Grayson’s Christmas Cookies

Grayson can’t wait to eat his warm chocolate chip cookies, but his mom’s and sister’s sadness make doing so difficult.

Sturdy legs pumped underneath Grayson as he rushed home from school. Swerving around the other laughing children, he ran harder. Nothing could keep him from getting home first. If he didn’t beat his sister home, Mom would make him share his treat, and warm chocolate chip cookies were his favorite.

The scrumptious treat cradled carefully in his backpack were the last two remaining cookies from his class Christmas party. Missy’s mom brought them in hot and wrapped in foil. Maybe if they were cold, he’d share, but no way would he share warm cookies. Not even with Mom, and she was his favorite person in the whole world.

Cutting through his yard and bounding down the path through the hedge that lined the walkway to the front door, he threw the door open. It thudded against the wall, but he barely noticed, leaving it open. He stopped. Mom slumped in a chair, leaning against the dining room table with her hand covering her face.

“Mom?”

“Hi, honey. How was school? Did you enjoy your Christmas party?”

Mom’s voice sounded weird. Her eyes, which normal sparkled, dulled, accenting the reddened skin around them. Grayson closed the door.

“Yeah. Missy’s mom brought hot chocolate chip cookies!”

“That’s wonderful.”

His hands landed on the top of the table. Why wasn’t mom smiling? Mom’s were supposed to smile. The aroma of the cookies in his backpack caught up to him. Warm chocolate chips dotted each one. They were baked to perfection—a chewy middle and crisped edges. It almost seemed to touch his tongue. He paused, then reached up and patted Mom’s shoulder. “Why are you sad?”

“Oh, it’s nothing you need to worry about.” She gathered the half-empty mug in front of her and made her way to the kitchen.

Grayson watched as she placed the mug in the sink. She lifted her hand and wiped at her face. Every minute he waited to eat the cookies they cooled down. Waiting much longer and the chocolate would harden. He glanced back at Mom. “But you’re crying.”

“It’s just been a hard day. I’m okay, sweetheart, you go play.”

Hard days made Grayson cry too. The last hard day he had, Dad took away his Mega Nerf Blaster because he kept shooting his sister. But he only shot her like that because she took the TV remote. He cried a lot that day.

Following his mom to the living room, Grayson gazed at the Christmas tree lights. White lights reflected of shiny ornaments. His eyes fell to the nativity on the table next to it.

Sunday School usually meant an hour of sitting in a metal chair kicking his feet and being told to stop talking. But in the back of his mind, Grayson seemed to remember Sister Ross saying the baby Jesus suffered for everyone’s pain.

Grayson walked to the nativity and picked up the baby Jesus. “Mom, why doesn’t Jesus make you happy?”

After helping Grayson remove his backpack, she placed her hands on his shoulders. “He does. But he also lets us feel some sadness so we can know what happiness is.”

“Oh. Don’t you know what happiness is?”

“You make me happy.”

The front door rammed into the wall harder than it had when Grayson got home, interrupting their conversation.

“Mom, I hate school and boys!” Kayla stomped into the room, throwing her bag to the floor and herself onto the cushy chair.

He wouldn’t fight her for it today. He wasn’t getting himself beat up.

Mom’s shoulders dipped a bit lower. “I like some boys.”

She winked at Grayson, but her eyes still looked sad.

“I like school.” He did, but he was glad for the two-week break, too. Telling Kayla that seemed like a waste.

His sister rolled her teary eyes at him. “Go away. Mom, make him leave.”

“I don’t want to leave.” He picked up the remote and turned on the TV then stuck his tongue out at Kayla when Mom wasn’t looking.

Mom reached over and shut the TV off. “Grayson, can you take your backpack to your room and play in there for a little while?”

Cookies!

How had he forgotten so quickly? Lunging for his backpack, he ran to his room. The zipper screeched as he opened the bag, and the air filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies. The outside of the foil warmed his fingertips, raising the corners of Grayson’s lips. Missy’s mom wrapped them real good. Cookies never stayed warm that long.

