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The Christmas Star

Kathleen McBeath

You might think it unusual for a Christmas story to begin at Easter time, in fact this one does.I had heard many arguments between Mum and Dad lately and I hadn't seen them smile in months. The few times that I didn't hear the raised voices, I would see my mother sitting alone with tears in her eyes. Mum looked so upset and vulnerable and Dad had dark circles under his eyes. I decided that the best help I could be would to keep my little sister, Samantha, occupied and out of their way.My grandfather had been sick for several weeks and he only seemed to be getting worse. The doctors even seemed to be losing hope as they were suggesting we move Gramps to Agape House. This was when I realised the severity of the situation. They didn't think that Gramps was going to survive, but I was determined to never lose hope. Maybe, hopefully, if I made a special wish, Gramps would be better by Christmas.It was Good Friday morning and my dream was interrupted when I heard more arguing in the kitchen. Mum and Dad were at it again. I quickly ran to Samantha's room so that I could engage her in something else so that she would not get upset about Mum and Dad.“Samantha, are you up yet?” I quietly called into her room. I heard a feeble “yes” come from the bed, and walked over and sat down beside her. “Do you want to help me build a kite today?” I asked her, “You can pick out the colours and give it a name!” Her blue eyes immediately brightened and she agreed. After I brought together all the supplies needed to build the kite, we began to deliberate on a name. Samantha suggested that we call it the ‘Christmas Star', which made me laugh. She was the one person I could always count on to think of Christmas all year round it was her favourite time of year, after all. “We can put little stars on the tail and all over the kite and use dark blue tissue paper so it will look like the night sky is spread across the kite!” Samantha made these suggestions excitedly as she picked up the blue paper.“That's a really good idea!” I told her encouragingly. We set to work on the kite and by dusk it was finished. ‘Christmas Star' was the most beautiful kite I had ever seen. I was really impressed with our creation. Despite the late hour, Samantha begged me to take her outside so we could fly our kite. I didn't want to upset her, so reluctantly I agreed. It was becoming darker, yet the garden was illuminated by the moonlight from the full moon up in the sky. On the third try I was finally able to get ‘Christmas Star' up in the air, soaring like a night owl. I was admiring our work when Samantha demanded a turn. I told her that the winds were really strong and she may not be able to hold on to the string. Regardless, she insisted on flying the ‘Christmas Star', so I handed the string over, telling her that no matter what, not to let go of the string.Everything seemed to be going well until a particularly strong wind came and ripped the kite string right out of Samantha's hands. Its escape was stalled as the kite tangled in a tree branch, and I raced to capture the kite. Sadly, a second gust of wind came and ‘Christmas Star' sailed away into the night sky.Tears welled up in Samantha's eyes and I immediately crouched down beside to comfort her. “It's okay, Samantha, ‘Christmas Star' has only gone to keep the man in the moon company,” I suggested, not knowing what else to say. “Perhaps one day he'll send it back to you as a thank you.” I knew this was make believe, but only wanted to make Samantha feel better and not blame herself. Deep down, I was upset that she had let go of the string, but knew she couldn't help it, that she wasn't strong enough.That night I prayed, like every other night, for Gramps to get better and, adding a new wish, for our kite to return as a sign of hope. I prayed for this every night. Months passed and it was now December.Christmas time, in my opinion, didn't truly start until school was out. Samantha had been waiting so long for her favourite holiday of the year. I tried to enjoy the holidays, but things were just not the same as in past years when we shared each day of the break with Gramps. I tried to hide my despair and enjoy Samantha's enthusiasm. She could hardly contain herself when it was the day before Christmas. We were visiting Gramps at Agape House. All of the nurses could not believe that he had held on for so long, but I however, was not surprised. I knew Gramps wouldn't let go without a fight, but it looked like he had been fighting for a long time. I liked to think that my praying for him and our lost ‘Christmas Star' had helped give him strength to do so.When we returned home that night, Mum and Dad sat us down and told us something that I thought would really shake Samantha. Mum and Dad had been so preoccupied with attending to Gramps that I knew many of the normal Christmas preparations had been neglected. “We are really sorry, but we don't know if Santa is going to be able to make it to the house this year. You know how many places he has to visit and we think that he is going to be too busy.” Samantha burst out in tears. Thankfully I knew that it would not be as bad as she was thinking. There would be at least one present for everyone under the small tree in our family room. I wouldn't be too busy to get her a present.That evening Dad, Samantha and I went to St. Peter's church as usual for their Christmas Eve service. Mum had decided to go and stay with Gramps for the evening so that he wouldn't be lonely. When it came time to pray, I wished with all my heart for the same things that I had been praying for since that Good Friday. I prayed that my beautiful ‘Christmas Star' to come back to me as a sign that my grandfather would as well.I never could get to sleep on Christmas Eve. Perhaps this was from the old days when I would listen for Santa's reindeers on the roof. Although childish thoughts were long past, it was no different this night. Hours past and I was still lying in my bed, wide-awake, when I heard strange tapping noises on the roof, small noises that sounded oddly like hooves landing.I grabbed my slippers, dashed from my room, careful to slow down in front of Samantha's as I didn't want to wake her and rushed out our front door. When I looked up I didn't see a sleigh, rather something that took the breath right out of me.With its blue and silver tail wrapped around the chimney, I saw our ‘Christmas Star', flapping in the wind, every now and again tapping the roof. The kite returning seemed like a sign that all would resolve itself, that there was hope. With a new light heart, I climbed onto the roof top and untangled the kite bringing it with me back to my room where I was finally able to fall asleep. I never did notice a small miracle, an unexpected collection of presents surrounding the Christmas tree.Samantha's early morning squeals of delight woke me and I joined the family, noticing immediately that Mum and Dad were sitting on the coach together, holding their morning coffee, smiling and laughing while Samantha was opening her stocking gifts.“Merry Christmas, Billy!” mum said to me, happily, as she passed me a mug of hot chocolate.“We have some especially wonderful news,” Dad announced. “Last night, when your mother was sitting with Gramps during Christmas Eve services, the nurse came over and sat beside Mum and quietly told her that Gramps was showing very unexpected signs of a turn around. The nurse said even the doctor believes Gramps was on his way to recovery!”What a Christmas miracle! Everything seemed to be as in past years. Gramps was recovering and would return to complete our family daily life, Santa had actually visited, for Samantha's benefit, and ‘Christmas Star' had returned in answer to my Easter prayers. Yes, this Christmas miracle was complete.