A Brand New Story
When I was serving Dunsford United Church, my friend, Diane, and I worked together decorating the church. She is the artist and I was the helper. We had such fun together. Sometimes we got carried away with out decorations and still the congregation laid on the praise. Diane also likes to decorate her home, particularly at Christmas. Then she welcomes the church family for all their meetings to enjoy her work. This year I wondered if she would make the effort. She lives alone and could not invite others in to soak in her love and the beauty of her work. When I asked, she said, “Of course, my decorations are a part of my Christmas traditions. Wanting to give her something special, this year I wrote her a story. The characters all but Diane are fictional. The details of the Christmas house are true. Best of all the reason for decorating her home and ours is truth, God’s truth. Diane gave me permission to share her story. I hope you enjoy it.
Miss Diane’s Christmas House
By Janet Stobie
For the last twenty years, we’ve lived next door to the Christmas House. Our wonderful neighbour we call Miss Diane, lavishly decorates her home for Christmas. She lives alone, but there is a constant ebb and flow of friends passing through her door. We’re blessed to be part of that procession.
At every opportunity, my crowd all willingly parade over to visit: Josh, aged 17, Sue, aged 15, DeeDee, aged ten, and my husband Richard. We won’t worry about Richard’s age. Miss Diane is fun. She has tea of every possible variety and a bottomless candy dish that our kids love.
Decorations at her house are always the best. When she was six, our DeeDee named Miss Diane’s home “The Christmas House.” I’ve heard DeeDee brag to her visiting cousins, “It may look like just a nice house from the outside, but it’s more. It’s ‘The Christmas House.’ You should see it,” she said. “There are four Christmas trees. One even plays all kinds of music with a light show dancing in accompaniment.”
One night early in December, Josh looked up from his homework at the dining room table as I walked by. “Mom, have you talked with Miss Diane lately? Has she started setting up her decorations yet?”
“I talked with her on the phone this morning. I didn’t ask, but I doubt she’ll do it this year.”
“What! Why not?” asked DeeDee, from her spot on the couch. “I love what she does. It won’t be Christmas without ‘The Christmas House’.”
Dad closed his computer. “It’s Covid 19. Miss Diane can’t have anyone in. Why would she spend all that time decorating if no one can come to see it?”
“Oh, Dad,” Sue chimed in as she shoved her phone into her pocket. “That’s not why she does it. “
“Really? I’m not so sure,” Richard replied.
“Well, I am. I’ve talked with her,” Sue said. “Miss Diane loves to decorate. She’s an artist, you know. It’s fun for her.”
“It’s a lot of work. I think more work than fun,” her dad answered.
Sue turned to me. “Mom, you tell him.”
I smiled and took a deep breath. “Miss Diane loves to have people come to see her work, that’s for sure.” Richard grinned and nodded. He didn’t say, “See, I told you so,” but he obviously thought it.
“Don’t look so satisfied, Richard. I wasn’t finished. Miss Diane loves beautiful things and her Christmas decorations are lovely. But it’s more than that. Each one has a story. When I helped her pack it all away the year her mother died, she told me a lot of those stories. She talked about each one of the 156 Santa Clauses in her collection. I remember the big Santa Claus face that hangs downstairs is precious because the original was her grandmother’s. Miss Diane had someone make a plaster mold of it, to replicate it before it fell apart.” I shook my head trying to bring back the memory. “You’ll have to ask her for the details. There were so many stories.
We filled over fifty of those large storage bins, full to the brim with decorations. Fifty, and they all had to be carried out to the storeroom in her garage.”
“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating just a little, Mom,” Josh said.
“No, I counted them.”
“All the more reason for no ‘Christmas House’ this year. I don’t know how she does it all by herself,” Richard responded.
Sue jumped in. “I think it’s more than her love of beautiful things, or her Santas. I think Miss Diane does it because she loves the Spirit of Christmas. My favourite part of the whole house is her bedroom. Having a Christmas tree in your bedroom is so cool. Her bedroom is beautiful. I love the stars on the ceiling and the lights on the headboard…” Sue’s eyes gleamed. “I love that room the best.”
Not to be left out, DeeDee piped up. “I love her bathroom.”
“Her bathroom!” Josh teased. “Only you would love the bathroom.”
“It’s the fairies. I love the fairies. And they’re there all year long. They’re from that book mom’s reading to me.”
I added, “Well, I think the villages are fabulous. There’s so much detail and they look like a real village. If we had the space, I’d love to have my own village.”
Richard grinned. “Not much chance of that. At least, as long as this house is filled with kids.”
I saw DeeDee frown. What’s she thinking? Best move us along. “Oh yes,” I added, “I think all those little singing knickknacks, especially the piano playing snowman are really neat.” I got up to look out the window. It’s snowing. It’s even beginning to look like Christmas.
I turned back to my family and our conversation. “Best of all, it’s peaceful. Miss Diane’s house is full of peace.”
“Yes, it is,” Sue said. “Remember, last year you picked up one of her many children’s books and read it to us. I felt Miss Diane’s, no God’s, peace seep down into my soul. It was a book about the many Santas from around the world, and which one was the real Santa.”
