Snow at Christmas
"So I guess you will be off to see your family for Christmas. When are you leaving?" Mel asked.
"Actually I was thinking about going up to my cabin and hoping that maybe you might join me you know we could deck the halls and do the chestnuts roasting on the open fire thing" Jay replied.
"I dont know."
"Ahh come on it will be fun, we can hang out, go hiking, make hot chocolate sit in front of the fire itll be great."
"I dont know, Im not much fun during the holidays they kind of make me a bit melancholy."
"All the more reason for you to come with me we can get through the holidays together it would be so much fun."
"You know you dont have to do this."
"Look after me I might be pitiful but you dont have to stay and take care of me Why dont you go home for the holidays? You know the holidays are meant to be spent with family, you have a family, Ive seen pictures, heard stories why arent you going to see them?"
Jay just sat quietly for a moment staring into space her jaw clenching slightly if Mel had not been so consumed in her own inner turmoil she would have seen the pain and known that she had hit some nerve.
Jay turned to Mel and quietly said, "I just thought it would be fun to spend Christmas at the cabin with you. I probably should get going."
Before Mel could formulate a response Jay was gone, quietly shutting the door behind her.
Jay got in her car and started driving suddenly lost in her thoughts, another place, another time. Not until she got home did she remember the small gift she had taken over to Mel, it was a small token gift to mark the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas. While others celebrated the twelve days after Christmas, Jay and her sisters had always exchanged small gifts, notes, cards, phone calls, little reminders that someone was thinking about them during the last couple of weeks before Christmas.
Mel sat staring out of her window. It had been so long since the holidays were happy times. She remembered the last Christmas that she really felt safe, happy, complete. She was 11 years old, sitting with her mother up on the housetop surveying the winter wonderland spread before them. Her mother had always loved the snow, she delighted in the delicacy of each individual snowflake and would just stand with her head turned up letting the snowflakes twirl around her. Mels mother loved life, loved to laugh and seemed to approach the world differently from other parents. Sitting on the rooftop after a snow was just one example. But her mother rejoiced in her world and looking at the world from perspectives others did not. Mel even at a young age had embraced her mothers way of looking at life differently even though it made her outcast to many her age not ready to deal with life outside of the box. Others would stare at them dancing in the snow or sitting on the roof and shake their heads at the pair but Mel didnt care. Her mother was everything. As they sat on the roof that Christmas morning her mother had commented on how beautiful the snow was, how quiet the world was when it snowed and how the snow could soften the sharp edges and cover the dirt and pollution just for a little while. How the snow doesnt get rid of the problems but gives us a break for just a little while, a time to renew or strength and then face it all again.
"When Im gone my beloved I will come to you in the snow"
Mel stepped out in the evening to run to the store and found the small package on her doorstep. It was so small she almost missed the plainly wrapped package with holly and berries glued on top for a bow. The gift was simple a tiny stuffed bear with a collar of jingle bells and note announcing the beginning of Christmas. Mel then noticed the note the package had been sitting on and read it as well. "Im sorry if you took my invitation in a manner not intended. I cant spend the holidays with my family so I thought it would be fun for us to be together. I wont bring it up again but know that if you want to go you are very much invited."
Mel tried to call Jay later in the evening but got the answering machine. Her message was simple, "Thank-you for the gift, call me."
Jay had driven late into the night lost in her thoughts and upon arriving home she went to bed not bothering to check her messages.
Gifts were given the next couple of days, silently left at the doorstep. When Jay finally returned the calls, Mel was more than a little frustrated. "Where have you been? Ive been trying to catch up with you."
Jay really had no good answer where she had been. She could really say she had gotten lost in her thoughts and just returned so she replied, "I guess I took a little trip you know over the river and through the woods. Did you get your gifts?"
"Yes, but that still doesnt explain where youve been"
"Ive just been busy, sorry I didnt get back with you,"
Mel wasnt sure what she heard in the voice over the phone, loneliness maybe? Deciding at that moment if Jay would still have her she would go to the cabin with her.
