Archive For The “Holiday Inspired Stories” Category
The wrinkled woman guarding the money slowly gathered her things as she made her way to the door. Buttoning her coat and preparing for the blast of the winter air, her hand quivered on the doorknob. A final look back into the rundown shop reaffirmed her suspicions; it would soon be bankrupt.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have any merchandise to sell. In fact, the problem was that since the new store opened up down the street, she was selling less and less. Their toys have screens and need batteries to operate. None of us know what batteries are, but we hear of them when the woman complains about it.
Before the new store, children came in and played with us after school for hours while the woman watched us smiling. We never grew tired of the games the children came up with. One boy pretended that I was a knight, once…it seems like such a long time ago.
Seeing children walk past the shop with their new toys held passionately close to their face reminded us of the days when we met our children for the first time. What it must be like to be held like that! Always the center of attention for a child would be a dream come true for me. I’ve forgotten the warmth of their hands, the laughter that comes when I fall to the ground. I’ve forgotten all of it.
The room falls into darkness as the woman closes the door on not only the shop, but also on a long stressful day. She doesn’t bother leaving a light on at night anymore. She says there isn’t anything here people want anymore. I don’t know why, but, I feel empty inside now.
With nothing to do in the darkness, I fall to my side and drift off to sleep.
The sunlight streams through the glass reflecting off the polished tin tops and other unpainted toys in the window. The wooden rooster crows, bringing us out of the sleep that claimed us the night before. Normally, I would sit up and stretch the stiffness from my seams. But, today, I couldn’t find the strength to sit up at all. A heavy weight was inside me, although I knew it was only sawdust that filled me with a phony feeling of substance. Is this what it is like to reach the end of your existence? To feel worthless and empty?
It was hours later that the woman finally came to the shop. She was coming by later and later as the days progressed without anyone coming in except the wrinkled woman. The crossed off days on the calendar grew closer to the one circled in red called, ‘Christmas Day!’ I remember the first Christmas that I spent with a boy named Joey. He replaced me the next Christmas with a metal car with blue paint. From the bookshelf, I would spend hours watching him play with the car. How he loved that toy! His mother soon gathered several of us together in a box and brought us here where very few have gone home with a new child. Roger, the soldier and I have shared this same shelf ever since. We are the oldest ones in the shop and we will never feel the joy radiating through a child’s hand again.
The wrinkled woman only comes in the afternoons now. She stays for a few hours and then leaves. Several times, she doesn’t lock the door behind her. Our value as toys has reached a level so low that she no longer deems us worthy to protect from thieves. The circled day on the calendar has become a sign of the end of times. In large black letters that smother the original red ones is written, ‘Last day.’ I never dreamed that there would be a day that children didn’t want to play with toys.
Today is the last blank day on the calendar. I haven’t seen another person other than the wrinkled woman for over a month. It’s like we don’t exist anymore. She’s sitting at the counter, staring out the dirty glass windows at nothing in particular. People can be seen across the street, oblivious to the world as they stare at their new toys. They seem so lifeless to me. When a child used to pick me up, I could wave my arms around while they laughed and danced with me. That was when I felt truly alive. The new toys don’t move at all, but, the people stare at them constantly.
A man huddled in his coat walked by the window and stopped to look in the shop. Curiosity pulled him into the shop, waking the wrinkled woman from dozing off. As his eyes took in the different toys, something pulled him towards Roger and I. The other toys were doing their best to hold his attention when it fell on them, but, ultimately his eyes lingered back to us each time.
He reached up and delicately pulled me into his massive hands. I felt so small as he looked at me from all angles. That was when I saw Roger. He looked as if he were a ghost because he knew that he was never going to be chosen and he would end up in the trash with the other broken toys. I couldn’t bear it any longer.
The second the man looked away, I grabbed the worn stitches on my left arm and pulled with everything I had causing it to fall into his palm. Shock came to his face as he turned to the woman and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. The arm of this toy just fell off in my hand.”
Dismissively, the woman said, “That one is older than you are, Hun’. Just put it back on the shelf and I’ll fix it later.” The man gingerly placed me back on the shelf, laying my arm beside me. He looked again at Roger and picked him up. Roger was half my size, and built like a boat anchor.
