When Miles and Amanda arrived at Sarah's house just before noon on Sunday, they found it bursting with activity. The house had a wonderful aroma of fresh baking. In the kitchen were racks of cooling cookies. From the open door to the basement came the voices of Hugh, Kevin and Daniel trying to find the outdoor lights Sarah had said were there. The Grinch could be heard from the den as Geoff, Belinda and Tristan watched Christmas tapes. Sarah, Susannah and Margaret were busy in the dining room putting platters of sandwiches and veggies with dip out on the table for the noon meal. There was a punchbowl filled with eggnog. Sarah had thought she heard the front door open so went to the hall to see.
"Miles! Amanda!" she exclaimed giving them each a hug. "It's so good to see you both! We're just about to take a break for some lunch. Miles, I really think the men could use some help from you as you are the one who packed the lights away last year."
"You mean that they can't figure out my system?" asked Miles with feigned incredulousness.
"Your system?" asked Kevin as he entered the hall from the basement. "If there's some reason behind how those things are packed away, we sure haven't been able to figure it out."
"Your system?" echoed Daniel as he arrived in the hall. "There's some logic to a box clearly marked 'Outdoor Lights' being filled with tree ornaments?"
"Of course there is," said Miles. With a grin he added, "And when I remember what it is, I'll let you know!"
By now everyone was crowded into the hallway.
"Lunch is ready on the dining room table," said Margaret. "Let's all go have some! You can fuss over the decorations after lunch."
"Speaking of decorations," said Miles, "we've 6 boxes for you, Susannah."
"Oh, thank you!" said Susannah. "Perhaps you could bring them in after lunch. Where would be best to put them, Sarah?"
By now everyone was in the dining room filling their Christmas patterned paper plates with sandwiches. Sarah was adding some carrot and celery sticks to her plate and paused to answer, "How about using one of the bedrooms to sort things and decide what to put where?"
"That sounds like a good idea," said Susannah.
"May I ask a question?" asked Belinda.
"Of course," Geoff answered her.
"Would you never use faery magic to do any of the Christmas work?" she asked.
Sarah answered, "I didn't as I'd tried to deny my faeryfolke background."
"I had never told my husband about being faeryfolke, so couldn't use any magic," said Susannah.
"I never even knew of the faeryfolke till recently," said Amanda.
"Well," said Miles, "I must confess. I did use some magic."
"So that's how you got the lights up so quickly," said Sarah.
"No. I put the outdoor lights up without any magic," responded Miles. "What I did do, was place an invisible sheild around all the outdoor decorations so that they could not be vandalized."
"Thank you," said Sarah softly. "It's so sad that such a thing might be necessary but unfortunately, it is."
"So, Miles," said Kevin, "where are the outdoor lights?"
"Aw," said Miles. "Sarah had taken the 'Outdoor Lights' box and packed the tree decorations in it. Then the 'Tree Decorations' box got filled with various other decorations like Santas, Nutcrackers, and bows. So, the outdoor lights are, of course, in the box marked, 'Christmas Misc.'"
"Of course!" said Daniel sarcastically. "Gee, how come we didn't figure that out?"
"I don't know," said Miles, "as it makes perfect sense to me!"
"Uh huh," said Sarah as she cleared space on the table. Margaret came from the kitchen with a tray of fresh baked cookies and placed it in the space Sarah had made. Susannah brought in glasses of milk and cups of herbal tea.
After lunch they broke into various groups agreeing that they would head back to the settlement at 4:30.
Sarah and Margaret went back to baking with some help from Amanda. Susannah was going through her decorations up in what had been Zelda's room as Miles had brought them in and restored them to full size. Now, with the right box and Miles' directions, Kevin, Hugh and Daniel were busy hanging the outside lights. Geoff and his friends spent time watching each activity as well as watching a couple more Christmas tapes.
Susannah was very slowly unpacking the boxes of decorations. It had been so many years since she had seen them. They brought a lot of memories flooding back. She felt someone watching her and looked up to see Amanda in the doorway.
"Are you alright, Mama?" Amanda asked.
"Yes," answered Susannah. "There are a lot of memories but most are good memories. I really should talk to Sarah first to see where it would be alright to put things. I don't mean to take over her home."
"I already talked to Sarah," said Amanda. "This isn't home to her anymore but just a house. She said that you were to decorate as you like and she'd fit any of her decorations in later. The ones that mean the most to her are some of her tree decorations. I think that big old Santa would be great at the landing of the stairs in the corner."
"I was sort of thinking that too," said Susannah. "Now to find him!"
The two women laughed and started looking into the boxes.
"Here's the Christmas linens," said Amanda looking into a box.
"And this one is the pointsetta patterned dishes," said Susannah. "I wonder if Sarah will want to use them."
