St. Nicholas' Eve

A mother and her son get ready for St. Nicholas' Day. Written for the first week of A Delicious Movellas Advent Calendar contest.

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1. Chapter 1

A woman helped her son get ready for their evening visitor. She had just set a plate of hot cookies on the kitchen counter. They were fifty-fifty chocolate chip and peanut butter. The boy was opening the bottom drawer in the refrigerator. He reached in and pulled out the plastic bag of carrots. He reached in and pulled one out. He replaced the bag and jogged out of the kitchen, a smile plastered on his face.

He returned a minute later and looked at the cookies with a little sparkle in his eye. "Mutti, can we give some cookies to St. Nicholas?"

Smiling, she replied, "That's a good idea." She plucked a small dish out of the cabinet. "He'll probably be peckish from the long flight." She placed three cookies on the plate.

"What's peckish mean?" the boy asked, quizzically.

"It means hungry," the mother answered. "Do you think he would like some milk too?"

"Yes!"

After pouring the milk, she handed the boy the glass. "Careful not to spill this."

He nodded and walked away. The mother followed with the plate of cookies. They stopped outside of his bedroom door where a lone boot sat, she could see the carrot poking out of it. She remembered him saying "It's for Blitzen." He knelt down and set the glass next to the boot. He set the cookies in front of it.

"Now get into your pajamas. You don't want to be up all night and have St. Nicholas skip our house, do you?"

He vigorously shook his head and ran into his room to change. A fond smile showed on her face as he closed the door. A couple minutes later the door opened again. Her son was dressed in his racecar jammies. They knelt at the side of the bed and said their prayers. The boy climbed into the green-and-white bed. His mother tucked him in.

"Mutti, Oma taught me a poem."

"Which poem was it?" she asked gently.

"The one about St. Nicholas."

She knew the one he was talking about, for his Oma had taught it to her when she was his age. It was the one by Ade Bethune. "How does it go?"

"Tonight when it is dark

Saint Nicholas may come.

He loves to bring a big surprise.

He gives the children toys.

 

Cookies, apples,

Balls and games,

Bells and whistles,

Dolls and trains.

Surprises for the boys.

Surprises for the girls.

Saint Nicholas is our friend in heaven.

He is the children's saint.

 

We thank you, good Saint Nicholas!

We thank you for the toys!

We thank you, good Saint Nicholas!

You bring us many joys."

"That's beautiful, dear." She noticed he still didn't look tired. "Do you want me to tell you a story?" she asked, reaching for the book of winter tales on his bedside table.

"Is it about St. Nicholas?"

Flipping to the page with Victor Hoagland's poem, she nodded. "Yes." She leaned back against his headboard and opened the book wider so he could see the picture of young Nicholas watching a sailboat. "It's St. Nicholas' story."

The boy snuggled into her as she started to read:

"Once

there was a little boy

who lived by the shore of the sea.

He watched the ships go sailing by

all wrapped in mystery.

 

'What do you carry,

where do you go?'

he said as he saw them there.

'I hope you bring many good things

to the girls and boys everywhere.'

 

Nicholas

was the little boy's name,

in case you'd like to know.

He loved surprising others with gifts

and seeing their faces glow.

 

Then he would hide

and no one would know
the one who loved them,

who loved them so.

 

Once a father

had grown so poor

as to sell his daughters three."

"I thought slavery was illegal," the boy interjected.

"It is today, but," the mother answered. "In those days it was legal."

"Didn't they know it's wrong?"

"Some did," she said thoughtfully, "like Nicholas." She continued the story:

"Three nights

to his window Nicholas came

with gold to keep them free.

 

Nicholas

went to church one day

and all the people stood:

'You have a heart like God's,'

they said,

'A heart that is so good.

Will you be our bishop

And lead us as God would?'

 

When Nicholas died

God welcomed him

to heaven's great applause:

 

'Well done, well done,

good Nicholas,

for serving well my cause.'

 

Now every Christmas

Nicholas comes with gifts

for girls and boys.

You know his name as Nicholas,

But it's also Santa Claus.

 

O Good St. Nicholas, children's friend,

friend of girls and boys,

through the clouds come again,

and fill your bag with toys.

 

Give me too a giving heart,

for loving others too,

I want to know how good it is

to give good gifts like you."

The mother closed the book and replaced it on the boy's bedside table. The boys eyes were drooping. Yawning, he said, "Ich liebe dich, Mutti."

She kissed his forehead. "Ich liebe dich auch." She made sure he was tucked in and checked that his little nightlight was on. "Gute Nacht!" A quiet "Gute Nacht," came from the almost-asleep child. The mother closed the door, making sure it didn't make the loud clicking noise it usually did.

She changed into plaid flannel pajamas and moved quietly through their small home. She sat in the living room and tuned into The Holiday. But she soon fell asleep on the couch.

Early the next morning, the little boy jumped out of bed and quickly opened his door. He looked into his boot, a grin on his face. It was filled mostly with candy of the chocolate persuasion. Right on top of the boot was a stuffed grey wolf.

He ran to his mother's room opening his mouth to announce the new morning, but she wasn't in bed. He ran into the living room and saw her curled up on the couch. He shook her shoulder and shouted, "It's St. Nicholas' Day, Mutti! Get up!" His mother grumbled and buried her face into the couch pillow. "St. Nicholas came!"

She opened her eyes and bid him a happy St. Nicholas' Day. Then she panicked. She forgot to fill his boot! Oh, no. It took another minute to for her brain to catch up with what her son said. Her eyebrows furrowed. He came? But he's not alive!

The little boy pulled her up by the arm and led her to his room to show her his presents. There they were. "See, he gave me Wolfie too! I was a good boy."

She could only give the automatic reply: "Yes, you were."

Her heart filled with wonder. Bemusedly she thought, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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