“What is this soldier made of? He’s heavy.” The question was directed towards the woman while she slowly shuffled her way over to him.
“That was made back when toys were made to last. Nobody today knows his real worth because they can’t see past his chipped paint. Why don’t you take him with you?”
“What does he cost?”
“More than you can afford. Which is why I want you to take him.”
“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel right for me to just take this without paying.”
“Take him and go. Now shoo!” She said this with the largest smile she could muster. “Young man, I want to go home some time tonight.” The man said his thanks and left the store. That was when the woman picked me up with her loving hands. “You’re coming home with me tonight. I have a special grandson that is going to love you.”
Photo by HAYSTAAK
She was coming down the aisle towards me. I had gazed at her humble face countless times before this moment, but she stole my breath away. I didn’t fall in love with her based on her physical appearance. No, it was the beauty that was on the inside that convinced me that she was the most lovely woman on earth.
A bashful smile hinted at the corners of her mouth. It seemed like such a short time until this moment, but she already knew my thoughts. Her hair cascading around her face and trailing down her back in intricate braids and the candles lit within the lanterns cast shadows around the room but were not necessary to light up this young woman’s face. She beamed brighter with each passing step as the distance separating us dwindled.
I couldn’t help myself; a broad smile released itself upon my face filling me with joy and happiness. I never thought I would be at this moment that would change my life forever.
Within a few words, our lives would be forever interlocked and strongly affecting the other.
I stole a glance to my parents; Pops was okay but Mom was a mess. I stifled a laugh thinking about how many times she cried at weddings, funerals, and baby showers.
Looking over at my future in-laws proved the same; her dad was trying to be strong but beginning to break down and my soon to be mother-in-law was a river of tears as well.
This was a happy day for all.
A gentle touch on my shoulder brought me back to the moment, “Are you ready?” The older gentleman performing the ceremony was like a grandfather to me.
Releasing my pent up breath and allowing myself to focus on the moment I responded, “I do.”
“We’re not to that part yet.” A small chuckle escaped his lips expressing his joy for us.
His words began to come forth as a gentle flowing creek.
He finally arrived at the part that is the most memorable in all weddings, the vows. I stumbled only a few times over the phrases I picked out to say; wishing I had taken more time to practice them.
Next were her vows which flowed as water, “I promise to always love you regardless of our financial, spiritual, physical, or emotional state of being. You have my love now, and forever.”
After placing the rings, I awaited the words that I had longed to hear, “You may now kiss the bride.”
Our lips collided together with such force that all in the room knew without a doubt the love that we had for one another. That moment seemed to stretch into eternity as we pulled each other closer.
It wasn’t until we heard the cheering and encouragement from those present did we break our embrace.
The years have gone by without any dwindling of our love.
In fact, we love each other more with each passing day.
The rose has long been a symbol of love. This is my version of the story.
It happened in a quite countryside. People were always friendly and cared for one another like family.
The star of the soccer team had taken notice of the baker’s daughter. She was not particularly fond of sports, so the star’s athleticism was of no asset to him. He had to get her affection. But how?
As he and his friends were walking to school one morning he passed a young boy tending a bush. He stopped and watched the boy meticulously prune the bush with expert care.
“Why are you wasting your time with that bush? It hasn’t flowered in over four years.”
“That is okay. I am taking care of it now and one day it will bloom,” the boy responded.
The soccer player laughed deep in his chest at this statement. “How can it bloom when you are cutting the branches off?”
“If I do not remove the old unproductive part of it, it will never bloom. This way it has room to grow and get bigger and better blossoms.”
The group unanimously laughed this time and went on their way to leave the boy to his pruning. The boy was not bothered by their reaction because he knew the hidden potential of this beautiful bush.
The weeks passed by and the soccer star was still unsuccessful in gaining the attention of the baker’s daughter. He became desperate for the love and affection he dreamed about. Every waking moment was spent imagining what could be his. Try as he might, she still seemed to ignore him.
During this time, the bush began to get healthier. It was being pruned appropriately and given the proper care by the young boy. Being one that was aware of his surroundings, the boy loved caring for the plants alongside the road because those were always the ones that needed the most care.
