Sunday, July 19, 2015

Born on Christmas Day: The Story of Natasha Bell and the Birth of a Kingdom

When Natasha Bell was born, she might as well have come out of her mother’s womb with jingle bells. 

“Born on Christmas Day! My baby is born on Christmas Day!” her mother said, wrapping her in a Christmas stocking.

“You share your birthday with King Jesus,” she said to her daughter, placing a Santa hat on her daughter’s head. “This means that you’re a princess, and you’ll be able to do good everywhere and change the whole world!”

Of course, Natasha’s mother might have overestimated her daughter’s ability, but Natasha never realized that. By the time Natasha was age 10, she thought she ruled the world. Even if she wasn’t a real princess, it didn’t stop her.

“I was born on Christmas Day! I’m a princess!” she said to friends and strangers. “Let me help you with that . . .”

Everywhere she went, she spread love and kindness to people with all kinds of serious problems. 

“The world is full of problems,” Natasha said, “but no problem is too big for a king, and I’m a princess.”

When someone would tell her that she wasn’t a princess, she reminded the person of her Christmas birthday.

“Didn’t you know that I was born on Christmas? This changes everything! I share my birthday with the King,” she said. “No matter what, I can change anything for the better. What problem do you have? How can I help you?”

“Why do you think that you can help me? Why are you acting like such a know-it-all?” random people said to her.

“Ignore the naysayers!” Mrs. Bell said, smiling at her daughter’s enthusiasm and encouraging Natasha toward greatness. 

At Christmastime, Natasha visited the shopping malls to meet the Santa Clauses in the displays. A line of children would start from Santa’s House and extend through the middle of the mall for several city blocks. The children wanted to sit on Santa’s knee, tell him how “nice” they had been that year, and ask for Christmas gifts. Then they posed for the annual photo on Santa’s lap that went in the family Christmas card and hung on the refrigerator.

“Since I was born on Christmas, I should stand at the front of the line with you,” Natasha said to the mall Santas. “In case you miss a request, I can write down the children’s needs and make sure that they get fulfilled.” 

“My manager is going to get angry,” one Santa Claus said, scratching his beard. “Stand where she can’t see you!”

When the manager came by, Natasha ran behind the Santa’s chair and hid until the stodgy woman in high heels passed. One afternoon, Natasha’s nifty jingle bell necklace jangled as she ran to hide, and the manager found her out.

“Little girl! What are you doing?” the shopping mall manager said, pulling Natasha’s ear. “Get at the end of the line.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Natasha said, moseying herself to the very end of the line until the manager went home for the day. Then Natasha marched right back to the front of the Santa Claus display line with her clipboard and pen.

“Who cares what my manager told you!” the mall Santa said. “Natasha, you can help me make my daily photo quota.”

For days, Natasha gave the best advice she could on everything from how to pick a puppy to where to get a bargain. “Merry Christmas!” she said, insisting on being in the photos with the Santa and the unruly children.

Several of the parents forced screaming kids to sit on the Santa’s lap, and Natasha had to wipe tears and dry noses. “Smile!” she said, as the light bulbs flashed over and over, blinding her eyes. “I’m a princess born on Christmas!”

On Christmas Eve Day, a little boy with a baseball cap sat on the Santa’s lap, crying because he didn’t have a baby sister. 

“Mom said that she can’t have another baby, and I want a sister, and I don’t know why I can’t have one,” the child said.

“I only do this for the money,” the Santa said. “I can’t promise anything. I must have heard 30,000 kids by now!”

“Are you really Santa?” the little boy said. “If you were real, you would be able to give me anything that I asked for!”

“I feel real,” the Santa said, shifting in his red, mall throne. “I’ve been kicked in the shin so many times today . . .”

“Could you please tell my son to stop sucking his thumb?” the little boy’s mother whispered in Santa’s ear. 

“Lady, like many mall Santas, I’m Jewish, and I celebrate Hanukkah, but I’m doing the best I can with the kids in the mall. The holidays are all about goodwill. Try to have some goodwill,” the fairytale Santa said. “If you don’t stop all the commotion, I’m bound to get fired and replaced with some other well-meaning old guy in a costume.”

“That girl who thinks she’s the Christmas princess is forbidden in this line!” the manager said, marching at Mr. Claus.

“Don’t worry, I was born on Christmas Day,” Natasha said, hiding from the looming mall manager behind Santa’s chair as the woman slipped him his work schedule for next week. “I’ll be your sister. I’m a princess!” Natasha whispered.

“I’d like to have a sister born on Christmas who’s a princess,” the little boy said as the manager eyed him up and down.

“Oh, please, I have toys to sell and better things to do than listen to this nonsense,” the manager said, leaving in a huff.

