Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Christmas Surprise

By Faith Bailey, from Edith Maxwell's Quaker Midwife Mysteries

I confess to feeling a bit melancholy of late. 'Tis the Yule season, after all. Everywhere I walk in our bustling mill and factory town of Amesbury people are getting ready to celebrate the Christ's birthday. Surely no town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decorates in a more festive style than do we. 
Photo by Edward Gerrish Mair

Green garlands loop over windows. Red balls and bows adorn even the carriage traces. Ladies and girls sport green and red garments, with beribboned holiday hats and fancy dress slippers. White candles in windows light up the dark nights.

So why do I profess unhappy sentiments? I am a teenaged Quaker mill girl with a secret longing for just a touch of frippery. How I would love to wear a lacy cuff on a stylish frock and a colored feather in a smartly trimmed hat. 

Even on normal days we dress plainly and soberly, and I am not allowed to play a part in the gaiety of the season. Our faith does not believe in celebrating Christmas as more special than any other day. Our plainly dressed Meetinghouse is lovely in the snow, it is true. But it does not hold an evergreen tree festooned with cranberries and gifts within.

And so imagine my surprise when I awoke on the twenty-fifth of Twelfth Month, 1888, to find five packages wrapped in red paper and tied with curly green ribbon on our kitchen table. They were labeled with my sister's and my names and those of my three brothers. 

My aunt Rose, the midwife, who lives with us since my mother's death a year ago, stood at the stove stirring the cornmeal porridge with a tiny smile playing about her lips. 

"Rose, did thee..." I began to ask after I recovered from my surprise.

Now beaming, she held up her hand. "I believe a man in red stopped by late last night." 

My mouth dropped open. "Santa Claus? But--"

She beckoned me closer. "Don't tell the younger ones," she whispered, but his middle name was David."

I covered my mouth and giggled. Her handsome beau - not a Friend - was David Dodge of Newburyport. 

The twins, little Betsy, even eleven-year old Luke, all were charmed by their candy and  gift, as was I. And we had a bit more holiday cheer, as it turned out, when David came in the large Dodge carriage that afternoon to fetch the entire family away for Christmas dinner. 




What was your biggest holiday surprise? Leave your answer with your email address in the comments and enter to win a signed copy of  the first Quaker Midwife mystery, Delivering the Truth. Contest ends on Sunday, December 4th at 12pm EST. Contest open to all. Thanks!

National bestselling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and award-winning, Agatha-nominated short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Quaker Midwife Mystery #2, releases April 8, 2017!

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs here, with the other Wicked Cozy Authors, and with the Midnight Ink Writers. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site, edithmaxwell.com.

47 comments:

  1. When I was 14, my parents bought a rat terrier puppy who became our indoor dog, Spotty. I had no idea they were even considering another dog because we already had 3 outside dogs, living on a farm. dbahn(at)iw(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love Faith's surprise, nice way to start the day! One of our best surprised for the kids was when my brother would show up late Christmas Eve after working the night shift and be here when his niece and nephew awoke in the morning. We'd all be exhausted but they loved it.
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  3. A wonderful surprise was when my father came home from Viet Nam.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  4. My husband's company was on strike, we did not have any money for Christmas gifts for our little girl or Christmas Dinner. I had a pack of hot dogs and some peas. On Christmas Eve a there was a knock at my door and a person I had never met had a box filled with everything for a wonderful Christmas dinner. There was also cake, cookies, fruit and candy. In addition, he brought a huge bag of gifts! It was like a Christmas Angel came to my door! As he was leaving he mentioned the name of my friend's Mother. She knew we needed a helping hand and she and her church sent these wonderful things to us, we were truly blessed! She has since passed away, but I will always think of her and say a prayer in her honor every Christmas Eve! (pleasantinpa@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Christmas Stocking! kkat(dot)edwards(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Biggest surprise was the year my husband was on a remote assignment for the AF and managed to record all my favorite movies (Cary Grant especially and many other of my favorites) on VHS tapes. Perfect that he knows me so well.
    sallycootie(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  7. The best surprise ever was one year when my sister whom I hadn't seen in a long time arrived unexpectedly and stayed through the holidays. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  8. My most wonderful holiday surprise took place when we were young kids. My parents didn't overdo the gifts and we appreciated their thoughtfulness. One year we received our own record player which I used forever and loved. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  9. When I was 8 I found two dolls that had been handmade just for me. I was so surprised to see them and that they were both mine. centraleast2 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  10. The big girl's bike I got when I was eight. It was a beautiful blue and went to fast.
    cjreynolds52(at)comcast(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  11. A horse. katieh(at)mvdsl(dot)com Be well Katie

    ReplyDelete
  12. My biggest holiday surprise was my dad paying off my house many years ago.
    marlene(dot)ezell(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  13. One year my husband hid earrings in a box of chocolates. Dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  14. My biggest holiday surprise was getting a beautiful beagle puppy from my husband.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are the winner, Sue! Congrats. I'm sending you an email now.

      Delete
  15. Is it sad that you ask a question that should be easy to answer and I come up blank? I can't think of a surprise I can really remember. nerdsrgood AT msn DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  16. My mom gave me a Kindle the year they came out. norbert8bubba at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  17. My favorite Christmas surprise was when I was 12. I received a 3' tall Raggedy Ann doll. She was just what I wanted. I loved her blue and white gingham dress. This doll was the beginning of my collection and I still have her today. She sits in a rocking chair in my bedroom. Happy Holidays! Doodlesink@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. The biggest surprise I had at Christmas was the year my Dad surprised my Mom, my sister and me with pearl necklaces and earrings. The smile on his face was priceless.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  19. One year my Aunt and Uncle gave me a gigantic teddy bear. His name was Merry Christmas, Merry for short.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    ReplyDelete
  20. Each year as I was growing up Santa would leave a bear of some sort. It could be a gigantic teddy bear or a little pewter bear for my shelf. I loved seeing what kind of bear I would get each year. It was always so much fun. ahr574 (at) hotmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  21. My biggest surprise was when my brother came to visit. Hadn't seen him in eight years, he lives so far away. It was great. Sharon catwoman-1(at)comcast(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think my biggest Christmas surprise was the year I received the Fisher Price castle. It had a trap door that dropped unsuspecting people down to the dungeon. Lots of my Fisher Price people made that trip that Christmas!

    cozyupwithkathy @ gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  23. The worst surprise was the year when my mom went to get the meat in the oven only to discover it had gone bad. That was the year we had salad and mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. Sigh.

    cozyupwithkathy @ gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Santa (my parents) surprised my sisters & I with a pet bunny one year. Thanks for the chance.
    turtle6422(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  25. Love Christmas stories and getting in on the first
    of a series.
    My biggest Christmas surprise was the sewing machine
    my husband surprised me with many years ago. Money
    was tight but he managed to get the machine I'd been
    wanting. Made a lot of clothes and other items
    on that machine.
    thanks
    Mary Lou at txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  26. My biggest surprise was the year my husband had a necklace custom made for me.
    ceciliayoung(at)gmx(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  27. When we lived in a little cabin in the woods, Christmas was coming, and I wanted a tree. My husband surprised me with battery powered Christmas tree lights.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I cant remember one specific Christmas surprise. All my Christmases were bright and happy and truly blessed. kayt18 (at) comcast (dot) net
    Thanks for the chance to win!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thank you so much for the contest. Christmas is always a happy time for me just all the lights,trees,and music...biggest surprise huge gorilla when I was four...I thought it was a monster in the dark..
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Well, my engagement ring comes to mind, but then one year there was my bike with the banana seat and another was my skis with lessons. I have been blessed! Although I never got the Barbie I wanted...oh, well, you can't have everything.
    kat8762@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  31. I was in college already, and Santa came to our house Christmas Eve as he always did. He left me a baby doll. Mother said later that Daddy just wasn't ready for his girls to grow up. The next year, Santa came for Mama and Daddy (my sister's idaa).
    donna.durnell@sbcglobal.net

    ReplyDelete
  32. The year I got my Lionel Train set. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  33. My biggest surprise was the year my husband bought the style engagement ring I'd always dreamed about. We'd been married for 35 years then. cheers@marjimmanor.com

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thirty-two years ago my biggest surprise took place. That surprise was my husband asking me to be his wife on Christmas day in my parent's living room. We had talked about it earlier in the year but I didn't know when he would ask. We've been through up and downs and adding two children to the mix, but I would say yes all over again. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  35. Biggest surprise was finding Siamese kitten waiting in basket under tree. Silky was my first cat and still a delightful memory.
    laughlincat(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  36. I think my biggest surprise was the year I received a tv for my room, just for me. That was back a while ago when there was only the one tv in the living room. Dad had to go to work very early, so the tv had to be turned off very early. I was excited to be able to stay up later and watch a good movie without disturbing anyone. lclee59(at)centurylink(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  37. It wasn't so much my biggest Christmas surprise, but what I gave my now husband, then boyfriend our second Christmas together. I found all the equipment for him to try his hand at home brewing beer at a neat shop that was both for home brewing and chimney sweeping. He opened up the big box and the look on his face was priceless. The absolutely perfect gift.
    VWinship at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  38. I've been blessed in many ways. A year ago, it was confirmed that I have MS.A friend dropped by with a check to help with expenses. I was so touched.And it still feels like Christmas everytime I win a book. Thank you all you wonderful authors, while we may be doing good for your books, you help supply our days with wonderful reading.

    ReplyDelete
  39. opps, forgot this. jluebke (at) frontier (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  40. A real pony! Namaekutska7@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  41. My biggest surprise was the arrival of my cousins. We used to live in the same area and were together everyday. We had missed them terribly. Then he was transferred overseas. He had wangled some extra leave time and they showed up on our doorstep. It had been 7 years since we had seen them. The folks new they were coming. But they didn't tell us kids. They arrived just in time for Christmas Eve dinner. We kids were just too excited to eat so the folks let us got to the family room while they went ahead and ate. The 6 of us rough housed a bit swapped stories galore. Then we decided we were hungry. First time ever we were allowed to eat late in the evening. It was the best Christmas ever. Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc ((dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  42. My Biggest surprise was the year my hubby asked me to marry him a week BEFORE Christmas so I wasn't expecting it :) Thanks so much for the chance to win iamabho (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  43. For my 16th birthday my Dad bought me a car a 1960 Ford Fairlane. It was the same age as I was. He had the keys wrapped in a box and the car in the driveway with a bow. deniseaustin59@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  44. My first bike. It was something my dad cobbled out of parts he'd collected because there wasn't extra money for stuff. I had given up on having a bike. It wasn't pretty, but I had some great times with it.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Sue Farrell, you are the randomly chosen winner! Please check your inbox. Congratulations.

    And thanks to you all for your wonderful comments about holiday surprises. I love them all.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Mitten leggings and big, soft sweater.

    ReplyDelete