The people began to notice the rose bush and how healthy it looked. Many people were soon adjusting their travels merely to pass by the rose bush on the way to their destination. When the people came by and watched the boy work, he would question them.
“Why are you watching me work? I am no one special in what I do, anyone can do this if they only care about what they are doing.”
Many would leave the young boy to his work because they felt in their hearts that they could never accomplish something so beautiful. Most went away saddened and ashamed, this always confused the young boy.
“Why won’t anyone believe me? It is a very simple matter to care for these plants. It only takes a person to see the condition of the plant and give it what would make it happy.”
The young boy strolled into the village one day to buy some loaves of bread. As he approached the baker’s stall he heard a sob coming from the alley. He turned to find the baker’s daughter crying.
“Why are you crying? It is a beautiful day and yet you have gray clouds over you,” the young boy asked.
“My father is ill and there is no one to bake the bread to sell. I wish I knew how he does it so I could help. We need the money.” she replied.
“Baking bread is a very simple matter. Has he never taught you?”
“I never had any interest in baking bread. I’m afraid I am always distracted by other things.”
“What things?” the young boy asked.
“Attractive young men. They never seem to notice me though. I don’t know what to do to gain their attention.”
“Let’s start by baking some bread. Wipe those tears away and I will show you.”
“That is very kind of you. Although, we can not afford to pay you for your work,” the young lady states.
“Seeing your day brighten will be payment enough.”
The two got started right away. Soon the bakery was alive with the aroma of fresh bread. It smelled, unlike anything the village had ever smelled before. Everyone was curious as to what the baker was up to. By the end of the day, every loaf of bread had been sold. Some even prepaid for the next days batch. It was a very profitable day.
As the young boy gathered up his things he set out to go home empty handed as all the bread had been sold. The girl took notice of this and stopped him before he left and gave him the cut ends off of several loaves.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get any bread today. I want you to have these. Not as payment mind you, but as a thank you for helping me today.”
“I shall accept your thanks.” With that, the young boy put all the end pieces into his sack and turned to go.
“Where did you learn to make bread like that? I never tasted anything like it,” the baker’s daughter asked.
Without turning, he said. “From my father. He told me that someday, I would be able to teach someone I loved how to make it and they would prosper from it. I got to fulfill that today. I am grateful. My father would have been proud.” And with that statement, he left.
The days passed without further incident. The baker got well and was able to continue baking for the village. The baker’s daughter would wave and smile at the young boy whenever she saw him. Her beauty was a very earthy and humble beauty. Even the young boy noticed this about her.
As the time passed the rose bush continued to flourish and began to display some of the most beautiful blooms in all of the area. Even the people that traveled to the next village spoke to one another of the beauty of the bush. There was no equal in the area. The soccer star had also been hearing these stories.
“Could this be the same bush that boy has been fooling around with?” he thought to himself. Curiosity got the better of him and he just had to find out. He walked the short distance to the spot where he had seen the boy before and to his amazement was a beautiful rose bush. It had doubled in size and was completely covered in blooms. “How can this be?” He said aloud.
“It is because of caring love that this bush thrives.” a voice behind him said.
He turned around to see the same young boy standing there with a smile on his face.
“Is this the same rose bush? Has it been replaced with a bigger healthier one? How has this happened?” the soccer star’s questions flew from his mouth.
Grinning from ear to ear the boy says, “Yes. This is the same bush. I have given it what it needs to grow and thrive. It is a simple matter. Has no one ever taught you?”
“No. I never saw the need to know.”
The young boy says, “Come. There is always a need to learn. I will teach you how.” The young boy brought the soccer star to a small bush a little further down the road. “This one will be yours. You will care for it and help it grow to be strong and beautiful.”
The soccer star was very hesitant at first because he was unsure about this new experience. The weeks soon passed and the bush continued to grow. The soccer star soon found himself racing down the road after practice to check on his rose bush. He was learning a great deal from the younger boy and started to think of him as a friend.
“Why is it that you are able to care for these plants even though people like me made fun of it?”
The young boy replied, “It is because I can see the inner beauty of things. Just as I can see the true beauty with people. My mother taught me that.”
