Only Grandpa was willing to help me find the truth.
|As I was shaken awake by a gentle hand, my eyes opened to see my grandpa leaning over me, a quieting finger held to his lips. I crawled slowly at first from the warm bed, reluctant to leave the quilts behind. Then I remembered. It was Christmas Eve! We were going to sneak up on the barn animals and see if it were true that at midnight they bowed down to pay homage to the Christ child!|
My feet wanted to dance, but the warning look from my grandpa, accompanied by an understanding smile, kept all dancing inside my body. We crept down the stairs, carefully skipping the sixth step that would have creaked and given us away to my grandma and my two younger brothers.
In the dark kitchen, grandpa helped tuck my pajama-clad legs into my boots, then zipped my coat against the cold Ohio winter night. He shrugged into his old barn jacket and smiled down at me as he slid my toboggan hat over my rumpled hair.
We unlocked the back door, freezing as the loud snick of the bolt rang through the air like a gunshot. We stared at each other, but didn’t hear anyone coming to investigate. Grandpa opened the door slowly and we stepped out into the dark.
A light snow was falling, the flakes drifting slowly past us, glittering in the soft illumination of the old security light in the corner of the farmyard. The snow crunched beneath our boots as we walked softly towards the barn, my small mittened hand clasping his work-roughened one.
Despite the crunch of the snow underfoot, I thought we were as good as spies, or even Indians.
When we got to the barn, grandpa slid a flashlight from his pocket to check his wristwatch before unhooking the barn door clasp. The hinges squeaked loudly in protest as he swung the door open, shining the light into each of the 3 stalls.
Two cows and a pony stared calmly back at us, one cow chewing her cud. None of them were concerned in the least at our intrusion. To my great disappointment, all three animals were standing on their feet, not kneeling in the straw. I heaved a sigh in disappointment, feeling my grandpa’s hand come to rest comfortingly on my shoulder.
We left the barn and headed back to the farmhouse, my disappointment making me drag my feet. The squeaking hinge had warned the barn animals we were there, and since they wouldn’t kneel if humans were present, or so the legend goes, they remained on their feet.
Grandpa stopped suddenly and swung me up into his arms in a big hug, then whispered in my ear, “We’ll catch them next Christmas!”
I hugged him back, suddenly happy. No one else would have gone with me at midnight to the barn! Not my dad, nor my mom. Not even grandma! I had the best grandpa in the whole wide world!