Christmas Eve at the Backdoor
Part 4Last time . . .
A frantic sounding knock caused Mrs. Kabrick to hurry back to the kitchen and open the door.
“Why Mr. Knutzen,” she exclaimed in surprise. “What is wrong? Do come in.”
The German immigrant, and near neighbor, stepped inside and blurted out in his broken English, “Please, you to come. Mine vife . . . ze baby . . . she ish alone . . .” he made a few gestures, his face lined with worry as he tried to recall the English words.
They were not necessary, for Mrs. Kabrick understood. “The baby is coming and you must get the doctor and want me to stay with her while you are gone?”
“Yah, yah!” the man’s face relaxed a little. “You come, yah?”
“Of course I’ll come.” And she snatched up her warm coat, turned down the flame under the cider, checked to make sure Jingle Bell was sleeping in her box and pulled rubbers over her shoes. “Do you know where to find the doctor?”
“Yah, I tink.”
“Good, then you go straight for him and I’ll go to your wife.” The backdoor shut behind the two forms and the kitchen fell silent save for the gentle, steady ticking of the clock.
It was nearly two hours later when the door opened and Mrs. Kabrick entered. Slowly she removed her rubbers, slipped off her coat and hung it up. Smiling, she sniffed the hot cider. “A cup of that will do me good.” Soon she was sitting at the table, a steaming cup of cider before her, warming her cold hands, while in her lap a small, grey engine was purring loudly. Sighing, Mrs. Kabrick closed her eyes as she mused, “A little boy. Mr. Knutzen was so proud and pleased. Our turkey is so large, we can spare some for our neighbors tomorrow. Clara won’t be doing any cooking and it would be a shame if they couldn’t share in our bounty.”
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock. It seemed hesitant, almost unsure, as if the giver wasn’t sure he really wanted to knock. Rising, Mrs. Kabrick slipped Jingle Bell into the pocket of her apron and went to answer the knock.
“Hello, ma’am,” a pleasant faced young man greeted Mrs. Kabrick. “This wouldn’t by any chance be the Conway place, would it?”
“No, I’m sorry. They live on the other side of town.”
The young man looked disappointed and bewildered. “I was afraid I was lost,” he groaned. “Now I’m sure of it. Would it be too much trouble for you to tell me how to reach their place?”
“Not at all. Just you step right in here and warm up a bit. It’ll be cold enough tramping all the way across town. Here, have a seat. Would you like a cup of hot cider?” As she spoke, Mrs. Kabrick had ushered her guest inside and shut the door. At his nod, she poured another cup of the steaming, spicy drink.
“Thank you, ma’am!” Gratefully he took a drink and closed his eyes. “This tastes like home! Oh, I’m sorry. I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is Marshall Smith. I’m a nephew of Mrs. Conway. I wired them I was coming but didn’t know when I’d arrive. They sent me instructions, but either they were mixed up, or I was.” He gave a little laugh. “I’m not sure which.”
“Directions can be confusing,” she agreed. “And their street name and ours are very similar.”
The backdoor was flung open at that moment and four bright eyed, rosy cheeked children burst into the kitchen all talking at once.
“Children, children,” Mrs. Kabrick scolded gently. “Have you no manners?”
Suddenly aware of the visitor who was grinning broadly at the sight of such youthful energy, the young Kabrick’s fell silent.
“Marshall, I’d like you to meet my children,” Mrs. Kabrick smiled. “Jody, Roger, Cindy and Ceddy. Children, Marshall was looking for the Conway home . . .”
“Oh, Mama,” Roger burst out, “I could take him there if Edward hasn’t left yet.”
“Edward Conway?” the young guest sprang up eagerly.
“Yes,” Roger grinned. “He went skating with us and it was keen!”
Mrs. Kabrick, always quick when it came to decisions, ordered briskly, “Roger, run out and catch Edward if you can. It would make Marshall’s walk much more enjoyable.”
Before she had finished speaking, Roger was out the door and a moment later he returned with his employer's son. With hearty thanks to Mrs. Kabrick for her kind hospitality, Marshall departed with his cousin.
“What a whirlwind!” Mrs. Kabrick sighed. “Now what’s wrong? Cindy, what is the matter?”
With tears streaming down her cheeks, Cindy sank down on the floor. “I can’t find Jingle Bell!” she sobbed.
“Why, Cindy, the kitten is in my pocket, see?” Gently putting her hand in, Mrs. Kabrick drew out the kitten who blinked and stretched.
Cindy’s tears dried instantly and the children, once their coats and boots, scarves, hats and mittens had been taken off, settled down in a circle on the floor with cups of hot cider and the kitten, who was ready to play, in their midst.
“Children, as soon as you are done with your cider, why don’t you take the kitten into the living room and turn on the tree lights. It’s beginning to grow dark and I can’t move around and get supper ready with the four of you underfoot.”
With giggles from the twins, the last few drinks of cider were quickly swallowed and the four children vacated the kitchen for a place near their decorated Christmas tree.
Right in the middle of cutting up an onion for the stew, a knock sounded on the backdoor and a voice called out, “Mrs. Kabrick?”
“Come right in,” Mrs, Kabrick called, recognizing the voice of the minister, Reverend Powelson.
“Merry Christmas!” Reverend Powelson called as he opened the door and stepped in, his arms full of packages. The deep tone of his voice seemed to be a magnet, for in half a minute the children had crowded into the kitchen eager to know what was happening while Mrs. Kabrick hurried to put her onions in the pot and wash her hands. “Mrs. Kabrick,” Reverend Powelson smiled, shaking the widow’s hand warmly, “I know it is growing late, but my wife insisted that I deliver all the gifts before I ate my supper.”
How many visitors are they going to get?
Have you ever had a crazy Christmas Eve like this?