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Julia Shuvalova – Miracle at Christmas. Part 3

A tale Miracle at Christmas by the Russian Julia Shuvalova inspired by the painting by the American Tom Sierak and set in the British Lake District.

christmas

Back in 2019, when we were making The Hammock for the Falling Stars, I wrote two fairy tales. The Welsh one, set in Llandudno and telling about the faeries visiting a tea room, was included in the book. Another one, set in the Lake District, in the town of Bowness-on-Windermere, was a bit too contemporary, so I published it in Russian as a separate book. It is called Miracle at Christmas and tells the story of the fog coming down on the Lakes and “miraculously” going away.

This story was once again inspired by a painting by Tom Sierak. In 2007, I wrote a script for a short video: it was a story about a girl who always stands by the window on Christmas night, waiting for a miracle to happen. And then, 12 years later, this image returned, and this time I wrote a nice fairy tale.

christmas
Tom Sierak, There Really is Santa! (2007)

I can unashamedly state that I absolutely love it! It contains all the magic of a Christmas tale: talking dolls, a grandmother, a non-believing brother, the evil spirits of Lake Windermere who conspire to ruin Christmas, the tine elves who fill rooms with golden magic on Christmas night. And there is a lot of Love and Faith, for without either no miracle can happen.

I see something special in the fact that I wrote this tale ahead of the troublesome 2020. Christmas and New Year holidays are commercialised, and we think about presents more than about less tangible but infinitely more important things. Children boast not believing in Santa Claus or Ded Moroz, but what good does it do to our world if we lose faith? Children do not believe in God, then they lose faith in Santa Claus, and before long they do not trust neither people, nor governments. This is a very sad reality, especially because miracles do happen.

We tend to think that miracle come out of the blue, but as the tale shows, the protagonist, a 9-year-old Linda, still had to do something to make her miracle happen. So, yes: we make our miracles ourselves, by at least having a burning desire, faith, and love.

I translated Part 3 of the tale, in which Linda asks Santa Claus to help raise the fog.

Miracle at Christmas

By Julia Shuvalova. Translated from Russian by the author.

On the morning of the 24th, Sky News, ITV and the BBC all reported that “a very thick fog had descended over the entire North-West of England”. Various weathercasters explained the reasons for this fog, which was not that unusual, but completely unexpected nonetheless. People in Grasmere and Kendal mournfully told reporters they would not be able to go to their families in the Midlands, or even to Manchester and Liverpool, because trains were cancelled and roads were blocked.

Linda heard her grandmother talking to aunt April on the phone. From snatches of conversation she learnt that her parents ‘ arrival was at least delayed. Around four o’clock, unable to stand the uncertainty, she called her mother. Through the constant interference, she understood that her parents would leave the house and head toward the Lake District, but…

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

– Linda, my dear girl, I’m sorry, I can’t promise you anything, – her mother said in a sad voice, and Linda’s heart sank. What a fog! Why couldn’t it wait and go down on the 25th! Then parents would have stayed in Windermere and needn’t go to work. And now they will have no Christmas, no gifts, no holiday dinner…

Linda buried her face in the pillow, but quickly got up and ran to her brother, who was watching a TV series.

– Jamie! Let’s write to Santa Claus! He will have the fog to rise, and the parents will come!”

Jamie turned away from the TV and studied his sister.

– Linda, silly girl, even if Santa exists, on December 24, he is flying around the world delivering gifts. Do you think he has the time and strength to clear the fog? And who will deliver this letter to him? – He glanced at his watch. – It’s almost five, and the post office is closed.

The rest of the day dragged on even longer than it usually does on Christmas Eve. No-one wanted to play, tea and cakes tasted no good, and the phone stopped working. Jamie was very excited: he liked the idea that they were completely cut off from the world here in Windermere. “Like on a desert island!” – he exclaimed, peering out of the window into impenetrable fog. Grandma Joyce turned on “Coronation Street” and began knitting. Linda sat on the sofa with her feet up, looking at the Christmas tree that she and her brother had decorated on December 22, and fighting back tears with all her strength.

Despite the stress of the day, sleep did not come to her, so shortly before midnight she dressed and went down to the cold living room, turned on the garland, wrapped herself in a blanket, and climbed into the armchair by the window. Alice the doll sat primly on the windowsill, her sky-blue eyes turned to the night sky.

– Oh, Alice, if you only knew what a dreadful Christmas we are having this year! – Linda said in a low voice and buried her face in the knees. She should have stayed at home with parents.

Suddenly, she felt the room fill with warmth. She raised her head, and sure enough, little folks with transparent oblong wings were fluttering around the room.

– Who are you? – Linda asked in surprise.

