To celebrate Christmas this year, Coffee and Creatives took entries in various mediums to celebrate the season. The winner is Barbara Pruitt with her essay "Christmas Long Ago." Congratulations Barbara!
Christmas Long Ago
by Barbara Pruitt
I was three years old, and I was asleep in my bed when my dad rushed in and urgently gathered me up in his arms. He carried me down the long, cold hallway of our drafty house. The front door was open although it was a frosty night. Barely awake, I was astonished to see men and women standing outside singing—singing to me. A cheery smile lit a woman’s eyes. Beside her, a man swayed in time with the music as he sang, his mouth a friendly red O.
I realized all eyes were on me. Embarrassed, I pushed my face into my dad’s scratchy wool sweater. It was a maroon. My mother knitted it for him. My small, pale hand clutched the browny-red expanse of my dad’s chest as I tried to decode what was happening. The cold air burned my nose. The caroler’s frosty breath puffed around their faces on this mysterious, magical night. It was Christmas time.
If our earliest memories lay the tracks for interpreting our lives, this experience defines Christmas for me. Why did my dad burst into my room and carry me into the night? I remember trying to understand this break with the rule of nighttime is for sleeping, the puzzling people at the door singing, and my dad’s excitement. Mysterious.
Together we stood in the cold, sharing the strangeness of a night unlike any other. My fear at the surrealness assuaged in the strength of my father’s arms, holding me close. His love allowed me to enjoy this gift.
I wish I could remember the songs the carolers sang that wintry night. Music is a profound piece of entering into Christmas for me. It moves my spirit.
Traveling through Advent singing: Come, thou long-expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free and: Joy to the world, The Lord has come, I am centered between Christmas past and Christmas future.
As I help my daughter hold a burning taper, we sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. Her face is aglow with surprise at being permitted-- encouraged--to grasp a flaming candle in her tiny hands.
This is Christmas, small one, sharing a mysterious night filled with singing in the closeness of someone who loves you.
In the 1st grade, I learned to read using Fun With Dick and Jane. I celebrate fifty years as a reader by seeking to join the conversation. All the words, ideas, and life I have taken in have filled me to overflowing, and I write to understand and express them. My favorite genre is magical realism, but I also write creative non-fiction and literary fiction.
Most of my life has been spent moving from place to place. My father joined the Air Force when I was 2 months old and separated two days after graduating from high school. One of the constants in my life was books; another was libraries. An introverted kid, I spent much time living in my imagination. I married a man who eventually joined the Army and continued to move every two to three years. We had five daughters whom we homeschooled through many moves. Twenty-five years ago, we moved to the suburbs of Baltimore and have remained in the same house. It still feels strange to have lived so long in one place.
I have lived nine years of my life outside the United States. I went to preschool in England, a middle school in Germany, and a high school in Nebraska. I have had a baby in Monterey, California; Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; two in Virginia; and one in Heidelberg, Germany.
I started writing—juvenile fiction, magical realism, mystery, and creative non-fiction—because I love stories of all kinds. I also finished a college degree in Biblical Studies. I had paused for twenty years to get married and for the development of the computer to correct my spelling. Currently, I am a part of an Annapolis writer’s group led by Laura Olivier.
To read more of Barbara's work, check out her website at: