Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A CHRISTMAS HAT synopsis

LOGLINE
The magic of music and Christmas can bring new love.

PITCH
Music knows what magic needs to be done, and Christmas is the time for love. Milliner and widow Augusta Brown wants a new life and thinks she’ll move to Boston and open a dress company, but her friends urge her to open up to romance instead and start dancing again to the Victrola as she and her late husband had done—especially at Christmas. When a handsome gentleman comes to her hat shop to buy a Christmas hat for his sister, the Victrola mysteriously starts playing Augusta’s favorite Christmas carol, leading to introductions and shy explanations that both Augusta and Andrew Knight are single. Andrew returns for the special hat, the Victrola picks right up with the music and Andrew asks Augusta to dance . . . a dance that continues for many happy years together with that special carol every Christmas Eve.     

SYNOPSIS
A Christmas hat, a magic Victrola, and a special carol create dance and romance. Augusta Brown is a milliner in Philadelphia with a shop in front of her elegant home displaying seasonal hats of every kind: pillbox, cloche, peach basket, fascinator—feathers fixed to a comb, and large-brimmed hats. Her stunning Christmas display features a red and white hat atop a well-lit tree. Her late husband encouraged her weekly ladies club and bought a Victrola that he and Augusta used to dance to, especially “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” at Christmas. With him gone she spends Christmas holidays alone, and the Victrola sits unused in a corner.

Yearning for something new, August feels like moving to Boston and opening a dress company but her friends urge her to open up to romance instead. When a handsome gentleman enters the shop, the Victrola starts playing “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” startling Augusta, who explains it hasn’t played since her husband passed away. Andrew Knight introduces himself and orders a hat for his sister. Augusta tells him to come back for it the Friday before Christmas.

Augusta works all week on the bright red hat—and makes sure the Victrola is covered and in the corner. She tells the machine that it is the Friday before Christmas, and there is to be no funny business. As Andrew opens the shop door that afternoon, the Victrola begins playing right where it left off. In an awkward moment, Andrew asks Augusta if she cranked the Victrola this morning. While explaining that she hadn’t touched the Victrola, Andrew takes the hatbox and holds it at his chest. He wanders around the shop, admiring Augusta’s store. Then he finally turns and asks if she would like to go to Christmas Eve dinner with him and his family. After mumbling “yes,” he tells her to be ready after closing her shop on Christmas Eve.

When Andrew arrives at Augusta’s door late Christmas Eve, the Victrola begins playing again. As Augusta rushes toward the Victrola to turn it off, Andrew takes her hand and twirls her in a circle. Augusta reluctantly rests her head on his shoulder through all five verses of the carol. Although she puts up a fuss for months, Augusta never buys a train ticket to Boston to start a dress company. She stays in Philadelphia with her hats, spending each Christmas with Andrew as her husband, dancing to the Victrola. Augusta is grateful for the midnight hour when love itself became clear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Toy Trains: The Story of the Christmas Railroad