"So do you think maybe you still would like some company this Christmas?"
"Really, you want to come up the cabin with me?" Mel could hear the smile in Jays voice as she started another story. "You know when we were little my sisters and I used to exchange these tiny twelve days of Christmas gifts. Mom wouldnt let us buy things so we just used things from around the house. Gifts could be anything, pretty paper dolls, tin foil hats, anything. One year I got a bunch of rocks and cut the bells off the cat collars. I glued the bells on to the rocks and"
Mel knew exactly where this was going and interrupted, "Dont tell me, you gave everyone a jingle bell rock."
"Oh yeah I did and they were great, you better watch out that could be your next gift."
"Tell you what, Ill go to the cabin if you keep the jingle bell rock."
Jay laughed and quickly said, "Youve got a deal on that one."
"Goodnight and sleep well."
"It is so beautiful up here. I just love the quiet." Mel commented as they were hiking along one of Jays homemade paths each lost in quiet thoughts enjoying the outside.
Jay suddenly darted ahead up the trail.
"What are you doing?"
Jay didnt answer; she just used her momentum to leap in the air and grab the lowest branch of huge tree and hoisted herself up. Climbing quickly toward her destination. Mel watched from the ground yelling up to her, "you better be careful." Jay had reached her goal and was plucking several green plants growing up in the tree and throwing them down toward Mel. The plants kept getting caught in lower branches so she stuffed some in her jacket pockets and one under the brim of her hat. Then she carefully made her way back down, remembering too late that getting back down was a lot harder than going up the tree. Jay lost her hold on the final branch and landed in a pile next to Mel.
"Oh yeah that felt good good thing I didnt land on you" Jay said as she slowly stood up. "Looks like its gonna be another black and blue Christmas for me" Jay brushed her butt off and flexed arms and legs to see if everything was working.
"Whats wrong with you you could have killed yourself climbing that tree, what the hell is so important that you go off like a crazy woman?"
Jay looked at her with a crooked grin and said "Mistletoe" and then pointed to the piece stuck in her cap. "I love the stuff, it brings back good memories and I was hoping to get to use it, maybe"
"Not after you scared me like that," Mel said as she continued down the trail
"Oh come on, Im O.K. Ive been doing that for years nothing more than some scrapes come on." But Mel wasnt stopping and Jay grimaced as she starting trotting to catch up
Mel did not look toward or say anything when Jay came up beside her and Jay kicked herself for doing the wrong thing again so she did what she always did. She launched into a story. "You know my mom always warned me about doing such foolish things. One Christmas the church had the idea for all the children to be dressed as something from the Christmas story. Mom decided her girls were going to be angels. I begged to be a shepherd, a wise man, the little drummer boy, a camel. I didnt care anything but an angel. She made each of us a white Christmas dress with silver bells sewn around it. I was so mad when I saw the dresses I ran outside and climbed the tree in our backyard I wasnt coming down until she said I could be an elf. Of course that didnt happen. What did happen is that I decided to see how I could go in the tree and ended up falling out. Broke my arm, scraped every visible piece of skin and somehow ended up with a black eye. It took Mom and Dad to get me in the dress but somehow they did it. You know I . . ."
Jay stopped talking when Mel reached up and put her had over mouth, "SHHHHHHHHHH, do you hear what I hear?"
Jay shook her head and mumbled with the hand over her mouth, "I dont hear anything"
"Im sorry, I just start talking and" Jay stopped again when one tiny hand came up to her mouth and another hand silently reached out, took hers and held it as they walked along. Jay not wanting to break the spell walked quietly beside her thankful for the gesture and hopeful that she was no longer in trouble. After a few minutes her fears were relieved when Mel glanced at her and grinned, then straightening the mistletoe Jay still had in her cap leaned up for a gentle kiss.
