A December Surprise For Egidius: A Temperance Short Story

This story occurs in the same December as THE CHRISTMAS GIFT in the mountain hamlet of Temperance.  https://lochgarry.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/the-christmas-gift-a-short-story/

Sometimes the past is a window which many people seal with various barriers to block the images which are just outside the sash.  One such person is Egidius Satterfield.

Egidius had returned to Temperance in April from Norway.  When he was ten, his parents died tragically in a train derailment while coming back from the big city.

He was sent to Norway to live with his Uncle and Aunt on their goat farm.  Now, forty years later he had returned to his original home, especially the house where he spent his first ten years of life on this planet traversing the cosmos.

Of course, the house was in need of great repair.  Egidius had the house restored to its former glory with its two gardens of roses, cyclamen, larkspur, dahlias, iris, morning glories and a host of other chromatic flowery varieties. He was an expert gardener.

He had made his fortune in petroleum production plus his fleet of fishing vessels.  As he approached old age, he decided to return to his birthplace.

He was generous to the community and its various projects as well.  Therefore, one could not call him Ebenezer Scrooge, but when December rolled into Temperance, not one Yule token was to be found on his property.

This puzzled many people since Temperance in December took on the appearance of a Bavarian Christmas town with all the trimmings.  Some people concluded that he must be related to the powerful and rich Ballard clan on their mountain fortress; they were the real Scrooges of Temperance.

Jamie Piper was delivering the evening edition of The Temperance Record.  Jamie always placed the paper on the rack below the mail box on the porch unlike some other paper boys who just tossed the rolled paper at the house and went on their merry way.

As Jamie walked up to the porch, Egidius was coming out for his evening walk.  He greeted Jamie by name and asked about his family.

After this brief conversation, Jamie asked, “Do you not believe in Christmas?”

Egidius looked at Jamie for a few seconds and asked, “Where did you hear that, young man?”

“At Halls.  I was in there with my sister Trudy and some people were talking about you and how you did not believe in Christmas.”

“I see,” Egidius sighed.  People should mind their own business, he thought, but looking at Jamie he saw himself for a moment back in that December forty years ago.

Memories of that December flooded his mind for a few seconds including all the Yule glory that had lined Oak Street, especially his house.  It was the North Star on top of the festive fir tree, people always said.

Jamie could sense the sadness which overcame Egidius.  He felt bad that he somehow caused it.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Satterfield.  I did not mean to make you sad.”

Looking at Jamie, he replied solemnly, “Young man, you better finish your paper route and get home to a warm fire.  I sense a cold wind brewing from the mountains.”

Jamie said his good-bye.  Egidius watched Jamie disappear down Oak Street.

“Sad,” he stated as the coldness touched his lips with a bitter sting.  “If you only knew, Jamie….”

Walking to the town square, he observed the various ornaments gracing businesses, houses and the gas light posts.  In the square the corral had been erected and seven reindeer were in the enclosure.

The sight of the reindeer brought a smile to his face.  He had not seen reindeer for a number of years before his Uncle and Aunt had passed away; he had sold their farm, since he lived in the city.

As he stood there and interacted with the creatures of the North, there was something familiar about them.  He just gave a little laugh and stated, “I guess all reindeer look alike to a boy.”

Just then the gas lights went out, and since it was cloudy, the corral area was wrapped in velvet stableness.  He was startled when a voice beside him said, “Each reindeer has its own unique personality if one takes the time to carefully observe and interact with these fine animals. They are very intelligent.”

Turning, Egidius saw a hooded man.  The only distinguishing feature was the man’s niveous beard which had a glistening quality to it.

“Are you the reindeer herder that I have heard about?”

“That is the name people have given me in this beautiful mountain hamlet.”

As they talked, Egidius felt there was something very familiar about this man.  It was almost like a memory from childhood.

The reindeer herder finally stated with compassion, “So you are the man who does not embrace Christmas whom I have heard about this week.”