“Re-joice! Re-joice! Again, I say re-joice!” said Joyce Trewyn’s father, sounding like a train whistle.
For many years, her father was a train conductor on the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad.
During the Christmas season, he walked around the house with his conductor hat, hanging lanterns at the windows.
Every Christmas Eve, he would hang his largest lantern on their front porch next to their holly wreath.
Before anyone exchanged presents, he insisted on setting up his toy train beneath the Christmas tree.
“Joyce, it’s time to put up the Christmas Railroad. I need your help. I can’t do it without you!” he said.
“Dad, I’m putting on my pajamas,” Joyce said, calling from her bedroom. “I’ll be right there.”
Even at age eleven, Joyce hadn’t grown tired of watching her father set up the toy train for Christmas.
Not only had he handpicked the locomotives, coal cars, train cars, boxcars, caboose, and trolleys,
but he also set up the track on the railroad and hand-painted every snowy building and mountain.
Each road, sign, pavement, and sidewalk looked like a miniature version of the real thing with trees and rocks.
After winding through a downtown area with its own Grand Central Terminal, station platform, shops, and street lamps, the train chugged up a hill past a coaling station and through a covered bridge into a village.
The Christmas village decorated with colorful lights had homes, schools, churches, lakes, and rivers with green scenery.
A water tower stood in the middle of the train set. Of course, it became a snow tower in the winter.
“Don’t forget about the people who ride the train!” Joyce said, running down the stairs in her red and green striped Christmas train pajamas. She wore her own conductor's hat. “Here are the passengers! Don’t leave anybody behind!”
She handed her father a plastic bag of people who would soon get the ride of their lives.
“I’m coming with the hot chocolate!” Mrs. Trewyn said. “Serving up marshmallows, cocoa, and whipped cream!”
As Joyce helped her father set up the train set, piecing together the curving train track, her mother watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” on television in black and white.
The train’s radio-controlled transmitter had its own station and speakers where it played Christmas carols as the train ran.
“This is my favorite thing to do at Christmas!” Mr. Trewyn said, drinking hot chocolate while running the toy train. “Re-joice! Re-joice! Again, I say re-joice.”
“Now the train has to pick up the people,” Joyce said, stopping the train for each person who needed a ride.
“Be careful!” her father said, watching Joyce zoom the train faster than it should run on its brittle tracks. “Try not to get the train into an accident!”
“Don’t worry, Dad! It’s all under control,” Joyce said, slamming the brakes on the train.
“Well, then, I’m going to bed now,” her father said, yawning. “Tomorrow will be an early morning. There are Christmas presents to open!”
After Clarence the angel had finished saving George Bailey in the film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Mrs. Trewyn turned off the television and headed to bed with her husband.
“I’m staying up a little longer,” Joyce said, running the locomotive full speed ahead.
“Just don’t stay up too late,” her mother said, kissing Joyce on the head.
Only minutes after both her parents were asleep, Joyce ran the locomotive off the train tracks, hitting the covered bridge, which toppled the water tower and collapsed the entire train set, closing Grand Central Terminal.
The locomotive smoked, blinking its headlight, and the caboose lost a wheel.
“Oh no!” Joyce said, gasping. “What am I going to do now? I have to fix this by morning. Dad will be so angry!”
She ran into the storage closet, pulling out the paint, brushes, glue, foam, wood, screwdriver, and hammer.
“How am I going to fix this?” Joyce said, looking at her supplies. "I think I need an angel, like in the movie Mom was watching on TV." 
Tears filled Joyce’s face, as the railroad transmitter still played Christmas carols.
“Angels, if you can hear me, could you stop doing what you’re doing now, and come help me fix the Christmas Railroad?” Joyce prayed. “I smashed it big time. Thank you. Yours truly, Joyce.”
All of a sudden a cold breeze blew the family room window open, blowing the curtains to the ceiling.
Joyce ran to shut the window, only to be greeted by an elderly-looking man, trying to climb through the window.
“Who are you?” Joyce said. “I can only let you in the house if you're an angel.”
“I’m Gabriel,” the angel said. “I’m a Christmas angel that works extra hours on Christmas Eve.”
“Gabriel? Yes, I’ve heard of you,” Joyce said. “You should try to get your own movie.”
“Maybe we can work on that together,” Gabriel said. “Right now, we need to fix your train set, so it works by morning.”
“Okay, but why don’t you have any wings?” Joyce said. “How do I know that you’re not a burglar?”
“I can tell you all about it, if you just let me crawl through the window,” Gabriel said, putting one leg after the other in front of him, handing her a new locomotive.
“Be careful not to hurt yourself. I guess you’re not a thief, or you wouldn’t come with gifts,” Joyce said.
For the next five hours, Joyce and Gabriel painted, glued, and hammered, emptying every toy train box from Gabe’s bag.
“The Christmas Railroad looks new!” Joyce said. “My dad will think it’s my Christmas gift to him.”
“I don’t usually play with trains, but even the smallest tragedies can be turned into something good,” Gabriel said, cleaning up the last bits of the mess. “Now I have to leave before your parents find out I was here!”
“Do you think you could come back every year? I’ll keep the window open at Christmas!” Joyce said.
“I’ll try my best,” Gabriel said. “If someone else needs me on Christmas Eve in an emergency, I’ll have to visit you another night.”
“Every time I play with the toy train set, I’ll think of you,” Joyce said, hugging him.
Then Gabriel crawled back through the window. “Remember, God’s angels are always nearby, even if you can’t see them!”
A flash of light blinded Joyce for a moment. She could no longer see Gabriel.
“Where did you go?” Joyce said, poking her head out the window and looking for Gabe.
“Merry Christmas! Joyce, you’re awake already,” Mr. Trewyn said. “Are you trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue? Cold air is coming inside the house!”
Joyce closed the window and turned around to find her mother and father in their Christmas pajamas and robes.
“Wow! You spent all night renovating the Christmas Railroad as my gift. I love it!” her dad said, kissing her. “Re-joice! Re-joice! Again I say re-joice!”
“I knew I heard noise last night,” her mother said. “You would have thought it was Santa Claus jumping down the chimney!”
“It was the angel Gabriel,” Joyce said. “I prayed and got an angel. It worked on TV.”
Both Joyce’s parents gave her a funny look, thinking she must have had an extra large imagination on Christmas morning.
“Come on!” Mr. Trewyn said. “I’m the conductor! The train has a lot of people to pick up! We can’t be late!”
Joyce and her father rejoiced all Christmas day that the Christmas Railroad was open for business, working better than ever.
Everyone arrived to his or her destination right on time.

Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Snowflake Blizzard: The Story of a Flurry Christmas Visitor

“Cracker jacks and crimson! Why do you have to be so mean?” Scarlett Lee said in her 10-year-old tough-girl voice. “It’s Christmas! Why can’t everyone just love each other?”
At Christmastime, Scarlett liked to wear every shade of red—crimson, carmine, ruby, rusty red, fire engine red, cardinal, maroon, dark red, redwood, fire brick, and barn red—to name a few, but primarily the color of her name. 
She dressed like an elf in a wool winter dress, hat, and pointy shoes with jingling bells.
Her parents, brothers, and sisters made fun of her elf outfit and poked her in the side and pinched her ears and cheeks.
“Why do you have to dress like that?” her father said on Christmas Day, burping. “Can’t you just take your gifts, eat some turkey, and knock it off?”
Scarlett’s three brothers and two sisters crammed their faces with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries at dinner.
The Lee family was not exactly a storybook lesson in Christmas love.
Scarlett’s parents hadn’t held hands in years, and her siblings were rowdy and wild.
Everyone in Boston knew that Scarlett was filled with joy, but the Lee family was less than gracious. This Christmas was no different. 
When Scarlett turned around, her oldest brother Nathan ran his remote control car all through the kitchen, smashing it into the wall.
Then he backed it up and ran it over Scarlett’s pointy shoes while throwing food at the wall.
“Ouch! Watch where you’re going with that car!” Scarlett yelled as Nathan dove in her direction, wrestling her to the ground.
In the background, the kitchen television was blaring with the news of a car hijacking, and rap music sounded at maximum level from the living room speakers.
After Nathan punched Scarlett in the arm, bruising her, she nearly escaped.
When the phone rang over into the answering machine, she stuck her fingers in her ears, crying.
“My arm is going to be purple and green where he hit me!” she said, looking at her mother cry while doing the dirty dishes alone.
“This is not Christmas! It’s chaos. Even I can figure that out!” Scarlett yelled.
Next to the lopsided Christmas tree sat reams of crumpled wrapping paper and empty toy boxes.
“Why don’t we play board games together? Or maybe we can sing some Christmas carols by the fireplace?” Scarlett said. “Why can’t we be a family?”
“What do we want to do that for?” Nathan said. “I have to get the rest of my gifts from Gramps. He still owes me at least $100 for Christmas. He should have been here hours ago.”
“He’s probably afraid to come over and decided to stay home,” Scarlett said, grabbing her winter jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves.
“There’s a blizzard outside,” Scarlett’s father said, burping again. “Don’t go out there. You might freeze to death!”
“Maybe I’ll build an igloo and sit in it,” Scarlett said. “It would be better than listening to everyone argue and fight on Christmas Day!”
Despite her father’s protest, Scarlett headed into the snowy outdoors, slamming the front door shut, and the whole house shook.
One snowflake fell after the other, creating a windy winter blizzard.
“Why can’t Christmas just be fun?” she said, plopping herself on the cold winter ground.
Up to her ears in snow, Nathan and her mother peered at her from the window inside the warm house.
Nathan stuck out his tongue at Scarlett and made an ugly face that no one would want to see.
“A real friend for Christmas would be a good gift!” Scarlett said to the heavens.
Then Scarlett looked up in the sky, noticing a large snowflake growing larger and larger.
It transformed into a snowman descending with a parachute.
She watched him closely as he landed right next to her in the front yard.
He wore a red scarf with a black top hat and had a carroty nose; his eyes and his mouth were made from coal.
His brown arms were made from tree branches, and he had three buttons on his chest.
“You said you needed a Christmas friend, Scarlett,” the Snowman said. “Well, my name is Snowflake Blizzard. We’ll be the best of friends that there could be!”
“What if you melt?” Scarlett said, touching Snowflake to make sure that he was real.
“I don’t melt until midnight, Scarlett,” Snowflake said. “I’m your Christmas wish come true! A billion snowflakes came together to make one big snowman!”
“It’s been a really hard day,” Scarlett said. “Everybody makes fun of me! I tried dressing like an elf, but no one in my family is ever nice.”
“Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we, my friend?” Snowflake said, waddling toward the Lees' front door.  
“I don’t know if you want to go inside there,” Scarlett said. “It might be dangerous!”
As soon as Snowflake opened the door, the entire Lee family stopped, stared, and became silent. Scarlett tiptoed beside him.
“I am Snowflake Blizzard, and I have come for some Christmas fun!” the Snowman said, blowing his cool breath across the family. “As long as I’m here, we’re going to be kind to one another.”
The entire family was mesmerized by the Snowman’s presence, not able to fight or argue anymore.
Scarlett’s mother collapsed in the living room rocking chair with exhaustion at the thought of her family behaving.
“I’m going to teach you ‘The Snowflake Blizzard Song,’ so that you can sing it long after I’ve gone!” the Snowman said, smiling at Scarlett.
Then Snowflake said, “Now, the song goes like this:
‘Christmas is for families. Christmas is for friends. Love and joy; overflowing. Snow and sunshine; warm and glowing. Make sure to spread some cheer before the season ends.’
All at once, Mr. Lee and his children sang Snowflake’s song and transformed into new people.
The children cleaned up the dirty dishes and the crumpled wrapping paper for their mom, and their dad even helped them.
Mr. Lee turned off the television news and the blaring rap music. Instead, he lit a fire in the fireplace.
Each of the children gathered 'round him to play jacks, cards, and board games.
“Oh, my, it’s getting warm in here!” Snowflake said to Scarlett, taking off his scarf.
He dripped across the kitchen floor, creating a puddle as large as the kitchen sink.
“Don’t worry! I have a few more hours until I melt completely,” Snowflake said, shuffling through the kitchen to stand by the freezer.
“I’m so glad that you were our Christmas visitor,” Scarlett said, handing him a tray of ice cubes. “It’s been sort of a flurry of excitement!”
“Well, it’s not over yet,” Snowflake said, grabbing Scarlett and dancing across the kitchen to the sounds of the crackling fireplace.
Not too long after that, the entire Lee family bustled to sleep, safe and sound.
“It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas,” Scarlett said to Snowflake. “Thank you for visiting us! Come again anytime.”
Two minutes before the strike of midnight, Snowflake hugged Scarlett and waddled to the front door.
“I’m so glad that I could spread some snowy love at Christmas!” Snowflake said, wobbling outside the front door, only to be blown away by the wind into the night sky.
Scarlett stepped on the front porch in her stocking feet, shivering away, realizing her friend had multiplied into a billion snowflakes.
“If I ever see you again, it won’t be too soon,” Scarlett said, holding back a tear.
As long as the Lee family celebrated Christmas, they did so remembering Snowflake, who loved Scarlett as much as any family member could.

Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Here We Come A-Caroling: The Story of the Christmas Card Pen Pal Music Service

"Stamps! Where are my Christmas stamps?" said Madison Clark, rumbling through her desk drawer. "Oh, I guess I ran out . . ." 
The 12-year-old girl from San Francisco loved to write pen pal letters, especially at Christmas.
“I will travel all over the world one day!” she told herself, spinning her blue globe.
She had special stationery and ink pens to hand write each of her monthly letters.
Her pen pals spanned the seven major continents of the world: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
She prided herself in flipping through her address book, seeing her pen pals' mailing addresses in Nairobi, Kenya; The South Pole Scientific Lab (originally from Zurich, Switzerland), Antarctica; Osaka, Japan; Melbourne, Australia; Florence, Italy; Montreal, Canada; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I am a citizen of the world!” Madison printed on the top of each of her letters, stamping a globe at the top of each page with her rubber stamp and inkpad.
She collected her pen pals' photos and stamps from around the world and placed them under the glass on her bedroom desk, reminding her of her international friends.
On a shelf in her bedroom sat dolls from each of the girls in her pen pal club.
When composing her letters, she put her pen pal dolls on her desk and looked at their faces as though they were her correspondents.
Every year at Christmas, Madison sent out the same special letter to her pen pals to celebrate the holiday season.
“This year we are each going to sing a Christmas carol at the same time in each of our time zones,” Madison said to herself, sitting at her bedroom desk with her ink pen.
As she started her letter, her mother knocked on the bedroom door.
“Are you working on your homework, Madison?” she said. “Don’t you have a World Studies test tomorrow?”
“Yes, Mom, I’m working on it,” Madison said. “I’m just writing my Christmas Card Pen Pal Music Service letter first!”
“I know you want to be a world traveler, but make sure you get an A on your test,” her mother said. “Otherwise, you might not graduate the sixth grade.”
“I’ll let you proof read my pen pal letter before it goes out, Mom,” Madison said. “Don’t worry so much!”
Then Madison started her letter, knowing that she would have to copy it seven times.

Dear Esther Kwambai, Laura Berlinger, Mitsu Ito, Olivia Smith, Lucia Di Pasqua, Camille Martin, and Amanda Santos:
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
The year is almost over, and I’m ready to make New Year’s resolutions!
Before that happens, I would like to give you a Christmas gift, and you can give me the same gift.
At noon on Christmas Day, I am going to sing "Here We Come A-Caroling" for my neighborhood in your honor.
I will knock on the door of every home in my neighborhood and sing "The Wassail Song" for each of the neighbors.
My suggestion is that you do the same for your neighbors in your native language.
In English, the stanza says: "Here we come a-caroling, among the leaves so green!
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen! Love and joy come to you,
And a Merry Christmas, too, and God bless you, and send you a Happy New Year!
And God send you a Happy New Year!"
When you sing the song for your neighbors, take a picture of their families and send me their happy faces of holiday cheer! I will do the same for you.
Then I will meet your neighbors, and you will meet mine.
From now on, we will celebrate Christmas together, as though the world is very small.
I hope you get every good gift that you wanted for Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
Very truly yours,
Madison Clark

