Village Times December 2023


Independence Village of Olde Raleigh Resident Newsletter

The 1st Annual IVOR Writers Club Short Story Contest: We have a Winner!  

   The IVOR Writers Club Award competition endeavors to recognize and encourage outstanding writing and foster new insights into culture, society, and the human condition. The goal of our IVOR Writers Club Awards competition seeks to accomplish the same.

   We would like to announce that the winner of an award certificate and cash prize for this, our first IVOR Writers Club Short Story Awards competition, is resident Phyllis Woolley for “My Personal Christmas Miracle”. (Readit for yourself at the end of this newsletter.) Congratulations, Phyllis!  

Resident Ramblings

Disclaimer: The information contained in this newsletter represents the views and opinions of the original creators of such information and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Independence Village nor does it constitute an endorsement by Independence Village or its affiliates of such information.


Puppy Dog Eyes – by Margie Lewin

    You are about to eat and then by your side looking up at you is your dog with those big soulful eyes. Who could possibly resist? Which may be possibly why dogs can do this. Unlike wolves, dogs possess muscles that allow them to raise their inner eyebrows, making their eyes appear larger and more appealing, perhaps because they appear infant-like to us.

   People likely didn’t select this trait. Instead, it probably evolved because individuals who made puppy-dog eyes could better enter our hearts. The discovery of these muscles actually came from researchers filming dogs at a shelter, moving eyebrows upward behavior that correlated with adoption.


The Giza Pyramids – by Richard Smalto

   One of the most interesting least mentioned facts about the three Giza Pyramids is the absence of hieroglyphics or other decorations on or in them. This void would lead one to wonder why the Egyptians would leave such superb monuments behind without inscriptions if the Pharaohs actually built them. The Great Pyramid has been and still is the largest stone building in the world.

   There are many pyramids and pyramid structures in Egypt; emulations of later times erected by Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom which are elaborately decorated and inscribed but it is the much older and first ever pyramids that are the most intriguing. Much grander than all those that followed them they are the most mysterious because they contain no clues about the secrets of their construction, who built them and why and when they were built.

   Over the centuries much has been written about the Great Pyramid’s proportions and ratios. Where they exist less has been said about the alignments between chambers.  Was all this the result of careful planning or mere coincidence. To answer this question we have to ask ourselves the question, how did the architects achieve these results. It has long been recognized that the value of pi was used as a governing factor to determine the circumference, the sides and the height of the pyramid.

   The difference between the Giza pyramids and all the other pyramids that were built by the Pharaohs was the angle of inclination which was 52 degrees. All the other pyramids which were built by the Pharaohs millennia later in emulation of these great pyramids either decayed or collapsed trying to attain an angle of inclination that was 52 degrees. To build a pyramid at this angle that would not collapse required a knowledge of Pi, a knowledge the Egyptians did not possess.

   If this angle of inclination is difficult or almost impossible to achieve, why was it used by whoever built the pyramids?  I think a plausible explanation for it could be it is the only angle that could be used to incorporate Pi into the ratios required to facilitate construction. Since there is no mortar holding the approximately 2,500,000 yellow limestone blocks together which weighed 7,000,000 tons and occupied 93 million cubic feet to keep the structure from collapsing as it was built the architects could have used Pi as a sightline to put the blocks in place as the sides were erected.     

   The equation for the Great Pyramid:  Height=half the side divided by Pi x four

   The dimensions for the Great Pyramid:  754/2 divided by Pi x 4 = 480 (the height of the Great Pyramid). Its total mass has been calculated to exceed that of all the cathedrals, churches and chapels combined built in England since the beginning of Christianity)


Eevee’s Story–by Phyllis Woolley 

   Hello my peoples! I am excited because Christmas is coming very soon. Mom has been talking about her Christmas decorations and I even helped her make a new Christmas Wreath for our door! However, she doesn’t seem to like my help very much. She has two favorite words! “No Eevee”. She should be saying “Thank you Eevee”, but if you know mom, she just wants to do it herself. Uncle Tony and Aunt Laura will come over and help her soon, but she won’t tell them no!

