by Lee Cooms
This story is designed to be read out loud by parents, preferably around Christmas..
|One day in December a snowstorm blew a yellow ball with a Smiley face on it into my backyard. Nobody knew where it came from.
Of course, when there’s a mystery, there’s only one person to go to if you want to find out the answer, so my brother, sister, and I ran inside and found our Grandpa sitting in an armchair by the fire, reading a book.
“Grandpa, Grandpa!” I yelled. “Look what we found!” I thrust the old playground ball into his hands.
Grandpa smiled. “Ah, I know what this is. This is one of the Travelers.”
“What?” we all said at the same time.
“Gather round,” Grandpa said. “It’s time I taught you about the Travelers.”
“Now everybody here knows Santa, exists, right? I’m sure you do, but it’s always good to check since a lot of grown-ups tend to forget.”
“You all do? Good. Well, one of the reasons lots of grown-ups think Santa doesn’t exist is that they wonder how Santa can learn how every little boy and girl in the world is behaving when he lives at the North Pole. But these grown-ups don’t know about Santa’s helpers.
“Who are Santa’s helpers, you ask? Well, you’re holding one of them in your hand. That yellow ball is one of the Travelers.”
“You see, Santa’s very smart. He knows that little children love to play with playground balls. So he gathered them from all over the world, and then he gave them Christmas magic to make them alive. Then Santa gave them a mission: go out and play with the little children in the world, and tell me if they were naughty or nice.”
“Then to help the Travelers Santa creates a big storm to send them all over the world. I think that’s what happened yesterday, and what sent this Traveler here.”
“Oh, but Grandpa, can’t we keep Smiley?” My little sister had named our Traveler.
Grandpa frowned. “You can, but a Traveler is never truly happy staying with one family. Travelers are only happy when they’re doing their job.”
I frowned too. “So how do we make Smiley happy?”
Grandpa looked at us. “You need to do the right thing.”
I didn’t realize what he meant at first, but I looked at Smiley and I knew. I turned to my brother and sister, and I could see that both of them knew too.
We took Smiley outside. It was still very cold out, and very snowy. Before now there had been no wind, but as we walked I felt it picking up.
We went to the top of a small hill. The view made our house look like a Christmas card, with the smoke coming from the chimney. It was here we said good bye to Smiley. Nobody cried; we all knew that we had to do it, even though I think everybody felt a little sad. We watched as the wind rolled Smiley slowly into the distance, and then out of sight.
Christmas came and went, and Santa sent all of us presents. We never completely forgot Smiley, but we didn’t have a lot of time to think about him when school came and then summer vacation, keeping us busy and occupied. I kept wondering if Grandpa was right or not. How would we ever know? But I believed my Grandpa; after all, how else would Santa know how good we’d been?
Soon it was December again, and Christmas was coming soon when we had another huge storm. It was just like a year ago, with the wind howling outside and the three of us curled up by the fire.
The next day, when we went outside to play in the snow, we decided to look for other Travelers. We never expected to find Smiley again. We searched all over but this time, we didn’t find anything quickly like last time.
We searched all day. Eventually, my siblings got tired and went in, but I stayed outside. I didn’t want to leave without finding a Traveler.
Finally, just before the end of the day, I got my wish. Buried in a snow bank was our old friend, Smiley. I wondered how he got all the way here again, and then I realized-it’s probably because he’s not really a Traveler. He must have just rolled over here last year, and we never bothered to find him. My heart sank, but I picked him up anyway.
Tied onto the ball with a red ribbon was a single sleigh bell.
Just like last year, the wind began to pick up. This time I thought of Grandpa as I released Smiley into the wind. In the distance, you could hear the sleigh bell jingling as Smiley rolled through the snow…a Traveler on the move again.