After copying the letter seven times, Madison folded her Christmas notes three ways and slipped them into their envelopes.
“Mom, you can proof the letters now!” Madison called to her. “I still want to lick them shut though!”
“Fine, now go ahead and study for your World Studies test,” Mrs. Clark said, grabbing the stack of letters from Madison’s desk.
Madison pulled her thick textbook from her backpack, lay on her bed, and peeled back the pages of the chapters on the test.
“The letters look good, honey!” Mrs. Clark said, placing them back on Madison’s desk with a smile.
“I'll get stamps from the post office tomorrow after school,” Madison said, licking them shut one at a time. “You will have to help me carol for the neighbors on Christmas Day! I will sing. You can take the pictures seven times for my pen pals.”
“Oh, Madison, I hope the neighbors understand your enthusiasm!” Mrs. Clark said. “I’ll have to bring them Christmas cookies as a peace offering. Your father and brother will watch the Christmas roast until we return.”
The next day after school—when Madison was sure she got an A on her World Studies test—she ran to the United States Post Office and got in line.
Usually, the line only had a few people, but that day it extended all the way around the corner into the parking lot.
“My Christmas Cards must be sent out today!” Madison said to the man next to her in line. “Otherwise, they won’t get to my friends by Christmas Day!”
“Child, I have the same problem,” the man said, peering over the packages he held at his chest. “If the postmasters would only move a little quicker . . .”
By the time Madison reached the front of the line, the post office worker slid out a sign that said: “CLOSED.”
“Closed? What do you mean, closed?” Madison said. “My letters must go out today!”
“We ran out of stamps, Madison. Sorry!” Mr. Green, the postal worker, said. “You are here so often that you must have some extra stamps at home.”
“Mr. Green, I don’t have an extra stamps! I used them all,” Madison said. “You are the United States Post Office. You are not supposed to run out of stamps.”
“Please come back tomorrow,” Mr. Green said in a huff. “We’re going to close early. If your letters must go out today, find some stamps somewhere and put them in the blue mailbox outside by five o’clock.”
Madison felt like singing “Here We Come A-Caroling” in protest, but she thought it wouldn’t do much good.
“What am I going to do now?” Madison said, running home. “Maybe I can collect stamps from the neighbors. It will be like early Christmas caroling.”
Madison knocked on one door after another in the neighborhood, but no one answered.
She sat down on the sidewalk in tears, kicking the stones in the road.
Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, a kind elderly couple in the neighborhood, pulled into the driveway in their car.
“Madison, what’s wrong?” Mr. Thompson said. “Can I help you? Why are you crying?”
“The post office is out of stamps! I used all my stamps, and my family never sends letters!” Madison said. “I need to send my letters today, so they arrive overseas by Christmas.”
“Well, I happened to go to the post office earlier today, and I bought a stack of Christmas stamps,” Mr. Thompson said. “Why don’t I just give them to you? Then, I can go back to the post office tomorrow, when they have more stamps.”
“My letters will go out on time after all!” Madison said, as Mr. Thompson handed her a stack of holiday stamps. “Could you drive me back to the blue mailbox at the post office?”
“Hop inside my car!” Mr. Thompson said, winking at Mrs. Thompson, who carried groceries into the house. “We’ll be there in no time flat!”
Madison sat in the front seat, snapped her seatbelt shut, and licked stamps for the seven envelopes.
“I’m putting extra stamps on the envelopes because they have to go across five oceans,” Madison said, pasting more than enough postage on each letter.
As Mr. Thompson stopped at the blue mailbox outside the post office, Madison slipped her seven envelopes into the mail slot as the postal worker collected the last letters for the day.
“Just in time!” Madison said, cheering. “Merry Christmas everyone!”
On Christmas Day, Mrs. Clark kept her word and accompanied Madison to each home in the neighborhood, taking pictures as her daughter sang.
No one sang louder with Madison than Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, who were thrilled their pictures would accompany her next pen pal letters.
“We’re only on photo six,” Mrs. Clark said, clicking the camera. “Smile for number seven!”
“Make sure you have enough postage this time!” Mr. Thompson said, nudging Mrs. Clark. “I might not always have extra on hand.”
“Yes, sir,” Madison said, grinning at her mom and checking off the Thompson family from her neighborhood list. “Two more families to go, Mom.”
By the time Madison received her return pen pal letters in January, she had all new photos to place beneath the glass on her bedroom desk.
Christmas had been celebrated a little bit more all around the world, just because Madison insisted on sending out her letters on time!

Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Christmas Poinsettia: El Cuento de Las Flores de Nochebuena

