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Whoosh! The twins heard and felt a strong gust of wind rattle the window. And looking up, saw the Christmas Angel ornament. They suspected that Ma had hung it earlier in the day from the curtain rod near the ceiling. The force of the wind was causing it to sway, making its golden wings seem to flutter.
Every year the twins saw the hand-size angel hanging in the window in the days preceding Christmas. Ma never let on she had hung it there. But, she did say the Christmas Angel was watching over them, and would remember if they were bad or good when gifts were stuffed in stockings on Christmas Eve.
Anneke and Hans loved the excitement leading up to the birth of Christ and were willing to believe that someone was watching their behavior to be sure they deserved some treats in their stockings.
Another part of the seasonal preparation was helping Pa set up the electric train platform in the center of the room. Pa had constructed it from a thick sheet of 4 by 8 foot plywood, painted it grass green, and nailed the board to vertical 2 by 4s at the corners, every 2 feet along the sides and across the middle. The platform needed to be sturdy to support the tree they would stand in the middle and decorate on Christmas Eve.
But before we get that far, after the perfect position in the room for the platform was chosen, the family set out and tacked down the tracks for electric trains. From a large storage carton marked "trains," the twins selected and arranged the small village stores and houses around the tracks. Ma carefully laid a hand mirror near one end that served as the village skating pond. At strategic locations little miniature people and bushes and small trees were positioned. And then the train cars were hooked together in a long line, the electric switch plugged in, and the train was ready to move through its miniature village.
The center of the platform had been left free to carefully receive the spruce tree on Christmas Eve. That's when the family and cousins decorated it with ornaments kept year to year, plus a couple of new additions. And this year was no exception.
Earlier on Christmas Eve the twins helped Ma cut out and bake sugar cookies, with decorations of walnut halves and cinnamon and lemon candies that melted slightly when baking, looking like stained glass windows on the cookies.
When dark descended on the house, early since it was in the far north of Holland, the twins and Ma and Pa chose a selection of cookies and placed them on the table. Ma prepared the chocolate milk to heat up soon, and they awaited the arrival of their aunt, uncle, and cousins who came each year for Christmas. The whole big family finished decorating the tree. Then they enjoyed the desserts and drinks and sat around the miniature train village while the adults reminisced about their childhood.
Later in the evening Anneke and Hans and their cousins climbed the stairs to the attic playroom where they spread out thick camping mats and sleeping bags. After a time they fell into a peaceful sleep. Their aunt and uncle would spend the night in the twins' regular beds. Everyone was comfortable.
That's when the miracle began
Slowly the Christmas Angel high up on the curtain rod yawned and came to life. As she became more awake she grew in size to that of a 6 year old child. She had burst from her string securing her as she grew. Then she took a look around the room, admiring the decorations on the tree. She especially liked the manger scene the family had set up at the foot of the spruce tree. She recollected how she'd actually been present for the birth of Jesus, and even then had felt comforted by his Holy Presence.
The Christmas Angel went to the kitchen cupboard where she knew from past years Ma kept the special items for the twins' stockings. She neatly arranged those and filled a stocking for each of the cousins, too. Flitting around the table she took time to admire the cookies and took a few nibbles, which she had to digest quickly before shrinking.
Soon she could feel the process begin, and when back to usual size flew up to the top of the Christmas tree where she would spend the rest of the holiday. Very still. Very peaceful. And very inanimate.
Only Ma and Pa knew her spiritual secret, that she came alive just at the time the family had set aside yearly to remember the entrance of Christ into the world. The family thought Ma had distributed the gifts, but Ma knew the twins would find out when they were older that the Christmas Angel was a real part of their world; a yearly reminder that baby Jesus is always alive with us when our hearts are filled with love.
Christmas comes but once a year
But lives forever in our heart
When by our acts we share and care
Grow strong in love
Which we impart.
Anneke and Hans and the Christmas Angel – fiction story by Susan Helene Kramer © 2018-2021, North Holland, The Netherlands