By: Chester Carl Ambrose
Snow had come in time to make it a white Christmas in the small village of Barrington, Vermont. In fact, it had snowed on and off for the last three days prior to Christmas Eve. Snow was deep. It was blown into snowdrifts four to five feet high. The village looked like a picture postcard of an idyll Christmas scene. But there was a problem, the heavy snow on the roads to come to a stop. Children of the village were worried. How could Mr. Nathan Jackson, the storyteller, make it to the village’s Christmas Eve celebration?
It was a grand night, full of traditions. The village Christmas tree was selected from the ample pine forest that covered the hillsides surrounding this picturesque village. The tradition was that the sixth grade pupils would be the ones who selected the tree. Their families would set up the tree on the stage in the large community hall. The tree was decorated each year with special ornaments. These ornaments had special meaning to the villages because they demonstrated stories told by Mr. Nathan Jackson.
Christmas Eve the community hall was full. Grown –ups had gathered to the rear of the hall, while the children took up their customary positions in front of the stage. Many of them on the floor with pillows, blankets or just heavy jackets to soften their seats on the hardwood floor.
The children were all hopeful that Mr. Jackson would make it to the Christmas Eve celebration. He hadn’t missed a year since he started story telling in 1969.
Children and adults all had the storyteller on their minds. Conversations through out the great hall centered on stories that were told in past years. Everyone had a favorite. When groups of people agreed on a particular story they would share their remembrances by saying, “ Do you remember when he told the story about…yes, it was 1969 when he first told the special story about the Christmas treehe called it the ‘tree of life’.”
“…And do you remember how he told the story about the star window in our church. The star was just an ordinary clear glass but it turned magically into a gold star on the Christmas Eve in 1987.”…..
“…Oh yes, my favorite story was the one about the train that overcame many problems to bring us Christmas gifts from distant relatives. That was the year story of 1974 or ’75…whatever…it was a good story…and don’t forget the funny one that us how Santa Claus’ beard had grown so long.”
The telephone on the wall of the community center rang. All talking stopped so that Mrs. Anderson could answer it. “Oh no!” said Mrs. Anderson. “That is too bad,” she continued. “You did! They’re on their way? All right…our best to Mr. Jackson. Thank you.” She hung up the phone.
“What was that all about?” asked the town mayor. Mrs. Anderson said the call was Mrs. Jackson, Nathan’s wife. She said he was too ill to make the trip. However, she said that she made something for us. It will be a story gift for the year.
“What is it?” asked the mayor.
“She didn’t say.” Answered Mrs. Anderson. “ She said their son and nephew are bringing it..”
One of the children spoke up. “How will they get here? The roads are all covered with snow!”
Mrs. Anderson turned to the questioning child and said, “Christopher, they will be coming by a horse drawn sled and they are already on their way.” Suddenly sleigh bells were heard outside! It sounds like they were here! The son and the nephew walked to the front of the hall, up the steps to the stage. They unfolded the quilt. The son pointed out the tree of life… the church’s golden star…. Santa’s’ long beard.
The son then spoke. “I don’t think that my father will be telling any more stories. But he did want my mother to include other patches in the Christmas quilt— of untold stories: so that in the future years the quilt can be hung for all to see. Old remembered stories could be retold. Imagination could be used to tell new stories. Mrs. Anderson… could you tell me the story about your favorite cookie jar. Mr. Johnson, how about your wood shop and the rocking horse you made for your granddaughter and grandson. And your Mr. Mayor…about the year we had no Christmas snow. You made snowmen out of straw and bed sheets.”
Turning to the crowd the son continued. “Do you see your story in my mother’s Christmas quilt? Close your eyes and think about it!”
To this day the stories in Barrington, Vermont have a special meaning to all who hear them. I now charge you parents to gather your family on Christmas Eve…share your traditions…your love…but also His love—- who came to us as an ordinary baby so many years ago. And that is the end of my story.
Chester Ambrose was affectionately known as “The Storyteller of Rancho Bernardo” in California. This story first appeared in 2006.