   Mom has been staying home a lot with me and I love it. She is my bestest friend and I help take care of her. She is close to the end of her book she has been writing, and when I think she has been working too long, I just lay down on the pooter or knock her phone out of her hand. If she’s not using one, she’s using the other. 

   Mom’s also been cooking a lot. Now you know I don’t like people food very much, not even tuna or chicken. She had been at Uncle Tony’s and Aunt Laura’s house for Thanksgiving. Aunt Laura gave her food to bring home, plus a piece of punkin pie. Mom keeps Cool Whip in the fridge most of the time. She put a big spoonful of Cool Whip on her pie. I sniffed her pie and scratched my nose and said, “yuck”. But then, she gave me the Cool Whip by itself. I can’t believe she kept that luscious stuff to herself more than four years of my life. Mom says punkin pie has to have Cool Whip, or it’s against the law. It was so good it made me want to smack my lips together. I saved a little on my whiskers for later.  

   I know the Holidays make some peoples sad, but please don’t be sad. If you need a hug just come see me. I would come to see you, but some people are allergic to cats. Some people don’t even like cats. Mom says that if you don’t like cats, you haven’t ever been around one or had one. I know mom loves me even when I’m unlovable. She even loves me when I knock stuff off the table or hide her socks in my cave. 

   So if you think nobody loves you, God loves you no matter who you are, or what you’ve done. Remember the reason for the Season. Have a Very Merry Christmas and if you let love flow from your heart next year will be better. I love my peoples. Toodles. 💕💕🐈

Love At First Sight – Science Fiction by Frank Howes:

Chapter 1: Kara joins the troupe

   Richard finished nailing the last prop and put the hammer down, then he grabbed a paint brush to work on the balcony for the love scene in Romeo and Juliet. He painted for three hours and finished for the morning. He would touch up in the afternoon and be ready for the performance the next day. Richard was a character actor, set decorator and part-time writer for the troupe.

   Richard headed for the lunch table and met Ricardo on the way. Handsome enough, but not a very good actor, Ricardo always played the “villain” for the troupe. “Richard, have you seen this new girl, Kara? She’s a real fox.”

   “No,” Richard was terse. “Foxes” generally disdained character actors and stage hands.

   “Well she’s something else; I’d go after her if she wasn’t one of those,” said Ricardo. Ricardo thought he was a real lady’s man.

   “One of those what?”

   “You know, unborn – the genetically designed. I prefer naturals of course. The unnatural are not really ‘real,’ you know. They’re just imitation humans, little better than trained apes.”

  Richard didn’t comment.

   “But she’s a beauty nonetheless. She’ll be rehearsing in a few minutes; you should get a look at her.  Who knows? She might like you! Even you might attract one of the un-naturals.” Ricardo sneered.

   “You know Richard, you’ve still got to change your stage name.” Ricardo complained for the nth time, “I’ve told you before ­­– Richard Gomez and Ricardo Jeminez are too much alike; people get us confused when they read the playbill.” Richard and Ricardo both had forbears from old Mexico.

   “It’ll be a cold day in hell,” Richard thought.

   That afternoon, Richard heard more than one actor scoff at Kara’s beauty. He was mildly offended. “Why are people so mean to the unborn?” Richard thought. “Maybe it’s because un-naturals are unnaturally superior at the things they are designed to do.”

   Richard was curious; when the other men spoke of Kara it was like they disparaged something they’d love to taste. And the women, they seemed to hate her already. How had Kara earned such enmity so quickly?

   Then he heard singing. He turned toward the siren sound. The singer had a lovely resonant voice, pouring out soft marimba lows and bright xylophone highs. Kara, for it was undoubtedly she, was clearly Nordic. Her hair was pale blonde­, but not flat, ashy platinum. Nor was it brassy yellow gold. It poured on her shoulders like liquid white gold, shimmering with brilliant highlights and deep, shadowy reflections. Her eyes shone blue, like an iceberg backlit by bright sunlight. Her figure was Marilyn, and her face – an artist dreamed her face. He was mesmerized by her loveliness.