"Hey this stuff can make you happy" Mel said with a sparkle in her eye.
Upon returning to the cabin Jay began the task of tying her mistletoe sprigs into a bunch and picking out a place for hanging them
"So are you going share some of your mistletoe memories or are they too hot to share," Mel asked.
"No hot mistletoe memories to share yet, I am up for making some though," Jay said with a wink. Jay was quiet for a moment and then smiled, "One Christmas morning, I guessed I was about eight, Anna and I were running around getting ready to go open presents but Carol was just moping around. She was about five, I guess, so you would think she would be the one causing the most ruckus.
I asked her, "Whats wrong with you, dont you remember that Santa came last night?"
She said, "I dont care about that old man, I just want my daddy"
"What are you talking about?" Anna asked.
"I think Mommy doesnt love Daddy anymore."
"Carol, come on, whats wrong with you. I think you had too many cookies last night or something"
"I couldnt sleep last night so I snuck down stairs and I saw her kissing Santa."
She was speaking so softly Anna and I could barely hear her and we both said, "What?"
She then just let out a wail, "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" and fell into her bed in a puddle of tears.
Mom and Dad come running in to see what was going on and just what I had done to make her cry and Dad is wearing red flannel pajamas, a Santa hat and a Santa beard, evidently he had been trying out his costume and the mistletoe the night before.
Carol starts crying harder convinced that dad was gone and Santa Claus had moved in. Needless to say we got it all straightened out and it was a good day. Anna and I sang "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" all day. She really hated that song.
Mel chuckled with Jay and saw again the cloud flicker across her features before her bright eyes returned to her. "So what about you? Do you have any mistletoe memories?"
Mel met Jays eyes, a memory flashed through her head, sitting with her mother in front of the fireplace listening to her mother read the Christmas story. The tree trimmed with homemade ornaments dried flowers from the spring, popcorn strung on string, tiny wreaths made from the holly and the ivy they had found a peaceful safe time.
A pain pricked her heart as she heard her mothers last whisper to her "Remember that you are my beloved and I will come to you, when you least expect it I will come to you. In the spring rains, summer flowers, falling leaves of autumn and the snow of winter I will be there"
Jay saw the hesitation and the flicker of pain. Not wanting to ruin the fun day they had had Jay quickly launched into another story. "You know the first time I kissed a girl was under mistletoe and the first girl I ever kissed was named Noel she was the first Noel of two Noels that I have known. You know Noel is a strange name, you can spell it N-O-E-L or N-O-E-L-L-E but either way theres an L, one or two, but there is no way to spell it with no L. You know that reminds me, my mom always spelled hell, H-E-double L what was that all about, I mean . . ."
"Whoa, Whoa, Jay what are you talking about?" Mel said laughing. "You know you can be so quiet but come Christmas and you turn into a runaway train."
"I guess, Im still just kid, so you ready to decorate the tree its not much but I brought a little artificial tree and some popcorn we could pop and string. Then we could go out and collect some things to make decorations. Pretty silly I know, it could be fun, but if you would rather not"
Mel stared at Jay as she babbled on amazed at the change Jay could go through from the strong confident woman to this adorable little puppy wanting so much to please. "I think it would be a lot of fun to decorate a tree with you.
"Alright then Ms. Randolph or as the season is Christmas maybe I should say Ms. Rudolph lets get cracking," Jay saw the flash again and knowing immediately that she had said something wrong she opened her mouth to launch into another story when Mel spoke very quietly.
