Not too long after I turned ten, my family moved to Tennessee. Not all of my family. My brothers and my mom and I, but my dad stayed in Georgia. We lived on a tiny island where I thought I’d live all my life. It didn’t work out that way, and East Tennessee could not have been more different from a barrier island off Georgia.
I remember walking into my grandma’s house on that frosty morning in December. Literally, a frosty morning. I’m not sure I’d seen frost before, but everything in Tennessee seemed coated in a thin layer of sparkling white. And there was mist. Not just in the air, but from the cars. Smoke from chimneys. Strangest of all, from our mouths. Every breath we took curled around our heads.
There we were, all stacked up outside my grandma’s kitchen, four boys, a girl, and a prodigal mom. And Grandpa, who'd picked us up.
Grandma opened the door and swept us into the house. She started crying the second she saw us, and after she squished me in one of the most comforting hugs I’ve ever felt—that I will never forget—she made us breakfast of steak and eggs and gravy, and her excellent hash browns, that she made, spinning potatoes through this metal grinder thing.
Those were weeks of change. Too much to eat every day because Grandma had the southern compulsion to feed aches and pains—even the ones of the heart. We started a new school. We moved into a new house. We suddenly had this huge family, cousins everywhere, that were immediately, my new brothers and sister. Their happiness to have us in the fold—especially, my cousin, Debbie—made that new house a home.
That was the first Christmas Eve we spent with our grandparents and cousins.
I was concerned about Santa. Did he know we’d moved? Would he still take my dad a gift? Would he know where to bring ours? Would we have anything under the tree? That’s how a child thinks.
On Christmas Eve, we met at Grandma’s house. All of us. We had gifts under her tree and for each other. We had candy and played games and chased each other through the house. We gathered in the kitchen where all my aunts and mom and grandma talked about what each would bring the next day for Christmas dinner, and what needlework they were each doing, and possibly—what the neighbors might be up to.
We spun through the living room where my uncles and Grandpa talked sports and the news, and we all tried to work a bit of the jigsaw puzzle my grandpa had going.
One topic interested my brothers and me. Tennessee was cold. Cold. Bone-breaking cold. And I’d seen layers of frost that I thought were snow, until my mom explained that even thick frost was not snow.
That Christmas Eve was as cold and crisp as any night we’d spent there so far. Finally, Grandpa got out of his favorite recliner and strolled through the kitchen, out to the driveway. We kids followed him like fourteen mice after the Pied Piper. We milled around him as he stared up at the sky. We danced on his heels as he walked into the yard and studied the sky from another angle.
And all the while, we asked over and over again, “Is it going to snow tonight?”
He didn’t answer. He laughed at us. He led us back to the house, and soon we all hugged Grandma and Grandpa goodbye.
Santa found us. Magically, he came while we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s. When my cousin said her family opened gifts on Christmas Eve, I thought about Mom and Grandma suddenly remembering they needed to do something in our house when our grandparents picked us up that night for a holiday program. So—I’d hoped—though we’d always opened gifts on Christmas morning.
We tumbled through masses of paper and ribbons and fun that night. We didn’t sleep till long after midnight, but before I went to bed, I pushed back the curtains and looked up at the sky, like Grandpa had. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I searched that dark sky. I saw a very few stars, but no snow.
Until morning. I woke to a different light than I’d ever seen in my room. Kind of blue-ish. I jumped to the window, and I saw what my mother had tried to tell me.
Snow and heavy frost couldn’t be more different. It was just like the movies. Soft, puffy on the mounded retaining wall of our new driveway. Glittering on the trees. Surprisingly cold when my brothers and I ran out to feel it. Our last, close-to-best Christmas gift that morning.
We had to hurry, dressing and choosing a favorite new toy to take to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My mom drove so slowly, because she was used to Christmas on Tybee Island, just like we were. We slipped and slid a little to her parent’s house, and when we got there, we all piled out.
Grandpa met us in the driveway, in that funny, blue-white light of a snowy day. His grin was sweet.
“I thought it would,” he said.
In Santa’s Secret Heart in Heartwarming Holiday Wishes. My hero, Mason Alexander, had no interest in the holidays, so naturally, I thought he needed to learn from inside Santa’s suit.
Mason Alexander has one goal—to get back to his unit on deployment, but Emma Rycroft and her son distract Christmas Town’s newest and most unwilling Santa. When Mason and Emma join forces to restore a child’s faith in holiday, they also find the love they once lost.
Anna Adams is a USA Today Bestseller, who has written for Harlequin Heartwarming and Harlequin Superromance. She's working on new contemporary romance stories, and she's excited about returning to Christmas Town, Maine, where the holidays are always sweet with her Heartwarming friends. You can find her at www.annaadams.net
In Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, Anna Adams contributed Santa's Secret Heart. Her most recent Harlequin Heartwarming release is A Christmas Miracle.