An Unexpected Christmas Gift
Would you like a peek at my story in the Amish Christmas Miracles Collection?
Here it is...
An Unexpected Christmas Gift (c) 2020 Jennifer Spredemann
Janie frowned as she examined the store shelf she’d just stocked. She’d always been a stickler for neatness and organization, sometimes to a fault. She reached for the package of pancake mix to move it in line with the others, scrutinizing the Amish buggy emblazoned on the front.
A toddler rounded the corner, a fistful of honey sticks in his chubby hand. The little guy’s plump cheeks seemed to glow as he proudly offered her one of his treasures.
Janie bent down and accepted his gift. “Oh, is this for me?” She spoke in Pennsylvania German.
The young boy prattled on in gibberish, causing a smile to tug at Janie’s heart. What she wouldn’t give to have a little one of her own. But that hadn’t been Der Herr’s will for her. She knew better than to entertain thoughts of what might have been—what could have been.
She forced her attention back to her duties, but not before realizing the boy had abandoned his honey sticks on the floor. Where was the boy’s mother? She glanced down just before he reached for a bottom book on the shelf behind her, but it was too late. The books on top began to topple over so she instinctively shielded the little guy from injury, to her own regret. Not that she regretted protecting the little one—just the headache she’d surely endure for the remainder of the day.
The loud crash caused customers to look her way and an Amish man in his late twenties finally appeared to claim the boy.
“Bobby, nee!” The man shook his head and gathered up the honey sticks, sheepishly apologizing for his son’s behavior. They soon disappeared around the same corner the little one had emerged from.
A few moments later, she waved goodbye to the little guy as he exited the store with one of his suspender straps securely in his father’s grasp. She continued to watch as little Bobby, his siblings, and his father drove down the lane in their family buggy.
Bobby. Was it short for Robert? She couldn’t remember if she’d ever known an Amish bu with that name. She liked it.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Her father’s bright blue eyes held joy as he sang the words to the song. “Ain’t so, dochder?”
“Jah. We’ve been quite busy since before Thanksgiving.” Janie moved the feather duster between the toys on the shelf.
“Tourists.” He pointed through the store window to a middle-aged couple that were happily entering a vehicle with their Amish-made treasures in hand. “The best kind of shoppers. They’ve got money to spend and are always looking for special Amish-themed items. Perhaps we should order some postcards and t-shirts.”
Janie burst out laughing.
“What? What did I say?”
“T-shirts? Really, Dat?”
“Could be good for business. None of the other dry goods stores are selling them in these parts.” He scratched his grey beard. “We’re nearly out of your pot holders and dolls again. If we sold other things, we’d still turn a profit and you wouldn’t have to work so hard.”
“I don’t mind, Dat. It keeps me busy.”
After that comment, a silence fell over them and Janie knew what they were both thinking. She had to stay busy to keep her mind off of the fact that she was the only alt maedel in their community. But she’d already come to terms with the fact that she would never marry and have a family of her own. It had been difficult to accept at first, but she’d resigned herself to Gott’s will. After all, if He’d wanted her to have a husband and family of her own, He would have made that happen. But He didn’t. And she was okay with that. Gott knew what was best and He had His reasons. Who was she to question?
Had her father been speaking to her? “Yes, Dat?”
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?”
She smiled and guessed. “T-shirts?”
“That’s what I thought. No, we were beyond t-shirts. I mentioned the wholesale souvenir catalog that came in the mail today. I want you to go over it with me tonight and we can decide which new items to purchase. Does that sound gut?”
“Jah, sure. But do you think Englischers will still want to buy the stuff if it’s not Amish made?”
“Some will, I suppose. They have all kinds of items. Key chains, pencils, dolls, stickers. They might even have an Amish tattoo.” He chuckled. “I’ve heard tell that some of the ‘Amish’ dolls in Lancaster are actually made in China, if you can believe that.”
“You’re not going to buy dolls from China. Are you, Dat?” Janie gasped. “And a tattoo?”
“Calm down, dochder. I didn’t say we will order them.” He laughed. “Oh, wouldn’t that get a rise out of Christi?”
