!" squealed the Little Bow as it rode around on the crossing breezes, "Here I come, snowflakes! I've come back to play with you all! This is soooooooo much fuuuuuuunnnnnn!"
But, suddenly, the breeze it was riding on gave way, and the Little Bow plopped down to earth once more.
"EEEEEEEuuuuuuuuWWWWWWWW!" the Little Bow exclaimed, "I seem to have fallen into a cold, wet, dirty place this time!"
And it was true. The Little Bow had fallen into a filthy gutter and was now covered with mud. The Little Bow was freezing-cold and very wet!
The Little Bow began to cry, "Now no little girl is going to want to put ME in her hair! I'm filthy and wet and ugly! Boo-hoooooo!"
Just then the Little Bow felt itself being picked up out of the gutter by a large, partially-gloved hand and it twisted around until it could see who was carrying it.
The sight couldn't have been scarier and more disheartening! The person who was carrying it was a bearded, shabby, dirty, old man -- dressed in rags and smelling just awful!
"I guess this is the end for me. . ." sniffed the Little Bow, "I'm just as good as trash, now. . ."
Along the snow-drifted streets, the Little Bow traveled in the dirty hand of the old man. . .
Eventually, he stopped in front of an old, ramshackled "HO _ EL". (really, it was a "hotel" -- but the light on the "T" had burnt out long ago and, what was left, simply read, "HOEL". . .)
"I'm going to be pulled into a big, dark HOEL and never see the lights of Christmas again!" sobbed the Little Bow, feeling very sorry for itself.
Up and up the creaky, old stairs trudged the old man holding the Little Bow -- deeper and deeper into the interior of the "HOEL". . .
Finally, the Little Bow heard a key enter a lock and then a door swung open. The old man went inside the tiny, shabby room and set the Little Bow on a small table, then took off his coat, shaking the snow from it and hung it on the back of the paint-peeled door.
The Little Bow noticed that the old man was emitting some kind of sound, as it felt itself being picked up, yet again, and carried into a much smaller room where it could hear running water.
In a moment, the Little Bow was plunged into warm, soapy water and it felt itself being swished -- back and forth -- by the old man's hand.
Ever so gently, the old man loosened the filth from its surface. Then, he rinsed the Little Bow off and held it up to the light to inspect it.
That's when the Little Bow noticed that the old man was singing (well, sort of, anyway) gently under his breath:
"Peace on earth and mer-cy mi-ild, God and Sin-ners rec-on-ciled!" sang the gravelly, dry, old voice as the man carefully examined the Little Bow. . .
Then, he shook the water drops off of the Little Bow and walked, carrying the Little Bow, back into the larger room.
The Little Bow noticed, out of the corner of its eye, that there was a bare tree branch stuck into an old plastic bucket with sand in it near the tiny, dirty window and, as the old man approached it, the Little Bow thought, "Oh NO! He's going to throw me out the window!" and began to panic.
But then it remembered what fun it had had outside and thought, "Oh well. . . Maybe I can play with the snowflakes again if he does throw me out." So, it braced itself for the cold, brisk air.
As he approached the window, the old man continued to sing, "Joy-ful all ye na-tions ri-ise! Join the tri-umph of the ski-ies!"
That's when the little bow noticed that there were other things on the bare tree branch. There were little bits of other ribbons and cast-off, broken ornaments and pieces of toys -- all arranged carefully upon the bare branch by the old man's hands.
"There you go, Little Bow!" the old man growled as he tucked the Little Bow into a space he'd been saving on the branch for just such a beautiful bow. . .
Then, he lit the stub of a candle he had in an empty tuna can and placed it in front of the "Christmas tree". He turned and flipped a switch, shutting off all the other light in the room, and then he sat gingerly upon the edge of the rumpled bed and admired his work and smiled.
The Little Bow watched with wonder as the drawn, haggard face of the old man suddenly and magically seemed to transform itself in the candlelight.
Now, to the Little Bow, it seemed as though the face of the old man transformed itself into the face of a happy, eager child as the old man pulled out a pipe from his pants-pocket. The ancient, gnarled hand struck a match and then touched it to the bowl of the pipe. He pursed his thin, wrinkled lips around it and puffed -- sending whispy clouds of aromatic-smelling smoke floating up into the air of the shabby, little room as he continued to sing:
"Hear the heav'nly hosts pro-claim! Christ i-is born in Beth-le-hem! Hark! The Her-rald Angels Siiiinnnng! Glo-o-ory tooooooo the new-born Kiiiiiiiinnnnng!"
And the Little Bow felt very warm and comfortable there -- bathed in the glow of the candle in the tiny, shabby room with the old man and his Christmas song -- and it smiled, too. . .
"I guess there are higher purposes in life than being the crowning glory in some little girl's hair," the Little Bow thought to itself. "Maybe this is what Christmas is really supposed to be all about."
The Little Bow suddenly realized that it felt very sleepy -- so it closed its eyes began to dream. . .
I am a freelance writer whose work is included in:
*** Two of the Haunted Encounters series books by ATriadPress, Jefferson TX (2003 & 2004)
*** A chapter of Angela Hoy's newest book about communicating with "the other side", "Real Stories of Spirit Communication".
*** Several stories (including "Story of the Month") on Stephen Wagner's Paranormal About.com site.
*** Poetry which will be featured on ApollosLyre.com beginning August 15th, 2004.
*** Various consulting ventures with other writers in the areas of: teen parenting, freelance writing, civil rights, and hauntings, psychic detectives, and other subjects.
I live in Northern California with my husband and my black kitty cat, Plunkett and am the Co-President of the Western Sonoma County Historical Society and an active member of Luther Burbank's Gold Ridge Farm (an historic site) Advisory Committee.