The Spirit of Christmas
Matthew Smith worked high in the corporate offices of Wallace Advertising. His career became his whole life leaving little time for his wife and their two kids, James and Anna.
Inside of his office Matthew sat working on a new layout when the phone rang.
He picked it up to hear Sarah’s voice.
“Matt, it’s late. When are you coming home?”
“Soon, I just have a few more things to finish up here then I’ll be leaving.”
“Good, and remember we promised to visit your parents this year. The kids are looking forward to spending Christmas with them.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Matt could remember how her mom every year would decorate the house with holly and lights reminding him of the old fashioned Christmases he had growing up.
As they started driving snow started to slowly fall into a light dusting that covered the roads.
“How far is it to Grandma’s house, Mom?” James asked, sitting in the back seat.
“Just a few hours,” Sarah replied.
“Does Santa know where the house is?” Anna asked.
“Santa knows where everybody in the world is. It’s all a part of his job.”
“Christmas, just another occasion for paying bills and faux holiday cheer.” Matt quietly said.
“Matt!” Sarah answered, hitting his arm.
“Seriously, it’s like everyone is at each others throats the rest of the year and then come December they all change.”
“I think that’s what they call the Christmas spirit.”
“Then why isn’t it with people the whole year. Today it’s all about who finishes first. You either get stepped on or stand up and walk.”
“What happened to the man I married?” Sarah asked, staring blankly.
“It’s still me but maybe just a few years wiser.”
By the time they had arrived at Matt’s childhood home the snow had let up. Sarah opened the back door letting James and Anna out as Matt carried their bags to the house. Grandma Smith opened the door wide to warmly greet them all in.
“Come in, come in!” she exclaimed.
”Merry Christmas, Grandma,” Anna said smiling.
“Anna you are so big. You too James.”
“Hi Mom,” Matt said, kissing her on the cheek.
“The house looks so festive,” Sarah commented.
James and Anna came into the den to find Grandpa sitting in his chair watching a basketball game.
“Grandpa!” they exclaimed, running towards him reaching out to hug them both.
Sarah sat down in the kitchen while Jean, Matt’s mother, was preparing dinner.
“So how are things out here?” Sarah asked.
“Quiet and peaceful. We both love retirement,” she said. “How is everything going with you and my son?”
“Quite honestly….stressful. Matt is always working late.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I mean he tries to be there for us as much as possible but it doesn’t feel like enough,” she explained. “It seems to always get so heavily into his work this time of the year ever since his brother passed away.”
“Ten years it’s been. Ever since that day Sam rescued the boys who fell into the lake and he drowned,” Jean said, wiping away a tear from her eye. “Grief can do that to you. You get so wrapped up in your job.”
“I’ll try talking to him.”
Sarah walked up the stairs to her room seeing Matt unpack their bags.
“I overheard part of what you said to my mother.”
“You know it’s the truth,” she answered. “I swear ever since you got promoted…”
“I took that promotion so we could live comfortably.”
“And miss Anna’s Christmas play?”
“That was unavoidable. I had a deadline I had to meet.”
“You always have deadlines!”
“Would you like me to go back to being just an editor?” he asked sternly.
“No, of course not.”
“Remember, you were the one who wanted to stay home to spend more time with the kids.” Matt said, raising his voice.
“I know,” Sarah said solemnly.
Jean was making up James and Anna’s beds in the next room where she was within earshot of their conversation. She couldn’t help feeling depressed for them.
Everyone stayed quiet during dinner until Martin, Matt’s father, spoke up.
“How is your job going, Matt?” he asked.
“Great, Dad. Last month we landed a big new account.”
From the looks and postures at the table you could have cut the tension with a knife unbeknownst to James and Anna who were enjoying their meal. Sarah and Matt could barely look at each other calmly eating.
After dinner Jean went up into the attic to bring down something to show James and Anna. She walked into their room holding a red velvet bag tied with a gold cord and a tassel at the end.
“James, Anna, come look what I brought for you.”
She pulled back the drawstring to lift out a snow globe of Santa’s village at the North Pole. The base was of pure gold. The fine details inside of the globe were so lifelike it looked like a scene frozen in time.