Egidius sighed.  “I wish people would not judge without knowing the facts.”

“Unfortunately, people judge what they do not understand and that which falls outside of their viewpoint.  Sometimes their judgment of others masks their own insecurities and innate fears. People are not mean-spirited as a general rule.”  He glanced up the mountain at the Ballard estate with its gaudy displays.  “There are a few exceptions of course in every community.”

For the first time during their conversation, Egidius sensed that he knew this man somehow from somewhere.  “Have we met before?”

The reindeer herder placed his gloved hand on Egidius’ left shoulder.  “Many years ago when you were a boy during that tragic December before Christmas ended for you.”

Egidius was overwhelmed with emotion.  The window of the past lost its barriers, and the light of the dark day before Christmas flooded his mind with the news of his parents’ death.

Egidius had wanted a special snow globe for Christmas.  Back in the 1880s it was a rarity.

Unknown to Egidius, his parents had gone to the city to purchase it.  This was why they were on the train that late autumn wintery day.

The gas lights rekindled, and Egidius found himself alone with the reindeer.  Where did the reindeer herder go?  He wondered or was it just his imagination?

Walking back to Oak Street, he wondered why now all of these memories were coming back to him.  Arriving at his house, he was greeted by falling snow.  “December snow,” he whispered.

He remembered his mother’s words.  “December snow is special because it brings a promise of good things to come.”

Going into the house, he noticed a package on the foyer table.  The housekeeper Janice Keebler had left before his walk, and he did not remember that package was there before he left.

Going over to it, he picked it up and removed the brown paper.  It was a Christmas present with a purple ribbon.

“Purple was my favorite color,” he reminisced.  He recalled helping his mother decorate the tree with an assortment of colored ribbons and bows, but the purple ones were the dominant ones.

Removing the wrap, there was a white box which had a familiar scent. As the scent filled the air, another memory came flooding back.

It was French lavender.  The smell brought images of his mother as she sprayed the lovely fragrance around the tree.

“Lavender. What would we do without lavender in December,” she was fond of saying. She always had lavender candles lit on the mantle as well.

Opening the box, it was a snow globe. “Can it be,” he wondered.

As he removed it from the box, the memories of visiting the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition with his parents in September came back vividly.  He had become fascinated with the snow globe display.

It was just like the one he remembered—a man with an umbrella in a snow storm.  In the bottom of the box was a written note from his mother on her special Victorian lace paper.

“Our dearest Egidius, we hope you forgive us for leaving you with the Daniels as we went on our secret trip to find this Christmas present for you. We knew how much you wanted this.  May it bring years of joy and happiness to you when you see it.  Please remember us. With much love, Mother and Father.”

For a moment the words of his mother became audible.  Her sweet voice embraced him as he stood there in the foyer.

Holding the note, he went to the door.  For some reason he felt he needed to go outside.

Going out, the snow was falling as it did in the Nordic mountains, but across the street under the lamp, he saw the reindeer herder open an umbrella and walk away.  Calling out, “Wait!” his voice just reflected off the falling snow.

The wonder of it all was just too surreal for Egidius.  For the first time since he was ten, he felt a joy, a December joy which swells up in the hearts of children before Christmas.

The next afternoon when Jamie Piper was delivering the paper, he was astonished.  The Satterfield House was like a Yuletide ruby in a setting of pure snow resembling a snow globe which did not need to be shaken.

The man of Temperance who “did not believe in Christmas” did believe in his child’s heart.  It took a conversation and a lost gift to reawaken the spirit of the season.

Before you judge someone on their lack of spirit, ponder on why they behave the way they do.  Sometimes, the reason is a hidden agony of the soul, but December can fill the past with rapture to bring a joyous present.

If you are waiting for a very special Christmas gift, may it arrive when your time is right.  May you have a joyful Christmas!  Live Christmas well.

May you be blessed with belief and hope this Christmas season! May all your dreams come true for the New Year of 2018.


G. D. Williams © 2017

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