– We are the Christmas elves, – she heard a tiny voice say. A little girl with sparkling golden hair hovered in the air just above Linda’s shoulder. – We always fly to people’s homes on Christmas night to fill them with magic! You must have noticed that on the morning of the 25th everything seems different in the entire house, as if gold particles sparkle everywhere. This is our magic! – And she giggled contentedly.

– We won’t have Christmas this year, – Linda said, – because the fog has come down on the Lake District, and my parents won’t come on time.

– Oh, poor thing! – the elf sighed. – But wait, Santa Claus has just started to deliver gifts, if he visits your place, he will definitely help.

– But how will he find us? – Linda exclaimed in despair. – Look at the fog, you can’t see anything!

– Really? – The elf said, unconvinced. – I think Santa travels in all weathers. – And when she saw Linda’s puzzled look, she nodded with conviction: – Definitely so.

Linda turned to the window and stared out into the thick fog. It was a long time before she saw anything. Even the streetlight opposite the house was almost lost in the white haze. But then she noticed that Alice herself had got to her feet and leaned against the window. Following the doll’s gaze, she noticed two lights appear high up in the sky. They did not blink but moved closer, then there became more of them, and soon Linda, throwing away a blanket and jumping off the armchair, was standing at the window – and through the glass she saw a painted wooden sleigh hovering in the air at window level. It was every bit like the one they painted on old postcards, and it was led by the harnessed reindeer flapped their ears. In the sleigh, resting his hand on a large bag with gifts, sat Santa Claus. He was the same age as Grandma Joyce, Linda thought, and he had a long, broad beard, a bushy moustache, and kind eyes behind glasses.

– Hello, dear Alice! – he said, waving a red-gloved hand.

– Hello, dear Santa! Alice replied in a tiny, melodious voice.

– How are my Christmas elves doing preparing your home for the holiday?

– But, of course, – Alice reported. – And all the food has been purchased, Joyce has prepared meat and a pie, and there are still vegetables to cook for dinner. The only thing is…

– What’s the matter? – Santa Claus leaned forward.

– Let Linda tell you all about it, – Alice replied suddenly. – Besides she really wanted to see you.

Santa Claus turned to the girl and looked at her with attention.

– So, Linda, tell me what happened.

Linda blushed: Santa was looking at her so intently and affectionately that for a moment she thought it was wrong to keep him here. After all, the fog will clear sooner or later, except that…

– Dear Santa, we won’t have Christmas, – Linda took a deep breath. – The news says that the roads are blocked because of the fog, and the parents will not get to us. And my aunt and cousin Robert won’t come, either.

– Yes, yes, – Santa Claus nodded, – I know the story. The spirits of Lake Windermere decided to play a joke on the residents this year. My heralds warned me, but I hoped they would have the decency to wait until at least the 26th. I’m sorry, Linda…

– Santa, if I had known better, I would have sent you a letter! – Linda threw up her hands. – But Jamie said the post office was closed, and you were delivering gifts and couldn’t help.

– Jamie thinks I don’t exist, – Santa Claus smiled. – Your brother is growing up too quickly, alas. Of course, you should have written to me and just put the letter in the mailbox. Remember what I wrote to your grandmother? I see you all. I would have known you were asking me to raise the fog, and I would have done something.

– And now, Santa? – Linda was all confused. – Can’t we do anything now?

Santa Claus shrugged.

– Actually, your gifts will still arrive on time, I know that. Maybe it’s not a big deal if you spend Christmas with your grandmother, without your parents?

And here Linda exclaimed excitedly:

– No, Santa, it’s not about our gifts! Don’t you understand?! My father and mother will be left without gifts, I have spent some much time embroidering a cushion for my mother, and I made a beautiful pen case for my father! And I embroidered a pincushion for aunt April! And I bought cousin Robert a book about knights! And Jamie made presents, too! And now we can’t give them! – And her helplessness brought her to tears.

Alice pleaded:

– Please, dear Santa, do something! A long time ago you persuaded the store owner to give me to Joyce. Can’t you get a handle on the spirits of Lake Windermere?

Through the tears on her lashes, Linda could see Santa Claus stroking his beard thoughtfully and adjusting his glasses.

– You’re a good girl, Linda, very much like your grandmother. You know, these spirits are strange creatures, they like to complicate things, but they are not without empathy. I won’t promise anything – I still have to deliver gifts – but I’ll try to do something.

Santa Claus reined in, and the reindeer swayed their antlers and began to move. They rose majestically higher and higher up in the air, and as far as Linda and Alice could see, they were slowly receding into the night. The elf girl sat on Linda’s shoulder and touched the tip of her nose with her wand.

