Christmas Story

Diamonds in the Snow

By L.E. McCullough

© L.E. McCullough 1996

_____________________________________________________________

JIMMY, JANICE AND JEAN burst into the living room where Grandpa sat tuning his guitar, waiting for Grandma’s call to Christmas dinner.

“Grandpa, Grandpa!” shouted Jimmy, shaking a pair of gaily-colored Mexican maracas. “This is the most fun musical instrument I ever played!”

“Look at this story book, Grandpa!” said Janice. “The pictures are so beautiful!”

“Sit still, Grandpa,” said Jean, “and I’ll make a picture of you with my new paint set!”

“That’s wonderful, kids,” replied Grandpa. “Santa Claus was very generous to you all this year.”

“He sure was,” said Jimmy. “And we got so much more, too.”

“You must have all been very good this past year,” Grandpa chuckled.

“We were extra very good, Grandpa,” agreed Janice.

“Even me!” piped Jean.

“Well, I’m happy to hear that,” Grandpa said. “I reckon I was pretty good, too. Grandma was able to talk Santa into bringing me some new strings for this old tunebox.” He strummed a bright chord on the guitar, a chord that rang out like a silver bell through a mountain mist and set his mind traveling back to the Christmases of his own boyhood.

“What kind of presents did you get when you were young, Grandpa?” asked Jimmy.

“Did they have big toy stores back then?” asked Janice.

“All decorated for Christmas by Halloween?” asked Jean.

Grandpa laughed. “Christmas was pretty different when I was your age. Sit down by the fireplace there, and I’ll tell you a story about the best Christmas I ever had.

“It was 1945, and I was nine years old. We lived in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. It was a beautiful place, and I loved being around all the animals and trees. But it was a sad time for our family. My daddy had died at the Battle of the Bulge that year, and my mother had been laid off from her job at the textile mill in October. The food on our table, we grew in the garden patch behind the cabin. Pa’s older sister, Aunt Leddy, boarded with us and brought in a little money from her teacher’s pension. But it didn’t look like Santa Claus was going to visit our house this year. . .

………………

“TAYLOR, YOU might as well stop mooning over those stockings and finish the rest of your chores,” said Mother, who was sewing up the holes in a pair of my school britches.

“Yes, ma’am. I was just wishing—”

“Wishing won’t fill those stockings, son. I shouldn’t have even let you put them up, they’ve become such a distraction.”

Aunt Leddy looked up from her book. “If wishes were fishes, I’d be Queen of the Deep Blue Sea. And all the little fishes—”

“—with all their little wishes, would come wishing and fishing to me,” finished Taylor.

Aunt Leddy and Taylor laughed with such joy, even Mother couldn’t help joining in.

There was a loud knock at the cabin door. “Who’s there?” called Mother.

“Sheriff Howard, ma’am! And it’s mighty cold!”

Mother opened the door, and the Sheriff came in, stamping his frozen feet and shaking snow from his hat and coat. Undeneath his left arm he carried a large sack of flour. “Hooo-eee!” he exclaimed. “That is some blizzard!”

“You shouldn’t be out in this weather,” said Mother.

“I won’t be out long,” replied the Sheriff. “The road into the hollow is near closed up with snow. I can just about make it home for supper.”

“What are you doing with that sack of flour?” asked Mother.

“Well, ma’am, Parson Potter said you might be running short on essentials, and. . . after all, it is Christmas Eve.” He laid the sack of flour on table and tipped his hat. “From our family to yours.”

A frown crossed Mother’s face. “No, no, we couldn’t. . . Taylor, pick up the Sheriff’s flour and hand it back to him! Taylor!”

But Sheriff Howard had already turned and reached the door. “Merry Christmas, y’all!” He stepped back out into the whistling blizzard, and the door closed with a thud.

Mother stared at the flour sack, her eyes downcast. Taylor walked over to her and touched her hand.  “Now that we got flour, we can bake some cookies, can’t we, Mother?”

“Maybe tomorrow,” she sighed. “I’m going to turn in early. Good night.” She kissed the top of his head and walked slowly from the room.