Una noche hace mucho, mucho tiempo, there was una pobre chica named Maria who liked to listen to her abuelita tell stories.
She especially liked los Cuentos de Navidad with los pastores, los ángeles, and los Reyes Magos.
Every time her familia ran out of money, Maria’s abuelita told stories, joking that a good story is always free.
She lived en un pequeño pueblo in México where most of her amigos played Balero after school.
One particular afternoon, Maria was tired of trying to get the ball in the cup during the Balero game.
“Don’t you want to play Escondidas instead? I like hide and seek. What about singing El Patio De Mi Casa?
Or even La Gallinita Ciega? The blind hen! Besides, mi abuelita has a piñata full of candy at her house,” she said.
“I want to keep playing Balero. Eat los dulces for me!” one of her friends said, finally catching the ball in the cup.
As Maria ran down la calle, she looked at the weeds growing along the sidewalk in the dirt.
“Much of my life feels like las malas hierbas,” Maria said, thinking of her future goals and dreams.
Then she ran up the wooden steps of her grandmother’s brightly painted casa and burst through la puerta.
Her grandmother’s soft, black cat named Bonita, who loved to tickle Maria with her tail, greeted her.
“Abuelita Natalia, will you tell me another story?” Maria said, swinging at the piñata and eating handfuls of candy.
“No comas demasiados dulces antes de la cena,”* Maria’s abuela said, rolling cornmeal tortillas and cutting vegetables.
“I won’t eat too much candy! I’ll dance around your sombrero instead,” Maria said, turning on la radio.
Villancicos de Navidad played on the speakers: “Jesús en pesebre, sin cuna, nació; Su tierna cabeza en heno durmió.”^
“Ahora te cuento una nueva historia. Es una famosa leyenda de Navidad que tu puedes escuchar sólo a los 12 años.
Te la hubiera contado antes, pero no tienas la edad,”+ Abuela Natalia said, fixing her hair.
Maria curled up in her grandma’s wooden chair and rested her head on a rainbow-colored blanket.
“Había una vez una niña llamada Pepita, una pobre niña mexicana que no tenía dinero para comprar un regalo para el niño Jesús. Ella quería darle un regalo especial a niño Jesús en la Misa de Nochebuena, pero ella no tenía nada que ofrecerle.  Mientras caminaba con su primo Pedro a la iglesia, él le dijo que incluso hasta los regalos de amor hacen feliz al niño Jesús. Al darse cuenta de las malas hierbas al lado de la calle, Pepita recogió un puñado de malas hierbas y las colocó en un ramo. Cuando ella entró a la iglesia, se sentía avergonzada de que sólo tenía este regalito para darle al niño Jesús. Mientras colocaba las hierbas en el pesebre de la iglesia, dijo una oración silenciosa con ojos llenos de lágrimas. Entonces ella parpadeó, no creía lo que veían sus ojos: las malezas se transformaron en un ramo de flores de color rojo brillante. Desde esa noche, todo el mundo conoce la Leyenda de las ‘Flores de Nochebuena' o ‘Flowers of the Holy Night.’ La mayoría de las personas llaman estas flores ‘Christmas Poinsettias’ y ven la planta como símbolo de la estrella de Belén.”#
“Abuela, it’s a wonderful story!” Maria said, running to her Grandmother’s side and kissing her cheek.
“I will ask el niño Jesús to turn las malas hierbas into flores,” Maria said, remembering the weeds on the sidewalk.
“Nieta, es sólo una historia,”** Maria’s Grandmother said, pointing to her potted Christmas Poinsettia by the window.
Maria grabbed the Christmas Poinsettia and stared at it wide-eyed, wondering if it was once actually weeds.
“Of course, it’s only a story,” Maria said, turning off la radio, as it played the last verse of “Noche de Paz.”
“I think I might give it a try and see what happens, Abuelita,” the young girl said, fascinated with the tale.
“Christmas Eve is two nights from now. Maybe my weeds will turn into poinsettias!” Maria said.
"¿Por qué simplemente no sales de nuevo con tus amigos y juegas al Balero hasta que la cena esté lista?”^^ her grandma said.
“Sure, I’ll be back for dinner!” Maria said, running across the entryway’s light brown tiles and down the porch steps.
“Weeds!” Maria said, grabbing handfuls of them along the sidewalk. She shoved them into her pants pockets.
She ran all the way to la Iglesia del Pueblo, collecting every weed she could find—big, small, and dirty weeds.
Then she ran up los pasos de la iglesia, knelt and crossed herself, and ran to el belén at the church’s altar.
“These weeds are for you, Jesús,” Maria said, emptying her pockets at the base of the manger display.
Along with the weeds, clumps of dirt and tiny rocks fell from her hands next to el niño Jesús in the straw.
“Does the straw itch your skin?” Maria asked el niño Jesús, taking off her red sweater and wrapping the baby in it.
“You can borrow my sweater until Christmas. After that, mi abuelita will want it back so I can wear it to school.”
Then Maria gently arranged all the members del belén, making sure they were standing in their proper places.
“You have to look good for la Nochebuena,” Maria said. “Now this will be nuestro pequeño secreto. . .
When I return tomorrow night, I expect to see un jardín de Las Flores de Nochebuena.”
Maria ran back a la casa de su abuelita. “La cena! I love tortillas with extra arroz.”
“Ya elegí tu vestido para la Misa de Nochebuena, Maria. Hablé con tu madre. Está en tu cama.
Asegúrate de que brillen tus zapatos antes de la Misa. Deben estar muy brillantes,”++ Maria’s abuela said.
As Maria’s abuela said “muy brillante,” Maria cringed, thinking of the weeds that she left en la iglesia.
The next morning, Maria ran again a la Iglesia del Pueblo to see if the weeds had become las flores.
When she peered through the window, she still only saw weeds at el belén and felt a bit worried.
“By misa del gallo, the weeds will have surely become a garden of red poinsettias,” Maria whispered.
Later that night, Maria, her abuela, her madre, and her padre entered la Iglesia del Pueblo with burning candles.
As they took their seats, Maria’s abuela noticed a crowd gathered around the Nativity scene, staring at the weeds.
“Why would anyone ever do anything so awful to el niño Jesús?” one parishioner said, brushing the weeds away.
“Weeds aren’t even flores. At least bring him flores,” another parishioner said, placing roses in the manger.
“Someone must have wanted to spoil our entire Nochebuena by being muy malo!” the priest said to the congregation.
The priest unwrapped el niño Jesús from Maria’s red sweater and threw it in the trash behind the pulpit.
Maria’s abuela swallowed hard and looked at her nieta whose eyes were full of tears.
Tears streamed down Maria’s mejillas color rojo brillante. She ran out of la iglesia as fast as she could.
“Wait! Where are you going, Maria?” her padre cried, as she ran through the doors of la iglesia.
Maria ran so fast that her padre couldn’t keep up with her, so he let her run all the way home in tears.
Despite the taunting from the congregation, Maria picked more weeds and filled sus bolsillos as full as possible.
She crawled into su cama, pulling up the covers, praying: “Por favor niño Jesús, change my weeds into flowers.”
When her abuela and padres came home, they placed their candles by her bedside as una oración and went to sleep.
Early on Christmas morning, Maria felt something tickle her nose, thinking it might be la gata de su abuelita.
“Bonita! Es la mañana de Navidad. Get your tail out of mi nariz,” Maria said, shaking her head a few times.
As she slowly opened her ojos, she realized she was lying in una cama de bright red Christmas Poinsettias.
She sat up in bed with mucha emoción, singing: “Feliz Navidad! Feliz Navidad! Feliz Navidad, próspero año nuevo y mucha felicidad!”
“The weeds from my pockets really did become flores!” Maria said with joy. “Abuelita, come quickly!”
Magníficas red and green Christmas Poinsettias grew across the floor, ceiling, and every wall.
Maria’s abuela ran into her bedroom with Bonita in her arms. She stopped in awe, sin hablar.
“Nieta, lo siento. No era sólo una historia. ¡Oh! No era un cuento de hadas,”## her abuelita said, still taking it all in.
Sus padres rushed into Maria’s room, gasping with excitement at the sight of Las Flores de Nochebuena.
“Si el jardín de flores gets any bigger, we’ll have to move out of la casa!” her madre said, stepping over las hojas.
“Anyone who needs a poinsettia could come over for un ramo,” her padre said, smelling the flowers.
“Hay que tener cuidado con las historias que te cuento de ahora en adelante, Nieta,”*** Abuela Natalia said.
“I gave el niño Jesús weeds, and I did it with amor, so he gave me flores, just like he did with Pepita,” Maria said.
Soon enough, the entire village believed the Legend of the Christmas Poinsettia and built jardines de las flores rojas. 
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

