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Journal Christmas story winners

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Abigail's Red Wish- first place winner

By Julie Larose

The snowflakes fell in earnest as the bus stopped at the end of the driveway on the edge of the village in Cardinal. "Finally!" thought Abigail excitedly. "Our yard will be filled with white!"

It was early December, and the seven-year-old girl's thoughts were firmly fixed on Christmas. In her mind, the proper Christmas colours were green, white and red, and she was anxious that her house be decked out to reflect the festive season for all to see.

There was already plenty of green to be found, in the evergreen pines and cedars. Today the fat white snowflakes quickly covered the drab browns and yellows of the gardens and dead grasses. "All we need now is some red," Abigail said thoughtfully.

At supper she asked her parents: "Can we use red lights to decorate the outside of the house?"

"We just bought a brand-new set of white lights last year, Abby," said her father. "We wont be putting red lights up this year."

Outside the window of the school bus, Abigail looked at the Christmas decorations on other houses along the way to school in Prescott. She saw green garlands, wooden nativity scenes, candles in windows, and lots of coloured lights. Finally, she saw something new - a house with large red bows.

"Mommy, Mommy! Can we put red bows on our house?" exclaimed Abigail when she came home. "I saw a house with bows on the windows and porch, and it would be the perfect way to add red to our house!"

Her mother shook her head. "Abby, we don 't have a porch, and there's no way to tie bows on our windows. I'm sorry, but we are not putting bows on our house this year."

When Abigail visited her friend Shelly in Spencerville, she noticed the beautiful wreath on her door. "It's real holly," Shelly said, "my mother ordered it from a florist." Abigail admired the bright red berries on the wreath.

Back home, Abigail brimmed with excitement. "Daddy, can we put a holly wreath on our door?" she pleaded.

Her father frowned. "Holly berries are poisonous, sweetie. If any berries fell and your little brother ate them, he would get very sick. I'm sorry, Abigail, but we are not getting holly this year."

In the morning after breakfast, Abigail brought toast scraps outside to leave for the birds. Chickadees hopped about, tilting their black-capped heads and ruffling their grey feathers. "Even the birds in our yard are boring colours," Abigail said sadly.

The weekend before Christmas, Abigail's family went to the local mall in Brockville. The young girl was awed by the abundance of red, green and white decorations. She and her brother sat on Santa's lap, and he asked her what she wanted. "All I wish for is some some red outside my house for Christmas," Abby whispered.

The big day arrived and Abigail eagerly ran to the window to see if red decoration had appeared on her lawn but, alas, only green and white met her eyes. Nonetheless, her family had fun unwrapping presents and enjoying a big brunch. Afterwards, the young girl slipped on her coat and boots and took some crusts outside to feed the chickadees. As the little birds flitted about in the trees, Abigail caught a flash of colour out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and saw two large scarlet cardinals sitting in a pine tree. One of them swooped down and snatched a crust off the snowy lawn. Abigail giggled with joy as she watched the majestic red birds sitting among the snowy green branches. "Merry Christmas!" she called to them. "Thank you for making my Christmas wish come true!"

END

Ringing in Christmas Eve - second place winner

By Joan Rupert-Barkly

A tear rolled down his cheek as he slipped the gold band off his finger and placed it on the counter. The clerk assessed the value of the wedding ring and offered him some money. Russell quickly stuffed the money in his wallet and walked towards the door of the Pawn Shop. Just as he was leaving he met his next door neighbour Fran making her way into the shop. They exchanged greetings and Russell headed down the street to meet an old friend.

It was a week before Christmas and Russell needed some extra cash so he could buy a special present for his teenage daughter Maggie. Russell had recently retired. Time was long and money was short. He enjoyed helping his neighbours with odd jobs when he could but since he was a proud man he would never accept any money.

His wife, Martha, had been gone for years and he was confident she would approve of what he was doing. After all it was for Maggie. This would be Maggie's last Christmas before she went away to college and he wanted to buy her a laptop.

Russell met his friend just outside the Shakespeare office and as they sat on the bench drinking coffee and watching the Tree Lighing Celebration at the clock tower across the street, they started to reminisce about the past. Russell recalled the Christmas he dressed up as Santa. That was the year his wedding band got stuck in Santa's white glove. When he tried to retrieve the ring by shaking the glove the ring tumbled out on the floor. Before Russell was able to pick it up, their golden retriever came charging by and snatched it. It was Christmas Eve when the dog finally passed the ring.

