More often than not, after a grand snowfall, the little girl from down the street would wander into town. Of course, this was after her mother bundled her up in layers upon layers of thermal underwear, jackets, and countless pairs of socks, so it seemed. Finally, after pulling a hat over her ears, her mother would send her out to play.
The first time the small girl left the comforts of her yard, there were no neighborhood children out. So she decided to take a risk, by herself. She zipped up her coat a little more, as if it would keep the courage in as well as it was keeping the cold out. And she stepped onto the snow-covered sidewalk, slipping on the hidden ice. She took a deep breath, but continued on, determined.
It was a short walk from her house to the town, during summer, that is. She liked winter better, though. She liked to marvel at the snow, fixated on catching the snowflakes on her tongue. When it was really snowing, she loved to peel off her mittens and collect the snowflakes on her hand, admiring them before the melted away. But, today, she only wanted to do one thing; get to town.
The walk to town may have been short in the summer, however, in the winter, it was not. The sidewalks weren’t shoveled, the roads weren’t plowed. The snowing stopped, but the dark clouds lingered, threatening to dump out blizzard at anytime. That didn’t scare her. She was intent on getting to town. So she trudged on, embracing her sore muscles and sweaty forehead.
Awhile later, as she was contemplating giving up and going home, she saw the lights in the distance. Her spirits lifted, and she quickened her pace. It was so close!
A few minutes later, she arrived in the town, relieved, gratified, and overjoyed. It was getting late- the street lights had come on. She gaped at the Christmas lights decorating the town. Christmas was so beautiful. It never failed to amaze her.
Once she composed herself, she pulled out a quarter from her pocket and searched for a payphone. The streets were empty, aside from venders and lonely wanderers, like herself. She wondered if they had a family to spend Christmas with. Afterall, it was only three short days away. She knew where everyone was. They were exactly where she wanted to be. But, first, she had to call her mom.
Eventually, she located a phone and rang up her mother. They agreed to meet in the town common. She could hardly contain her excitement. She started walking to the common, on the verge of running. This would be the most alluring thing she’d see all winter. It beat out the white trees of the forest, the freshly brushed ice rink, an unused sledding hill after a good snow. This beat it all.
On her way to the common, something in a store window caught her eye. A toy train. The one her little brother wanted, but her parents couldn’t afford. She reached into her pocket, pulling out a couple crumpled bills that she would use to buy a bell from Santa’s sleigh later that night. She counted seven dollars. All her money. The train costed $5.99. She looked at the train again, then towards the common. What to do? Bell, or train?
She stepped into the store, searching for the train. She found one, tucked under a fake Christmas tree. It was blazing red. Her little brother would adore it. She pulled it out, carried it to the counter, and paid for it.
The cashier, a short, round woman, smiled at her, “Christmas shopping?”
“It’s for my little brother,” she squeaked, returning the smile. After paying for the train, she tucked it under her arm and left the store, certainly feeling the Christmas spirit.
She began walking towards the common, with a new spring in her step and a smile plastered on her face. As the crowds of people grew, her excitement did, too. Soon, she thought. Soon.
She arrived at the common, her eyes scanning the crowd for her mother. Her eyes caught on the Christmas tree, towering over throng of people. Her jaw dropped in awe. She nearly dropped the train. People bumped into her, muttering about, ignoring the pure beauty in front of them.
The tree dominated the common, and was decorated with exquisite and ornate ornaments; red and green, silver and gold tinsel; lights of all colors. The star on top was tremendous. Never had she seen something so delightfully stunning.
Suddenly, her mother swooped in, engulfing her in a hug. She giggled. She pointed out the tree to her mother, and they decided to move closer. The waded through the crowd, and she never took her eyes off the tree. Once they got close, they stopped, standing together in silence. She had never felt so at peace.Eventually, her mother decided it was getting late, and they had to go home. She picked up her train, took her mother’s hand, and began her journey back home. Snow spat from the clouds. This time, she caught the snowflakes on her tongue with her mother, and realized what Christmas wasn’t about Santa’s bells, or the train, even. It was about the simplicity of living, and being with the people you love. And, it was then, that she was peaceful.