Charlie's little sister finds her own treasure on Star Mountain.
Lucy's Star Mountain Adventure
Peals of laughter rang though the house.
“I’m going to catch you!” Charlie shouted.
“Oh no, you’re not!” Lucy hollered back. She dropped on all fours, scooted under the coffee table, climbed over the back of the sofa and landed in a dead run toward the kitchen.
Charlie was closing the gap fast. Charlie’s hand reached out, barely missing the tag.
Lucy dug deep, finding another burst of speed as she grabbed the door jamb, turning her at full speed heading toward Grandma peeking in the oven window. She grabbed Grandma’s legs spinning the two of them around before Grandma knew what hit her.
Charlie stopped short, his eyes big as saucers watching the two of them twirling around and around. “Ut oh,” he gasped and turned to leave the kitchen quick. He stood just out of sight, listening for the fussing that was sure to come.
Grandma grabbed for a counter top to stop the whirling. “Lucy!”
Lucy panted, “Yes, ma’am,” she replied meekly. She stared at the floor. She knew better than to be running through the house, but she and Charlie were having so much fun that she’d forgotten that Grandma was still baking cookies.
“I could have been taking the cookies out of the oven. My goodness girl, what were you thinking?”
“I’m sorry, Grandma.” Lucy replied looking up, repentantly through her long eye lashes.
“Well,” Grandma rubbed her chin, looking deep in thought, “I think you and Charlie have had enough of being inside this morning. It’s pretty outside and warmed up a little bit. Why don’t the two of you grab some carrots for Bill and Suzy?
Lucy looked up. “Yes ma’am!” She started to run out of the kitchen when Grandma cleared her throat.
Lucy stopped short and screamed at the top of her lungs. “Charlie, we can go up to the pasture to give Bill and Suzy a treat!”
Charlie eased his way into the kitchen. He smiled innocently, scanning the ceiling as he strolled over to the refrigerator.
“I’m not fooled, Charlie.” Grandma peered over her glasses at him with her own impish grin.
“Aw Grandma, we were just playing.”
Grandma nodded, “I know, that’s why you’re going outside to run some of that sugar high off. I think you and your sister have eaten more of the cookies for the Christmas Pageant Party than I have left to take. Now, hurry up and get on out of here, so I can finish what’s left of the cookies in peace.
Charlie grabbed a handful of long carrots from the refrigerator drawer. He laid them on the counter.
“You’ll need your coat, hat, and gloves. Go on and help your sister. Make sure you’re both cold weather ready. I know it’s warmed up, but not that much.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Charlie replied and hustled Lucy to get their winter gear. Once they were cold weather ready, they both returned to the kitchen to get the carrot treats for the family’s mules.
Grandma held the door. “Now you both know the rules. Where’s the limit?”
Both children replied, “We have to be able to hear the big bell.”
“When the bell rings we better get back here F, A, S, T, fast!”
“Alright then, you go on and have a good time playing tag outside, where that game belongs.” Grandma held the door for the carrot bearers. She shivered shutting the door behind them. She shook her head, thinking to herself. They’ll be hat and coatless in less time than it took them to get ready to go outside.
Charlie and Lucy tromped up toward the old barn and pasture finding every shady spot where the morning’s frost hadn’t melted. The persistent crunches hushed the winter birds and called Bill and Suzy to the fence of the pasture. There they stood watching the children taking the longest route towards them. Bill and Suzy patiently waited warming themselves in the winter sun, knowing that treats were on their way.
“Morning, Bill, morning Suzy,” Charlie called out to the mules. They snuffled and leaned down over the fence where the children could reach them.
“We brought you treats,” Lucy cheerfully added. Both mules nodded in reply.
Charlie handed Lucy a couple of carrots to give to Suzy, and he gave his two to Bill. The children loved giving the mules treats and as always, they were gone in a flash.
Charlie rubbed Bill’s muzzle. “That was a good for you treat, huh, boy? But, that’s all we’ve got for now. I’ll come back when Papa is ready to get your dinner. Maybe Grandma will let us bring you some more.”
Lucy reached into her pocket. She pulled out two chocolate chip cookies. She handed one to Charlie. They enjoyed them as they watched Bill and Suzy mosey on their way.
Charlie punched Lucy on the shoulder and started running. “You’re it!”
“No fair, I wasn’t ready. You’re it.”
Charlie stopped, and looked at his sister, “I just tagged you, you’re it.” He started running once again.
