December 2nd, 2012
hummed "Good King Wenceslaus" as he stirred the blueberry
pancake batter, smiling as he recalled Lady Beth's
instructions. His smile grew when he thought of the
evening before. After ice skating, he and Andrew's
friends had toured Manhattan, admiring Christmas light
displays. There had been a soft snow, light enough
to be beautiful without being a nuisance but slick enough
to give a good excuse to walk arm in arm with Rose.
JenniAnn and Violeta had constantly hovered near Andrew
though neither seemed near as worried as they'd been the
night Max had first come to Dyeland, the night Andrew had
Max still wondered how exactly their group had come
together. He felt comfortable enough to ask
questions but, secure in the knowledge they weren't going
any where, he also enjoyed letting the mystery play out
around him then piecing together clues. A remark
he'd overheard from Adam about when JenniAnn was a senior
in high school led him to believe that she and Andrew had
met then, likely in Dyeland, with the others finding their
way there over the years. Max knew JenniAnn was
thirty and, having briefly caught a glimpse of Andrew's
driver's license, knew he was thirty seven. Max
wondered if it was weird that he couldn't imagine JenniAnn
as a teenager and found it stranger still to envision
Andrew as a young man barely older than himself. It
seemed like they always should have existed just as they
were. He still couldn't figure Violeta out.
Bright as she was, something about her put him in mind of
girls he'd gone to high school with: determined and
hesitant, poised and awkward all at once. And while
the other girls gently teased Andrew about his handsome
looks and charm, Violeta only smiled and never joined
in. Judging by behavior alone, Max would have
guessed that Violeta was either Andrew's much doted on
younger sister or even, possibly, his daughter.
However, he knew Andrew didn't have children and couldn't
imagine him never mentioning that Violeta was his sister
if that was the case. Max wondered if, like him, Violeta
simply looked up to Andrew as the father she'd never had.
As Max mused, his own father, Rex Remus, entered the
"Good morning, Dad!" Max greeted cheerily. "You
hungry? I'm making us some blueberry pancakes."
Rex nodded. "Sounds good."
"We still on to go get our Christmas tree later?"
"Yeah. Just got to run some errands first.
Didn't get to them all yesterday."
Max bit his lip, contemplating whether to press the
matter. "But you'll be home by 2:00?"
The young man was unconvinced but muttered a
"Blueberry pancakes, huh?"
Max smiled. "Yeah. One of Andrew's friends
taught me. Dad, I'd really like for you to meet
them. Andrew especially."
"Sure." Rex made his way to the coffee maker, first
pulling a bottle from the cabinet and pouring a generous
amount of clear liquid into his mug before the
coffee. "Someday," he added as he shuffled to the
table and unfolded a newspaper.
Max grimaced. "God forbid a day not start with
whiskey," he said under his breath.
"You talking to me, boy?"
"No, Dad. Just to myself." Max poured some
batter into a pan. "So what kind of tree you
think? Fir, pine, spruce?"
"Don't care so long as we can get it in here without much
trouble. I don't want needles all over the carpet."
"Right." Max was tempted to point out that even when
needles fell, his dad would hardly be the one picking them
up. He'd spent his first days following his return
from Germany just getting the house cleaned.
December 3rd, 2012
fresh from a group therapy session at the VA Medical Center
in New York, stepped into his house. He smiled when he
picked up on the aroma of cornbread baking and the sounds of
JenniAnn and Violeta having a lively discussion in the
kitchen. They were so engrossed, they didn't notice as
he stood in the hallway.
"I just don't get it. How do they believe that one man
visits every house in the world in one night?" Violeta
queried. JenniAnn had taken her to see Adam playing
Santa and it had left her brimming with questions and some
"Magic. Imagination. Kids don't need everything
to conform to physics to believe it," JenniAnn
answered. "And thank God for that. Because
there's a lot in life that it's good to believe in... and
those beliefs don't all follow the rules of logic and
"But why don't people stick with teaching about
Nicholas? Why turn his story into this Santa myth with
the North Pole and reindeer and..." The young angel
shook her head, daunted. "Why is Adam playing into
"Because it brings joy to children which, in turn, makes
Adam happy. You saw. I guess I always thought
maybe God started giving that role to Adam every year cause,
well, it's a nice balance to what he sometimes has to
see. As for the larger theological issue... Would you
agree that one of the most important aspects of St.
Nicholas' life was that he was kind and generous to others?"
JenniAnn asked as she pulled a pan of corn bread from the
"All right. And we want to keep that memory of him
alive. Forever. But as much as I admire him... I
don't want to sit little Shelby down and explain to her that
we should be kind and generous as Nicholas was when he saved
three girls from a life of forced prostitution. Later,
when she's older, I want her to learn about the real
Nicholas. But right now... He's Santa.
