A touching short story of a humble Christian family and the unconditional gift of love they received from their daughter on Christmas eve.
Simeon and Caroline were two God fearing people and proud parents of a beautiful little girl Esther. Simeon used to work in a factory and Caroline worked as a domestic help in a few houses in order to support the family. They lived in a small one room house, somewhere in the narrow lanes of Calcutta. In their little room they hardly had any furniture except for a small wooden bed on which Caroline slept with her daughter while Simeon managed on the floor. A chair and a few basic utensils. A small stove that was kept in the corner of the room for cooking and a small altar that was fixed on the wall in front of which they prayed each day together. On Sundays they went to the nearby Church.
Although life was hard still they were somehow managing their lives with the bare necessities they had. They were happy with whatever little they had and thanked God each day for His blessings upon them. Life was moving on this way. Esther was gradually growing up amidst all difficulties. Days passed by and soon it was November. The leaves of the trees began to wither and fall. The cold wintery winds started blowing wrapping the city under its chill. Days turning shorter and the nights longer. Little Esther all wrapped up inside her little blanket all warm and cosy was getting excited with every passing day for she could already feel that Christmas was approaching. One morning she woke up from her sleep and asked her mother, “Mumma, what gift will Santa bring me this year?” “Surprise my dear, its a surprise!” said Caroline, and winked at her. Esther smiled back at her mother.
More days passed and finally the calendar unleashed its last page announcing its December. Here falls the Advent, four weeks to Christmas, Noelle! Esther had already started making plans for Christmas. In her own imaginative way she moved her little hands in the air and said to herself, “Santa must be out of his home by now and have started visiting houses, he might drop in to our house any day!” Caroline smiled at her innocence. Simeon couldn’t help laughing too. He picked her up on his arms and said, “What gift do you want from Papa?” Esther thought for a while and said, “Ermmmm…Candies, chocolates and a doll. And a dress too!” She chipped in. “Ok. That be it then! Today while returning home, I’ll bring them for you.” Simeon said with a smile to which Esther smiled back as she hugged him tightly and planted a kiss on his cheek. Like each day, Caroline cooked a meal for Simeon and he left for his factory. After Simeon left, Caroline prepared a breakfast for them, fed Esther and completed rest of the household chores and left for her work too.
For the next few hours Esther had to be alone in the house like everyday until Caroline returned home and they both had lunch together. Normally during those hours she played with the children of her locality but today she chose to be indoors. She pulled out her toys and played with them for a while but soon got bored. Then she thought of doing something else and looked around her little room to find something interesting but failed to find any. When she was about to give up upon her hopes an idea struck her. “Let me make a Christmas card for Mumma and Papa for Santa won’t be bringing them any gifts!”
The idea seem to delight her. She quickly took out her drawing book and colour pencils and tore out a page from it and neatly folded it into two halves from the centre and started wondering, what to draw? Time passed by and she got so much engrossed into making a beautiful card that she forgot it was almost time for her Mumma’s return.
So she heard the footsteps of her Mumma. She quickly hid the card between the pages of her drawing book. After lunch it was a habit of Esther to hear a story from her Mumma until her little eyes shut down in sleep. Today Caroline was narrating her the story of the birth of baby Jesus until they both dozed off. In the evening Simeon returned home empty handed having a gloomy face. Esther ran to greet him and asked, “Papa, what gifts did you bring for me?” But Simeon failed to reply. Caroline understood that something went wrong. After dinner when Esther fell asleep Caroline asked, “What is the matter dear? What makes you upset, any problem?” Simeon broke into sobs. After a while he composed himself and said, “My job is gone!” Caroline reverted calmly, “What happened? Did something go wrong?”
