Today I bring you part 2 of Katie's Christmas!
Just then Mom's voice came floating out through the door: "Supper's ready; come and get it!"
Joey turned to the door. "Ladies first," he said with a bow.
Katie grinned. "I’m starving!” She walked inside and Joey followed. They walked through the kitchen and entered the living room, where, in their absence, Jerry and the ladies had set up the long table, and Martha and Hope had donned aprons and were helping the boys set the table.
Katie helped Jerry navigate to his end of the table and then vacated to the kitchen to help with the food, where she was promptly shooed to go help the little boys wash their hands.
Katie happily obliged, as she would much rather be with the boys than in the kitchen. She found them finishing the placement of the silverware on the table and took their hands.
“Aunt Katie, why do we have to wash our hands?” Isaac complained.
“Because your parents say so,” Jerry called from his seat beside his twin.
Isaac sighed. “He always says that,” he muttered, and Katie bit her lip to keep from laughing.
After they finished in the bathroom, Katie led the boys to the table and helped Jason climb into his chair.
“What in the world happened to you?” Mom exclaimed. “You’re all wet!”
“Well, that’s what happens when you get two little boys at the same sink at the same time,” Katie said wryly, sliding into her seat, “and when you add an aunt to the mix…”
“‘Nuff said.” Jerry smirked.
Mom held up a hand to quiet everyone. “Jerry, will you please bless this marvelous feast prepared by your sister and wife?” She smiled. “They took care of almost everything; all I had to do was provide the dessert!”
“Sure, Mom.” Jerry stood, smirking, and bowed his head. “Lord, bless this mess, they did their best, and it’s up to You to do the rest. Amen.”
Katie’s head snapped up. “Jeremiah Ryder Judson!” She exclaimed.
Martha rolled her eyes. “Jeremiah, let’s try that again, shall we?” She bowed her head again, waiting expectantly.
Jerry sighed and followed suit. "Dear Lord, we thank you for this day and this wonderful array of food before us. We thank You for Your Son, Whom You sent to be born in a lowly stable and to die on the cross so that we may have eternal life with You. We thank You again, amen." He glanced up. "How was that?"
Mom nodded and picked up the bowl of mashed potatoes. "Thank you, son. Now everyone pick up a dish, get some food, and pass it around."
Katie soon had her plate full and was stuffing the food in her mouth as fast as it would go when Jerry spoke.
"Hey Kate," he said casually, "I was wondering if you'd like to go skating tonight or tomorrow. I promised Isaac I'd take him, and thought you might like to go along."
Katie nearly choked on her food in her haste to swallow. She took a gulp of water and said, "Are you kidding? Of course I'd like to go!" She grinned and placed another forkful of green beans into her mouth, then swallowed hard as a thought crossed her mind. After a moment's hesitation, she added, "Would… would you like to come along, Hope?"
Hope looked up in surprise. "Would you really like me to come along, Katie? I'm sure you'd like to be all by yourselves."
Well, yes, Katie thought to herself, but a quick look at her mother warned her not to voice her thoughts. How does she always know what I’m thinking? "Uh… of course we'd like to have you come," she insisted half-heartedly.
"It'll give us a better chance to get to know you," Jerry added jovially, attempting to lighten the mood he sensed in his sister.
Hope hesitatingly turned to look at Joey. "Do you mind, Joey?"
Joey smiled. "Of course you go. Don't let me keep you from doing something you love so much. And, like Jerry said, it’d give them an opportunity to get to know you more."
Hope turned back to Katie and said, "Thank you so much, Katie, I'd love to go with you!" But in that instant, Katie saw a look on Joey's face she couldn't quite recognize: disappointment, perhaps? Or maybe it was frustration, frustration at not being able to go skating with the woman he loved.
This put a damper on Katie’s mood, but soon after the meal they were on their way and Katie found it hard to keep from getting excited: She was squished in the backseat of Jerry’s car with Hope; Isaac sat between them. Jerry sat at the driver’s seat and Martha, after having been reassured by Joey that Jason would be looked after, sat next to her husband.
At first there was an awkward silence in the car, but then faintly at first so that Katie could barely hear her, Martha began singing.
“Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh…”
Isaac joined her, slightly off-tune, “O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way!”
“Bells on bob-tail ring,” Jerry added to the mix.
“Making spirits bright.” Hope joined in with a beautiful harmony, smiling broadly at Katie over Isaac’s head.
