Happy Sunday Morning Coffee time. Here’s a little story I wrote especially for you, to get you into some holiday cheer. I’m there! I leave tomorrow, heading back to Eureka to visit with my son (celebrate his birthday, too) and visit friends. I’ve been prepping all week.
Without further comments, here’s your morning story–
The little girl looked about but all she saw were tall. skinny trees, their naked branches reaching upwards, and a woodpile, neatly stacked by the tiny cottage’s front door.
“Grandmother! Where are you?” she called.
The frost crunched under her little booted feet as she darted this way and that over the forest floor in front of the old woman’s cottage. Her breath blew in little puffs of cloud as she called out again.
“Hush child,” came a raspy voice. “I’m right here.”
With a sharp intake of breath, the girl whirled around, her dark ringlets bouncing about her shoulders.
She looked up into the bright eyes of a tall, gaunt woman who came striding from around the back of the cottage, a great horned owl perched on her gloved hand. “You have an owl,” she whispered.
The old woman snorted. “Sometimes I think it’s the other way around. The owl has me. Come in while I set him to roost. It’s a cold morning. It was a colder night.”
“You’ve been out all night?” the girl asked as she followed the woman inside, stomping her feet first as her mother had taught.
“Aye child. The moon is right.” The woman replied as if that answered all the questions buzzing around in the little girl’s head. “Why are you here?” she asked as she went over to a sturdy perch in the corner of the room. “Here you go my splendid fellow,” and raised her arm to allow the owl to hop off and settle on his perch. “Rest well, beauty,” she crooned as the owl shifted from side to side to find its comfort.
It blinked twice before closing its eyes to sleep.
The old woman turned to see the child standing in the doorway. “Close the door, girl, you’re not making it any warmer in here.” Flinging her leather gloves onto a table she crossed to the hearth where logs and twigs only waited to be stirred, her long skirts whispering over the clean flagstones. With a grunt, the woman slowly crouched down onto the hearth and blew the coals that had been banked underneath the wood.
The girl closed the door and then stood near the entrance. It was the first time she’d ever been inside the cottage. It was the first time she’d been allowed to come alone. From her vantage point, she noticed there were two other rooms in addition to the front room where she stood. She could see a rumpled bed through the crack in the door of one room. The second door was closed, so she could only speculate what was in that room.
The fire was already crackling and singing merrily, sending warmth into the room. It’s flickering light made the place quite cozy. The girl watched as the old woman stood with the help of the fire poker she’d been using and, with a sigh, she took off the canvas bag she wore, slung over her shoulder. The glass bottles within clinked together as she settled the bag on the small round table next to the gloves There were three chairs the girl noticed.
The old woman glanced up. Her bright eyes reminded the girl of her owl. They were bright, round and a pale brown. The firelight made them look a little yellow. “Well, child? Why have you come? Be quick about it. I’m off to bed after I drink some warm milk. Would you like some warm milk?” It was almost an afterthought.
“Yes please,” the girl replied, thinking how nice warm milk would feel in her belly on her walk home.
“Then take off your coat and settle over there.” The old woman nodded at the little table and continued to unwind a long maroon scarf from about her throat. “What do you have there?”
The girl held out the basket she’d been holding. “It’s for you. From mother.”
The old woman took it from her outstretched hands.
As her grandmother explored the contents of the basket, the girls took off her mittens, crammed them into her coat pockets and proceeded to take off her coat. Since the old woman had slung her own coat over the back of a chair, the girl followed suit and then sat.
“Oh!” the Wise Woman exclaimed in surprise. “A Christmas Cake. A large one, too. How thoughtful.” She glanced at the girl now seated at the table. “Would you like some with the milk?”
“No, thank you. Mama put rum in it. She said I couldn’t have any, not even a single taste.”
The woman laughed. “All the more for me then. I won’t be but a minute. My stove heats milk quite quickly,” she said as she crossed into the cooking area where there was a stove, a sink and a wide counter. Above the sink was were long shelves containing a few kitchen essentials and a makeshift pantry. She set the basket containing the cake on the shelf in the pantry section and fired up the stove. “Warm enough child?”
The little girl nodded. “Yes, thank you.” She heard the fire merrily crackling behind her. “Why don’t you have any decorations?”
“Because it’s just me.”
“Mama told me if you said that, that I was to tell you I would help you decorate. And I will. I want to help you with the decorations.”
The old woman placed a mug of warm milk in front of the girl and sat down across from her.
Both took a sip and both sighed as the warm, rich creaminess slid down their throats and warmed their respective tummies.
The old woman smacked her lips. “If you help me put them up, who’s going to help me pull them down?”
“I will. I want to. And Mama said to ask you to come to our home for Christmas Eve dinner. Will you come? You can bring your owl. We have a tree stand it could sit on.”
The old sat back and hooted, rather like an owl, her eyes crinkled with amusement. “Tell your mama ‘thank you’ from me, that I will gladly come for Christmas Eve dinner but I will leave the owl here.”
“And you let me help you decorate?”
The old woman’s eyes twinkled. “Aye, daughter of my daughter, I will let you help me decorate. But not tonight nor the night after, not when the moon is right and I gather for my healing powders and celebrate the Solstice. But come the day after that and we will make this little home look quite merry. I will bake you a cake you can eat and we will have ourselves a little party when we are done.”
The little girl’s eyes, so similar to her grandmother’s, twinkled back at her.
Have a great week, peeps!