   To call it love at first sight was injustice. She enthralled him, despite her questionable heritage. Without a doubt, the rumors seemed true. She was simply too beautiful. She was almost certainly one of the unborn, not born of parents, but bred by genetic scientists for a specific purpose.  And Richard could guess this woman’s purpose; she was clearly birthed to be a rich man’s plaything.

   He wanted to stare, but he knew it would be rude, even with one of the unborn. Some women were put off by his admiration, perhaps because he was so ugly ­­– squat, with grizzly red hair, arms and legs too short for his body, nose too small, goggly eyes, ears too big, and chin too receding. He usually had to be satisfied with stolen glances.

   When she finished her song, she surprised him by turning to grin at him.  “So you’re the set designer. Well, don’t set yourself any designs toward me!”

   He was too confused to reply. How could she, beautiful as she was, kid him, the ugliest guy in the troupe? “Why are you so quiet, are you a little shy?” she teased. He blushed, yet he reveled in her attention.

   “No, I’m not shy” he looked toward the floor.

   “Don’t be bashful then; why don’t you look at me?”

   Richard thought she was making fun of him. But he looked up, and plummeted into her eyes.

   “You see, that didn’t hurt a bit.”

   But it did. Richard’s chest ached; he couldn’t speak, and his hands trembled a little. Habitually, Richard avoided beautiful women. There was no benefit in pursuing their attention. But how was he supposed to avoid the attention of this woman. Why would he do so; after all, she initiated this delicious conversation? She didn’t seem to mind either that he gulped her with his eyes. In fact, mirth flickered in her easy smile.

   Was she used to being scrutinized like a piece of produce? If she was one of the unborn, then perhaps she lacked the expectations of common courtesy that natural-born women expected. Richard lost conscious of time as he continued to watch her.

   She laughed, “Are you going to ogle me all afternoon. Come on; buy me a cup of coffee.”

   Embarrassed, Richard looked down again.

   Kara chuckled.

   Richard followed her to the lunch table. He was acutely conscious that he might stare at her again so he looked around. He was shocked by envy and scorn in the faces of the other actors watching them. He’d never had such looks directed at him before. Kara seemed entirely unaware of these looks, but she surprised him again by saying, “Some of them are just jealous, you know, but most of them think they’re too good for me.” Richard saw pain in her eyes, and a little scorn reflected back toward the others.

   “What do you mean?”

   “They think I’m unborn, but I’ve got a birth certificate. Of course, it’s fake. Do you think you’re too good for me?”

   He looked at her again.

   “No, I can see it in your eyes, you don’t.  How extraordinary?” She gave a quiet laugh once more. She totally disarmed him with her honesty.  He didn’t mind a bit that he was at her mercy. He basked in her attention.

   “Well, I’ve got to go back to work.”

   “Me too,” said Richard.

   Then she surprised him once more, “Thanks for your time.” And she walked away.

   To be continued…

Some of the Shortest Short Stories Ever Written

Husband complained. Now buried under patio.

Write about the moment you’ll never forget.

For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Marley was dead. To begin with.

 Found true love. Married someone else.

To be, or not to be?

It was dark inside the wolf.

The killer grinned at the accused.

Her lips were red. Blood red.

The visitors classified me under food.

At work, she blinked… Everybody died.

This advice changed my life forever.

To be, or not to be?

Found true love. Married someone else.

Husband complained. Now buried under patio.

Won a million. Lost her mind.

The old king died. Nobody cried.

Unloved celebrity bought gun. Shooting star.

One bite, and her reflection vanished.

Returned home wounded, but dead inside.

Lost the world. Gained my soul.

He had me at ‘hello’.

Born. Worked forty years. Heart-attack.

Under my bed, he still waits.

None of his unemployment jokes work.

Belly-flopped into pool. Emptied it.

Through the reinforced glass, you apologized.

Ambulance finally arrived. Left without siren.

I kissed her neck. Then pushed.

Married young. Now, she’s forgotten me.

Mouse danced ’till old puss pounced.

Regrets? Not wearing a crash helmet…

‘Your WIFE called,’ hissed his wife.

Typical! Hotel California is fully booked.

Brontosaurus munched, oblivious to massive asteroid.

Trainee wizard expelled for bad spelling.

How cold she became by morning…

The Bluebird – by Pat Simpson

   During my recent stay at the posh Rex Hospitality Suites, I found myself waiting interminably for the coin toss on Rex’s adjoining tennis court. I had grown weary of reading old magazines so I decided to watch a movie that had just started on TV. Why not? I figured you can’t go wrong with Shirley Temple in a movie called The Bluebird.

   Opening in black-and-white, the setting is Germany during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800’s. Shirley Temple plays Mytyl, the grumpy daughter of a wood cutter. Playing against type, Shirley is an outspoken and spiteful girl who, with her little brother, Tyltyl (Johnny Russell), are in the royal forest where they trap a beautiful bluebird into a cage. Back in town Mytyl selfishly refuses to trade it for a ragdoll, her sickly friend Angela’s most valuable possession. Both Angela’s mother and Mytyl’s parents are mortified and label her as a selfish child, saying “That’s why you are never very happy.”  

   Mytyl believes that if she were rich and had the luxuries that she has been denied in her life she would be happy. Her parents love her and try to teach her to realize how blessed she is with her loving family, but Mytyl doesn’t believe it’s enough.

   That evening, her father is called on to report for military duty the next morning, Christmas Day.

   As Mytyl and Tyltyl go to bed for the night, the scene shifts to Technicolor. The children are suddenly visited in a dream by a fairy named Berylune who sends them on a search for the Blue Bird of Happiness. To accompany them, the fairy magically transforms their dog Tylo into human form, then their lantern and finally their cat Tylette, who turns out to be sinister, sly, manipulative, and dangerously cunning. (She’s a cat!)

   In the course of their adventures they visit a cemetery in the land of memories where they visit their dead grandparents and Mytyl does a charming song-and-dance to a yodel song. The children continue the search and live the life of richness in the mansion of Mr. and Mrs. Luxury. Then they roam through the forest where danger awaits, with uprooted trees and blazing fire – caused by Tylette, who lies to the trees in a treacherous attempt to make the children quit their journey.

   Tylette (to Tylo): I know we’ve never been friends, but now we’ve got to work together. We can’t allow the children to go through with this.

   Tylo: Why not? Why can’t we?

   Tylette:  Don’t you see? We’re free now! If they succeed and find the blue bird, we’ll have to go back to what we were. Animals! Dumb slaves to man!

   Tylo:  That’s the way I like it! Man is the master, and we must obey him.

   Tylette:  I always knew you were a fool.

   Tylo:  If they want to look for a blue bird or a pink owl, I’m gonna help them!

   Finally, Mytyl and Tyltyl move into the future and visit the Palace of the Unborn, sort of reverse heaven where they make the acquaintance of children awaiting to be born before finding their destinies on Earth – but they still don’t find the bluebird.

   Comes the dawn and they awake; Mytyl as a kinder and gentler girl who has learned to appreciate her home and family.

   Her father soon receives word that a truce has been declared; he no longer must fight in the war. Mytyl is inspired to give the unique bird, now revealed to be the Blue Bird that she had sought throughout her journey, to Angela. But the bird suddenly flies off. Both Angela and Mytyl are dismayed, but Mytyl says she will urgently look for him.

   Then, looking directly at the camera, she says (spoiler alert): “Please, all of you, look for our Bluebird with all your hearts; and if you find him, keep him for yourselves. And be sure to look first in your own homes, WHERE HE IS MOST APT TO BE FOUND.”