“Good night,” said Taylor.

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” said Aunt Leddy.

Taylor went over to the mantle and straightened the empty stockings. “Aunt Leddy, do you believe in miracles?”

“Believe in miracles? Course I do. . . they happen all the time!”

“Really?”

“Why, this very book is full of miracles!”

Taylor rushed over to her chair and lifted up the book to read the title. “The Wonderful World of Cats,” he read.

“Why, surely! You ever watched a cat, Taylor? Studied it real close? Watched it stretch out in the sun, or jump ten feet in the air, or climb a tree, or even sit and just purr, whiskers twitching like some invisible hand is brushing them to and fro? Why every one of those things is a miracle! Every thing any one of the Earth’s creatures does is a miracle, every minute of every day. Taylor, the world is full of miracles, if you know where to look and how to see them.”

“I reckon they’ve run out of miracles in this hollow,” Taylor answered. “At least for this Christmas.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. You haven’t seen any diamonds yet, have you?”

“Diamonds? What diamonds?”

“Why, the diamonds in the snow. Come here to the window.”

Aunt Leddy rose from her chair and walked to the window. “Look out there,” she pointed. “What do you see?”

Taylor peered intently into the darkness. “Can’t see anything. Just snow. Miles and miles of snow.

“That’s right. And what do you see in the snow?”

“More snow?”

“Look again, boy! Close!”

Taylor screwed up his eyes and looked into the deepening snow drifts as hard as he could. “Gosh, Aunt Leddy, what am I supposed to see besides snow?”

“Diamonds in the snow. Diamonds in the snow on Christmas Eve are the footsteps of where an angel is walking. And if you see them glitter, you might get a wish granted.”

“Real diamonds?”

“I said, might. And only if you really believe. Don’t they teach children anything useful in school these days?”

She turned away and went back to her chair. Taylor continued to stare out the window. “Diamonds in the snow,” he whispered softly. “Angel footsteps. . . all this snow. . . Santa is never going to find his way into the hollow with all this snow. . . ”

As the clock began to strike midnight, Aunt Leddy was asleep in her chair. Taylor had curled up on the rug in front of the fireplace, lulled to sleep by the sound of the stormy wind whistling down the chimney. Suddenly, he woke with a start.

“Who’s there?” he called.

He heard a loud thump outside the window. Then two more thumps, even louder. Taylor rose to his knees, crouching as another pair of thumps sounded. “Mother? Aunt Leddy? Who’s there?”

A wild flurry of whistling wind answered him. . . and then silence.

Taylor yawned and rubbed his sleepy eyes. “Gosh, that was the strangest dream. . . something about diamonds and somebody walking in the snow. . . snow!”

He ran to the window. “Look at that moon! It’s so clear, so bright. . .” He stared at the silvery, sparkling snow, then jumped into the air and shouted with joy. “It can’t be. . . no! Yes! There they are! The diamonds! The diamonds in the snow! Mother! Aunt Leddy! Come quick! Come see the diamonds in the snow!”

Mother and Aunt Leddy were at his side. “Taylor!” scolded Mother. “What in the world are you doing up? It’s not even daybreak.”

“All up the hill and down the hollow!” Taylor replied. “Do you see them?”

Mother gazed out the window. “I’m sorry, son. What am I supposed to see?”

“The diamonds!” cried Aunt Leddy. “Taylor’s seen the diamonds in the snow!”

“Now, Leddy, I don’t know why you fill his head with that nonsense. Taylor, you go back to bed now, and — my word!”

Taylor had dashed to the mantle and taken down his empty stocking. Except that now it was full.

“Great jumping jellybeans!” declared Aunt Leddy. She and Mother watched in amazement as Taylor emptied the stocking, pulling out a baseball, an ink pen, a bow tie, a harmonica, a fistful of coins and a half dozen lumps hard sugar candy.

“Santa Claus did come!” shouted Taylor. “He followed the diamonds in the snow!”

Mother rushed to the table, and Taylor handed her a stocking. “Here, Mother. See what’s inside your stocking.”

