(This story is fiction!)
It was going to be and especially wonderful Christmas this year, Patty
Hudson though, eyeing her watch anxiously. Two o’clock in the afternoon.
They should be arriving any minute. Just then, the gravel on her driveway
began popping, followed by a "honk, honk," of her daughter’s car. Patty
hurried out to greet them.
"Hi, Mom," Anne said, getting out the car and giving her a hug, while the pint sized girl in the back seat struggled to free herself from her seat belt.
"Hi, Nana," a sweet voice shouted, jumping into her arms. "We’re finally
"Yes, you are, and I couldn't be happier," Patty replied, covering her face with kisses. "Let’s go inside where it’s nice and warm."
"Do you have your Christmas tree up yet?" the little girl asked as they
walked through the door.
"Not yet, Nicole. I thought that tomorrow you and I’ll go to the cedar woods and cut down our own tree. Then we can spend the evening decorating it. What do you think of that idea?"
Nicole’s dark blue eyes grew wide with wonder as she snuggled in her
grandmother’s lap. "Oh that will be wonderful, Nana!"
"That does sound wonderful. Too bad I can’t be here to go to the woods with you two," Anne said in a disappointed tone.
"Well, why don’t you call your boss and tell him you decided to take the
entire week off. Then you won’t have to make the four hour drive back to the city until after Christmas," Patty suggested.
"I can’t, Mom. But you and Nicole can enjoy some time together, and Jeff and I’ll be here on Christmas Eve."
After Anne drove off the following morning, Patty and Nicole fed the
chickens and ducks and filled the wild bird feeders to the brim. Then Nicole watched the droves of finches, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers feed, while Patty began preparing lunch.
"Are we going to get the Christmas tree right after lunch?"
"Yes, we are," Patty smiled at the tiny imp with the long brown pony tail.
"The sun is shining and it will be warmer outside by then. I would not want you to get too cold. "
It was one o’clock in the afternoon when they were finally walking up the
old lane that led to the cedar grove.
"This looks so different from the way it looked in the summer,"Nicole
remarked, walking just ahead of Patty, who was carrying her bow saw.
"Yes, it does. And all the biting insects are gone now, so you won’t be
going back to the city with your usual summer souvenirs. "
"That’s funny, Nana. Are we almost by the cedar grove?"
"Just a little ways up from here, sweetie. Are you getting tired?"
"Oh, no, I was just wondering. Oh, there they are. I see them." Nicole ran
ahead, eager to reach them. "They look so beautiful!"
This cedar grove, in the middle of an oak and hickory forest, has always
enchanted Patty. The cedars came in many different sizes, and their green, cylindrical shapes among the leafless hardwood forest in the winter, was a visual delight.
"How about this tree, Nana? Or this one?" Nicole asked, running from tree to tree.
"Now remember, it can’t be a real tall one. We have to get it back to the
house, and it’s a half a mile walk," Patty reminded Nicole. "Let’s
go that way. I see several smaller trees over there. "
They walked on among the cedars, turning left, then right, excited about all the beautiful trees the grove offered. Finally, Patty stopped in front of a six foot tree, and after looking it over, announced, "I think this one here
is perfect. Not too tall, not too small, with beautifully shaped branches.
It will look perfect in the bay window. What do you think, Nicole?"
"Oh, you are right, Nana. This tree is perfect. Will it be hard to cut
"No, the trunk is not very thick. Let me see now," Patty crouched down and examined the trunk of the cedar. "Good thing I’m wearing gloves. Cedar branches are prickly," she added.
Once the tree was down, Patty held on to the trunk and pulled it along as
they headed back towards the lane. Nicole, just ahead of her, kept on
chatting and walking, commenting on everything in sight. After some time, Patty stopped for a moment and glanced at her watch. It was almost three o’clock! Had they been in the woods that long? And they should have reached the lane already, she thought, an uneasy feeling creeping into the pit of her stomach.
"Are you getting tired, Nana?" Nicole asked, glancing back at her.
"No, I’m just shifting hands," she replied, walking on.
After a while, Patty glanced at her watch again. It was fifteen minutes past three. She knew in her heart that they should have reached the old lane by now."Let’s turn here, sweetie, and walk towards those oak trees," she said, trying not to sound anxious. She did not want to frighten the little girl.
But as they reached the oak woods, there was still no sign of the old lane,
and it would be getting dark in another hour!
"Nicole, let’s sit down and rest a minute on this fallen log," she finally
"You look worried, Nana. Is anything wrong?" Nicole asked, sitting down next to her.
"Well, I am a bit worried. I think we might be lost. I believe we have been
walking in circles. That’s not hard to do in the woods. I should have been
more careful. I am so sorry I wasn’t."
The little girl moved closer to her and put her arm around Patty's shoulder. "It isn’t your fault, Nana."
"Oh, but it is my fault. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was out here by myself,
but..." She stopped herself. There was no sense in frightening the child
"I tell you what. Let’s you and I say a little prayer before we continue on
our way. I think that might help."
"Okay, Nana, and I know just the prayer we need to say," Nicole responded enthusiastically, her sweet voice enunciating the words of the prayer clearly and without a single mistake:
"Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side,
To light and guard,
To rule and guide. Amen."
"Amen. That was beautiful, Nicole," Patty said, pulling the little girl into her arms and holding her close. Tears welled in her eyes as thoughts of spending a chilly night in the woods, with a trusting four year old, plagued her.
"Nana, look! A deer!" Nicole, wriggling out of her arms, suddenly whispered, jolting Patty out of her dour thoughts. She turned towards Nicole’s pointing hand and saw it, too. It was a sleek doe, standing no more than ten feet from them.
"Nana, she says we should follow her," Nicole announced, standing up. "She will lead us to the lane."
The little girl is hallucinating, Patty thought, as she stood up, too. "But Nicole, the doe will probably run off, if we try to approach her," she said out loud.
"No, Nana. She is telling me that we should follow her," Nicole insisted.
Patty looked at the serious expression on her granddaughter’s face, and then glanced towards the doe, still standing there looking at them.
"Well, why not, we’re already lost," she said, taking Nicole’s hand with one hand, and holding on to the cedar tree with the other, as they began walking towards the animal.
The doe turned and walked through the woods slowly, glancing back often, as if to make sure they were still following her. And of course, they were...a small girl with faith in her heart, and an elderly woman with hope in hers. A few minutes later, they found themselves back on the familiar old lane! There, the doe stopped and gave them one last look, then she turned and gracefully bounded back into the woods.
"Come on, sweetheart, let’s hurry on home to the warm house. The sun is
going down and it’s getting chilly," Patty said, sighing with relief and
saying a silent "thank you, Lord."
"Thank you, angel deer!" Nicole cried out after the vanishing animal. Then taking her grandmothers hand, she said, "Okay, Nana, let’s hurry home. I am getting a little cold now." .....
Christmas turned out especially meaningful this year, Patty was thinking as she said good bye to her departing family settling into their car for the drive back to the city.
"I’ll miss you," she said to the little imp, giving her one last hug.
"I’ll miss you, too," Nicole responded. Then getting close to Patty's ear,
she whispered, "I think you should say the guardian angel prayer each time you go to the woods, Nana. It will keep you safe."
"Thank you for your wonderful advice, sweetheart," Patty Hudson whispered back, tears welling in her eyes. "I promise to follow it faithfully."
(c) copyright 2002, by Renie Burghardt
I hope you enjoyed the little story, friends, and I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read it. Somehow, I can't seem to get the formatting right on
it. This will be my only post until next week, as I will be happily busy as well. Have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannukah, evryone!
Blessings from the woods!