“Dat!” Janie shook her head. “You should not egg on the deacon.”
Her father had always been of the cantankerous sort. Come to think of it, he reminded her a lot of Widow Brenneman, a lady Janie helped out several times a week. Which reminded her… “Dat, I don’t know if this evening will be a good time. I’m supposed to visit Widow Brenneman.”
“Ach, that’s right.” He frowned. “Does that mean I’m on my own for supper?”
“I made fresh bread yesterday and there’s some leftover soup in the refrigerator. All you’ll have to do is heat it up.”
“I suppose that will have to do.”
Janie didn’t miss her father’s disappointed sigh. She knew that he’d hated dining alone ever since Mamm passed on to Glory. “You could join Widow Brenneman and me for supper.”
“You don’t think she’d mind?” His bushy eyebrow moved up a hair.
“Mind?” Janie laughed. “She’d be thrilled. You know she’s taken a shine to you ever since you fixed her buggy wheel.”
“Ach, that’s just your imagination.” He swatted the air in front of himself. “No pretty young widow’s gonna take a likin’ to an old goat like me.”
“Dat, she’s only seven years younger than you. And you’re not that old.”
“She’s too young.”
Janie sighed. She sometimes wondered if her father purposely stayed unmarried because of her own singleness. Did he worry she might be lonely on her own?
Not that she wasn’t lonely. She’d be lying to herself if she said that she didn’t still long for what wasn’t meant to be.
“You still thinkin’ on that Yoder boy?” Her father’s hand squeezed hers. “No good can come from it.”
“I know.” She forced down the lump clogging her throat. “He’s not coming back. My only…” She ran to the stock room, not wanting her father to see her crying again. Elson had been dead for three years now, so why was it still so hard?
“Have you forgiven him?”
She wished her father hadn’t followed her. It was so much easier to cry when she didn’t have an audience. She soaked up a tear with her dress sleeve.
“I know it may be wrong to say this, dochder, but I think you might just be better off without Elson Yoder.”
“How can you say that, Dat? I loved him!”
“I know you did. But I wouldn’t want to see you hurt. If he was drinking alcohol and driving an Englischer’s vehicle, how do you know he wouldn’t have put your life in danger too?”
“Elson didn’t drink all the time, just once in a while.” When he hung out with his Englisch friends, was what he’d told her. She knew it was just a phase and he’d outgrow it or give it up before he was baptized into the church. At least, that was what she’d hoped for. “He never would have put my life in danger. He loved me.”
They’d already discussed marriage and planned a life together. But Elson, through his own foolishness, had succumbed to an early death. A preventable death. Fortunately, no one else had been in the vehicle with him when he veered off the road and into a telephone pole. He’d been pronounced dead at the scene, the EMS workers had said.
He’d been driving just a mile down the road from her home, most likely on his way to see her. When she and her father heard the sirens, they hitched up the buggy to go investigate. When they’d arrived at the scene, they hadn’t known it was him. The victim’s body had been covered with a white sheet.
Elson had already been identified by another community member, but Janie couldn’t believe it. She insisted on seeing for herself. Afterward, she wished she hadn’t.
She’d lost everything that day—her hopes and dreams and plans for her and Elson’s future. It hurt to breathe.
The leaders maintained that it had been Gott’s will, but she couldn’t wrap her mind around that thought. Surely Der Herr didn’t want Elson drinking alcohol and driving an Englisch vehicle. Surely Der Herr hadn’t wanted Elson to leave this world at such a young age. Nee, she didn’t agree with that concept. She did, however, acknowledge that Der Herr hadn’t stepped in to prevent it.
“Each man must make his own choices. Elson chose to put his own life in danger and jeopardize your future together,” Dat had succinctly put it.
Unfortunately, she’d been left to deal with the consequences of his actions—a heart broken in two and a future devoid of a husband and kinner. Unless Der Herr had other plans for her, she couldn’t see any way around those facts. And truthfully, she didn’t know if she could ever open her heart to another man again.
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