"We'll have to ask her. Is there enough place settings for everyone?" asked Amanda.
"Let's see," said Susannah quietly counting on her fingers. "There's eleven of us and twelve place settings so we'd be okay."
"Great," said Amanda. "I found him!"
She pulled the three foot high Santa from the corner of a big box.
"I hope there's an outlet nearby so that he can wave hello to everyone," said Amanda.
"That would be nice," said Susannah, "but lets leave the tinny music off."
"Agreed," laughed Amanda. She looked in the box and became quiet. She reached into the box.
"The tree skirt you pieced and quilted," Amanda said softly. "You did do sewing. I'd forgotten. It's so beautiful, Mama."
"Thank you, Amanda. I enjoyed the sewing even if it was much slower than my faery garmentmaking," Susannah smiled.
Amanda looked back in the big box and pulled out cloth bag. Looking inside, she started to smile broadly. "Oh, Mama. It's the nativity figures you made from Barbie and Ken dolls. And the stuffed camels and cow and little lambs. I loved them."
"Then the creche your father made should be there too," said Susannah.
Amanda peered into the big box. "That's what this bag was sitting in!" She lifted out the large, upside-down creche.
"That one I'll need to think about for a while to figure out a place," said Susannah.
"How lovely!" said a voice from the doorway. The two women looked over to see a smiling Sarah. "How about the sideboard in the dining room for now? Next week when we put the tree up it can go under the tree."
"Thank you, Sarah," said Susannah. "That sounds like a good plan."
"I best get back to the kitchen now," said Sarah.
"If you are doing alright, Mama, I think I'll go back with Sarah," said Amanda.
"I'm doing fine," said Susannah. "You go on. Could you take Santa with you and set him in place on your way?"
Amanda picked up the big Santa and Sarah looked at it and chuckled.
"Oh my, he's quite a big, jolly old guy," said Sarah.
"We thought he'd be alright in the far corner of the landing of the stairs, where is turns before the final step down," said Amanda.
"That sounds ideal," said Sarah.
"While you are here, Sarah," said Susannah walking to the box of pointsetta patterned diishes and taking one out.
"Yes?" inquired Sarah.
"Would you like to use these dishes for Christmas dinner? There's twelve place settings and all of the serving dishes," said Susannah.
"They are beautiful and I'd be honored to use them. I have a couple of sets of dishes but only four place settings of each and had been wondering what to do," replied Sarah.
"I've got Santa," said Amanda. "Shall we go downstairs?"
"Yikes!" said Sarah. "Yes. I hope Mother took my cookies out of the oven."
Amanda laughed and the two younger women headed to the main floor leaving Susannah to continue her sorting
Sarah went to check her cookies while Amanda set up Santa on the landing.
Sarah's front door opened into a good sized hall way that went all the way to the back of the house where there was a door to the back porch. To the left were double pocket doors that opened to the parlor or living room. Further back on the left was the den or TV room which was probably called the back parlor originally. There were double pocket doors between the two rooms so they might be opened into one larger room. In the living room, a fireplace with a wide mantel was in the center of the far wall and a large bay window looked out onto the front porch. It was a large but comfortable room. Back in the hall, to the right was a closet and then the door to the kitchen. Looking from the front door, just past the kitchen door was the raised landing that started the stairs with a railing along that side as the access was from the center of the hall. Along the right of the house was the kitchen and dining room. Off the hall, behind the stairs, was the door to the basement stairs, a washroom and then a hall entrance to the dining room.
Amanda was on the landing positioning the Santa where the railing met the wall. Miles came in the door.
"Hello Amanda," he said as he walked over to the stairs after putting his jacket in the closet. "I like him but the railing rather hides him. How about the hall side of the landing ... facing the front door?"
"Hello Miles," answered Amanda. "That would look wonderful but do you think he might get in the way?"
"Not at all. There's about two feet from the kitchen door to the landing. He'll have plenty of space," said Miles as he lifted the Santa and placed him angled in the corner of the wall and railing down on the hall side of the railing. "A plug? Aw there's an outlet right behind him."
When Miles had Santa plugged in one arm started to wave and the little lights on the wreath on his other arm lit up.
"That's great!" said Miles. "I wonder what this switch is for." He reached for a switch on Santa's base.
"Oh, Miles. Don't," said Amanda but she was too late. The very tinny Christmas carols started to play.
"I see," said Miles as he turned it off.
Sarah and Margaret had come from the kitchen to see what the noise was.
"He looks perfect there," said Sarah. "But I think I will use my Christmas CDs for music."
"Good choice," said Miles laughing.
Margaret looked at the animated Santa. "He really is a great greeter," she said. "What about raising him a bit with a low table or something?"
"A cloth covered box, perhaps?" asked Amanda.
"I think that would be a good idea," said Sarah.