“If you’re my brother, then you’re a prince,” Natasha said once the manager left. “Anyone who is my sister or brother would also be a princess or a prince. We can change the world together! My mom told me, so it has to be true.”

Every year after that, despite the mall managers, Natasha collected new sisters and brothers in the Santa Claus lines until she had a kingdom—A kingdom of princesses and princes who all were related to the King, and that made all the difference in the world. Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Man Downstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Her Missing Pennies

“My pennies are missing!” said nine-year-old Coral Graf to her father as he ate pastrami on rye for lunch.

Her usual collection of pennies that came from The Man Upstairs through the ceiling’s heating vent had disappeared. The tin that she set out for the collection underneath the vent was emptied and turned on its side.

“There must be a thief in the building stealing my coins,” she said, scrunching her eyebrows together.

“It’s probably The Man Downstairs. He’s stingy,” Mr. Graf said, chomping away on his sandwich. 

“The Man Downstairs?” Coral asked. “Do you think he knows The Man Upstairs has been giving me money?”

“He probably does,” Mr. Graf said, savoring a potato knish with mashed potato and caramelized onions. 

“At night, he could have stuck his hand through the floor vent and stole the money from the tin can. There’s nobody else who could have taken the coins,” Mr. Graf said. “The Man Next Door can’t put his hand through the wall, unless he jumped the ledge and broke in through the fire escape, but I doubt it.”

“I’m calling Mom,” Coral said, dialing her mother, a telephone operator at the Empire State Building.

As the phone rang in Coral’s ear, she grew more and more anxious at the thought of her stolen pennies. She had promised The Man Upstairs to give his pennies away for the common good; now they were swiped. 

“Mom, yes I know you’re at work, but Dad thinks The Man Downstairs stole my pennies,” Coral said. “Can you call him and ask him to give them back? I don’t want to ask him. What if he’s nasty to me?” 

“I’ll call him, but you’re going to have to knock on his door and talk to him,” Mrs. Graf said, hanging up.

“I’m going to talk with The Man Downstairs. If I don’t come back, please come save me,” Coral said to her dad.

“Just get the pennies and tell him not to rob from The Man Upstairs again,” Mr. Graf said, finishing his cheese blintz.

Coral tiptoed down the flight of stairs with her tin can, clenching tight to the railing and holding her breath. When she reached the apartment door of The Man Downstairs, she knocked once and stepped back. 

“Give me my pennies! And give them back now!” Coral said, sounding more like an adult than a child.

Slowly, the door cracked open, and an ugly hand dropped a pile of pennies in the hallway and slammed the door shut.

“Don’t ever do such a mean thing again! Or The Man Upstairs will come looking for you!” Coral said. 

Coral filled the tin can with the pennies and headed outside to the streets of New York City, sharing her small fortune. She knew that every generous penny she gave away would come back to her one day, and so did The Man Upstairs.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters 

Sequel to "The Man Upstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Pennies from a Tin Can" (1/3/15).

Dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters.

A Tethered Balloon: It's Everybody's Birthday!

A tethered red balloon bounced on the back of a Pennsylvania porch. Tied to the porch, it could not fly freely, soaring to the sky. It watched the airplanes and the birds zooming through the heavens, wondering what it felt like to reach new heights. Even umbrellas soared higher than the balloon. 

A few days later, Carolina, the little girl in the home, had her seventh birthday. When it came time for chocolate cake on the back porch, all her friends gathered round and sang "Happy Birthday to you . . ." 

Surrounded by the tethered red balloon and dozens of colorful birthday balloons, she blew out the candles on the cake, making good wishes. 

"Oh, I think I'll pop your red balloon," her nasty cross-eyed cousin said, picking his nose and rolling his eyes back-and-forth.

"Don't you dare! It's the balloon my mom bought me from the county fair," Carolina said, untying the balloon and letting it fly to the heavens. 

Her cousin jumped up and down, trying to reach the end of the string on the balloon, but he was too short and small-minded to catch it. "I wanted to burst your balloon!" her nitwit cousin said, whining. "Now I can't even reach it!"

Carolina jumped from the picnic table and grabbed the string attached to the balloon. She ascended into the sky with her red balloon, climbing to the clouds and beyond with the butterflies. "Bye-bye!" she called to her friends and family. "Grab a balloon and come with me.  It's everybody's birthday!"

As her cousin dove to pop the other balloons, her friends and family took off before he could sabotage their flights.They grabbed the balloon strings and set off into the sky. 

"My feet will never touch the ground again!" Carolina said, staring at her cousin, who was still picking his nose. She wiggled her toes and kicked off her dark blue Mary Jane shoes.

“Ouch!” her nitwit cousin yelled as the shoes landed on his head. Of course, her cousin never left the earth, and she never gave him her birthday cake again. All she could see was blue sky and fields of flowers. 


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters