Joseph has just gotten back from a long walk down the road to fetch the mail. He pauses on the lawn for a moment and opens several envelopes containing cheerful holiday greetings, from friends and family near and far. Some are written in German, his native language, and he has to smile when reading the personal messages and thinks his wife Elizabeth will be pleased with them too. She has a hot pot of coffee, with a little chicory, waiting for him on the wood stove, he knows this because she had just started making it before he left. It is gently snowing and in the waning light of the day he takes a deep breath and allows his mind to wander. He thinks of the many trials and tribulations that have brought him to this moment. Raising a baker’s dozen of children at the farm next door, watching them grow up and move on, gave him a feeling of satisfaction. He thinks of the years of tilling the land to put food on the table, and of his little dream cottage in the woods. For twenty years Joseph collected rocks and boulders from the fields as he went about his work. He told his children of the little house he planned to build for his retirement years, and a few were doubtful as the years went by. When Joseph was sixty five years old he built his solid little cottage, practically single-handedly, with all of the rocks that he had collected. He even had enough to build three other smaller structures on the property. And now here he is enjoying this moment that he has earned. He finally trots up to the stone house where he and Elizabeth chuckle together over coffee and Christmas cards. At the end of the season Joseph would tuck away the cards for safe keeping as he did every year. He had no way of knowing that fifty years later his youngest grandchild, whom he would not live to meet, would discover the hidden box of Christmas cards.

Merry Christmas Grand-Pa.

Love, your youngest grandchild, Heidi

This is the little house my grandfather built, and he is holding one of the cards that I found in a crawlspace there.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

(Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, 1944, by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, as sung by Frank Sinatra.)