Lucy threw up her hands, and started running. She chased her older brother down past Papa’s tool shed, down around Grandma’s chicken coup. He’d slow down so she could get close then pour on the speed once again. She chased him through the fencing where the corn field had been harvested and they both had to slow down to keep from falling. He zoomed up the drive; she gave it her all, until they started up the hill. Lucy bent over, panting with her hands on her knees. Charlie turned around and stopped. He watched Lucy for a minute or two then started back toward her, when he realized where he was.
“Lucy! Come here!” He yelled, "you’ve got to see this."
Lucy looked up, still panting. She shook her head no, and waved him off. She turned back toward Grandma’s house and started walking.
“Lucy! It’s still here! Come on!”
The breeze coming down off the mountain took Charlie’s yells with it. Lucy could catch a word here and there, but she didn’t know what he was yelling about. She turned around to see him motion for Lucy to come with even bigger gestures. Then he added the piece he knew she couldn’t resist. He pointed toward a little cabin.
Curiosity got the better of Lucy. She turned around and faced Charlie shrugging her shoulders.
“Come on!” Charlie started walking toward the cabin and Lucy ambled in that direction.
“What is it Charlie?” Lucy whispered when she reached Charlie. His eyes were wide with wonder as he shifted from foot to foot on his tippy toes.
“There it is Lucy, it’s still standing.”
“What? I don’t see anything.”
Shrubs and weeds obscured the cabin from the road, if you didn’t know it was there. Charlie positioned Lucy right in front of him and pointed right to where he saw it.
“What’s that Charlie? It looks like…”
“That’s where Grandma and I found it,” he whispered almost reverently into his sister’s ear.
Lucy spun around, put her hands on her hips, and exasperatedly yelled as she stomped her foot, “Found what?”
Charlie snapped out of his daze, “That’s where Grandma and I found the book.”
“What book Charlie?” Lucy huffed. “Grandma has lots of books.”
“You know Lucy, the book that Grandma’s Grandpa said Santa read to him.” He pointed back to the dilapidated cabin. “Grandma found the box right in there. I was here when she found it.”
Lucy turned around and looked at the cabin. Then she looked at Charlie. “Really Charlie, in there? Wow.
Charlie nodded. “Right in there, Grandma’s Grandpa was supposed to be asleep and …”
“Santa fell asleep when he read the book. I know.” Lucy looked at the cabin again, the grabbed Charlie’s hand. “Let’s go in and see what else is there.”
“I don’t know Lucy. It looks like it might fall down. Grandma said it wasn’t safe.”
“But you went in.”
Lucy yanked harder, “Come on, Charlie. I know we’ll find another treasure.”
Charlie stumbled forward, following behind his head strong sister. “I don’t think we should go inside,” he protested.
They got to the open door way, and stood on the worn granite stone. Four eyes peered into the cabin. Sunlight shone in the window frames across from them, illuminating the little room. Dust motes sparkled giving the room a sense of magic.
Charlie and Lucy looked at each other. Then Lucy stepped onto the hard packed floor. She slowly spun around taking everything in.
They saw the water pump on the counter top. The fire place where the fire was stoked every night and their Great, great, great grandma cooked the meals, and a ladder up to where the girls’ beds were.
Charlie pointed, “That’s where the box was. Grandma said that’s where her grandpa’s bed used to be.”
“Really Charlie?” Lucy stared in awe of her brother.
“Uh huh, it was sitting right there. Then when Grandma brought it out, we opened the box and it was all glowing inside. That’s when we heard the jingle bells up on the mountain.”
Lucy turned toward the ladder as Charlie continued his story. “What’s up here, Charlie?”
Charlie spun around to find Lucy half way up to the loft, “I don’t know, but we shouldn’t go up there.” By that time Lucy was sitting at the edge of the loft, looking to where Grandma’s great aunts slept.
“Oh Charlie,” Lucy smiled back down at her brother, “There’s another window up here, and I bet their beds were over there, and there’s a closet up here, too.”
“Lucy!” Charlie yelled. “You better get down here before the whole house falls down on us.”
Lucy looked over the edge, “Oh Charlie, you should come up. I bet the girls had a wonderful time up here.”
“Just imagine their surprise looking down from up here and seeing Santa Claus sitting with their little brother.”
Lucy spun around and headed toward the closet door.
Charlie walked over to the ladder, trying to judge if it would hold him. He placed one foot on the bottom step, and it broke in two. “Lucy, come down right now. I can’t come up. One of the rungs of the ladder broke.”
Lucy laughed and called out, “You’re too big, I guess.” She pulled the closet door open. “Oh well, the closet is…” Lucy paused. “Wait a minute, there’s something in the back.”
“Lucinda Marie, you get down here right now.” Charlie yelled. He stared up the ladder, willing his sister to appear.
