Joy finished cleaning the tables and refilling all the condiments then filled the napkin holders. When she had finished her work for the night and it was time for her to go home, she ran outside to get her Christmas gifts for Nick, his wife Faith and Grace. She had wrapped them earlier, before she came to work. When she came back into the diner, Nick and Grace were standing behind the counter talking.
“Nick, Grace, I wanted to give you your Christmas gift, before I left. It is not much, but I give them with all my love and wishes for you to have a very merry Christmas. Nick, Please give Grace hers when you see her later tonight,” Joy handed them their gifts as she talked.
“Joy, you did not need to give us gifts, but thank you so very much,” Nick said as he leaned over and gave Joy a hug.
After Nick moved away, Grace handed Joy a square tin box, “Merry Christmas, Joy. I filled the box with your favorite cookies. I hope your family will love them, as much as you do,” Grace said.
“Grace, this the most wonderful gift in the world.” Opening the box, the aroma of fresh-baked cookies filled the air. Joy inhaled the aroma and threw her arms around the short, robust, grey haired woman, thanking her for the thoughtful gift.
Offering the cookies to Grace and Nick, Grace declined saying how she had probably eaten a dozen already when she was cooking them. Picking up a cookie, Joy took a bite, “Oh Grace, these are so delicious. I only hope I will not eat all of them before I get home.” Laughing Joy said, “I know Daniel and Tina will absolutely love them.”
When she headed for the door, Nick called to her, “Joy wait a moment, I almost forgot to give you your check.” Nick hurried to the office, as Joy waited for him she talked with Grace about the children.
When Nick returned he gave her the envelope with her check in it. “Joy, I did not know what to give you for Christmas, so I decided that I would just give you a Christmas bonus this year.”
Thanking him for everything and wishing him a safe journey to be with his family, everyone said their goodbyes and Joy left for home.
As Joy drove off four people watched her leave. “Well ladies, I have a long journey ahead of me tonight. I know that Robert, Joy, Daniel and Tina, are going to be fine, with the three of you watching over them. Is there anything else I can do to help, Nick asked them.
“No nick, Your gifts for the people in this town have been generous, more than anyone could ever expect. Now you get going, you do not want to be late now do you,” Grace said.
Nick gave a hearty laugh and his large girth shook all over. As he left, he called out, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night,” then he was gone.
When Joy walked up the steps to her home, the door opened quickly and Daniel ran to greet her. He threw his arms around her waist and hugged her as hard as he could.
“Joy, guess what, we went to see Robert today where he works and there was a big party. They had tiny little sandwiches, cake, cookies, and candy canes too. There was a real tall tree and it had a thousand Christmas lights on it with lots of decorations too.”
“I bet it was beautiful,” Joy told him as they walked into the house. Joy started to ask where Tina was, when Tina came running from the kitchen and gave her a hug.
“Joy we went to a Christmas party today and Robert was there. We ate a lot of food, and then Beverly said we had to leave. David said we could go see Santa at the mall, and he really was there. Except it was not Nick, so I told him he was not the real Santa, but he said he was Santa’s helper, because Santa was so busy today. I ask him to tell Santa that we were here with you and he said he would tell him. Isn’t that great Joy,” Tina asked.
“I think that is wonderful, Tina. Now let’s go in the kitchen and have some cookies and milk. Grace gave us some of her wonderful monster cookies for Christmas.”
“Monster Cookies, are they made of monsters or are they for monsters to eat,” Daniel asked her.
Laughing, Joy looked at the two children. Both had green eyes and curly light brown hair, with streaks of gold in it. When they smiled, there were dimples in their cheeks. To Joy these children were the most beautiful in the world, and she prayed the courts would let her adopt them. This was the only Christmas gift she wanted.
“Sorry kiddo, I hate to break it to you like this, but monster cookies are what Grace calls the cookies that she packs all kinds of good stuff into. They have chocolate chips, M and M’s, peanut butter, oatmeal and many other goodies in them. Do you two think you would like to try one,” she asked them.
Kissing her parents on the cheek, she then placed the tin of cookies on the table and poured the children some milk. Joy and her parents poured themselves a cup of coffee and joined them at the table, to enjoy a cookie with their coffee.
“Ok Dad, what is going on? You and Mom have been grinning ever since I walked into the room.”
“Robert called this morning to ask us to bring the children the Christmas party at Windermere and Tate today. I did not want to go, but Robert almost begged me to come. He begged and pleaded, until I finally said yes. We arrived a little after noon and there were so many of my friends there, that in no time, I was glad we went.”
After eating the last bite of his cookie and finishing his coffee, he continued, “We had not been there long, when Robert came over and spoke with us. As we were talking, his father keyed in a mike, and started giving a speech. Anyway, Mr. Windermere and Mr. Tate said that Robert had shown them that they were wrong in their decision to lay people off and they gave everyone their missed wages and reinstated us. I have my job back.”
“Oh Dad, Mom, I am so happy for you. I know how worried you have been. What a wonderful Christmas indeed.”
“Yes it is, but now we need to get David and Tina off to bed, so that Santa will come here tonight to leave Christmas gifts.”
David and Tina got ready for bed and when both children kissed her good night, Joy felt love in her heart. It was with pure love and happiness that she hugged and kissed them good night.
“Now close your eyes and go to sleep and dream wonderful dreams. Tonight is Christmastime again, the time of year when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Then tonight, while you sleep, Santa is in his sleigh, going to all the good little children’s homes.”
Joy told the story of Joseph and Mary and how that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in a manger and in a stable. As she talked, both children closed their eyes and drifted into dreams of someone who offered them unconditional love, something they had not felt since they had lost their parents, so long ago.
Walking back into the kitchen, Joy said, “Mom, do you know where Dad is?”
“He is out in the back yard, cementing in the volleyball pole. After you took the children upstairs, he brought in all the presents from your car and put them in the living room so that you could get them wrapped tonight.”
“That is great, tell Dad thanks. I will go wrap them now.”
Joy had just gone in to wrap the gifts, when she saw car lights turn in the driveway. When she got to the door and opened to see who was there, she saw Robert, going around to the back of an SUV, and soon he was walking to the front door loaded down with packages. Joy held the door open for him. Robert said merry Christmas as he walked past her.
“Please do not bother locking the door Joy; I will have to go in and out a few times. The SUV is loaded down with gifts. It is so strange, once I started buying gifts, I just could not seem to stop.”
Laughing and agreeing with him, Joy helped him bring in the rest of the gifts. That night they talked, drank hot chocolate, wrapped gifts, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.
When it was time for Robert to leave, Loy walked out on the porch to see him off. The weather had been steadily getting colder all day and as they stood their talking, snow flurries started drifting around them.
“Look Robert, it is snowing. Now it truly is Christmastime again.”
Looking at the happiness on Joy’s face, Robert took Joy in his arms and kissed her. “Now it is Christmastime again,” he said.
They both heard the jingling of bells and they would swear for the rest of their lives that they heard Santa Clause’s jolly Ho-Ho-Ho, then the sound faded away, as if it never was.
Looking at each other, Robert said, “I did not just hear Santa laugh, no way, right?”
“Well Robert, if you heard what I heard, then I think we just heard Santa Clause. And if that is the case, we must be crazy or extra tired.”
“I think I am going to pick tired. Good night Joy, merry Christmas.”
Joy asked him to come back the next morning so that he could spend Christmas day with her family. Then wished him a merry Christmas and said good night.
Getting in his car, he waved goodbye as he drove away.
As Joy walked in the house, she could have sworn she heard soft voices in the swirling snow. Shaking her head, Joy decided that she must be more tired than she thought.
To be continued…