(advent) December 2

Saturday, December 2

The snow from the night before had continued, a light but steady fall of flakes that looked as if it might never end. Luckily for Molly and Schrodinger, they had a Jeep with winter tires on it, and were used to driving. “I doubt we’ll get a lot of people today, though,” Molly said, as she parked the Jeep in the predawn gloom.

If it wasn’t the Cove, I’d agree with you, Schrodinger said, hopping out into the snow. People will just pull out the snowmobiles or the sleighs and do what they need to do.

               “True,” Molly said. She admired the front door of CrossWinds Books, which had its customary holly and poinsettia wreath already up. The leaves, flowers, and berries glowed against the dark wood. “At the very least, we’ll see the kids. Zoey and Gideon stayed with Lily and Kaylee last night, and Corrinne is bringing them over.”

Yes. We need to talk to you guys.

The seven had asked to meet with Molly, her husband Drew, and Aunt Margie this morning, but would only say that it was in reference to the Advent plans they had. Molly wondered what they were planning.

“Well, they should be here fairly soon,” Molly said, turning off the alarm. She and Schrodinger were actually running a bit late, due to the snow, but she wasn’t worried. There were plenty of scones and bread already made.

The store opened at eight. By nine, everyone they were expecting had gathered in the tea room: Molly, her husband Drew, Schrodinger, Lily, Kaylee, Gideon, Zoey, Jack, and Aurora. Aunt Margie, the owner of the bookstore, was there too, along with Lily and Kaylee’s parents Nathan and Corrinne, Gideon’s mother Kiaya, and Zoey’s father Peter.

“Okay, guys, give,” Drew said, rubbing his sleepy eyes. “What are you plotting?”

“We aren’t exactly plotting,” Gideon said seriously. “Plotting implies that we are going behind someone’s back, and we aren’t.”

Kiaya shook her head. “I know, buddy, I know. What are you planning?”

“An Advent adventure,” Lily said, and the others nodded. “Here’s what we want to do.” She opened the notebook she was holding.

What followed impressed Molly. They had taken their memories of the Advent calendar and the Advent castle and created a plan to help around the Cove for the entire season. To their credit, there were also days of rest scheduled in, but Molly foresaw a busy December.

“Are you guys sure you can do this?” Peter asked. “This is pretty ambitious.”

“And how are you going to pay for your materials?” Corrinne added. “Some of this will need some serious supplies.”

Molly watched the children closely, but they didn’t seem worried.

“We were hoping we could use the tea room as our home base,” Lily said, as her compatriots nodded. “And most of the stuff we want to do is using things we already have.”

“We have a ton of wrapping paper, for example,” Kaylee added eagerly. “We can use it to make decorations. And popcorn and cranberries aren’t very expensive.”

And some of us have money put aside as well, Schrodinger said. Mostly, we’re looking at going around and helping where we are needed.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Molly said. “I know I’d be willing to pay you guys to help me with the bake sale, for example. And I can probably donate some supplies.”

“I think we can too,” Drew said thoughtfully. “Mac was talking about getting rid of some of the older decorations, and maybe you could use them?”

“Yes,” Gideon said eagerly. “We were going to look to see if we could find some that weren’t being used.”

“I can surely use help too,” Aunt Margie added. “And I’m very impressed that you all came up with this yourselves. I was hoping you would help decorate upstairs for Santa again.”

Of course! Jack wagged his tail eagerly. And the good news about the Cove is that it’s easily navigated. We don’t need someone to take us to most places.

               And we’ll keep everyone safe, Aurora added. This is going to be so much fun!

“Well, I don’t see any problems, as long you don’t neglect your homework and chores,” Corrinne said. “It sounds like a lot of fun!”

“Yay!” Kaylee said, throwing herself into her mother’s arms. “I can’t wait to start!”

“Well, what’s on your list today?” Corrinne asked, smoothing her younger daughter’s flyaway bangs down fondly.

“Helping Aunt Margie decorate for Santa!” Lily said. “He’s coming next Saturday, right?”

“Of course he is. And I have supplies for you,” Aunt Margie said. “Ruth and I cleaned out her craft closet, and she found a bunch of things she’d forgotten she had. Want to come up and see?”

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Every year, Aunt Margie transformed the upper room of CrossWinds Books into a winter wonderland. The main points of the room remained the same, of course: book cases marching around the edges, and the center dotted with groups of easy chairs and small tables. But there were some large tables set against the right-hand side of the room, covered with all sorts of craft supplies. And next to the big fireplace was the great wooden chair that seemed to appear by magic the first of December.

Molly had told Schrodinger that the chair had belonged to her grandfather, and had been in the Barrett family for generations. The wood glowed darkly, reflecting the white lights from the Christmas tree on the other side of the fireplace. That was where Santa would sit when he came to hear everyone’s requests for Christmas.

Across the great stone fireplace were hung stockings, each with an employee’s name. Schrodinger had one, for which he was very proud. Aunt Margie would make sure the stockings were filled on Christmas Eve with all sorts of lovely little things for each of her staff, and gave them out on Boxing Day (the store being closed for Christmas Day, of course).

Aunt Margie led them over to the tables. “Ruth said she didn’t want to see any of it after Christmas is over,” she said, grinning at them. “So whatever you don’t use to decorate here can be used elsewhere.”