Katie couldn’t resist. She found herself beginning to like Hope very much, and joined in the song: “What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight!”
They sang all the way out to their cousin’s farm, singing songs from Winter Wonderland to Silent Night.
When they arrived at the farmyard, their cousin Abner stepped out of the house and shouted, “Merry Christmas, Judsons!”
Jerry waved. “Merry Christmas, Abner!” He trotted to the porch and Katie watched him converse with Abner for a few moments, then jogged back across the yard. “I told him we were just gonna go skating for awhile and that we wouldn’t bother him,” he explained. “But knowing Abner, he’ll bring us out some hot chocolate later.”
“So you can just come skate here, whenever you want?” Hope asked incredulously.
Katie nodded. “Yep, he’s unmarried but loves company, so he gave us an open invitation.” She grabbed her skates from the backseat and raced to the edge of the pond. She plopped down on the bank and yanked her shoes off, replacing them with her skates.
Jerry flopped down beside her and untied his shoes. Katie watched in fascination as he one-handedly took his shoes off, put his skates on, and tied his skates without any help. How he did this never ceased to amaze her; she couldn’t believe how he had adapted to the use of one arm after the war. A glance to the right told her that Hope was just as captivated.
Martha helped Isaac with his skates, while Katie waited where she was sitting for Jerry to get out and test the ice.
"Be careful," He called from the other side of the pond. "The middle's a bit thin. It might hold, but I don't want to take the chance."
Katie nodded and stood, holding her hand out for Isaac to grab and hauled him to his feet. They ventured out onto the pond, where Jerry met them and grabbed his son's other hand. Hope followed.
After seeing that Isaac was safely secure in his parents’ presence, Katie raced ahead, beckoning for Hope to follow. The two girls skated in synchronization without trying, and Katie felt her heart soaring. She felt as if she could fly, fly away to heaven to be with Dad. Dad. Katie's smile faded, and her eyes became moist.
Hope noticed. "What's wrong, Katie?"
"Oh… I was just thinking about Dad, and how much I miss him." Katie gave Hope a half smile. "I suppose you wouldn't know much about it."
"Oh, on the contrary," Hope said. "My father also died in the second world war."
Katie was speechless with surprise for a moment. "I… I'm sorry," she stammered finally.
Hope bobbed her head. "He was in the Navy; always loved the water." She sniffed, then continued in a voice that cracked. "He… he heard about how the Jews were being persecuted and couldn't stand it. And when he got that draft notice, he felt the Lord telling him to go." Katie saw a tear slide down her cheeks. "He never came back." She sniffed. "I miss him so much."
There was silence, except for their skates swishing across the ice and the shrieks of laughter from Isaac across the pond. Katie's mind was filled with memories of her father, from when she was little up to the day he left for war: the last day she saw him.
She was startled from her reverie by a sharp sound that sent chills down her spine. She realized she had wandered too far towards the middle of the pond and opened her mouth to warn Hope, but her words died in her throat as she felt the ice underneath her give way, and she plunged into the icy water.
The water closed in around her and above her. It filled her mouth, her nose and her ears; panic momentarily seized her. What if I don’t resurface where the ice broke? She thought frantically. What if I drown?
Just then her head broke into the air, and she grasped the jagged edge of ice, and took great gulps of air when she saw Isaac skating towards her. “Look at me, Aunt Katie; I’m going all by myself!”
“No, Isaac, don’t come any closer!” She shouted. It was too late. The little boy suddenly saw the danger and tried to stop himself, but he couldn’t. Katie watched in horror as her nephew somersaulted into the water beside her without a sound.
“Isaac!” Jerry and Martha screamed in unison. Katie saw them skate frantically to the hole in what seemed to be slow motion. She looked beside her and didn’t see the five-year-old. Her heart seemed to stop.
Katie’s hands became numb, and she wished she would have brought better gloves. But there was no going back home to fetch a new pair, and she barely felt her stiff fingers slip from the ice, and she went under again.
So cold, The thought barely registered in Katie’s mind. She felt the icy water numbing her body, and she sensed a blackness hovering near, a welcoming blackness away from the cold. No, Katie. Have… to stay… awake… She barely sensed someone jumping into the water beside her, lifting her up, and she felt cold air on her face, a freezing air. She tried to open her eyes but couldn’t. Finally, everything went black.
I love bluegrass music. It's my favorite style of music. So I hope you enjoy this version of Jingle Bells; I know I did! ;)