“Cool Grandma,” James said.
“And it plays,” Jean replied.
Underneath the base she winded up the key which began to play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. She turned it upside down and flipped it back up to see snow fall down around the little scene.
“This has been in my family for years. I used to play it for your father and uncle when they were little boys.”
She placed the globe on the bedside table and tucked them both into bed.
“Off to sleep you too. Pleasant dreams.”
After Grandma closed the door Sarah was standing outside and asked, “How was it getting them to bed?”
“No trouble. I played them the snow globe I had always used for Matt and Sam.”
“Thanks,” she said smiling.
“Don’t worry,” she said, giving her a hug. “Everything will be alright…Just have to have some faith.”
Anna rested her head on her pillow looking at the globe. She reached for it turning it upside down then right side up again watching the fine bits of snow fall.
“James,” Sarah said from her bed. “how is it that Santa can deliver all the presents in one night?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I think it has something to do with his sleigh.”
“He must have a lot of elves to make all those toys.”
“Do you know how they fly?” James asked.
“No, do you?”
“Sure, they eat special reindeer food.”
Then James turned over on his side and said, “Let’s get to sleep before somebody comes in.”
In Sarah and Matt’s guestroom Sarah laid in bed with her back to the bathroom door as Matthew came walking out.
“I’m sorry for earlier.”
“I know, I know.”
Matt got into bed rolling on his side and soon fell asleep.
Outside amidst the stars in the heavens one stood out shining and twinkling brighter than all of the others.
Everyone woke up the next morning to see that it was snowing outside.
“It’s snowing!” Anna exclaimed.” Can we go out and play, please?”
“You may, but keep close to the house,” Sarah said.
“We will,” James said.
“In the meantime can I help you decorate the tree?” Sarah said, looking to Jean.
“That would be great.”
In the backyard James and Anna were building a snowman.
“We have to make sure his head is big enough,” James said.
From across the street Sam got up having fallen into a snow bank and dusted himself off as he stood up. He looked up in surprise to see his parents house. It was older but still he could still recognize it. He still remembered the conversation he had with his superior, George.
“Will this be the year?” Sam had asked.
“We have a special mission for you and if you do well with this assignment you will get your wings.” George replied.
“Thank you sir!” he exclaimed. “Who am I helping?”
“You will find out when you get there.”
During the afternoon Sarah and Matt left to visit one of the local stores. Sarah shopped for stocking stuffers as Matt followed behind her.
“Didn’t the tree turn out beautiful?”
“Yeah.” Matt said, distracted by a display.
“Matt. It’s Christmas.”
“Okay, so what do they want this year?”
“You’d know if you had asked them once.”
“Would you please stop making me look like the Grinch?”
“When you start caring about what more important.”
“Of course! Toy sales, they’re up this year!” he answered excitedly.
“Wow, when did my big brother become such a jerk?” Sam said, standing by a store display.
Sarah just sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Just kidding,” he said, sticking up his hands.
Sam followed them home seeing James and Anna were busy playing in the backyard.
“James, Anna, I have cups of hot chocolate for you!” Jean said, shouting from the back door.
They ran into the house as Sam walked away down the block. Sam thought back to how his Mom always had cups of hot chocolate on hand during the cold December days him and Matt always used to play outside as kids. He always loved the aromas and the memories it evoked.
In the evening Sarah listened to James and Anna talk about how they built a
snowman and was playing in the snow the whole day.
“Anna, why don’t you show your father the snow globe?”
“Oh yeah!” James said.
Anna ran upstairs and came back down holding the snow globe in her hands. She found Matt sitting in the den concentrating on the 24 news channel. Sam sat by just as a silent observer in his father’s old comfy chair.
“Dad, you wanna see what I got from Grandma?”
“Retailers have reached an all time high this year with last minute shoppers still out buying before the big day,” the announcer said.
“Not now honey. Maybe later.”
“But Dad, it snows and plays music.”
“I said not now Anna!” he said, loudly pushing her away.