   There is a true dream like quality to the film, and the set decorations are lavish and beautiful. But the longer I watched this movie, the more I felt it had a ring of familiarity to it.

   Where had I seen this movie before?

   Then it hit me: the sudden change from black and white to color; fairies with magic wands; animals changing into people. This was very similar to another movie: The Wizard of Oz. It seemed they were both filmed in the same era.

   After the movie I looked it up.

   Indeed, The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1939. The Bluebird came out the very next year – 1940.

   Through further research I learned that The Bluebird was intended as 20th Century Fox’s answer to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. But in the face of being a box office flop and losing money, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards.

   Despite a lingering myth that Shirley Temple was originally cast in The Wizard of Oz, she had been only briefly considered because she was a proven box-office draw. As a child star, Shirley Temple was an extraordinary prodigy with unaffected, charismatic charms, photographic memory for lines, lyrics and dance steps, and a radiant crown of golden curls that punctuated her on-screen jubilance or discord with a nod of her dimpled face. Public fascination with Shirley was borderline fanatical at the height of her mid-to-late 1930s popularity, and countless newspaper and magazine articles highlighted her off-camera activities.

   But, Arthur Freed, a producer on The Wizard of Oz, wanted rising child star Judy Garland for the lead role. When producers listened to Temple’s singing voice, they were unimpressed. Temple would not have been available in any event because Fox refused to loan her to other studios.  When The Wizard of Oz became a success and Judy Garland shot to fame, Fox moved to create their own fantasy feature starring Temple – based on the 1909 fantasy play The Blue Bird, written by Maurice Maeterlinck. Walt Disney had previously attempted to purchase the rights to the play to create an animated adaptation. Oz was a hit, but The Blue Bird was the first Shirley Temple picture to lose money. It marked the close of her magnificent career as the world’s premier child actress. In the end, Shirley Temple Black proved to be a gracious and good sport. As she herself noted years later with regards to Judy Garland getting the role of Dorothy, “Sometimes the gods know best.”

   As for me, I never did get to play tennis. But The Blue Bird is now my favorite Christmas movie!

   Watch The Blue Bird for free on YouTube. Search on “Shirley Temple | The Blue Bird (1940) | Movie Classics”


My Personal Christmas Miracle – by Phyllis Woolley

   On Saturday, November 6, 1972, Tim, my oldest son, was in the second grade, and Tony and Doug hadn’t started school. I had given the younger boys their baths, and they were all three watching TV in our newly finished basement.  I was making a pot of chili for dinner. David was in our bedroom taking a nap. After dinner we were planning to go to my mom and Dad’s that evening for a little party for my dad’s birthday, which was the next day. The boys were in their underwear simply because, if you know little boys, you know I was trying to keep them clean until we at least got in the car.

   Outside it was freezing cold and a light snow had covered the ground and was continuing to remind us that winter was on its way. The first snow was always beautiful and formed a lovely scene.

   As I stood by the stove, stirring the chili, our alarm system suddenly went off. I immediately ran to the basement door and the boys were coming up the stairs. Tony and Doug and our Pekingese, Perky, were behind Tim.  David had heard the alarm and passed me at the top of the stairs and was screaming “Fire, Fire!” I ran to the kitchen phone on the wall to call the Fire Department. David rushed the boys out the door. The scene was so hectic, I cannot be really sure who was doing what. I do remember turning the chili off and putting the lid on it. One of our neighbors’ friends, Murph was coming in the door as the boys were going out. By this point, a crowd of neighbors were gathering and the Pleasure Ridge Fire Department had arrived.  

   Suddenly we realized that Tony, our middle son was not outside with everyone else. David and Murph ran back into the house to find Tony. As David and Murph frantically searched for the small child in the smoke-filled house, someone, I believe it was Tim, spotted Tony standing behind the drapes watching the snow. We had shrubs in front of our home, and the four-year-old was hidden from view of those of us who were outside. He was unaware of all the commotion going on around him!  David quickly scooped him up and he and Murph safely escaped with our baby. Yes, our baby. They all were my babies then, and now.