TRANSLATION:
*Don’t eat too much candy before dinner.
^Away in the manger, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus, laid down his sweet head.
+Now I will tell you a new story. It’s a famous Christmas legend that you can only learn at age 12. I would’ve told you before now, but you weren’t old enough.
#There once was a girl named Pepita, a poor Mexican child who had no money to buy a gift to give the baby Jesus. She had wanted so badly to give Jesus a special present at Christmas Eve Mass, but she had nothing to offer. As she walked with her cousin Pedro to the church, he told her that even the smallest gifts of love make Jesus happy. Noticing the weeds on the side of the road, Pepita picked a small handful of weeds and made them into a bouquet. When she walked into the church, she felt ashamed that she only had this small gift to give the baby Jesus. While placing the weeds at the Nativity scene in the church, she said a quiet prayer with tearful eyes. Then she blinked, not believing her eyes: the weeds changed into a bouquet of bright red flowers. It was a miracle. Since that night, everyone knows the Legend of the ‘Flores de Nochebuena’ or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night.' Most people call the flowers ‘Christmas Poinsettias’ and see the plant as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem.
**Granddaughter, it’s only a story.
^^Why don’t you just go back outside with your friends and play Balero until dinner is ready?
++Maria, I already picked out your dress for the Christmas Eve service. Your mother and I discussed it. It’s on your bed. Make sure you shine your shoes before service. They should be bright and shiny.
##Granddaughter, I’m sorry. It wasn’t just a story. Oh! It wasn’t a fairytale.
***I have to be careful from now on about which stories I tell you, Granddaughter. 

https://soundcloud.com/jen-waters/the-christmas-poinsettia-spoken-word-narrated-by-jen-waters

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bethlehem Star: The Story of the Tiniest of Stars and A Christmas Miracle