“Wow,” Lily said, her eyes huge. “She had all this?”

“She has even more, which is why she doesn’t want it back.” Aunt Margie chuckled. “You guys can decorate this room, the downstairs, and, of course, the mail box.”

“Where is it, Aunt Margie?” Zoey asked, looking around the room.

“It hasn’t been delivered yet,” Aunt Margie told her. “I’m expecting it later today.”

Every year, a large blue mailbox was set up in the upper room at the bookstore, and it only collected letters to Santa. Aunt Margie never said where she got it, but Schrodinger was firmly convinced it was delivered from the North Pole especially. Aunt Margie seemed to have a very good relationship with Santa, and the CrossCat didn’t doubt for an instant that the Jolly Old Elf wouldn’t supply something like that to his old friend.

“I’ll leave you to this, then,” Aunt Margie said. “When the mailbox gets here, I’ll be out to show them where it goes.”

The seven of them stood looking at the tables. “Well, I think the first thing we should do is go through it all,” Gideon said finally. “Let’s see what we have before we make any plans.”

“Sounds good to me,” Lily said. She still had her notebook and pen in her hand. “I’ll keep notes, if you guys want to sort it.”

Besides the mounds and mounds of wrapping paper that Aunt Margie always seemed to have on hand, there were skeins and skeins of wool and cotton embroidery floss, some with metallic threads shot through them; two big jars of buttons; a bag of small crocheted stockings and mittens that looked as if they might have been made to hang on a miniature Christmas tree; several containers of beads that sparkled and flashed, although not a one had any batteries or anything like that; and rolls and rolls of ribbon. And that was just the beginning.

“You know, we have enough to decorate all sorts of things here,” Zoey said, looking at all the treasure. “What should we do for the bookstore?”

“Aunt Margie really likes snowflakes, remember?” Kaylee said, and her sister nodded. “And there’s that whole bag of sparkly sequins we found. Those would be amazing on snowflakes!”

“And the bag of snow!” Gideon said. “I bet we could do an entire winter scene in the window downstairs!”

Yes, and I bet if you ask Molly nicely, she might be able to give you a cookie jar or two that look like houses to put in it, Schrodinger added. And I know we have a Christmas tree somewhere.

               DC was putting up a small tree in the window, Jack said. Maybe we should check that out.

In the end, Jack, Kaylee, Gideon, and Schrodinger went back downstairs to see what DC had already done, while Zoey, Lily, and Aurora started sorting wrapping paper for snowflakes. Schrodinger led the way down the stairs, and found the clerk behind her counter, giving change to one of the high school students.

“How can I help you folks?” she said, turning her smile on them. Schrodinger adored DC. She was constantly in a good mood, and he was privately convinced that she was the one who really ran the store.

“We’re going to decorate, and we wanted to see what you had done already,” Kaylee said. “So we could help!”

“We found snow,” Gideon said. “And some very sparkly beads. We thought we’d do a winter wonderland.”

“Oh, I like that idea!” DC agreed. “Let’s go see what we have to work with!”

There were two big windows in the front of the bookstore. In one, Molly had set up a tea set, with some of her prettiest tea pots and cups, full of red poinsettias and holiday greenery. They left that one alone and turned to the other one.

“I hadn’t gotten very far,” DC admitted. “But I found the tree at a garage sale this summer, and I really wanted to use it.”

The tree in question was made of white ceramic, and it was nearly as tall as Schrodinger was. Colored lights were dotted all over it. DC had set it in the middle of the window. They watched as she knelt down and flipped on a switch underneath it.

Lights blazed from the tree, in all shades of the rainbow. Then, as they watched, the lights began to blink on and off, and the tree itself began to rotate.

Oh, that’s cool! Schrodinger said.

“My gran used to have one,” DC said, looking fondly at the tree as it turned slowly. “It wasn’t truly Christmas until she pulled this out, and she wouldn’t do so until December first.”

Gideon was studying the window and the tree. “Hey guys, weren’t there some dolls in one of the bags upstairs?” he said. “We could put presents and the dolls around the tree, and make it a really cozy scene?”

“I like that idea!” Kaylee agreed, clapping her hands together. “And then we can use the snow elsewhere! Let’s go upstairs and tell the others!”

Which is what they ended up doing. There had been two dolls, as Gideon had remembered: handmade dolls with molded bodies and faces, dressed in red and green pajamas, with stocking caps on their heads. Even better was the small bunk beds Zoey and Lily had found: it looked as if Ruth had been planning some sort of doll house for someone. Schrodinger found a small set of boxes that they wrapped up as presents, and Molly even donated a plate of cookies and a mug for Santa. DC helped them arrange it all in the window. Then they went outside to see it.

The bunk beds were on one side of the window, with both dolls tucked in. There had been small quilt scraps they had used as blankets, and Aurora had dug out a small teddy bear for one of them. Presents were clustered around the tree on the other side, and a small crate (that Molly had also found for them) held the mug and plate of cookies with a note that said “For Santa” on it.

“I love it!” Aunt Margie said, when she saw it. “It’s perfect!”

They all beamed at her.

“I just came down to tell you all that the mail box has been delivered,” she continued. “I can’t wait to see what you do with that!”

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