   The smoke alarms were still blaring as firemen fought the blaze from outside. They were concerned about going inside because they thought the noise from the smoke alarms was possibly something in the basement getting ready to explode.  No family in the neighborhood had smoke alarms like ours.

   Our home alarm system was a purchase we had made with a lot of disagreement between the two of us. I complained we couldn’t afford it, and David was adamant that we might need it someday. Well, we did, and believe it or not, I gratefully conceded he was right afterwards.

   The arson investigator determined that the fire was caused by our gas furnace. In some way when the fan cane on , a small flame had shot out and caused something very small to catch fire . From there an above ground swimming pool liner caught fire which caused a tremendous amount of smoke damage. We had brought it inside just a couple of weeks before. Additionally, that summer, we had completely remodeled our basement. As we stood outside in the snow, our home was literally going up in flames. We were numbed by the horror of the loss, but so grateful that none of us were injured. There was one actual casualty, the boys Guinea Pig named Oogie Pickwick. Oogie would be remembered by two or three Oogie’s who came after him. Alex, my granddaughter told me that she believes she had Oogie the third or fourth.

   While our children went into the warmth of our neighbor’s home, Charlotte and Ramon, a couple of the firemen escorted David and me through what was left of our house and possessions. Our “home” was next door staying warm with our neighbors.

   The smell of fire damage is something you never forget. To be honest, that smell stays behind long after the fire is out. Our newly finished basement, and nearly everything in it was destroyed with the exception of the large freezer mom and dad had given us.  Mom and Dad had given it to me when it became too large for them. About ten to twelve years later, I gave it to my sister, Rudy, when I moved from our home. Prudy used the freezer for several years after the fire. A few years ago she sold it to someone who lived close by. It still worked perfectly. It was made by International Harvester Company, now known as Navistar. IH was best known at the time for Farm Equipment and big Trucks. 

   There was a lot of damage to the main floor also. The primary fire had been directly below the bathroom and kitchen. The floor below the tub was almost gone, and the tub had nearly fallen into the basement. The kitchen floor had buckled and the appliances had minor damage to their paint and the insulation on the refrigerator door had partially melted. All the windows and curtains had smoke damage. You could barely see out the window. Tim occupied the bedroom next to the bathroom, and just the thought of what could have happened had the fire been at night while we were sleeping still brings tears to my eyes.

   The other bedrooms and living room had major smoke damage. We would find possessions missing for months and years to come. Most of our boys’ baby pictures were destroyed.

   After the firemen had gone, and we had gathered our children into the car, we sat there in silence. The realization of no longer having a house, with only the clothes on our backs, the hard truth hit us. We were homeless.

   David looked at me and said, “Where are we going?” I was silent a minute or two and told him I would be right back. I went back into Charlotte’s house.  She was sitting on the couch. Her tears were for us. I asked to use the phone to call my mom and dad. The commotion I heard on the phone told me everyone was there, except for us. Mom answered. “Are you all coming?” I explained what had happened. She told me to come there and they would help us decide what to do. She said that for that night, we were staying there and would figure things out. I thanked Charlotte and we hugged. Raymond hugged me and said he would keep an eye on the house. I went back to our car and got in and said, “For now, we are going to Daddy’s birthday party. After that, I don’t know.” He put the car in reverse, and we left. The next forty-five minutes, the amount of time it took to get to mom and dad’s, were the quietest forty-five minutes we ever spent as a family.

   When we walked in we were greeted with a tremendous shower of love and true concern. My brother Sonny and his wife Mary came in shortly after we got there. They had already gone shopping and gotten at least one or two changes of clothes for each of us, as well as any personal items we might need right away……tooth paste and brushes, hair brushes, deodorant, shampoo, cigarettes for David, anything and everything we needed that night. I hadn’t thought of any of that, and neither had David. Could Sonny and Mary afford to do that at that time? Probably not! But that’s who they were.

