A Home For Christmas – a short story

Christmas is a time for giving. We all know that. But as you make your way to the tree to open gifts, or to the table for your Christmas feast, think about the story I have to tell you, and how sometimes the simplest gifts are the most profound. So settle in, all cozy in your Christmas jammies or resplendant in your holidayfinery, and enjoy a Christmas story.
Tansin was cleaning, as she always did, in the wee hours of the morning as the family slept. Outside, softflakes were starting to fall through the darkness. The ground would be white by morning, though Tansin would tell that the snow wouldn’t be deep.
Heading into the living room, she stopped. blinking. There it was again. Every year at about this time, her family brought a tree in from outside and hug bright lights and shiny things from its branches. Soon, she knew, boxes all covered in paper and ribbons would start to appear beneath it. More and more would show up there for the rest of the month, until one night they’d all be gone, but scraps of paper would be left all over the place for her to find and tidy away. Tansin adored that night, for she greatly loved cleaning for the family, and those bits of coloured paper were so pretty. Sometimes, they had pictures on them.
Still, Tansin wondered as she did every year what this was all about. Why bring a tree inside? Why make it look like that? Not that it wasn’t pretty. In fact, Tansin was always taken with it. She liked it best when the lights were left on, but that only happened the night before the boxes disappeared and the bits of paper were left behind.
Tansin liked to pretend that the paper was left as gifts for her by the two children of her family, though she knew better. The children didn’t believe in her. The parents didn’t believe in her. Only Granny Ellie believed. Granny Ellie was from the old country, and she’d brought her beliefs with her. She was the one who left the little bowls of cream and cakes or cookies on the stove top for Tansin to find. Granny Ellie was, in fact, the reason that Tansin had moved in with this family and made it her own. Granny Ellie told the children about Tansin, despite not knowing her name, but the children didn’t believe.
It was getting harder and harder to be a hob.
What’s a hob, you ask? Well, some people know them as brownies. Hobs are fae folk, you know, but not the malicious kind, unless you make them mad. They love to clean and care for homes, and the families that live in them, in exchange for gifts of cream or cakes, though Tansin happily accepted cookies. When Granny Ellie moved on from this world, Tansin would have to leave, too, and where would she be then? No one seemed to believe anymore. Who would leave her cream and cakes? Why didn’t the family notice her efforts? Goodness, but you ask a lot of questions. It’s simply. Mother always assumed that Father or the kids were good abot tidying up. Father assumed the same. The kids didn’t notice. Humans have a way of not questionning the nice things in life. But, let’s get back to the story.
Shaking herself out of her sad thoughts, Tansin approached the tree and reached up to adjust one of the ornaments that was hanging crookedly from its bough. For a moment more, she admired the tree, then went back to her cleaning.
Days passed, or nights did, since Tansin always kept herself hidden away during the days. Those pretty boxes began to appear under the tree. Just one at first, then three, now six. They had little tags attached with names of the family printed on them. The mood of the family seemed to become more joyful, something that Tansin was particularly sensitive to. Then one night when Tansin was once more in the living room, she noticed that one of the children’s books had been lef out of place. Moving to pick it up in order to return it to its normal home, Tansin noticed that there was a picture of a tree on it, one that looked similar to the one the family had. Curious, Tansin carried it over to the big armchair and hopped up to sit on it. As she was the size of a child herself, her bare feet dangled off the floor. Curiously, she opened the book and began to read. It was a story about something called Christmas, when good little boys and girls got presents. Evidently, those pretty boxes contained presents inside them, and the tree was a Christmas tree. Though she didn’t understand, Tansin was intrigued. Finally, she shut the book, hopped down from the chair and put it in its proper place before getting back to her tidying.
The following night, though, she found another book where the first had been left. This one had a picture of a fat, white-haired man in a red suit, and she recognized the picture as one of those that sometimes appeared on the paper around the presents. She sat down and read this one, too, learning that the man was called Santa Claus, and that he flew around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and brought more presents to children. He sounded a bit like a fae person, Tansin thought, though not one she’d ever heard of.
The next night, there was another book. And then another the following night. Tansin was learning just how magical a time Christmas was, even more so than she had thought when all she knew about was the tree, the pretty boxes and her coveted bits of paper. It made her a bit wistful, though, for she was beginning to wish that she could have Christmas too. And she still didn’t understand what it was really all about.
Finally, the night of the tree lights came. Christmas Eve, as she now knew. Sure enough, the lights were left on. But there was no book. Instead, Tansin found a piece of paper with a note left on it.
‘My dearest hob,
I know that it is your way to hide yourself away from the families that you adopt. That you love us and help us, but you don’t join us. But I wonder if you will grant an old woman her Christmas wish. Come up to my room and speak with me?
For a long time, Tansin sat and thought, clutching the note. Talking to humans wasn’t the way it was done. But times kept changing, and Tansin found herself thinking that perhaps she should change, too. Besides, she wasn’t sure how many more years Ellie would even be here, and she’d been taking care of Ellie and her family ever since the woman had moved here from Lincolnshire in England.
Finally, Ellie crept upstairs, the note still held in her hand. She hesitated outside Ellie’s door, then slowly opened it and stepped inside.
The old woman was sitting up in bed, her silver hair loose around her shoulders, clearly waiting, and when she saw Tansin there her face broke into a beaming smile.
“You came! Oh, I’m so glad tomeet you.”
“Hello, Ellie,” Tansin said, hesitantly drawing closer. “I’m glad to meet you, too. But why now?”
“Because it’s Christmas,” Ellie said. “And because my son and his wife don’t believe in you. The children don’t believe in you. I worry about what will happen to you after I am gone. So I want you to join us for Christmas.”
Tansin didn’t know what to do, so she stalled for time by asking the question that had been keeping her up at day. “What is Christmas, really? I read those books. I suppose you must have left them for me so I’d know about Christmas, but they don’t really say what it is.”
Ellie paused for a long moment. “Well,” she said. “That’s a complicated question. Christmas means different things to different people. Christmas is a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ. But not everyone who celebrates Christmas believes in that. I do, but not everyone does, and that’s okay. Christmas is… well. It is a celebration of love, and of giving. Giving presents, yes, but giving time, giving considration, giving kindness.”
“Ahh,” Tansin said, finally understanding. “Giving kindness. Of course. No wonder I was drawn to it.”
“Will you join us?” Ellie asked. “If the family meets you, they’ll believe. Then you’ll always have a home.”
“A home for Christmas,” Tansin mused. “That sounds like the best present.”
And so, the next morning, Tansin gathered all of her courage and crept out of her place of concealment and let Ellie lead her in to mee the family. To say that there was a lot of surprise would be an understatement, but after all the stories Granny Ellie had told them about hobs and other fae folk, they at least quickly understood who and what Tansin was. Ellie even had a few gifts for Tansin, though fortunately none of them were clothes, for hobs tend to leave when given clothes. Why? Only the hobs themselves know.
From that day on, Tansin became a real part of the family, even if she did still go unseen more often than not. But every Christmas, she came out into the open to join the family around the Christmas tree. For now, Tansin had a home for Christmas, and a family who believed.
So that’s my Christmas tale for you. And to go along with it, a wish that no matter what you celebrate at this time of year, that it is a joyous and warm time.
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