“I remember that,” Josh said. “I knew the answer from the beginning, but it wasn’t the words or the book. It was the Spirit. The Spirit of Christmas. That’s why Miss Diane lugs all fifty bins in from the garage. She’s flying on the Spirit of Christmas. I bet she’s done it again this year. I just bet she has.”
“Let’s go over to see,” DeeDee said.
“We can’t,” Josh answered. “Covid 19, remember.”
A tear slipped down DeeDee’s cheek. “Covid 19 is ruining everything. Miss Diane must be so lonely. I wish we could do something for her.”
Sue, who had turned back to her phone, threw it onto the couch as she jumped to her feet. “Let’s go over and stand on her deck and sing Christmas carols.”
“Don’t be silly,” Josh said. “I’m not going to do something stupid like that.”
“Actually, why don’t we?” Richard questioned.
I smiled. My sweet husband never misses a chance to sing. Good thing he’s got such a beautiful voice.
Richard continued. “Miss Diane loves to sing. This is something we can do.”
Josh frowned and shook his head.
Sue looked at him and groaned. “You can stay home if you like, but I’m going.”
“I’ll just give her a call and tell her we’re coming so she can come to the balcony door.” Richard said. “We don’t want to frighten her, traipsing up on her deck uninvited.”
The phone call made, we all, even Josh, bundled up in hats and mitts and boots and masks.
While we had been talking, snow had blanketed everything. We stepped into an enchanted new world. The stars shone. The snow glistened. The yard, the world was pristine and silent.
We marched next door, leaving behind dark footprints in the fresh snow. Richard began singing, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” Our boots thumped along the deck in time with our voices. DeeDee knocked on Miss Diane’s door. She was there waiting, her mask in place.
We didn’t know all the verses of all the carols, but we sang what we knew, laughing when we went off key. When we stopped, Miss Diane opened the door. We couldn’t see her smile but we knew it was there in the sparkle of her eyes.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “Please peek inside. You’ve got your masks.”
“You did it. You did it,” DeeDee exclaimed. She turned to her dad. “See I told you Miss Diane would make ‘The Christmas House’. I knew it.”
“We’d love to come in, but we can’t,” Richard said.
Josh interrupted. “Yes, we can. Well, we can see the decorations. Get your I-pad, Miss Diane, and show us around virtually.”
Miss Diane frowned and shrugged. “I don’t have one. I don’t do that stuff.”
Before she could continue, Josh said. “That’s okay. I’ll go get mine. It’ll only take a moment.” Without waiting for an answer, he bounded back down the deck.
Sue yelled after him, “Get mine too.”
Miss Diane kept shaking her head no. “I don’t know how to use it.” She said.
“It’s ok,” Sue said. Josh will set it all up. All you’ll have to do is point it like a camera and talk out loud to us just as if we were standing beside you. I’ll open up mine and we’ll see everything that you point Josh’s I-pad at. It seems strange, but it will work. Trust me.”
Can Miss Diane trust a teenager? I sure hope so. I thought.
“Could you put the piano player to work while we wait on Josh?” I asked. She readily agreed.
Josh returned in what seemed like seconds, holding both I-pads high over his head. He readied his. Sue set up hers. Josh cleaned his carefully with a disinfectant wipe. He looked over at me. “See, Mom,” he said. “I remembered.”
Carefully he handed the I-pad to Miss Diane. Sue held up hers and explained where the camera was and how to hold Josh’s. Miss Diane gave it a try.
After a moment, she began to relax. “This is fun,” she said. “Well. What will we see first?”
DeeDee shouted out, “The bathroom. Show us the fairies.”
We all laughed out loud. “Ok,” Miss Diane said, “Let’s begin.”
And she did. Slowly and carefully, she went round her house, “The Christmas House,” pointing the I-pad and telling her stories.
While we watched and listened, I thought, Yes, this is “The Christmas House”. And not just because Miss Diane decorates so beautifully. This is a house of peace because Miss Diane is God’s precious child. She loves Christmas and this is her gift to the baby Jesus. She knows who God is.
Our feet were getting mighty chilly when Miss Diane stopped at the angels near the door. Somewhere along the way, she had found a basket and filled it with Christmas treats. She handed the basket and I-pad to Josh.
To Sue, she handed the Christmas book about who is the real Santa. “This is for all of you,” Miss Diane said. “Thank you so much for coming tonight, for singing, for standing in the cold for a virtual tour. I needed you to come so much, especially tonight. You have been God’s angels to me. Thank you.”
“We needed you, too,” I said. “Thanks for giving us your ‘Christmas House’ all these years, especially this year. You’ve given us God’s message. Jesus will be born even this year, into the midst of Covid-19. God bless you, our dear neighbour. Merry Christmas.
Even with the Lockdown and Covid 10
We can celebrate Christmas
We can read the Christmas story in our Bible
We can ponder God’s gift of love in our hearts
For Jesus is born with every child
God comes among us in every person
There are angels and shepherds and even
Wise Ones—Men and Women
Who live among us bringing gifts.
Have a blessed Christmas filled with God’s Joy
Love and Prayers to all my readers, Janet