"They use to tease me all the time with that name look here comes Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, wheres that crazy mama of yours, is she looking for your grandma, I bet your grandma got run over by a reindeer didnt she? Thats what happens when you sit on your rooftop watching to see if Santa Clause is coming to town, thats it Rudolph run away run, Rudolph run I never gave them the satisfaction of running I would just walk on not saying a word. I never gave them the satisfaction of giving them any reaction. Why is it that to be different you are automatically a target? I would get so angry but mom said just let it go you cant make them understand when they dont want to understand. I never defended us I just walked away and then after she died nothing seemed to matter any more. At the funeral they all came with their parents and I listened to their parents "were so sorry for your lose" and "let us know if we can help" "remember dear we are here for you." I never said a word. I just let them go on thinking that I believed their lies. She died when I was twelve. It was three days after Christmas. I know I should have had time to recover but I lived and was loved more in those first twelve years of life than in these last 24 years. I have never felt loved or safe since she left but she promised me that she would come in the spring rains, summer flowers, autumn leaves and the snow of winter and she would bring a love like a warm blanket in the cold, like a fire in the night that would hold me the rest of my days. I wait but nothing happens, every Christmas I pray for snow, I pray that I will find her in the falling snow of Christmas." Mel stopped and looked up at Jay. In catching her eyes she saw something she had not seen before, her heart gave a jolt and she quickly looked away.
Mel had spoken no louder than a whisper and Jay had had to concentrate hard to hear her words. It took all her self control not to shout "but I am here, I love you, I can make you feel safe, I will be with you for the rest of your days, just open your eyes and see me"
Jay opened her mouth to speak but Mel quickly interrupted, "Jay could you just give me a moment Ill be back, I just," she didnt finish as she stepped through the door on to the porch.
Jay watched through the window as Mel walked slowly down the trail. Jay noted the time and the amount of daylight left and decided that it was best to just leave Mel alone for awhile but if darkness came she would have to go find her.
Jay set about at least trying to make the cabin a cheerier place for Christmas Eve.
Hearing a light footstep on the porch she looked up expecting to see the door open. When it did not she rushed over a looked out to find Mel sitting on the top step. Worried that Mel would be cold and anxious to reconnect with the woman she picked up a blanket and step outside. Carefully she draped the blanket across Mels shoulders. When Mel did not speak Jay turned back to sit in the rocker and waited.
"You know once your family is gone its gone people dont seem to understand that, they say oh Ill see them next holiday or Ill tell them that tomorrow and then tomorrow doesnt come and you are left without them."
Mel didnt see the tears form in Jays eyes. She didnt see them slowly trickle down her cheeks.
"I just dont understand why you chose to come here with me and not spend it with your family."
Mel didnt hear the whispered "please stop"
"One day they will be gone and youll be left," Mels voice trailed off as she heard Jay whisper, "with an empty space in your heart. You pick up to phone to call remember that no one will be there. You see the perfect gift and realize that they are gone. You hear a voice and turn around and it is not who you thought. Your world is turned up side down, it twists and everything changes and you know that it will never be the same. Where once there was a group you realize that you are down to one. You hurt and then you go numb and all you have is memories, memories that no matter how happy they take you by surprise and hurt to have"
Jay had closed her eyes as she spoke, tears silently coursing down her cheeks. She did not hear Mel come up and kneel beside her. She opened her eyes when she felt Mels hand cover her own and then turned her hand so their fingers entwined. "Theyre all gone, Anna, Carol, Mom, Dad. Theyre gone. Drunk driver killed my sisters and mom a few years ago. They were all spending Thanksgiving together and had gone shopping. Coming home a drunk driver crashed into them. No one survived. I had not gone since Dad was having difficulty with my coming out in fact he didnt even call me about the crash. A friend of the family called with her condolences and told me what had happened. At the funeral my Dad spoke to me one time. He said he didnt understand how life worked. His family was taken from him and he was left with one he wouldnt claim. He died the next year of a heart attack"
Mel stood up and then sat carefully on Jays lap offering what comfort she could and in return received the same.
They held each other until darkness fell and the cold reminded them that they were outside. Jay looked at Mel somewhat embarrassed at her lose of control over her emotions and quietly said "Thank-you"
Mel could see into the cabin from where she was and saw the bright fire in the fireplace, the tiny tree, the beginnings of decorations, the gift under the tree.