   We put our problems behind us that night. We ate and talked and laughed and sang Happy Birthday to dad as if we had not a care in the world. It was Saturday and there were no plans to make until Monday morning when I could start making calls. Everyone was getting tired, and preparing to go home, I told mom that David and I had nothing to sleep in but our clothes. David always slept in his boxer shorts. He was extremely modest around my mom. So mom disappeared a couple minutes, and came back with two long flannel nightgowns over her arm. She handed one to me and one to David. Since David had been imbibing quite a bit, he put his on and paraded through the house entertaining everyone. He slept in it too!

   The next day, for the first time in many years, I woke up to Daddy’s gospel music. I just listened for a few minutes, remembering. Then reality struck and I was overwhelmed and tired before my feet touched the floor. I had to sit down and start making a list of everything we had to do the next morning. Call Tim’s school and let them know he would be absent a couple days. Call our Insurance Company and file a claim. Make another list of everything they would need from us, one of which was a list of the items that were destroyed or damaged. Make an appointment for later in the afternoon to meet with the adjuster. Call David’s work and then mine. Figure out where we were going to live until the house was once again inhabitable. Everything I did that day was documented. Keep in mind that there was no such thing as a computer or cellphones to take pictures or organize notes or lists. No way to make recordings. If there were, they hadn’t become available for the ordinary population.

   With the short list complete, David and I headed to meet the adjuster, leaving the boys behind with mom. There was a deafening silence as we drove to what had been our home. The adjuster had just arrived. We went inside and the smell of fire, melted rubber and destroyed dreams engulfed our senses. First, we went to the basement. Very little was left, except for that old freezer. Of course everything in it would be destroyed. The electricity and water had been shut off. The adjuster suggested we not try to empty the freezer until it was deemed to be safe to go to that side of the basement. The adjuster took notes and pictures ani I took notes and David took pictures. Since I dealt with property claims every day, I knew pretty much what was needed. However, before that moment, as I stood in what was my kitchen, I hadn’t understood what was necessary for our customers to do before they could get their homes back. Mental note to myself to be just a little kinder and understanding of people who had no idea of what was necessary to get their lives back.

   Within a week we had settled into a furnished apartment. Meanwhile, work had already started on the house. One of the most unsettling things for me was pulling into our driveway and seeing a full-sized dumpster sitting there. It was nearly full, and I had no idea what had been thrown away. Choking back tears, I walked in and started looking through the kitchen for cooking utensils, plus plates and dinnerware to take to our temporary home. the night before, we had eaten at a Taco Bell and picked up milk and cereal for the next day. The apartment we had rented was within walking distance of a couple fast food restaurants and a bus line. David and I had to go back to work, Tim had to go back to school, and Tony and Doug would be going to daycare. We had a most “disruptive routine” for the next few weeks.

   One evening after we had supper, three little boys stood in front of David and me. They were freshly bathed and were wearing new pajamas. The youngest, Doug, was often the spokesman for Tony, as was Tim. Tony rarely had a lot to say, and still doesn’t. He was and is a listener. Tim started out, “Tony and Doug want to know if Santa Claus is going to be able to find us here.” I was stunned. I hadn’t even thought about Christmas. I glanced at David, and by the expression on his face, neither had he. Of course we had both seen ads on TV and decorations everywhere. I suppose we were both so consumed by our situation we hadn’t even had time to discuss Christmas. That was one thing we had always done together. We decided what to get the boys together. I wasn’t sure if Tim was still a believer, so I carefully responded. “Well, I’ve heard that Santa Claus knows everything about all the children and where they are.”  Tim asked, “What if he didn’t hear about the fire?”  There were two pairs of big brown eyes, and one pair of blue eyes awaiting my response. So was I. 

   I took a deep breath, breathed out, and began. “Well, it’s time to go to bed tonight.” Six little shoulders dropped. before I could say another word, Tim said, “We could write him a letter!” We had written to Santa before, sending wish lists, so mentally I thought about giving Tim an extra hug for saving me. “That’s a good idea! Tomorrow night when we get home, after supper we will write letters to Santa.” Satisfaction! The next night we wrote letters and David went outside to put them in the mail box.