Does that make sense?"
Violeta nodded. "But isn't it traumatic when kids find
out the truth? Good bye North Pole, elves,
chimneys... Adults lied."
"I don't really think so. I was fine when I found out
'the truth': that my parents were the ones who lovingly
picked the toys and that there is a man who loved God so
very much and showed it by being kind and good to
others. He probly had the same questions all of us
humans do, the same doubts. But Nicholas did his best
and he lives in Heaven now, still loving all of us kids...
no matter how old we are. And who knows that he's not
inspiring all those Santas like Adam?"
The young angel contemplated this, her thoughts turning to
her supervisor who loved God and was always kind and
good. "Do you think when Max finds out about Andrew...
maybe it'll be something like that? He'll realize the
real story is better than the bits and pieces of truth he
Surprised by the aptness of Violeta's connection, JenniAnn
turned away from the counter to face her and in so doing saw
Andrew. He seemed interested in her response so
JenniAnn nodded at the younger angel. "Ya know, I
think that's very likely. And even though I really,
really want Max to know about Andrew being an angel, I think
it's kinda like my Shelby example. St. Nick's real
story would just plain be too much for Shel right now.
Once Max has a lil more time among us, a lil more time with
Andrew under good conditions with him being happy and
healthy... Max'll be ready." JenniAnn grinned at
Andrew. "Although the analogy does falter on one
"What's that?" the trainee asked, still oblivious.
"With all due respect and love to St. Nick... Andrew's far
cuter, I'm sure." Giggling, JenniAnn tilted her head
to the hall.
Violeta saw her supervisor and hugged him as he blushed upon
hearing JenniAnn's remark. "Hi. Dinner's almost
ready. We're having tomato bisque, spinach with feta
and cranberries, and cornbread."
Andrew smiled. "It sounds and smells delicious.
But I'm looking forward to spending time with you and
JenniAnn even more than the food." He kissed his
trainee's hair then moved to hug JenniAnn. "Good job
on the Santa thing. I heard most of it," he
whispered. "And... I hope you're right about the
"Thank you. And I'm sure I am." JenniAnn
returned the hug. "So how was group?"
The angel of death began to set the table.
"Good. Sad, though. The counselor asked about
our holiday plans... not everyone had them. The
hospital has activities so no one will be alone if they
don't want to be but still..." Andrew shook his head.
"No one should be alone now, especially when they've gone
through so much." Violeta frowned before looking back
to Andrew, her eyes brightening. "Did you ask the
counselor about our idea?"
Beaming, Andrew nodded. "He loved it."
"Good. So we were thinking we could use the 15th and
16th to make the blankets and cookies," JenniAnn
informed. "Then you can bring them with you to your
session on the 17th. We just need to know how many
people, counselor included."
"Well, you may not need your own tin of cookies given we
never seem to run out here but you're definitely getting a
blanket." JenniAnn turned to Violeta. "Help me
Violeta dutifully nodded. "Andrew, do you want the
gifts to be a surprise to Max or do you think he'd want to
come help us?"
"I think it'd mean more to him to have the time with us than
be surprised. He, umm, seemed down today," Andrew
frowned and rubbed his hair. "I know he planned to
spend yesterday getting a Christmas tree with his dad but I
got the impression that didn't pan out. Hey, do you
think... I know everyone's busy with their own holiday
preparations but for those who have some free time... I
thought maybe we could do a little more together than we
usually do. Invite Max along. He was so happy
"I don't see a problem with that at all," JenniAnn
assured. "I'd love to spend more time together.
Starting with right now..." She sat the kettle of soup
down. "Dinner's ready."
Once they were seated, the three joined hands as Andrew led
grace. "Father, we thank You for this delicious meal
and for the time to enjoy it together. Please bless
our friends and our family and help us to always recognize
the blessings in our own lives. Amen."
"Amen," the two women echoed.
JenniAnn took a sip of her soup then looked to Andrew.
"First thing first, we're getting that boy a Christmas
"Definitely," Andrew agreed.
"Max needs his own ornament," Violeta pointed out.
JenniAnn nodded. "Andrew's already on it."
That much settled, they enjoyed their meal and began to lay
the groundwork for a festive month ahead. After a
while, Andrew found himself simply listening and feeling
incredibly proud as JenniAnn and Violeta rattled off idea
after idea. If Thanksgiving had been any indication,
and he was sure it was, they would make Christmas a season
that neither he nor Max would ever forget. He hoped he
could make them as happy as they were making him.