Tawny slid into the backseat of her Mother, Dawn’s grey Ford Escape. She smoothed down the folds of her black, knee-length dress and brushed the snow from her cedar-coloured boots. Dawn, already in the vehicle, turned up the heater. They had just finished shoveling their neighbours’ driveway of yesterday’s snowfall.
The neighbour down the way worked long shifts and had a busy life. She knew he would appreciate not having to shovel his driveway after a hard day at work.
To get into the Christmas spirit, this year Tawny’s family had a mission: to do random acts of kindness on Christmas Eve. First step: shovel a few driveways. Second step: give out tins of homemade Christmas cookies.
Her father, Matteo got into the car with them and began to back out of the driveway.
“Well,” said Matteo, “I think a mid-mission coffee stop is in order. I’m in the mood for a Toffee Nut latte.”
Tawny spoke up. “I completely agree.”
She wished they could actually go into Starbucks, but the COVID-19 pandemic complicated things.
Just gotta stick it out and be safe, Tawny thought.
She gazed out the window as they drove through town. The white mountains surrounding the area looked as though they had been dusted with icing sugar. The sky started to grow dark, making the lights of the city grow brighter.
“Tawn!” Matteo said, pulling her from her daze. He turned around in his seat to face her and handed Tawny a steaming cup of coffee.
She reached forward to grab her peppermint mocha from her father, careful not to spill. The heat from the hot drink warmed her gloved hands.
“Merry Christmas!” the drive-thru teller said with a cheerful smile and a wave.
“To you as well!” Dawn called out the window. She blew in her hands to warm them. “Mmm.” she sighed. “This should warm us up.”
Tawny smiled back at her, grateful for the drink. She loved the combination of peppermint and chocolate, especially during the holiday season. Like pumpkin spice, only much, much better.
Just as they pulled away onto the highway, the fog that had been lingering all day was fading. New snow had begun to fall, taking its place.
Every Christmas Eve, Tawny’s family would take a drive on the southwestern side of town to look at the intricate Christmas lights and displays people set out.
It had become one of their family traditions, along with making sugar cookies and peanut butter blossoms, and watching TV classics like Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Story, and any Hallmark movie they could get their hands on.
Each year, they would have an entire day set aside for a Christmas movie marathon (in their pajamas), complete with the best snacks. Pretzels, trays of fruit, endless cups of eggnog and hot chocolate, and buttery popcorn. No wonder everyone gains weight over the holidays!
To set the mood for the drive, the smooth, calming tones of Michael Bublé flowed through the speakers. She could listen to his voice all day. Having that CD on 24/7 in the car was yet another Christmas tradition they had.
As they started driving past the first row of houses, Tawny noticed many of them displayed hearts in their windows. Hearts had become a symbol of the pandemic. It signified how we’ll all get through this together, and that we appreciate our front-line workers’ sacrifice.
They parked the car at the side of the road and started walking down the street. Every few houses or so, they would go and leave a tin of cookies on the front doorstep.
The flakes of snow were coming down heavier now. Surprisingly, it was not very cold. The perfect weather for a winter stroll on Christmas Eve. The world around them was dreamy and quiet.
All aside from a few, the houses were draped in shining, festively coloured décor. Strings of glowing lights lined the tops of roofs and ran down the sides of fences, glowing brightly in the darkness of the evening. A smile spread across Tawny’s face as she spotted the wire deer decorations that adorned a snow-covered lawn.
Deer always reminded her of Christmas. When she was young, she believed that any deer she saw in December were really Santa’s reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and so on). She thought they were keeping an eye out for who was naughty and nice, and later that night they would report back to Santa.
They neared the end of the road with one cookie tin to go. As Tawny approached the last house, an elderly woman appeared in the doorway.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a soft voice.
Tawny replied, “No thank you, but we thought we’d like to share a little Christmas spirit with you.”
Tawny set down the tin on the top step and moved away from the porch.
“My, what a kind gesture.” said the woman.
“My sons couldn’t visit me this year. I was feeling so alone. I had just gotten up to brew a pot of tea and saw you coming up the walk.”
The woman turned back into her house. “Wait just a moment, Dear. I have a little something for you.”
When she returned, she placed a little velvet pouch on the step. Tawny picked it up and opened the top. A red, glass ornament of a heart lay inside.
Even though Christmas was going to be different this year, so much was still the same. There was joy, giving, and togetherness — the Spirit of Christmas.
Journey Carlson-Campbell, 13, was selected as the winner of the Spirit of Christmas writing contest in the 13 and over category.