“Your mother was very wise. My mother only ever said to achieve what I wanted to by physical means. That is why I learned to excel at soccer. So I could one day be a part of a professional team and earn money for my family.”
“You are blessed to still have your family. Mine have left me alone for many years now.” the young boy said.
“What happened to them? Why did they leave you?” the soccer star inquired.
“They were both bitten by a snake when they went for a simple lunch meal off the road. They did not have a chance to get help before the venom took both of them. The village elders said they looked for them when they did not come home that evening. It was a favorite spot of theirs and that was where the elders found them. The snake was no where to be found, but tracks from it had been found. There was nothing anyone could do about it.”
“I remember that happening. That was your family? I did not know they had any children?”
“I was sent to my uncle’s to live. They taught me what my parents did not. Once I was able to provide for myself, they let me return to live here.” the boy answered.
“You have learned much over the years.”
“One must when providing for himself.” the boy concluded.
The friendship between the two of them grew stronger. Although there was a difference in age, it didn’t affect their friendship. They would share many of their experiences with the other. They soon began traveling together to be with one another more often. The soccer star would go to the younger boy’s home and together they would go to the baker’s stall to get bread for the soccer star’s family. They were always greeted by the baker’s daughter with her brilliant smile.
She was starting to become a very beautiful young lady. It melted the soccer star’s heart every time he got to see her. He would praise her beauty the moment they were out of earshot of her. However, when they spoke with her, he was never able to find the words to speak to her. This disheartened the baker’s daughter because she had noticed that the soccer star had something different about him that she could not figure out. The trio kept this routine for days. The two males met the baker’s daughter, sometimes the older one would stammer out something completely incomprehensible and then the younger one would cover for him. It was beginning to look bleak for the soccer star.
One day as the two were traveling to the baker’s stall, the young boy said to the older that he should take her a rose from his bush.
“My roses are not nearly as impressive as yours. Why can’t I take one of yours?” the soccer star asked.
“It will mean more if it comes from you.”
Reluctantly the soccer star took one of his roses. As they approached the baker’s stall the young boy said under his breath, “Smile. Say nothing and give her the rose.” As they greeted one another in the usual manner the soccer star did as instructed. The baker’s daughter lost her breath when he presented the rose. Everyone was speechless at this point so the young boy concluded the conversation and the two departed on their way.
This new manner continued in the days to pass. The girl began looking for them whenever she heard voices. Many times she was disappointed when it was other villagers conversing as they went by. When the two special people she adored showed up at the stall her heart always soared into the heavens. One was a close friend and the other was someone she wished was something more.
As was the new custom, the soccer star handed her the rose, smiled and said nothing. The baker’s daughter gathered up her courage and asked, “Where do you get these beautiful roses?” As she winks at the young boy. “Does someone I know care for them?”
The soccer star proudly exclaimed, “I get them from the rose bush I care for. Someone taught me how to care for them.”
Disbelieving the girl looked to the young boy for confirmation. The young boy nodded in agreement. The baker’s daughter was speechless, she had completely misjudged the soccer star entirely. He had noticed her for quite some time and she had been unaware.
The next meeting would change everything. With the usual greetings exchanged, the soccer star gave her another beautiful rose from his rose bush. She thanked him for it and went inside for a moment. Returning with the rose behind her ear and a small basket of the most mouthwatering fresh baked bread, she smiled, handed the basket to the soccer star and said nothing.
Removing the towel that covered the bread, the soccer star was shocked at how delicious the bread smelled. “Did your father teach you how to bake this bread? I have never smelled anything like it before.”
Still smiling the baker’s daughter responded, “No. A dear friend taught me how. He said that one day I would bake it for someone and they would be blessed by it. Today I fulfilled that.” She gave the young boy a wink as she said this.
The soccer star was overwhelmed by the baker’s daughter. He soon began talking to her father in secret about marrying her. The baker agreed on one condition: That the young man love his daughter with as much love and compassion as he loved and cared for his rose bush.
It was agreed upon and they were soon wed. The young boy was given the seat of honor at the wedding feast. Everyone was very happy and lived out their years in happiness.