"No nothing to thank me for. I should be thanking you for this wonderful Christmas celebration. I should tell you though I think I forgot your present."
"No its right here," Jay said as she held Mel a little tighter. "All I want for Christmas is you here with me."
"I just wish it would snow," Mel whispered before she realized it.
"Im sorry if I could give you anything then it would be to make it snow," Jay answered.
The evening passed quietly as the two women finished decorating the tree, at dinner and enjoyed the fire.
"So are you going to let me open my present tonight or do I have to wait until morning?" Mel asked.
"Actually this is the 11th day gift of the twelve days of Christmas so you can open it today and I seemed to have forgotten your Christmas gift as well"
Mel took the box from Jay and carefully unwrapped it. Inside was a shadow box with several items inside. She lifted the hinged glass lid and peered at each item, a small bottle, some dried flowers, preserved leaves and a tiny picture of the two of them. Each area that had something in it was marked with a date and there were several areas left empty.
Jay was unsure of whether Mel liked the gift so she started to explain it. "Its like a remembrance of this past year." She picked up the tiny bottle. "Remember when we met last spring. I was changing my tire in the pouring rain. I was soaking wet and you stopped and held that umbrella over me. I looked up and there you were. I couldnt get you out of my mind. When I got home I caught a little bottle of the rain hoping that I would catch a little of your spirit in case you were an angel coming to my rescue. These flowers are from the picnic we went on last June and these leaves are from our hike in October and this picture is just one I like. I left some room for future memories you can add, maybe one from this Christmas." Jay stopped talking and looked up expectantly at Mel. When Mel said nothing Jay looked down and then feeling uncomfortable started to walk around the room.
Mel looked at the contents, she remembered her mothers words in the spring rains, the summer flowers, the autumn leaves and then she whispered, "all thats missing is the winter snow"
The two sat late into the night snuggled comfortably in front of the fireplace. Jay held Mel gently in her arms staring out the window into the dark and silent night "please, please let it snow," she whispered in a quiet prayer. Bowing her head again she whispered "please".
Two miracles occurred that night, one at midnight and the other shortly after. Jay woke from where the two had dozed off and looked out the window. The moon was bright and Jay thought she saw snow delicately falling. Very gently she disengaged herself from the sleeping woman and peeked outside. Snowflakes were quietly drifting down through the trees.
"Mel," Jay whispered, "Mel wake up."
Mel opened her eyes and glanced around carefully, not sure at first where she was. Then remembering she looked quickly for Jay. Seeing the open door she got up and peeked out. It was beautiful snow was falling through the trees and all around the cabin. Carefully she walked out into the snow, stretching her arms out and twirling in the magic of snow at Christmas. Closing her eyes she turned round and round feeling the flakes lightly touch her face with angel kisses. She remembered her mothers words "I will be with you in the snow at Christmas and I will bring love to you." Opening her eyes she caught Jays gaze and it was like a veil had been lifted and she saw what had been before her the whole time. A love that her mother had sent to hold her the rest of her days.
The recognition of her mothers gift was the second miracle that night. The first was the snow, it came upon a midnight clear. If the women could have seen the sky they would have seen bright sparkling stars, a full moon and a host of family angels smiling as the Christmas gift they had sent was received.
Sleep Melissa Etheridge (Breakdown)
Holly and the Ivy traditional hymn
Goodnight Melissa Etheridge (Skin)
Memories Barbara Striesand
Down to one Melissa Etheridge (Skin)
My Beloved Melissa Etheridge (Breakdown)
1-All I Want For Christmas Is You
3-Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire
4-Deck the Halls
5-Do You Hear What I Hear?
6-The First Noel
7-Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
8-Home For the Holidays
9-I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
10-It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
12-Jingle Bell Rock
13-Let It Snow
14-Little Drummer Boy
15-Over The River And Through The Woods
17-Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
18-Run Rudolph Run
19-Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
22-The Twelve Days of Christmas
23-Up On the Housetop