And to my readers a haunting and sexy Christmas tale with characters shamelessly ripped off from that beautiful Civil War epic tale "Cold Mountain," meshed inelegantly with a theme stolen from a 1960's sitcom the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and finally influenced by a Tony Rice song Carolina Star. Who but a delightfully shallow fellow like myself could pull those together.
And before you go thinking that I'm blogging on Christmas Day, I wrote this 2 months ago and auto-posted. I hope you're reading this on Dec. 26th! :)
On a snowy night in the hills of Western North Carolina.....
Ada gazed out of the window onto the snowy moonlit mountain as she finished washing the last of the dinner plates. In the background Georgia and Stobrod were finishing up a merry Christmas jig as Ruby and Grace danced in front of the fire. But Ada was thinking about him. It was often at these peaceful times she did think of him. Farm days tend to be too busy to fret over who you miss. But now she could see him, smell him, and imagine how he felt so long ago.
Suddenly a burst of wind pushed the window open in front of where she was working at her plates and a blackbird she had not seen before flapped quickly off the window seal. She gasped and started to yell but her voice was muffled by the rush of the wind and a faint whisper she could barely hear. But, she had distinctly heard "I am here for you" as the blustery wind brushed past her face. She shook her head, was she crazy? It did sound like him calling to her. She did not linger on the thought and shut the window quickly forcing out the cold of the night.
Grace shuffled over to her, "what happened momma" she said. "Oh nothin' darlin', just that old wind letting us know he's out there."
Grace then said "tell me a story about papa!"
"No darlin' not now" said Ada. "It's time for bed and you better get ready or Santa is just goin' to fly right over this here mountain! Go now and wash up and then we'll read a quick story, hurry now!"
Once Grace was ready for bed Ada read her "A Visit from St. Nicholas." She had seen it many years ago in the newspaper and her dad had picked up a copy for her long ago in Charleston. But as she read she couldn't help but imagine a Christmas with Inman. She finished and Grace pressed her for another story but Ada insisted she turn out the lamp. Just as she blew out the oil lamp she looked up and saw another blackbird at the window seal. "My my" she thought, "what is a blackbird doing around these parts in this weather and at this time of year?"
She looked down at Grace's angelic face (still visable in the light of the moon). As Grace fell into sleep she said "momma, do you think papa still loves us?" "Yes" said Ada, "he is always with us, now good night and sweet dreams." She kissed Grace on the forehead and then walked back to her room and took a seat next to her bed and began reading next to the flicker of her oil lamp. She yawned and was tired but still felt restless from the wind, reading always calmed her soul.
Ada woke up with a jerk. She thought she heard a sound and it felt like it was coming from outside of the kitchen. She must have drifted off to sleep. Was it that wind coming through the window again? She walked to the kitchen and looked out of that same window above the sink and out onto the snowy night.
And then she saw a shadowy figure approaching the house. Her first impulse was to get the shotgun. But the figure looked familiar. She pulled on her shawl and went outside. The figure got closer, she felt pulled toward it as if by a force she didn't know. She was not but the length of a horse stall away when the figure, a man, finally looked up at her.
"Inman" she cried! The figure smiled at her. "Ada, it really is you; I have travelled so far to see you, do you recognize me under all this North Carolina clay" the figure said to her. But she knew the figure was her Inman.
He walked up to her briskly. As he got close she flung herself onto him. They embraced and he pressed a kiss to her mouth. It was freezing and yet with his warmth she was immediately on fire. She had to pull back gasping. Inman said "I'm sorry my love, what's wrong?" Ada giggled with embarrassment and said "oh my Inman, you still take my breath away."
"Come inside dear," Ada said to him "you look half frozen and I don't think you have eaten in an age, let me get something together for you."
Inman said "don't worry my love I only hunger for you, I don't have long - I am here for you." Ada was not sure what he meant but was sure he was crazy from cold and hunger. She took him by the hand and led him inside. "Do you need to sit by the fire a spell?" Ada said. "No my love, the others can't see me like this." Ada was sorry that Inman was ashamed of his appearance, to her he was as dashing as ever. "I could run a bath for you Inman if it pleases you but the cold air may catch you your death" Ada exclaimed. Inman shook his head saying, "if my poor figure is not a fright to you, I only wish to be near you just now." She led him down the hall to her room turning and saying "OK, my love you do look like you could use a warm soft bed and a good night's sleep."
