Listening to Bing Crosby’s rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town on Pandora.
Here is another Holiday story for you all!
The rolling country of the middle shires spread on both sides of the country road, covered in a thick blanket of December snow. While most folks commiserated due to the blocked roads, I went merrily on my way, having spent the extra pounds on all-weather tires for my mini. The car radio played a soulful song that my wife, Patty, had downloaded to my old iPod. Somehow it fit the quiet winter atmosphere beyond the windows. She was across the Irish Sea with the girls, visiting her mother in Dublin. They would sail over on the Ireland-Wales ferry early on the 24th. That left e with five days to get everything ready.
I pulled up on my grandfather’s house front door. It was huge for a country farm house with two stories. The farm had been in the family since the 19th century, when my great-great grandfather bought it. Until my grandfather died it had been a working farm. But my father had abandoned the family business to take a job in America, with his young wife and two sons, my brother Stephen, 3 and I, age 9.
That was twenty years ago.
Two years ago my mother died.
Six months later my father joined her.
By that time my brother and I moved back to England. He joined the Royal Marines after uni and I followed my father’s footsteps into banking.
Until the bottom fell out. Between that and my parent’s deaths, I decided that London was not for me. Patty wasn’t so sure. Kayley, our oldest would turn 5 in February, which meant that school would not be far behind. Besides, she was a city girl.
The other option was to sell the farm.
One soggy August afternoon I drove up from London. The main structure was in shambles with cracked shingles and windows. Mice ruled the dusty corners. Then I saw it. The huge pine tree my grandfather planted in the back garden the day I was born. Back then it was a sapling but under the torrential rain it stood:
I walked around the base a few times, the faint smell of ever green pierced the sheets of rain. Memories of long afternoons playing under its branches flooded my mind. The patter of falling rain carried grandfather’s voice. Long forgotten stories of knights entering darkest woods “most perilous” he would call them, to confront evil witches, parlay with mischievous fey and rescue wayward princesses.
That night I called Stephen in Afghanistan and offered to buy his share of the farm. He agreed to the deal without a second thought. I spent countless weekends on the farm, many of them with the girls in tow. We cleaned, fixed, moved and managed. I contacted a neighbor who own sheep and rented the land for grazing. With the deal came a Border Collie puppy named Atlas. The girls loved him at first sight. By November I quit my job in London and took a position managing a local bank in the village square. Paid a bit less, but I liked it. Patty knew there was no changing my mind.
I got out of the car. Atlas ran toward me and propped his muddy paws on my trouser leg. “Got out of your kennel again, didn’t you?” He gave me a heart melting puppy stare. “Oh, no. Bath time.” I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck before he could make good his escape. I cradled him in my arms, which enticed him to paw and lick my face at the same time, until he tasted a bit of mud on my cheek. He made a funny face. “Don’t like the taste of it, eh? Well, serves you right, I don’t like your muddy paw prints inside.”
After an hour of slipping and splashing, Atlas came out clean and I needed a shower. But the shower would have to wait. A beeping sound drew me outside. The crew with the boom lift had arrived.
“Time to get to work,” I said no one in particular and joined them.
I thought I was going to post all of it today, but I’ll guess I’ll finish it tomorrow.
And now for more Xmas cheer!