Anna stumbled back feeling the snow globe suddenly slip from her small hands. The snow globe crashed to the floor that made Matt jerk his head to the sound seeing Anna break down into tears. Matt looked down to see pieces of broken glass and colored pieces of the scene with bits of white flakes and water soaking the carpet. Sarah came rushing inside with Anna running to her side.
“Mommy, I broke the globe.” Anna said sobbing.
“What happened?” she asked Matt.
“She came inside while I am watching the news and I told her that I couldn’t see her right now,” Matt explained exasperated.
“That snow globe was a gift from your Mom. Now it’s ruined. Great,” Sarah said indignantly.
Anna rubbed her eyes. Sarah reached down finding the mechanism for the music box was broken as well carefully picking up the pieces of broken glass.
“It’s okay, Anna. It was just an accident. You’ll get other nice things from Grandma.”
Sarah didn’t say anymore but give a cold stare to Matt.
“What are Earth happened to you, Matt?” Sam asked, shaking his head stunned.
The following day was Christmas Eve and Jean was busy preparing sugar cookies in the kitchen.
Matt came walking in and asked, “What smells in here?”
“Sugar cookies. I thought James and Anna would like to have some,” she said, rolling out the dough on the counter.
Matt sat down at the table seeing Jean never turning around to look at him.
“I’m disappointed in you,” she said, facing him. “You used to love the holidays. Whatever happened to you?”
“I grew up Mom. My life is my career now. It’s what’s important to me.”
“Matt, there is a time when you need to make a choice. It is your family or the bottom line?”
Outside James and Anna decided to go sledding down the small hill in the back. Sam watched from a short distance knowing it was time to make his introductions. He walked up to them seeing Anna slide down the hill seeing her surprised standing in front of her.
“Hi.” she said.
“Hi.” Sam replied smiling.
“Who are you?” James said, walking over.
“My name is Sam. So that must make you Anna,” he said, then turning to look at James. “And your brother here James.”
“Yeah, how did you know our names?” James asked.
“You’d be surprised how much I know.”
“Where you from?” Anna asked.
“Somewhere pretty far off,” Sam said, looking upwards.
“Why you here?”
“To meet you both and actually to help your dad.”
“By helping him regain his spirits,” he said, “but before that I need to take you two to meet somebody first.”
“Santa Claus?” James said. “He’s at the North Pole. It’s too far away.”
“I have a way of getting there,” he said smiling.
“Who are you really?”
“A Christmas angel.”
“But where are your wings?” Anna asked.
“I still need to earn them. Technically I am still an angel in training.”
“Okay, if you are an angel make it snow,” James said.
“You got it,” Sam replied.
Then with a wave of his hand it began to slowly flake.
“Wow!” Anna exclaimed.
“Alrighty,” Sam said, rubbing his hands together, “we don’t have a lot of
time. You will have to hold my hands for this part. Get on either side of me and hold on.”
Anna and James held his hands on either side of him walking into the open field past the backyard. Suddenly, a gust of wind and snow blew up in front of them as they continued walking.
“I can’t see,” Anna said, holding up her free hand in front of her face.
“Just keep holding on to me,” Sam shouted.
After a few moments the storm dissipated completely opening their eyes to the tallest most beautifully decorated Christmas tree they had ever seen filled with sparkling lights and dozens of hand crafted ornaments.
“Welcome to the North Pole and the home of Santa’s village,” Sam said.
All around them miniature one and two story houses were all lit up inside.
“It looks just like the inside of the snow globe,” Anna said excitedly.
The sky was clear and full of stars. It looked like a regular winter wonderland but they didn’t feel the freezing cold as one would expect at the North Pole.
“Can we see where they make the toys?” Anna asked, looking up.
“As a matter of fact that’s where I was just about to take you next. You can meet Santa’s chief elf in charge of toy production.”
They approached two wooden doors ornately carved. Sam opened them to an enormous room filled with work tables and stations with several little people studiously working away on toys. The room was colorful and festive with bright reds and greens. It was the picture of every childs’ Christmas fantasy or wish and more than James and Anna could have ever imagined.
An older elf with a long white beard walked by busily in front of them. He was dressed in bright red overalls and on his feet were forest green shoes that curled at the toe.
“Paddy,” Sam called out.
The elf stopped midway turning his head quickly around.
