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The answer came at Christmas

By Rose Brandon

Grace squinted through the melted porthole in the crystal-frosted window. Waves of drifting snow obscured the frozen pond. The stamp of Jim’s fresh footprints rose and fell between the frozen peaks of the invisible path to the barn. A blustery Christmas Eve descended on her tiny corner of creation.

Scratching the edges of the disappearing circle, she could see the next farm peeking between gusts of swirling snow. The unruled flakes distorted the image. It was blurry, like the memories of her childhood. To an 8-year-old, crossing the Atlantic was a strange and chilling experience. The steamer was loaded with hundreds of parentless children who would be resettled in the New World. Everyone said it was for the best. Britain didn’t have the resources to care for so many orphans, and the vast, young country of Canada eagerly opened its doors. During the long journey, Grace clung to 12-year-old Ted, believing he would make everything turn out right. Instead, arrival in Canada brought painful separation from her wise, responsible brother. Many homes were anxious to take a strong, sturdy boy on the brink of manhood. The sting of Ted’s loss still lingered when a placement opened with a farm family in northern Ontario. The journey from Toronto seemed to take the lost child to the ends of the earth, farther away from Ted.

At the train station, the receiving family stood cold and silent as their critical eyes surveyed the wisp of a girl. How could this frail creature clean house, haul water and milk cows? She would need more care than she was worth. Many dreary nights Grace cried in desperation and loneliness begging God to send Ted. He would rescue her from the harsh demands of this cheerless family. She could make herself believe that when morning came Ted would be at her side. Together they would plan a happy life, maybe even return to England.

The heavens remained silent until she was 16, and it wasn’t Ted who came — but Jim. Loving Jim, with his optimistic outlook and zest for life, became a long-lost sanctuary where the pain subsided. In the glow of youth they married and chose a small but well-kept farm set on a flat stretch of fertile land. The house wasn’t beautiful, but it was functional for a growing family. Finally she belonged — first to Jim, and then to their four girls who trooped into the world one after another.

Jim’s assets also included a crowd of in-laws. Tomorrow they would make the big old farmhouse vibrate with laughter and Christmas fun. In preparation for the celebration Jim had selected and slain the choicest turkey. The unlucky bird was already plucked and singed, patiently waiting for a hot oven.

Darkness was settling when Jim stomped the sticky snow from his barn boots and entered the back door. He hurried to warm his hands over the faithful wood stove while the children giggled and squirmed at the dinner table. Food was not important tonight. After all, "Santa will soon come," declared 7-year-old Evelyn, "and the earlier we get to bed, the earlier he’ll come." At bedtime, Mildred thought she heard sleigh bells. The other girls assured their naïve sister that Santa could not, indeed would not, come until they were asleep.

Grace rescued four handcrafted dolls from their hiding place on the top shelf of the pantry and gave them a prominent place under the pine tree in the parlor. There they sat like princesses awaiting their doting attendants.

A firm knock on the sturdy front door broke the tender stillness. Jim’s jolly voice greeted nearby farmer Fred Long. "Just helping this fella find your place, Jim," Fred replied. Then a third voice spoke soft and low with a hint of urgency. A stranger’s voice. Moving quickly to Jim’s side, Grace looked inquisitively into the stranger’s eyes. A smile spread across his broad face. Taking a step forward, the kind gentleman affectionately touched her arm. "Hello, Grace. I’ve been searching for you for a long time. I’m Ted, your brother."

While her hazel eyes sparkled with fresh tears, many unspoken questions crowded her scrambled thoughts. "Where did they send you? Were you treated well? Can you help me remember our parents?" With Ted’s renewed friendship and stronger memories, Grace’s cloudy past emerged from the shapeless shadows.

Grace is my grandmother. She almost forgot her desperate little-girl prayer for Ted’s return. But God did not forget. Answers to prayer often come in their own "due season" (Galatians 6:9). This one came at Christmas.

Rose Brandon lives in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada.

Reprinted with permission from Live.

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