Today we are looking in on our friends in Bannoch, Oregon, to see how they are planning to spend Christmas.
Bunny (Bunny Elder Adventures series) is packing today for her trip to Boise, Idaho, where she will spend a white Christmas with her sister, Linda, and family. She smiles as she tucks a small nativity set made of seashells and driftwood into her bag to add to Linda’s collection. It is sure to bring back memories; fond, not-so-fond and hilarious, from the sisters’ trip to Italy to acquire a special Neapolitan crèche. (You can read about their adventures in Vain Pursuits.)
Across town, in the Bannoch Community Fellowship parsonage, Bunny’s good friend Naidenne Davidson (The First Ladies Club) is happily baking gingerbread men with her small daughter, Talitha Joy, while Scott, and brother-in-law, Len Spurgeon, wrestle the family Christmas tree into place in the old-fashioned parlor.
“We’ll miss you and Rosie this Christmas, Len,” Scott says, standing back to check the tree.“I think it could be just a hair straighter, but it’s a real beauty!”
“It should be, after lugging it half a mile down the hillside,” Len replies, rubbing his back. “When it’s decorated, it will be a stunner. Rosie says you have to take dozens of photos of the tree, the Christmas Eve service, Christmas morning, and all…and she wants you to post them on Facebook, so we can see them right away.”
“Are you sure you two want to travel all the way to Southern California for Christmas?” Scott asks. “My sister has never had a Christmas away from home, you know.”
“Oh, I know, but this trip is Rosamund’s idea. Ever since she was a youngster, she’s dreamed of Christmas at Disneyland. My brother lives in the area, too, so we will get to fulfill her dream and catch up with my family at the same time.”
“Oh, Mommy! Come see the tree! It’s so big,” Talitha cries, running into the room and flinging her flour-covered arms around her father’s legs.
Scott sweeps his daughter into his arms with a laugh.
“As soon as we are through with the baking…and get washed up…we can decorate the tree,” Naidenne says, walking into the room wiping her hands on her apron. “Will you need help bringing the decorations down from the attic, Scott?”
“Can I help, Daddy?” Talitha asks, patting him on the cheek.
“I thought you wanted to finish the cookies, first,” Scott says.
“It takes too long. Mommy can do it. Right, Mommy?”
“Sure. You’ve been a big help with the baking, but now it’s Daddy’s turn to have a helper,” Naidenne grins at her husband as she speaks.
The happy family continues with their holiday preparations, just as many of their Bannoch neighbors are doing.
The town’s ministers and their families seldom travel during this Holy season. Their lives center around their church and the joyous services of celebration. There is no need to remind any of them of the true reason for the season.
Rev. Merrill Bishop (A Body in the Belfry) and her nephew, Ryan, are in the grand First Baptist Church sanctuary where Merrill is helping the ladies decorate the pews and altar rail, while Ryan and the organist, Peri, practice special music for the Christmas Eve communion service.
In the midst of this happy work, a woman pulling something staggers in from the foyer, backwards. Dressed like a gypsy with a many-layered skirt and flowing shawls, she tugs a large wicker basket up the aisle.
“Judy! What have you got there?” Merrill cries to her friend, Judy Falls, wife of the Presbyterian church pastor (read Judy’s story in A Corpse in the Chapel).
“Do you need help?” Merrill asks.
Giving a last mighty tug and losing her grip, Judy plops down on her backside with a laugh.
“I’ve been up in the woods picking wild holly for the Hanging of the Greens and I seem to have gotten carried away. We have all we can use at my church, so I’m toting the bounty around to see who else can use it. It would be criminal to snatch these beautiful branches from their home in the forest and then just throw them away.”
“You’ve come at just the right time. Look ladies!” Merrill calls to the other women, “More greenery, exactly what we needed!”.
Joyful scenes like these are taking place in all the churches and parsonages in town as these friends from the First Ladies Club share the happiness each experiences in her own way, while celebrating the birth of their common Savior.