"I'll see what I can find," said Miles.
"Miles?" asked Sarah.
"Yes?" he responded.
"Is there some reason why you are not out putting up lights with the other men?" she asked.
"Well, I was doing a great job of supervising since I knew where each string was to go, but they didn't appreciate my directions and suggested I leave them to it as I seemed to be doing nothing. There's just no appreciation for a good overseer," Miles responding with a grin.
"I see," said Sarah. "So what will you make yourself useful doing now? We do not need an overseer in the kitchen. Especially one that I know likes to taste test everything."
"Like I said before, I'm just not appreciated," said Miles with a very phoney frown.
Amanda couldn't help laughing.
"My own mate laughs at me," he said with his lip quivering.
Amanda climbed up the step to the landing, leaned over and kissed Miles ... on the nose. "I'm sorry. I really do appreciate you," she said trying hard not to grin.
Miles spun around to look at Sarah. "Where's the mistletoe?"
Sarah laughed. "Sorry, Miles. Saturday we're getting the greenery and tree. Oh, and by the the way, you are driving us," she added grinning.
"Family are so good at volunteering you," said Miles.
"Aren't we though?" laughed Sarah as she headed back into the kitchen with her mother following her.
"Who needs mistletoe anyways?" said Miles as he reached for Amanda.
Hugh came in just as Miles was trying to kiss a giggling Amanda. He put his coat in the closet and tried to figure out how to work his way around the couple to go upstairs.
"Hello Hugh," said Amanda. "I was just about to go help Margaret and Sarah package up cookies to store for Christmas."
She stepped down from the landing; walked around Miles; blew him a kiss; and disappeared into the kitchen.
"I hope I didn't interrupt anything," Hugh told Miles.
Miles smiled at him. "Nothing I can't start up again later," he said. "I think I'll go see what the kids are watching. Did Daniel and Kevin suggest you go elsewhere, too?"
"No," laughed Hugh. "They seemed to be doing alright so I asked if I could do something else."
"Oh?" asked Miles.
"Um," stuttered Hugh, "I though Susannah might need a hand."
"Oh!" said Miles. "Sounds like a good idea. If there's a lot to be brought down, just let me know and I'll miniaturize it so it can be done in one trip. I'll be back in the den with the kids."
"Sure," said Hugh as he started up the stairs and Miles headed to the den.
As Miles entered the den, he saw the three young people sitting on the couch intently watching a tape of "It's a Wonderful Life" and stringing popcorn. He sat in the recliner whispering, "Is it alright if I join you?"
"Sure, Uncle Miles," said Geoff.
"Why are there two big bowls of popcorn?" asked Miles softly.
"The red one has butter and salt and is for eating. The green one is plain for stringing," explained Tristan.
Miles took the red one from the coffee table and started to munch and no one seemed to notice. George Bailey had them completely captivated. Or perhaps it was Clarence.
Meantime Hugh was entering the bedroom where Susannah was busy working and humming a Christmas tune. He stood in the doorway watching. He thought that he'd love to watch her all day long. She sensed him and looked at the doorway.
"Hello Hugh," she said smiling. "What brings you here?"
"You, fair lady," he answered.
"Yes. I know you were a little melancholy earlier but your heart seems to have lightened as you continued."
"Hugh, you really felt that from me?" Susannah asked surprised.
"Yes, Susannah. I feel a very strong bond with you," Hugh answered. he now felt her confusion and embarrassment so changed the subject. "Miles said to let him know when everything is sorted and he'll miniaturize the items to go down so that it can be done in one trip."
"Thanks. That's a good idea," said Susannah. She smiled at him. "Or you could just have them float behind you down the stairs."
"True," laughed Hugh. "Of course, we are supposed to be doing this free of faery magic. Sarah might let some miniaturization pass but I'm not so sure about my animation. She doesn't even know I can do that. I don't use it much. You and Kevin are the only ones to have seen me use it."
"I'm so glad you felt you could show me," said Susannah. "If you'd like to help, we can organize all the things to go downstairs today in one spot for Miles. Let's see. To the right of the doorway I think."
"Alright. I'd love to help," said Hugh. "What goes for Miles to shrink?"
Susannah pointed to two boxes. "This one is linens and this dishes so they should go to the kitchen. The creche and the cloth bag by it which has the figures and animals. That box of nutcrackers ... " Susannah started laughing as the items she named took to the air to move to the spot by the door where Hugh stood with his wand in hand. She continued naming items to go down to the other floor.
Miles was just entering the hall with a couple of miniaturized boxes from the basement when he heard his name called.
"Miles," said Susannah as she entered the hall from the stairs.
"Yes?" asked Miles.
"All the things I've sorted to come down now are to the left of the doorway if you look in from the hall. Thank you for offering to bring them down," said Susannah.