“Charlie! I found something!” Lucy’s head popped over the edge of the loft. Her eyes sparkled and she held a small box in her hands. She leaned over, “Here Charlie. Hold this while I come down.”
Charlie stretched and gently took the small wooden box from his sister. “What is it?”
“Wait until I get down there and we’ll open it together.” Lucy scrambled down the ladder. “Come on Charlie. Let’s go outside to see what treasure we found this time.” Her excitement was contagious, and they quickly left the cabin. Standing outside in the bright sunlight, Charlie was about to open the box when the big bell started ringing.
Charlie and Lucy stared at each other for half a second, “I’m not going to be late.”
“Let’s go!” Both kids started running for Grandma’s. The bell rang three times, and paused, then rang three more. Charlie and Lucy both knew they had three more rings to get back to the house or they’d be in trouble.
Grandma watched as they zoomed past Bill and Suzy and as they rocketed past Papa’s tool shed. She watched them scatter the chickens as they rushed to get back before the last ring of the bell rung.
Grandma looked at the two kids panting like a bear had been chasing them. “Lord have mercy, what on earth took you so long to get home?” She shook her head, “What kind of trouble have you two been up to?”
Then she saw the box Charlie was carrying. “Charlie, what do you have there?”
Charlie looked at Lucy, slightly bewildered he looked at Grandma. “We found it.”
“Let me see it.” Grandma held the box with tender care, “Where did you find it?”
Charlie swallowed hard. He didn’t want to say in the cabin, but he knew he should tell the truth. “Uh,” he stammered trying to figure out the best way to tell Grandma where they’d been.
“I found it in the loft, Grandma.” Lucy beamed.
“In the barn loft? You both know better than to go up there when Papa’s gone.” Grandma’s face turned stern.
“No, Grandma. We didn’t go in the barn.” Lucy paused, “The loft in the cabin.”
“Yeah,” Lucy nodded.
Grandma’s eyes got bigger and Charlie just stared at his sister. He couldn’t believe she was telling Grandma where they’d been.
Grandma was dumbfounded. “I can’t…” She shook her head, “Charlie, you know better.”
“Grandma,” Lucy tugged on her sweater, “What’s in the box. We didn’t have time to look.”
“Well, you did make it back in time, but we’re setting new limits on where you can go from now on!” Both kids dropped their heads. “That cabin isn’t safe. Both of you look at me because I telling you right now. You may not go back into that cabin. Do you both understand?”
A duet of yes ma’am filled the air.
“Alright then, since you made it back in time, by the skin of your teeth. I guess we’ll say you’re inside until chore time for the rest of the day, understood?” Grandma knew that the Christmas Pageant was in just a few hours and they’d be leaving soon, but she thought it best that they sweat it out for a little bit.
The brother and sister joined in another round of yes ma’am, followed quickly with a “What’s in the box?”
Grandma bit her lower lip to keep from laughing. She turned around with the box in her hand and headed toward the side porch. She sat her rocker, and placed the wooden box on her lap.
“Maybe, I should wait until Papa comes home to open the box.” She rocked back and forth.
“Ah Grandma!” Charlie and Lucy whined.
“Or, maybe I’ll take it inside and make some hot chocolate and then open it.”
“Yea, hot chocolate, with marshmallows!” the two jumped up and down around Grandma.
“Alrighty then, let’s get inside and the two of you get cleaned up. Then we’ll have hot chocolate and see what is in the box.”
The children scurried off the bathroom, dropping hats, coats and mittens on the furniture in their wake. They were back, still dripping before Grandma got the kettle on the stove.
Lucy grabbed the packets of hot chocolate mix and Charlie grabbed the mugs and met Grandma at the kitchen table, staring at the box.
Grandma poured the hot water into the mugs and the children started stirring. “You know kids; I wonder if this is the box Auntie Janelle had as a child.” She sat down and looked at the box. She studied the top and sides. She estimated it was about 5 inches square and three inches deep. She picked it up and looked at the bottom. It felt substantial in her hands. “Well,” she looked at Charlie and then Lucy, “are you ready to see what’s in this box?”
Both children scooted closer on either side of their grandmother. They looked expectantly as Grandma slowly lifted the lid. A slow grin spread across Grandma’s face when she recognized the contents of the box. “Well, I’ll be,” and she closed the lid. The tinkle of jingle bells sounded in the distance. Charlie looked at Grandma. “It’s happening again, isn’t it Grandma.”
Grandma nodded and smiled, “Yes, Charlie, it’s happening again.”
Lucy looked at the two, “What’s happening? You guys never tell me anything! I found it. What is it Grandma?”