Once inside her room, emotion took over. She felt his chest with the tips of her fingers and her fingers instinctively moved inside his shirt. She pulled off that shirt and brought him close and kissed him. Ada couldn't pull him close enough, she longed to be at one with him. She stepped back slightly and untied her nightshirt and it fell softly to her feet. She stood before him naked but felt clothed by his presence. She pushed the sheets aside and they laid down together. He moved over to her kissing her. The feel of him inside of her was hypnotic. They moved together as one, lovers frantically wanting to pull themselves together as if simply touching was not enough. Soon she cried out in delight, their passion melting them together.
After, she just laid her chin on his chest moving her fingers through the curls of his hair and they stared into each other's eyes. He gently stroked her hair. Nothing was said, Ada only wanted to savor the moment as if knowing she needed to gather this picture in her mind to save it forever.
Ada yawned as Inman quietly said "good night my love." They fell peacefully asleep in each other's arms.
The sunrise over the mountain woke her. "Inman," she sighed, and she rolled over, but only her pillow was there. "My gracious" she thought, "what time is it that the sun has beaten me up." But soon, she heard the sound of little feet rapidly approaching. Grace burst through the door. "Momma, it's Christmas it's Christmas momma; get up, get up. Oh, momma don't you know, I had the most wonderful dream of papa last night! Come on momma, get up do you think Santa came to Cold Mountain last night?"
Soon Ada was awash in the sound and smells of Christmas morning. To much was going on now to think about last night. What had happened, was it Inman? Was it a stranger? She saw no sign of him and nobody was speaking of him or any stranger who had visited in the night.
The day passed quickly with Christmas supper cooking going on all day. Georgia, Stobrod, and the children tended to the animals so that Ruby and Ada could stay in the kitchen. The meal was delightful. Georgia had shot the last big fat turkey of the season and everyone enjoyed the big meal. For all that had been lost over the years it was times like this that Ada realized all that was left to live for. She sat back after dinner and enjoyed Georgia at the guitar and Stobrod at the fiddle while Grace whirled in circles about the room. They stopped only to exchange gifts and then set back to dancing and singing.
Finally, Ada told Grace it was time for bed. Grace protested "oh momma, just one more dance." Stobrod chimed in and said, "Ada be a gem, it's Christmas." As Grace glided across the room she stopped at a small object stuck behind the Christmas tree. Grace exclaimed "momma, it's another present!" "What is it, darlin'" Ada asked as Grace pulled the object out for all to see. It was a blackbird marionette. Grace, squealed with glee "it's a birdie, see" as she whirled around with her new-found toy. Ruby leaned toward Ada and whispered "I don't remember makin' no blackbird doll for my Gracy, you reckon ole' Santie Clause really was here on Cold Mountain last night?" Ada smiled and said "perhaps he was."
As Ada put Grace to sleep that night she asked her "so what was this dream all about, darlin'?" "Oh momma, I dreamed papa finally came back from the war; he dressed up like Father Christmas and brought presents. He said he couldn't stay long but wanted to let us know he loved us and that we were always on his mind. Tell me about him, momma."
Staring out of the window Ada sighed and said "OK darlin', you know he was the handsomest man in all these Carolina hills and although he was quiet I could always tell what he was thinking. And he knew what was going through my mind. We didn't need words, we just knew." Ada now looked down at Grace; she had drifted off to sleep clutching her blackbird, a gentle smile on her face.
"Good night darlin', momma loves you" Ada said to her sleeping daughter as she knelt down and stroked her red hair.
After everyone was in bed and asleep Ada once again put on her shawl and walked out into the moonlit night.
She looked up and caught the sight of a single blackbird flying south in the moon's light. She sighed and said "good bye my love, thank you for coming to me one last time."
Take a listen to this beautiful ballad by Tony Rice, I believe it is my all-time favorite bluegrass song.