   Several days went by and I decided we needed to be in the house before Christmas. So I asked off work for the last two weeks before Christmas I had been going to the house at night doing small cleanup things to move the contractors along. So I worked every day during the week cleaning and David helped me on weekends with painting. The contractors were aware of us desperately wanting to be in the house by Christmas Eve. In hindsight, I probably should have reconsidered that. I’m not sure I have ever worked so hard.

   Many times in life we feel alone when fighting our battles. This was one battle we didn’t have to fight alone. Our neighbors, our friends, family and our Church came together to help with clothing for all of us. Strangers came by with household necessities such as laundry detergent, brooms and mops. and personal items for each of us. There were even wrapped Christmas presents for the boys. The outpouring of love was overwhelming!  We were able to move back into our home two days before Christmas. We had very little furniture, and we would be searching for things for years that should have been on our lists. We just didn’t think about those things at the time. Most everything was replaceable with one big exception, our pictures of the boys and memories we shared as a family, including other Christmases.

   We had been shopping every chance we got to get the things we needed most. One was Christmas lights and a tree, as well as decorations for the outside. Decorating for Christmas was one thing David loved to do. He had Tim as his helper. David would have our little boy, in casts or braces, on top of the roof helping him, that year and many years to come. The two other boys were inside helping me that year. Ironically, the tree we had that year was my favorite Christmas tree of all time. Many years later, because it became too big for me, Tim took it into his own home to be used for his own children.

   It was Christmas Eve morning and the tree was up and the house was decorated, inside and out. Suddenly I realized that there were no drapes in the living room or curtains anywhere in the house. Off to Ben Snyder’s Department Store I went, measurements in hand

   Soon after I got home, the rods were up and we were hanging the living room drapes. The days we’re getting shorter, and it was beginning to get a little dark outside. The boys were once again voicing their concern that Santa would not know where they were. We were trying to assure them, and what I consider to be a small miracle occurred.

   Suddenly we heard bells jingling. Everyone stopped. Silence… except for the sound of the bells. Then, a knock on the door and a loud “Ho, Ho, Ho!!” The five of us on the inside of the door just looked at one another. There was no doubt we all believed in Santa at that moment. I opened the door and there stood Santa. Blue eyes sparkling, fat belly, no pillow like the ones at the mall, black boots, black belt, snow white beard, it was all there.

   “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Looking at his notebook, Santa spoke! “Do Timmy Woolley, Tony Woolley, and Doug Woolley live here?”  Three little boys stood in front of Santa. Their eyes wide open in disbelief of who stood before them. One by one they told Santa their names. Santa explained. “Well boys, I got your letters telling me you had moved somewhere else. Then I heard you came back here. So I had to do my last minute ‘checking it twice’ and find out for myself.” All three boys were still standing in amazement, as were David and I. “Well boys, I have to get going. I have my reindeer parked down the street. I got a lot of work to do. Ho! Ho! Ho!” With that, Santa turned and went out the door. The three excited little boys turned and ran to their rooms. I followed them to tell them good night. I had honesty never seen them so happy and excited. 

   Later that evening while we were waiting for the boys to go to sleep so that Santa could come, David asked me if I had arranged for Santa to make that visit. “No, I thought maybe you did.” He shook his head that he hadn’t.  The next morning the boys woke up to the realization that Santa really did come. 

   It would be another couple weeks before I would discover who sent Santa to our door. But I am not going to tell that part of the story. For me, it was my Christmas Miracle. Hopefully the day will come when those three little boys tell you about our fire and that Christmas.

   Our Insurance Company, our family, neighbors and friends, our church, the contractors, firemen, and people we had never met pulled us through those two months. I know in my heart God was leading them. 

   It took years before we knew the 90% of what we lost. The other 10% belongs to the unknown. But that’s okay.