330: “Fruitcake Chronicles,” a serialized holiday story, Part 4

Overflowing with gifts
MERRY CHRISTMAS
(our gift continues …)
   

HERE’S Part 4 of our holiday serial, “Fruitcake Chronicles,” written by Doug Bursch, a pastor and an inspiring
writer from the Pacific Northwest. (To read more about him: Check out his new venture: “The Fairly Spiritual Show.”)
   
Please, tell us what you think! We’re going to publish Parts 5 & 6 on Sunday.

    COME BACK MONDAY for a jam-packed Roundup of reader comments and fresh inspirational news!

The Fruitcake Chronicles:
A Terrible Misunderstanding

By Doug Bursch
(Part 4 of 6)

(LINKS TO ALL PARTS: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Parts 5 & 6)

St Nicholas on the move
“SO WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK?” Steve’s loud tone and exaggerated gestures conveyed his lack of faith in his audience’s receptivity. “Let’s do this thing! Instead of wasting a bunch of money on a bunch a useless stuff, let’s make this Christmas memorable. This year — let’s make our own Christmas presents!”
    Steve Forester’s fourth-grade daughter Lystra burst into tears, ran up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door. On the way out, Lystra had the last word, “I hate this stupid idea! You’re killing Christmas!”
    Cynthia, Steve’s remaining progeny, sat quietly on the living room rug, legs crossed, head in hands. Steve hoped his youngest daughter might forget this memory; however, he suspected that someday a therapist would help her remember.
    Steve was reluctant to look at his wife. He could feel her disapproval. When conflict greeted the Forester household, it was almost always three to one. Finally, he looked in her direction. “What do you think, Jenny?”
    Jennifer was a minimalist at heart. Her measured response said enough, “You really want to go through with this?”
    Steve bobbled a nod.
    Jenny continued. “Well, at least it will be memorable. I certainly will not forget it.” She rose from the couch and reached down for Cynthia’s hand. “Come on little miss. Let’s go rescue your sister.”
    In the initial stages, there is little difference between a true visionary and a bull-headed moron. Unfortunately for the Forester family, Steve saw himself as a visionary. His passion to rescue Christmas was too great to be thwarted by a temporary family rebellion.
    As Christmas drew near, Steve began to question his visionary status. This was primarily due to his failure at making even one viable Christmas present. With a week left until Christmas, Steve’s hand-craftiness had produced three wooden dolls with eerily misshaped torsos; a dozen smog-hewed, lopsided votive candles; a pile of oddly variegated pot-holders; and two immobile, asymmetrical fiberglass wagons.
    Steve knew he was in trouble when the craft store employees started greeting him by name. Not only were his crafts poorly executed, they were also extremely impractical. The phrase, “it’s the thought that counts” was formed under such conditions. Shaken but still undeterred, Steve finally settled on a craft that appeared practical in the remaining time. He decided to make homemade perfume.
    The Internet site where Steve found his perfume recipe purported the fragrance would evoke the essence of Chanel. Steve’s stovetop production smelled more like a meth lab. The odor was so pungent, he closed all the windows of his house for fear of raising suspicion. It was at this moment, Steve received a knock on the door from Sandra Lock, the superintendent of schools.
    Superintendent Lock’s wide smile turned slightly towards concern as she gazed upon Mr. Forester’s attire. Due to the caustic, splattering nature of his aroma alchemy, he was wearing a protective shower cap, safety glasses, chemist’s gloves, waist-high waders, and a plastic apron. As Steve removed his glasses and opened the screen door, Sandra Lock turned her head to the side to temper the pungent wall of fumes.
    “Well, hello Steven. I hope I didn’t interrupt you.” Mrs. Lock inhaled with a slight gasp. Her thoughts raced back to the drug-awareness seminar she had just attended.
    After some awkward small talk, Mrs. Lock diplomatically introduced the purpose of her house call: “Steve, there’s no easy way to say this. So I’m asking that you just hear me out before you respond.” She paused and entered into more rehearsed remarks. “A few weeks back, your daughter Cynthia started crying in class. She told her teacher how you guys were making each other presents because you couldn’t afford to buy gifts. When we heard the news, we just felt we needed to do something. So a bunch of us got together and bought you and your family some Christmas gifts.” Mrs. Lock turned and pointed to a large bag of presents sitting directly behind her.
    “You did what?” Then, Steve’s confusion left him at a loss for words.
    Superintendent Lock quickly closed the conversation and headed for the car. She had mistaken Mr. Forester’s reaction for an expression of speechless gratitude.
    When the dust settled, Steve Forester and the entire Forester family found themselves confronting an issue that went far beyond the Forester homestead. After a fair amount of gentle interrogation, Steve discovered that 6-year-old Cynthia had managed to contact at least 20 charitable groups and agencies — and had entered countless holiday-wish contests. As Cynthia was finishing her confession, the local Christian radio station called.
    “Is this Mr. Forester?”

    (TOMORROW: THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION in Parts 5 & 6)

CARE TO READ MORE?

    FOR HANUKKAH (AND CHRISTMAS): Meet Rabbi Schulweis in a Conversation about his provocative and hopeful new book on “Conscience.” Or, enjoy the remarkable history of “The Bagel.”
    GIFTS? Check out our list for the “young in heart and spirit.”
    ANOTHER KIND OF CHRISTMAS STORY: The Spiritual Wanderer’s Christmas tale.
    SHARE STORIES OF GENEROSITY: Dr. Wayne Baker invites readers to “pay it forward — and backward” this week by sharing heart-warming stories at www.OurValues.org

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