Home > The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas Spirit
Author: Debbie Macomber

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

   “Nana, Nana, we’re here,” eight-year-old Lance shouted, as he raced into the house ahead of his six-year-old sister. He launched himself into her open arms, as if it had been weeks since they’d last spent time together. Lance and Lily visited often, and their Nana treasured each and every minute with her precious grandchildren.

   “Are we baking cookies again?” Lance asked, the instant she released him. He eyed the kitchen for signs of his favorite activity.

   “I don’t want to bake cookies,” Lily said with a pout, following her warm hug. “I want Nana to tell us another story. Nana’s stories are the best. Besides, Mom says Lance eats too many cookies.”

   “That he does,” Nana agreed, ruffling her grandson’s hair. “It’s late and Nana is tired, so let’s settle down with hot chocolate and a story.” She’d had a long, hard day, distributing food baskets to families in need, in addition to a lengthy practice with the church choir as they prepared for the Christmas Eve service. A smile came over her as she recalled another Christmas program many years ago, one that would likely never be forgotten.

   Lance cocked his head as if giving the idea consideration. “A story’s okay, as long as there’s no kissing.”

   “I like kissing,” Lily argued, looking up at her nana as if to assure her that any story she told, kissing or not, was fine by her.

   After making cocoa, including marshmallows, they moved into the living room and sat on the big sofa in front of the fireplace, mugs in hand. A gentle fire flickered, warming the room. Several red stockings with white fluffy cuffs were strung across the mantel, where a crèche was placed. The bright paint on the figures had faded to pastel colors over the years. Still, it remained a family treasure, handed down from one generation to the next.

   After taking sips of their drinks, both children snuggled up against her side. Nana placed her arm around her granddaughter’s shoulders as Lily leaned against her grandmother. Lance pressed his head against her arm as they settled in for an engaging tale.

   “Nana, can I start?” Lily asked. “The beginning is my favorite part. Once upon a time…”

   “Once upon a time,” Lance echoed, clearly not enthused. “Not again, please, Nana, make this a real story.”

   “All right, I will,” Nana said.

   “It won’t be a once-upon-a-time story?” Lily asked, with a sad face.

   “No, this story is even better.”

   “How can it be better?” Lily asked. “Fairy tales always start that way.”

   “Remember, Sweet Pea, this isn’t a fairy tale. This is a real story.” Nana kissed the top of Lily’s head. “But it’s a good one. I promise. Probably one of the best stories I’ve ever shared.”

   “But if it doesn’t start with once upon a time, then how does it start?”

   Before she could answer, Lance asked, “Is there kissing?”

   Nana hesitated, not wanting to mislead her grandson. “Some.”

   “Goodie.” Lily clapped her hands.

   Bending her head close to Lance, Nana whispered, “You can cover your ears when I get to that part if you want.”

   Lance released a deep sigh. “Okay, but let me know ahead of time.”

   “I will,” she promised.

   Because he was still unsure, Lance asked again, “You’re sure this isn’t one of those silly fairy tales?”

   “I’m sure,” Nana said. “This story starts out in the beginning.”

   “Oh, I like it already,” Lily said, snuggling all the closer.

   Nana paused to regard her grandson. “Is that better?” she asked him.

   Lance’s wary look suggested he remained skeptical.

   “Go on, Nana,” Lily urged, “tell us more.”

   Nana relaxed her back against the cushioned sofa and closed her eyes as the memories rolled through her mind. A slow smile came over her as she started the story.

   “In the beginning there were two rough-and-tough friends named—”

   “Can I name them?” Lily interrupted to ask. “You let me name the people in once-upon-a-time stories.”

   “All right, Lily you can name one, and Lance can name the other.”

   Lily didn’t pause. “Since this is an in-the-beginning story, I want to name him after Uncle Peter.”

   Nana smiled. “That’s thoughtful of you, Sweet Pea, and that is the perfect name. What about you, Lance? Do you have a name in mind?”

   “Hank,” Lance said automatically. “After Grandpa Hank.”

   Nana approved. “You couldn’t have chosen better.”

   “Is this story about the two of them because they’re good friends?”

   “You’ll have to wait and see.”

   Lily and Lance smiled at each other. Naming the characters was one of the fun aspects of Nana’s stories, which was why she let them do it.

   “Okay, back to the story,” she said. “The two men named Peter and Hank had been friends nearly their entire lives. They grew up together, attended the same schools, both played football, and both ran track. Peter was the star quarterback, and Hank was the fastest runner on the cross-country team.”

   “That’s what I’m talking about.” Lance’s face brightened as he pumped his fist in the air.

   “Did they fall in love and marry their sweethearts?” Lily asked.

   “Nana, please, don’t ruin the story.” Lance closed his eyes and bounced against the back of the sofa, dismayed already.

   Nana ignored them both. “After graduating from high school, Peter went away to college, and Hank took over the tavern from his father after he retired.” She paused and saw that Lance was already involved in the tale, and Lily was patiently waiting for the romance. “But like in the fairy tales, this all took place long ago, before there were cell phones and social media.”

   “That long ago?” Lance cried. “Did they live in caves?”

   Nana smiled. “No, not caves. They lived in houses. They had phones, but the phones stayed inside, and most were attached to the wall. The ones that weren’t on the wall were much too big to carry.”

   Both children regarded her with wide eyes.

   “Now back to the story,” Nana said. “Peter and Hank were the very best of friends, even after they left school.”

   “My best friend is Everett,” Lance said. “We’re gonna be friends like that even when we’re old and out of school.”

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