Once upon a time there was a Christmas Star that was birthed into the Universe.
Like most stars, this twinkling light was born through a nebula, a cold cloud of gas and dust.
As the cloud shrank, it broke into clumps, becoming hot and dense until the clumps became new stars.
After this particular star was born, the Galaxy spoke, saying: “Your name is the Star of Bethlehem.”
“The Star of what? Where? Oh, does that mean that I have a special purpose?” the Tiniest of Stars said.
“Every star has a unique reason for being—yours will be to shine for the Wise Men,” the Galaxy said.
“Although you’re the smallest star in the Universe, you’ll shine brighter than any star ever the night a Savior is born.
Three Wise Men will travel with gifts for the child in a time of great danger and need to see your light to find him.”
The Little Star didn’t think its purpose sounded important enough. In fact, it wanted a different job—any other job.
“Could I please be part of Aquarius? Or Gemini? What about Leo? Or even Orion?” the Bethlehem Star said.
“Everyone has heard of those constellations, and I think I could really contribute something,” the Star explained.
“Those constellations are fine, but nothing will be more special than your light on Christmas Eve,” the Galaxy said.
“The Universe will be depending on your cooperation. For two thousand years, you will shine at half your light.
At the appointed time, you will shine brighter than everything in the night sky, including Venus or Jupiter.”
“Two thousand years? This must be a mistake! How could I possibly even live that long? No, absolutely not!
What am I supposed to do until then? Just hang around in the sky and watch everyone else shine?” the Star said.
“From your limited perspective, you can’t understand how important this evening will be in history,” the Galaxy said.
“You must now try to receive your purpose with joy and stop complaining, or you might disrupt the Universe.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to disrupt anything. I suppose I can wait for Christmas Eve," the Tiniest of Stars said.
As two thousand years passed, the Star of Bethlehem thought the Galaxy had forgotten him.
Although the Galaxy had explained the Star’s purpose, it now kept quiet concerning the matter.
Even when the Little Star inquired of the Galaxy, there was only deafening silence.
“Hello? Just checking in. Exactly how long until Christmas Eve arrives? I just want to be ready . . ."
While the days, months, and years ticked away, the Bethlehem Star withstood false friends in the heavens.
These supposed friends taunted the Star about shining at half its light, doubting it would ever shine fully.
“I was told by the Galaxy that I will shine on a very important night, and I’ll have to wait until then,” the Star said.
“Sure, and I was told that you’ll end up in a black hole if you don’t start to do your job!” Aquarius said.
“You don’t have to understand. I’m sure I’ll get a sudden burst of energy on the right night,” the Star said.
“To tell you the truth, you’re taking up space in the sky! If you’re not going to shine, I’ll eat you!” Leo Major said.
“You’re useless! Why were you even created in the first place?” Gemini said.
“Argue with the Galaxy if you don’t like my job. I didn’t pick it, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” the Star said.
Tears dropped from the Bethlehem Star all the way to the Earth, creating reservoirs of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Years later, when the Bethlehem Star was about to fizzle from shining at half its light, it wanted to burn out.
Then Orion said, “I’ve heard that you’re supposed to be a big deal in the coming months. What’s that about?”
“The Galaxy told me I’m supposed to shine brighter than any star ever on Christmas Eve,” the Bethlehem Star said.
“Yeah, I remember you said something about shining for Wise Men. Maybe I should take your job!” Orion said.
"Do you really think that you’ll be able to do it? It sounds more important than your average night sky.
Maybe a comet, or a planet, or even a shooting star should shine for Christmas Eve. Even an angel with a torch.”
“No way is anybody going to take my job! How could you suggest that? It’s my job. That’s why I have it,” the Star said.   
“I just thought that you might be ready to end in defeat, and let someone else try,” Orion said.
“My constellation is much bigger than you. I’m sure I could do it. For you to do anything, it would take a miracle.”
“There will be a miracle! Leave me alone,” the Bethlehem Star said, sending stardust at Orion in its defense.
More years passed. Although a thousand years might have seemed like a day to the Galaxy, the Star felt otherwise.
“Shine! I must shine! Oh, why can’t I shine? What is wrong with me? When will this end?” the Star cried.
It tried to force itself to flicker just a little brighter, even if it hurt to do so, but all its effort was for naught.  
Then just when the Bethlehem Star was sure that it had lost its chance for a miracle, the Galaxy spoke louder than before.
“Get ready! You will now shine brighter than anything that ever was or ever will be,” the Galaxy said, booming.
“Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior will observe your star rising and come from the East to pay homage to the Messiah.
Shine over the Bethlehem manger where the child rests. The Universe changed your tears into gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so the Wise Men will bear precious metal, perfume, and oil as gifts, helping the child to escape evil King Herod.”
“Well, it’s about time! I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. This better be worth it,” the Tiniest of Stars said.
“Only in time will you understand how much it’s worth,” the Galaxy said, considering a last minute replacement.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to shine instead of this immature light bulb?” Orion said, vying for the job.
“No, please! I’m sorry. I want to fulfill my purpose. I know I can do it. Go do your own job!” the Star said.
“Thank you for asking Orion, but The Star of Bethlehem will keep its position,” the Galaxy said.
“It’s my turn to shine. You had a turn, and I had to see it every night for decades,” the Star said, watching Orion dim.
As midnight approached on the first Christmas Eve, the Bethlehem Star suddenly lit the night sky.
The Star was so bright that nearly everyone in the world could see its glow, but especially the three Wise Men.
All at once, a great company of the heavenly host appeared singing in the sky with hallelujahs.
“Look at me!” the Bethlehem Star said. “I’m brighter than anything everywhere! Woo! Hoo! I’m shining!
Even the angels can see how bright I am! I’m legendary! All the rest of the stars are only mediocre.”
The Star of Bethlehem shined so bright on Christmas Eve that the rest of the stars were amazed beyond belief.
For as long as time lasted, everyone in the Universe had heard of the Bethlehem Star and its luminous beauty.

Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

https://soundcloud.com/jen-waters/bethlehem-star-spoken-word-narrated-by-jen-waters