"I'll be happy to," said Miles, "Right after I put these in the living room and restore them for Sarah."
"That would be wonderful," said Susannah.
Sarah came from the kitchen. "Thank you, Miles," she said following him into the living room.
After Miles restored the boxes to full size and left to get Susannah's things from the bedroom, Sarah opened the box marked Tree Decorations. She started taking out plush toys that had a Christmas theme. Besides various teddies, there were reindeer, snowmen and angels. She put them in a pile on the carpet. When she had them all out, she tried gathering them in her arms but there were too many. She put them down and opened the double pocket doors to the den.
"Geoff, could you and your friends lend me a hand?" asked Sarah.
"Sure, Mom," Geoff said. "What is it?"
Sarah pointed to the pile of toys. "Will you, please, decorate the den with those? Geoff knows how I usually use them with a row across the back of the couch and others .... well wherever you can think of," She said with a laugh.
Belinda picked up a teddy dressed in an old-fashioned velvet outfit. "Oh, she's so lovely."
When Tristan picked up a reindeer by the paw, squeezing it slighty, he was surprised that it started playing music.
"We must have forgotten to take the batteries out before packing it away," said Sarah.
The three young people soon had all the stuffed toys moved to the den and Sarah closed the doors again and went back to her box of decorations. Miles, accompanied by Susannah, entered the room with Susannah's things.
"Sarah, the two boxes are linens and dishes. Should Miles put them in the kitchen?" asked Susannah.
"The kitchen is still quite unorganized. Miles, I think the dining room would be better and the creche and accessories are going in there as well," said Sarah.
"Alright," agreed Miles. "It's nearly time for us to go."
"Well," said Daniel, looking in from the hall doorway still wearing his jacket, "how about some hot chocolate for us chilled outside workers?"
"Are all the lights up?" asked Sarah.
"Sure are," said Kevin as he entered the room.
"I'll go make us all some hot chocolate to drink before we go," said Sarah and she left for the kitchen.
Soon they were all gathered in the den sipping their warm drinks and discussing the day's activities.
"Mom, without us here, who'll turn the lights outside on and off each night?" asked Geoff.
"I bought a timer for them," said Sarah, "when I was getting some other things. Miles has set it so they will go on and off at the appropriate times."
"That's a fine idea," said Margaret. "How did your sorting go, Susannah?"
"Quite well I think," answered Susannah. "I've some things ready to put out but others will need some fresh greenery which Sarah said she was getting next Saturday."
"Yes. We'll go out early to the nursery and tree farm to get a tree; cedar roping and wreath; and fresh holly and mistletoe. Is everyone done with their chocolate?" she asked as the empty mugs started filling the trays she and Margaret had used to bring the drinks to the den.
"I think so," said Kevin, picking up a tray.
Sarah picked up the other saying, "Why don't the rest of you get your outdoor things on while Kevin and I take these to the kitchen?"
"Do you want some helping washing them?" asked Amanda.
"We'll be fine," said Sarah. "Just a quick rinse and I'll get them tomorrow when I come back to do a bit more baking."
In the kitchen, Sarah told Kevin to join the others and she'd be right there.
When Kevin joined the others, Miles said, "I'd never thought Sarah could leave dirty dishes. She's always been so fastidious. Oh!"
"What is it?" asked Kevin.
Whispering, Miles said, "I wonder. Quietly follow me."
They all quietly followed Miles to the kitchen door which he carefully and silently opened. There stood Sarah, glittering pink wand in hand, as the clean mugs flew into the cupboard.
"Caught ya!" said Miles loudly.
Startled, Sarah quickly turned and the last mug fell to the floor, breaking.
"You are caught! I knew you'd never leave dishes to wash later" Miles repeated grinning.
"I sure am," laughed Sarah. Kevin went to Sarah and gave her a hug. Then he withdrew his royal blue wand with gold bands at the ends and repaired the broken mug. He picked it up and placed it on the counter.
"Shall we go?" he asked.
"Yes," said Sarah leaving the kitchen and going to the hall closet for her coat.
While she was doing that, Kevin got a bag from the closet. "When we were shopping, we got flashlights to carry back in the dark. We also visited the newspaper office and got copies of the carol song sheets they printed for the paper."
He handed them out. "If we walk in groups of two or three, one can carry a sheet and the other a flashlight."
The visit before, there had only been Sarah and Geoff who knew the songs but this time there was Susannah, Amanda, Miles, Daniel and Margaret to join them.
As it worked out the female members of the merry group carried the song sheets and the males, the flashlights as they sang their way back to the settlement: Belinda between Tristan and Geoff; followed by Sarah and Kevin; Amanda and Miles; Susannah and Hugh; and, finally, Daniel and Margaret.
[Whimsical Woods Index]