As he started to unwrap the delectable treat, he heard Kayla scream at her mom. “He said that in front of the whole class! That I’m dumb!”

Grayson frowned. A lot of times, Kayla made him angry, but she still took care of him, and she wasn’t dumb. She cooked all his favorite foods, and sometimes she helped him with his homework. Dumb people couldn’t do his homework—it was hard! He wondered when Jesus would take away Kayla’s pain. Mom probably still hurt too.

Unwrapping the cookies, he lifted the first one to his mouth, but couldn’t take a bite. Kayla and Mom like cookies too. If Jesus wasn’t going to help them be happy, maybe the cookies would.

He stared at the gooey desserts, each one perfectly round and perfectly golden. Soft in the middle, crispy on the edges, and the chocolate shined. All the other kids ate at the party, but he hadn’t.

Jacob had fallen at recess, and Grayson talked to him about the scratches he’d had after his own fall. After that, there wasn’t time to eat the cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Giving away snickerdoodles or oatmeal raisin never hurt, but chocolate chip was his favorite.

The door creaked as he cracked it open to see where Mom and his sister were. Music from Kayla’s stereo filled the hall. She liked it loud. He knocked.

“Go away!”

He blew out his breath and inhaled courageously. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

“Open the door.”

She swung the door open. “What?”

Grayson offered Kayla the cookie.

“Where’d you get that?”

“School.”

She shifted on her feet before taking the treat. “Thanks.”

“You’re not dumb.”

Kayla rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Yeah, neither are you.”

The door closed and Grayson’s feet shuffled down the tiled hall to the kitchen, but Mom wasn’t there. Turning around, he headed back to her bedroom. Walking through the open door, he saw her leaning over one of her favorite blouses, which now had a large hole where a pocket had been.

“Mom?”

“What do you need Grayson?”

“Nothing, I just figured if Jesus won’t help you be happy, maybe this cookie will.”

Mom grinned and started crying again. “It certainly smells good.” She took the cookie and broke it in half, handing some back to Grayson. “You should have some too.”

“Thanks.”

Mom pulled him against her side. “Grayson, today you helped Jesus make me happy.”

“I did?” He scrunched up his nose and looked at Mom.

“Yup. Most of the time, Jesus makes us happy through the actions of others.”

“He does?”

“He does. Not every miracle comes with lightning flashes. Most come in everyday ways.”

Grayson grinned. “Like sharing my cookie?”

Mom gathered Grayson into her arms and planted a kiss on top of his head. “Like sharing your cookie.”

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A Christmas Prayer

With Bria gone, Christmas dulled my life, but then I discovered she still lit everything around me.

Loosely based on a true story. A Christmas Prayer remembers grief while celebrating life.

A Christmas Prayer is loosely based on a true story.

A Christmas Prayer

The blaring beep from my alarm sent waves of stress through my body, and I slammed my hand against the off button. My pillow soon dampened as sobbing wails found themselves lost in its fluff. No one should expect me to get out of bed, not today. Not this month.

“Why Christmas?” The words slipped past my lips though no one listened. Lights and baubles, reindeer songs, and happy wishes adorned the world outside. Everyone else forgot. Not me. I couldn’t. With only dry laments remaining, I crawled from my bed and sank to the floor.

Slurred words and stumbled steps filled my memory. Bria had left her bedroom expecting an exhilarating Christmas only to find herself rushed to the hospital instead. We lived a nightmare that day.

Pulling myself from the rug, I dressed without worry of what I wore and staggered to my car. With the steering wheel in my hands, I repeated the same mantra I had for several weeks: work will force my mind to other things. I never believed the lie.

At work, happy faces blurred as I walked past co-workers. I bowed my head and clutched my purse. Smiling hurt when my sincerity failed.

Bria always knew when I faked smiling. She would never have forgiven my sallow behavior. The year I lost my job, she forced me through the front door and down the street. Pointing at every light we passed, she’d mentioned something that made her happy. Then, after a block, she looked at me.

“Your turn Mom.”

I shook my head and backed away. “We should go home.”

“Not until I see you smile.”

