Her Christmas Visitor

Cindy awoke with a start, straining to see through the darkness. Was it Christmas morning yet? She looked excitedly to her left. The clock on the nightstand read 3:17 AM, much too early. 

Drat! Would morning ever come? She was about to close her eyes again when noises arose from the living room. Muffled footsteps, and someone clearing their throat. 

“Santa?” she whispered. 

Golden light from the doorway flowed softly into her bedroom, lighting up Sir Benjamin’s fuzzy face, with sparkling flecks landing on his big bear nose. Lying against her footboard, his expression seemed happy in spite of his drooping snaggle-string lips. 

The gleam danced upon the chrome handle of the oxygen tank beside Cindy’s bed, sparking her curiosity. Could Santa actually be in her living room, at this very moment? 

As she listened intently, Cindy heard the waltzing rhythm of her dad’s snoring across the hall. In-two-three, out-two-three. Her mom shifted with a sleepy mumble, probably pulling her pillow over her ears. But from the direction of the living room came more soft steps, then the tinkle of ornaments knocking together. 

It had to be him! 

She held her breath, then sat up, as quiet as a moonbeam. Slowly she lifted her legs and brought them over the edge of the mattress. As Cindy’s feet touched the floor, she was grateful it wasn’t cold like it always was this season. She stood up, then tiptoed past the faded blue wheelchair to the doorway. 

Cindy hesitated before peeking around the corner. She hoped that Santa wouldn’t be mad if he caught her snooping. Surely someone as good-hearted as St. Nicholas would understand an eight year old girl being— inquisitive?  Cindy longed to see whether there was a new red bicycle next to the tree. Not that she knew how to ride one, but if she at least had one, maybe she could make friends with the other girls.

Cindy slowly brought her head past the doorframe into the hall. She saw no one, though the glow seemed to be brighter in the living room. Step by step, she tip-toed her way down the corridor. She prided herself on how quietly she had traveled. 

Leaning against the right wall, she peered around the corner into the living room. A jolt shot through her limbs. The man was looking right at her. Cindy started to duck back, her muscles tensing, but hesitated. His eyes were tender, his face friendly, his expression like that of a beloved uncle or big brother. 

“Santa?” Her voice trembled. “Where’s your red suit?” 

The man gave a kindly chuckle. “I’m not Nicholas, Cindy. My name is Nachum. But I know him.” 

He held his arms out to his side, and Cindy realized the glowing splendor that had lit up her room was actually coming from him. It shone from his face and body, pouring through his tunic and silky pants so that they appeared white, as did his hair and beard. He fit right in with all the sweet-smelling pine, wreaths, and decorations. He even looked a little like the angel atop the tree. 

Someone so beautiful couldn’t be bad, could they? 

He smiled warmly. “There’s no need to be afraid, Tumblebug. I’ve been sent here for you.” 

She snapped her head back. “How did you know my nickname? Are you one of Santa’s helpers?” 

Nachum knelt to one knee so that his eyes were looking right into hers. 

“We’re friends. I’ve helped him sometimes, and he’s helped me. But tonight I’ve come to take you home.” 

Cindy felt her eyes go wide. “To the North Pole?” 

Nachum laughed. “Well, it’s on the sides of the North, but it’s far more beautiful than the pole. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.” 

Excitement stirred in Cindy’s bosom. All she’d seen for so long had been endless hospital rooms and doctor’s offices, or the four walls of her own bedroom. It’d be wonderful to go somewhere pretty for a change. 

“That sounds nice,” she whispered. 

“Very nice,” Nachum nodded. “And best of all, Jesus is there.” 

Cindy screwed up her face at his words. “But . . . isn’t Jesus in Heaven?” 

Nachum met her eyes with a long silent gaze, then slowly moved his head up and down. 

Her bottom lip quivered slightly as she shook her head. “I can’t go anywhere without my Mom and Dad. I . . . I need them . . . to help me get in my wheelch—" 

Cindy stared at him for a moment, then dropped her gaze to her legs. She twitched her toes, then looked back over her shoulder to her bedroom. Painlessly. 

“And your oxygen?” Nachum said. 

She took a deep breath and turned back around. A flurry of thoughts swirled in her mind like the snow outside the window. 

“But, but,” Cindy flustered, “won’t they wonder where I am?” 

Nachum brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. “They’ve known you were going for quite a while now, Cindy. In fact, your Dad told your Mom just this morning over breakfast, he was surprised you hadn’t gone already.” 

Cindy couldn’t remember him saying that this morning. Then again, she couldn’t remember hearing them at all for . . .  for the last several days. She’d been sleeping for so long. 

Cindy swallowed hard. “Won’t they miss me if I go?” 

The cold night wind made a rushing sound outside, as Nachum gave her shoulder a tender squeeze. “Yes, my young friend, they’ll miss you. Terribly for a season. In fact they already do.” 

Cindy slumped. She hated to make them sad. Mom had cried so much lately, and Dad struggled so hard to hold it back. 

“But don’t worry,” Nachum said. “They’ll be coming too one day. And when they arrive, you can introduce them to all the friends you’ve made. They’ll be so happy to see you.” 

Friends? Cindy’d never really had any of those, other than nurses and roommates. She’d love to have real friends. Friends to giggle with, friends to play with. To dream with.

"Do the other girls ride bikes there?" She couldn't help noticing there wasn't one next to the tree.

Nachum chuckled. "They ride horses." He grinned and pointed to her. "And you will be able to ride with them."

Horses? A gentle smile spread across her face. What else could she say? And when it all boiled down, what choice did she have? The time had come. 

She gave one last look over her shoulder, then turned to Nachum. “Okay, I— I think I’m ready.” 

He smiled and extended his arm. “Hold my hand tight, Tumblebug.”