Russell's friend reminded him about the Christmas tree lot incident. After cutting down a huge tree for the family, Russell discovered that his wedding band was missing. A group of friends spent hours combing the lot in search of the ring. Later that night when they were decorating the tree, Russell found the ring caught on one of the smaller branches.

Russell looked at his watched and realized it was getting late. He wished his friend a Merry Christmas and headed towards his car. As he walked, he thought about all the times he had lost the ring and all the times he found it again. He realized the ring was a symbol of hope and although Martha was gone and Maggie would soon be going off to college, no matter what life threw at him, he could survive. Just like the ring, he could survive. He turned abruptly and ran back to the Pawn Shop.

When he reached the pawn shop, the store was closed and the sign in the window indicated that they would not be reopening until the new year. Russell hung his head in disappointment and headed back to his car. This would be his first Christmas in 25 years without his wedding band.

Christmas Eve arrived a couple weeks later and as Russell finished wrapping Maggie's laptop he heard a knock at the door. He glanced out the window and saw that a number of his neighbours had congregated on his porch. Some of them were wearing red and white Santa Hats and they were all holding sheet music. As they swayed back and forth they sang "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." After Russel applauded their performance, his next door neighbour handed him a small box. Russel opened the box and a tear rolled down his cheek as he slipped the gold wedding band back onto his finger.

END

The Wonder of Christmas in Johnstown & Domville - Third place winner

By Kimberley Filion

My most cherished memories of my childhood were the sounds, sights and smells of Christmas. These were simpler times.

The perfect Christmas was to awake and see the trees covered in pristine white snow or fluffy snowflakes falling gently to the ground.

I didn't get elaborate gifts as some of my friends, but, my presents were nevertheless, loved and from my mother's heart. In the days leading up to Christmas, I wrote my letter to Santa and my mother sent it to the radio station and "Santa" would read chosen letters on the air(CFJR radio station) and respond. I listened attentively in anticipation of his comments. There was also the Santa tracking report. I was so excited!

I brought out my Little Golden Books and read them every season. The birth of Jesus, Frosty and my favourite, Hush Hush It Is Sleepy Time, a book about farm animals settling in for the night in a well taken care of barn, much like my Grandpa Robs. I watched Frosty The Snowman, The Grinch That Stole Christmas and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, among many other animated shows.

I left sugar for the reindeer and cookies and milk for Santa. I had to be in bed early or Santa could not come. The three girls shared a room and the four boys shared another room. On Christmas eve, I could hear the thumping sounds of Santa and his reindeer on the roof (later I was to discover that it was the attic door being lowered outside my bedroom door). Getting to sleep was so difficult, as visions of what might be under the tree in the morning swirled in my head. Up at four am to run to the living room to see what "he" had brought. It was and still is my favourite time of the year! It didn't matter what things were there, because there was always at least one precious thing that I had asked for under our bushy pine tree, decorated with tinsel, icicles and handmade children's ornaments. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the fresh pine tree aroma. We would have a traditional tree hunt for the perfect tree every year.

I say I, but, this experience was also that of my six siblings, me being the oldest.

I still have a beloved baby doll that he brought when I was seven years old! She has a soft rubber head, arms, legs and a stuffed body( I am now fifty six years old).

The fabulous turkey feast that day was also so looked forward to and the smell wafted throughout the house, enticing you to the table.

Then there was the visit to my Grandpa Rob and Grandma Lous in Domville. Where the family would gather to partake in fruitcake and other wonderful homemade treats such as brown sugar fudge, fry cakes and pies. I was a fussy child, so I, to the horror of my Grandma, I always turned these luscious offerings down.

When my husband and I had our three children, I was just as excited to share with them the magic of Christmas. I helped them write their letters to Santa, I stomped on the deck near midnight and left huge snow prints on the back mat. Sugar was left for the reindeer and a beer and some cookies for Santa who sometimes had assembling to do. I knew that they were as excited about the gifts around the tree as I had been when I was a child. Everyone had to be up before anything was opened. Breakfast was a waste of time, as the kids always got chocolate in their stockings...after all, Christmas only comes once a year!

We continue the annual tree hunt.... sometimes its quick and painless and other years it is cold and painful, but it is always great fun. Our tree is usually a blue spruce and its smell fills the air. I make a huge feast for my husband, kids, spouses, grandson, mother and brother-in-law. We stuff ourselves to the brim and revel in the warmth and kindness of the season. We are all exhausted when it is over, with Christmas concerts and family gatherings, but we are thankful for them, as so many are alone during the holidays. A piece of my heart hurts if all of my family isn't together.

The world is a much kinder place with the magic of Christmas!

END

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