My lips parted and I flashed my teeth at her. It probably looked like a grimacing growl. “There.”

She rolled her eyes. “Nice try. Look,” she pointed, “what do the lights on that house remind you of?”

“I don’t know… The electric bill I can’t afford.”

Her head flung back and she stared at the sky. “M-o-o-m.”

“Okay.” I stomped my cold feet. “It reminds me of…tucking you in at night.”

“That’s better.”

A few houses away, I pulled her into a hug, a genuine grin on my face. “Bria, I’ll forever be happy as long as I have you.”

“I still expect a big Christmas gift.”

A snort escaped me but was accompanied by a smile. “I’ll get right on that.”

“Good. And I suppose I can give up cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate for breakfast.” She nudged me with her shoulder. “But don’t burn the oatmeal, okay?”

The office relaxed through the holidays, and once the party started, I slipped out. I might not get away from all the celebration, but I wouldn’t ignore the presented escape either. Leaving my car in the lot, I walked down the street. My fingers reddened in the cold breeze, and I slipped my gloves from my jacket pocket.

The city always set up an ice rink in the winter. It was right around the corner. Ice skating was Bria's favorite winter activity. As she and her friends got older, they went without parents, but Bria still found time to drag me onto that ice. She twirled and skated. I shuffled and fell.

People said the pain would wane. They were wrong. I missed her more each day.

Recent snow lined the walks, and I listened to it crunch under my shoes as I passed the rink. The local churches had set up nativities under the picnic ramada for the week, and a vendor cart with warm drinks greeted people at the park’s entrance. I joined the queue.

My eyes fell on a young girl dressed in a worn coat dancing in the distance. Her long ponytails swirled behind her with every graceful pirouette she made. The woman with her heartily applauded. She could only be the girl’s mother. With a drink in my hand, I found a bench and sat, captivated. How many times had I watched Bria the same way? My eyes burned and I blinked rapidly, then followed the crowd of people toward the nativities.

A year of pent-up anger surged within me, and I clung to it with all my might. How could I celebrate without Bria? God could have stopped it. She would still be with me if He’d allowed it. But He hadn’t.

Blinking no longer satiated the burning in my eyes. I swept tears away with my gloved hand, then stilled as a quiet voice spoke in my mind. Listen.

I stepped down the aisle, gazing at the various nativities. Porcelain. Wood. Some were Precious Moments. One was Peanuts—Woodstock played the Christ child.

Listen.

I tried but heard nothing.

I took another step.

Listen.

The crowd buzzed quietly among separate groups. I waited.

“Why?” a young voice asked.

“We can’t afford it this year,” an older voice answered.

“But we always have a tree.”

I spun. The same mother and daughter I had seen before stood near the nativity behind me.

“I want one too.” The mom bent down, holding her daughter’s shoulders. “What if we take old boxes, color them green, and make a tree?”

Bria would have loved that.

The girl bounced on her feet. “Okay. Can I color ornaments on it too?”
“That’s a great idea!”

As they passed, the girl met my eyes and smiled. I smiled back—not a fake smile—a sincere one. A warmth surrounded my heart, and I reached for the mother’s arm. She turned.

“I heard your conversation.” My fingers dug through my purse. “Something told me to listen. I think God placed you in my life today.” Money slipped from my hand to hers, my chin trembling. “My daughter died on Christmas day last year from a brain aneurysm. She still lights up my life when I let the happiness in. Please buy a tree.” I bowed my head. “But will you do one thing for me?”

The mother’s eyes glistened. “I can’t take this.”

“You can. It means everything to me. Please.”

She nodded and squeezed her daughter’s hand.

“One thing, though. Buy an angel ornament, too, and hang it on the tree.” I tilted my head as my face crumpled. “Say a little prayer for my Bria.”

The mother reached her hand toward mine. “We will. Thank you.”

As I headed toward the office parking lot, I smiled sincerely for the second time. “God, please send me a family to help every Christmas. Bria would like that.”

Read more short Christmas stories on kameomonson.com, where you can also download your free copy of Sometimes a Bird has to Fly.

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