Grandma turned to face Lucy. She took both of her granddaughter’s hands in hers. “Charlie had his special moment with the book that Santa read to my grandpa as a child. Now, it’s your turn, Lucy.”
“Really? It’s my turn?” Lucy beamed.
“Well that same Christmas that Santa read my grandpa the book and fell fast asleep, he left the presents for the rest of the family before he got back in the sleigh and headed over the mountain.”
“Yep, and Auntie Janelle had been a very good little girl. She was always on time, followed all of the teacher’s directions, and watched out for her younger brothers and sisters.”
“In other words Lucy, she was a lot better at being good than you are.” Charlie laughed.
“Now Charlie, that wasn’t too nice of you either.” Grandma scolded, and turned back to Lucy. “Anyway, Auntie Janelle lost her gift from Santa. It broke her heart.”
“It wasn’t lost Grandma; it was in the back of the closet. There was a loose board, and it was in a good hiding place.”
Grandma nodded. “Auntie Janelle couldn’t find it, but you Lucinda Marie found that special gift that Santa left for her.” Grandma turned the box so it would face Lucy and slowly lifted the lid.
A golden glow emanated from the box highlighting Lucy’s face. The jingle bells sang out again, louder as if they were passing right by the house.
Lucy smiled as she peeked into the box, and Charlie ran to the window and peeked out.
“Grandma, it’s the sleigh, I see it,” Charlie yelled, pointing out in the direction of the sleigh.
Grandma walked over to the window and watched the little old driver waving as he drove off as Lucy stared at her treasure. Some things never change. “You all get cleaned up; it’s just about time to head into town for the Christmas Pageant. I’m going to start loading the goodies for the party.”
Grandma had the car loaded by the time the kids had their Christmas pageant costumes on. Lucy was adorable in the angel costume Grandma had made. Charlie looked like a shepherd in Papa’s robe and Lucy’s toy lamb in his hands. Their eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Let’s get going. Papa is meeting us at the church.” Everyone loaded into the car and headed down the drive where the old sleigh driver had been just a little while earlier.
“I can’t believe I saw him again!” Charlie was still breathless about his sighting.
“Grandma, stop the car!” Lucy yelled. Grandma jammed on the brakes. She turned around and looked as Lucy flew out the door and ran back to the house.
She opened the kitchen door and disappeared into the house.
“What on earth?”
“She must have forgotten something Grandma.”
Charlie and Grandma waited just a couple of minutes before Lucy came back carefully carrying the small box to the car.
“Okay Grandma, I’m ready now.”
Grandma turned back around and headed back to town.
The parking lot was full at the small country church. Children were being shuffled down to the basement to wait for the pageant. Papa was standing at the front door waving at his family. The men folk had been busy getting everything ready inside the church all day.
He came over to the car and gave Grandma a sweet kiss on the cheek. “Anything I can help you with?”
“Sure enough, will you get the cookies while I drop off the kids? I’ll meet you in the sanctuary.”
“Come on shepherd and angel. You’ve got a performance to do.” She walked them down to the noisy basement. Grandma straightened Charlie’s belt, and adjusted a few pins in the hem of his robe. Then she smiled at Lucy, who had a death grip on the box. “Lucy, are you sure you want to carry the box?”
“Oh no, Grandma, I’m going to carry what’s inside. Can you keep the box for me?”
Grandma looked surprised, “Well you be very careful with it. It’s very old.”
“I will Grandma.”
“Well, I’ll see you both up stairs. Now, be good for Ms. Goodman and follow directions. I know you’ll both be great.”
Grandma climbed the steps to the sanctuary and found Papa in the same seat as always. She sat down beside him holding the old box.
“What’s that?” Papa asked.
Grandma whispered with a gleam in her eye, “You’ll see.”
The pageant started and the little angel choir started singing “Away in a Manger” while Mary and Joseph walked in with the baby doll Jesus. The shepherds were next while the choir sang about the shepherds. Charlie waved to Grandma and Papa, smiling from ear to ear, as he walked down the aisle with his lamb. The pageant continued on it was finally Lucy’s turn to make her appearance. She climbed the ladder that was behind the stable set, and bent down to get something.
“What’s she doing?” Papa whispered.
“Sh,” Grandma straightened up so she could get a better view. A smile grew, and a tear glimmered, when Lucy lifted the beautiful star.
Thoughts of Auntie Janelle warmed Grandma’ heart, she would have stood up there with her long dark brown curls just like Lucy was standing, holding the star Lucy was holding. The light shimmered off of the star, scattering rainbows of hope over the sanctuary.
What a treasure, sweet Lucy, what a treasure. Grandma thought as she joined the rest of the town singing.