“Samuel, what are you doing here?” he said, noticing the kids standing beside him. “And with children on Christmas Eve?”
“Special assignment this time,” he said. “This is James and Anna.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” Paddy replied, shaking their hands.
He motioned his hands to the entire room and said, “This is the heart of our toy making facility. Every letter that comes in here is read and checked against the Nice and Naughty list and the toys are made by our company of elves.”
“Wow,” James said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Yeah.” Anna exclaimed.
“Paddy, can you tell us where he’s at?” Sam asked.
“Santa? He’s up at the house.”
In the biggest quaint looking cottage on a snowy hill was the home to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. They walked to the front door where Sam knocked. The woman that opened it was gray haired and wore a full length old fashioned dress that extended to the floor.
“Samuel, how nice to see you,” she said kindly. “I see you brought the children with you.”
Mrs. Claus led the three into the living room where a warm cheery fire was blazing from the fireplace.
“Santa we have visitors.”
“Really? Please come in, come in.”
In a brown tall wingback chair sat a man with a beard as white as snow and on his face he wore a pair of spectacles that rested on the tip on his nose. He was dressed in a bright red suit and coat with fluffy white trim on the edges wearing dark black boots on his feet. James and Anna stood in awe and wonder.
“Are you really Santa?” Anna asked.
“Yes, I am, Anna.”
“How did you know my name?”
“I know the names of all the children in the world.”
“So everything people say about you is true?” James asked.
“That’s right,” Santa said, smiling, “It’s all part of my job.”
“Santa?” Mrs. Claus questioned.
“Yes, of course,” he said, looking to Mrs. Claus as he stood up glancing at the time on his gold pocket watch. “Still need to inspect the reindeer before I leave.”
He looked to James and Anna and said, “Would you like to see the reindeer?”
“Really?” Anna said.
“That would be awesome,” James replied.
Santa led them outside to a snow covered stabled that housed his reindeer all in the middle of being harnessed for their yearly flight. Anna hesitantly walked up to one of them.
“It’s alright. Dasher is very friendly. He loves to be rubbed behind his ears.”
She started rubbing Dasher behind his ear that was enjoying the attention.
“I am actually thankful to meet you both because it’s about something that’s
“What’s that, Santa?” Anna asked.
“Does this have something to do with our dad?” James said.
“It does very much. I’ve watched it happen to people before and now I’m afraid it’s happened to your father as well.”
“What’s the matter with him?” James replied.
“He’s stopped believing,” Santa said. “And when people stop believing they forget what Christmas is really all about and stop living their lives to the fullest.”
“But why does it happen?” Anna asked.
“Oh, they grow up, they age, and pretty soon they forget about me and what I represent,” he explained. “Generosity, goodwill, charity, mercy and all of the other things that bring peace and joy into the world.”
Santa walked back with them into the giant workroom where the elves were hard at work preparing his sleigh and fixing the reindeer.
“Santa, the weather room says the skies will be clear tonight and the front of the snow storm won’t hit till tomorrow,” Paddy said.
“Excellent,” Santa said. “James, Anna, come with me for a moment. I have
something I would like for you to give to your father.”
Santa climbed a set of stairs to reach a brightly wrapped golden package with a red ribbon tied around it and handed it to James.
The elves were quickly loading up the sleigh as James and Anna looked on.
Santa came up to them and said, “It’s time for me to go.”
Anna looked down feeling disappointed.
“Don’t be sad, Anna. For as long as you both keep Christmas in your hearts and minds I will never be too far away.”
Two groups of elves pulled open the giant double doors and away he flew like a flash sitting in his sleigh into the star encrusted sky.
Sam came walking up behind them and said, “It’s about time I got you two back home to your parents.”
He led them both back out standing in front of the tree.
“Close your eyes and when you open them again you will both be back home.”
As they closed their eyes Sam took their hands instantly feeling that they were being whisked back.
“Okay, open your eyes,” he said.
They opened their eyes to find themselves in the backyard again like no time had really passed.
“We’re home!” Anna said enthusiastically.
“Yeah, and before I forget.”
Sam reached inside his coat pocket pulling out the now unbroken snow globe giving it to Anna.