“The Labours had some demands which the management refused to accept, so they went on a strike. To teach us a lesson the management has shut down the factory indefinitely. My job’s gone, how shall I run the family?” said Simeon as he burried his face into his palms and broke down into sobs again. “Shhh! Relax dear.” Caroline said, rubbing her palms over his shoulder to comfort him. “Everything will be fine. Just have faith in Him.” She said, pointing at the altar. Days passed by. Christmas was only a week away, still Simeon couldn’t get hold of a new job and neither could he arrange some money to celebrate Christmas. Gradually he was losing hope. But Caroline always tried her best to cheer him up saying, she had a strong feeling inside that things will turn around for them before Christmas. And yes, she was right. Jesus did look upon them. To her surprise, Caroline received a bonus this time along with her salary. Some of the houses gave her cakes too. Two days left for Christmas. Preparations were at its peak everywhere. Streets, Houses, Churches were being decorated. Esther’s joys knew no bounds.
In the evening she helped her Mumma to make cookies for Christmas. Caroline used the money wisely so that they could have a wonderful Christmas together. She brought a beautiful dress and a doll for Esther and some necessaries for the occasion as well. Since the morning of Christmas Eve Simeon and Caroline were busy buying groceries, chicken and flowers for home. Esther’s excitement and enthusiasm was worth noticeable too. She was busy decorating her little old Christmas tree. She decorated the crib beautifully and burnt an earthen lamp in it for light. She dusted each of the statues of the nativity carefully and placed them accordingly in the crib. She planted a kiss on the cheeks of baby Jesus and muttered, “Happy Birthday!” as she placed him on the little hay bed at the centre which she had made with utmost care, guarded by Joseph and Mary on both the sides. While returning home from the market in the nearby colony Caroline noticed a cute little stray pup lying in the heat of the sun. As she saw Caroline she wagged her little tail and barked lovingly, Woof..Woof! She melt Caroline’s heart by her innocent gesture of Love.
After dinner Esther was sent to bed early. She declined, “No! Not now Mumma, not until I meet Santa.” She was in no mood to sleep for she was all excited about what gift Santa brings her this year. Caroline had to convince her that if she doesn’t sleep that Santa won’t be paying her a visit. After Esther slept, Caroline brought home that little pup. She was shivering in cold and looked dusty. Caroline cleansed her and tied a red ribbon around her neck and fed her some warm milk. She was looking so cute. At twelve am when the Church choir sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” Caroline went to Esther and kissed on her forehead and whispered into her ears, “Merry Christmas my angel”, Esther opened her eyes and asked, “What gift did Santa bring for me, Mumma?” “Come, it’s waiting for you”, Caroline answered with a smile.
Esther got down from her bed and saw the pup looking adorably at her. “Oh Mumma, she is so cute!” Esther exclaimed in joy. “Santa gave you a playmate this year.” Caroline said with a smile. “Mumma, I’ll call her Jingle Bells”, Esther said. Pow Wow! The pup replied and started wagging her little tail, to which they both laughed. Esther said, “Mumma, I too have something for you’ll”, and gave her the card which she had made for them. Caroline opened it and read,
“Dear Papa and Mumma, I Love You. You are the world’s best parents. Merry Christmas! Esther.”
Two drops of tear fell on the floor from Caroline’s eyes due to joy. It was Esther’s first Christmas card for them. It was special. She hugged Esther tightly.
Pics courtesy: Bella67, BarnImages and Cattu @ Pixabay
More poems in New Year 2016 Literature Special
Oh Calcutta! – By Sufia Khatoon
Horizons – By Ipsita Ganguli
Poetry – By Gauri Dixit
Kadambari – By Dr Ampat Koshy
To Chiyo – By Joanna Sarah Koshy
Silverfish – By Dr Amit Shankar Saha
The Screen – By Daipayan Nair
Unearthing Life – By Anand Sehgal
Reminiscences – By Mallika Bhaumik
Talk of Shades – By Ananya Chatterjee
Musings in New Year 2016 Literature Special
I Want You to Have a Good Time – By Santosh Bakaya
Short Stories in New Year 2016 Literature Special
The Price of the Fumes: A Short Story – By Fatima Afshan
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