Taylor held the stocking up for her, as she carefully reached in. Slowly, she drew out a lavendar silk scarf, a gold lipstick dispenser and makeup case, a mother-of-pearl hair barrette and a shiny new wrist watch.

“It’s a miracle!” she cried, hugging Taylor as tears of joy streamed down her face. “It’s a miracle!”

“You all seem so surprised,” remarked Aunt Leddy. “Miracles didn’t get invented yesterday, you know.”

Taylor handed Aunt Leddy the third stocking, but the old woman refused. “I already know what’s inside my stocking.”

Taylor laughed and reached into the stocking. As he groped inside, his face darkened with disbelief, then despair — there was nothing inside! “Aunt Leddy! Your stocking is. . . empty!”

Aunt Leddy grabbed the stocking and shook it at him. “Silly boy! This stocking isn’t empty! It’s chock-full . . . full of my three Christmas wishes! And no use asking me what they are, because I’m not going to tell you! But you’ll know what they are, the day they come true.”

Taylor and Mother hugged Aunt Leddy, and they all three laughed and hugged and laughed and hugged till the Christmas morning sun came up over the MOUNTAIN. . .

………………

After Grandpa had finished the story, Jimmy, Janice and Jean sat in silence for several seconds. Finally, Jimmy spoke up. “Golly, Grandpa, that’s a really neat story!”

Grandpa smiled. “It was one Christmas I never forgot.”

“Did Aunt Leddy ever get her three wishes?” asked Janice.

“I believe she did,” replied Grandpa. “You might say you three grandkids are living proof.”

“Did you ever see any more diamonds in the snow?” asked Jean.

“I’d like to think I did,” said Grandpa. “It seems the older I got, my eyesight went a little bit weaker each Christmas Eve. But even if I can’t see those diamonds anymore, that’s not to say they’re not there for somebody else to see. Someone who believes in miracles. Someone like you.”

He strummed a chord on his guitar. “Here’s a song about that very night — Diamonds in the Snow.

Grandpa started singing, and they all sang together until Grandma called them for dinner.

Wood stove is a-blazing; children, gather round;
It’s time for story telling; snow is on the ground.
Put a log into the fire; and, lo, we’ll warm our souls;
Watch the night’s full moon a-rising, see the diamonds in the snow.

And it’s diamonds in the snow, wrap yourselves up tight.
Spending Christmas with your loved ones as the stars they shine so bright.
Time is oh so precious with family and friends,
And it’s diamonds in the snow, it’s Christmas once again.

Once there was a Christmas, it was many years ago;
St. Nick couldn’t see the houses of the families down below.
He looked into the night sky, and he winked up at the moon;
He followed the shining road map of the diamonds in the snow.

And it’s diamonds in the snow, wrap yourselves up tight.
Spending Christmas with your loved ones as the stars they shine so bright.
Time is oh so precious with family and friends,
And it’s diamonds in the snow, it’s Christmas once again.

He landed on the rooftops spreading lots of love and joy
To the people in many nations, all little girls and boys.
And the magic of that Christmas still warms our hearts and souls,
And if you look outside the window, you’ll see the diamonds in the snow.

And it’s diamonds in the snow, wrap yourselves up tight.
Spending Christmas with your loved ones as the stars they shine so bright.
Time is oh so precious with family and friends,
And it’s diamonds in the snow, it’s Christmas once again.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

First published in Stories of the Songs of Christmas by L.E. McCullough, 1997, Smith & Kraus. [looks like it’s still in-print — http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Songs-Christmas-L-McCullough/dp/1575251167]

The story was inspired by a wonderful song “Diamonds in the Snow” composed and performed by David Levine on his Dance of a Child’s Dreams album that also featured Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. I heard it on the album, and David graciously let me use it to spin a holiday yarn.

Find it here:  http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Childs-Dreams-David-Levine/dp/B000008PB6

Check David’s site at http://davidalevine.com. Years ago he created an entire anti-bullying curriculum and today he is a teacher, author and musician who has been working with school systems across the United States and abroad since 1984.


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