“That’s the globe that Grandma gave us but it broke,” James said.
“Not all things that are broken can’t be repaired.”
“Merry Christmas, Sam,” Anna said.
“Merry Christmas Anna and you too James.”
“Thanks Sam,” James answered.
“My pleasure, he answered smiling.
James and Anna ran up to the house hurrying up the steps as Sam watched on.
“So is this where I get my wings?” Sam said, looking up into the sky smiling and fading away.
They came inside seeing everyone sitting around in the living room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
“You kids back outside from playing?” Sarah asked.
“Hi Mommy.” Anna said, “We were at the North Pole.”
“Yeah, Mom, we got to see the elves and how they make the toys, and met the reindeer and we even got to meet Santa.” James explained.
“What are you two talking about?” Matt asked curiously, kneeling in front of them.
“Sam, the Christmas angel,” Anna said.
“Who?” Sarah asked. “Sam?”
“He’s the one who took us to see Santa,” James answered.
Matt noticed the wrapped box that was at James’s feet.
“James, what’s in the box?”
“Santa said it was something for you.”
Matt curiously picked up the box sitting down to open it. After tearing off the paper his eyes grew wide in shock.
“Oh Matt,” Sarah exclaimed, sitting next to him.
“A Red Ryder sled…,” he said stunned. “When I was seven I wrote a letter asking for a deluxe top of the line Red Ryder sled and I remember my parents couldn’t afford it at the time. This is impossible. I don’t believe it.”
Anna reached inside her coat pocket pulling out the snow globe.
“Look, Mommy. Sam fixed my globe.”
“But didn’t that break?” Sarah questioned. “I could have sworn.”
“Sam said some things that are broken could be fixed again,” James said.
“There he is, Mommy,” Anna said, pointing to the old family portrait on the wall.
Matt and Sarah locked their eyes in shock.
“That is your Uncle Sam, Anna,” Matt said, teary eyed. “Are you sure it was him?”
“Yeah Dad,” James replied.
“But he died before both of them were either born?” Sarah questioned.
Jean wept fresh tears as Matt looking up and embraced Sarah holding close to each other.
During the night everyone was asleep until Matt was woken up by a noise coming from downstairs. He slowly crept down the steps to see a man with a big red sack putting gifts by the tree. Matt creaked his feet on the stairs seeing the man turning around surprised. He was completely dumb founded to see Santa standing in front of him.
“Merry Christmas, Matt,” Santa said.
“Yeah, thanks, you too,” Matt said, staring back.
Then with that Santa took his sack dematerializing into a strobe of lights flying up the chimney.
It was then on that Christmas Eve that Matt learned one of the most important lessons. Christmas wasn’t just another holiday but a state of mind. It wasn’t about commercialism or greed or wealth but the ties that bonded everyone together young and old.
On Christmas morning Matt, Sarah and his parents watched James and Anna as they opened their gifts with enthusiasm. During the day when Matt and Sarah were preparing themselves for dinner Matt’s cell phone rang off again. It was Martin, his supervisor.
“Matt, just to let you know the clients would like to meet with us for breakfast tomorrow promptly at 10.”
“Martin, why don’t you handle it this time?” he said, seeing Sarah standing closely by listening.
“But Matt this is your presentation too. You have to show up.”
“I know but I’ve reconsidered. I have more vital stuff that needs my attention.”
Sarah felt her eyes well up with tears of happiness and relief.
“You realize this is your one of your biggest accounts?” he exclaimed
“I don’t care,” Matt replied. “I need to spend more time with my family. Goodbye Martin.”
Matt turned off his cell phone putting it down.
“Matt, you could lose your job,” Sarah exclaimed.
“Not to worry. By now they deserve to give me a few breaks,” Matt said smiling.
Once everyone was sitting around the table in the middle of eating Matt spoke up.
“Things will be different from now on guys.”
“For real Dad?” James asked.
“Yup, after dinner you, me and Anna are going to go play outside and you can show me how to build a snow fort.”
“Yeah!” James and Anna proclaimed at once.
Sam looked on his family smiling and said, “Congratulations, Matt. Welcome back to your life.”
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