– Linda, it’s time to go to bed! Santa Claus can’t bring gifts if you don’t fall asleep.

– Do you think the fog will clear, Alice? – Linda asked.

Alice settled into her usual position and shrugged.

– Linda, dear, there are things that neither people nor dolls can influence. You did everything you could. Now we can only trust and wait.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

Jamie! Let’s write to Santa Claus! He will have the fog to rise, and the parents will come!”

Jamie turned away from the TV and studied his sister.

– Linda, silly girl, even if Santa exists, on December 24, he is flying around the world delivering gifts. Do you think he has the time and strength to clear the fog? And who will deliver this letter to him? – He glanced at his watch. – It’s almost five, and the post office is closed.

The rest of the day dragged on even longer than it usually does on Christmas Eve. No-one wanted to play, tea and cakes tasted no good, and the phone stopped working. Jamie was very excited: he liked the idea that they were completely cut off from the world here in Windermere. “Like on a desert island!” – he exclaimed, peering out of the window into impenetrable fog. Grandma Joyce turned on “Coronation Street” and began knitting. Linda sat on the sofa with her feet up, looking at the Christmas tree that she and her brother had decorated on December 22, and fighting back tears with all her strength.

Despite the stress of the day, sleep did not come to her, so shortly before midnight she dressed and went down to the cold living room, turned on the garland, wrapped herself in a blanket, and climbed into the armchair by the window. Alice the doll sat primly on the windowsill, her sky-blue eyes turned to the night sky.

– Oh, Alice, if you only knew what a dreadful Christmas we are having this year! – Linda said in a low voice and buried her face in the knees. She should have stayed at home with parents.

Suddenly, she felt the room fill with warmth. She raised her head, and sure enough, little folks with transparent oblong wings were fluttering around the room.

– Who are you? – Linda asked in surprise.

– We are the Christmas elves, – she heard a tiny voice say. A little girl with sparkling golden hair hovered in the air just above Linda’s shoulder. – We always fly to people’s homes on Christmas night to fill them with magic! You must have noticed that on the morning of the 25th everything seems different in the entire house, as if gold particles sparkle everywhere. This is our magic! – And she giggled contentedly.

– We won’t have Christmas this year, – Linda said, – because the fog has come down on the Lake District, and my parents won’t come on time.

– Oh, poor thing! – the elf sighed. – But wait, Santa Claus has just started to deliver gifts, if he visits your place, he will definitely help.

– But how will he find us? – Linda exclaimed in despair. – Look at the fog, you can’t see anything!

– Really? – The elf said, unconvinced. – I think Santa travels in all weathers. – And when she saw Linda’s puzzled look, she nodded with conviction: – Definitely so.

Linda turned to the window and stared out into the thick fog. It was a long time before she saw anything. Even the streetlight opposite the house was almost lost in the white haze. But then she noticed that Alice herself had got to her feet and leaned against the window. Following the doll’s gaze, she noticed two lights appear high up in the sky. They did not blink but moved closer, then there became more of them, and soon Linda, throwing away a blanket and jumping off the armchair, was standing at the window – and through the glass she saw a painted wooden sleigh hovering in the air at window level. It was every bit like the one they painted on old postcards, and it was led by the harnessed reindeer flapped their ears. In the sleigh, resting his hand on a large bag with gifts, sat Santa Claus. He was the same age as Grandma Joyce, Linda thought, and he had a long, broad beard, a bushy moustache, and kind eyes behind glasses.

– Hello, dear Alice! – he said, waving a red-gloved hand.

– Hello, dear Santa! Alice replied in a tiny, melodious voice.

– How are my Christmas elves doing preparing your home for the holiday?

– But, of course, – Alice reported. – And all the food has been purchased, Joyce has prepared meat and a pie, and there are still vegetables to cook for dinner. The only thing is…

– What’s the matter? – Santa Claus leaned forward.

– Let Linda tell you all about it, – Alice replied suddenly. – Besides she really wanted to see you.

Santa Claus turned to the girl and looked at her with attention.

– So, Linda, tell me what happened.

Linda blushed: Santa was looking at her so intently and affectionately that for a moment she thought it was wrong to keep him here. After all, the fog will clear sooner or later, except that…

– Dear Santa, we won’t have Christmas, – Linda took a deep breath. – The news says that the roads are blocked because of the fog, and the parents will not get to us. And my aunt and cousin Robert won’t come, either.

– Yes, yes, – Santa Claus nodded, – I know the story. The spirits of Lake Windermere decided to play a joke on the residents this year. My heralds warned me, but I hoped they would have the decency to wait until at least the 26th. I’m sorry, Linda…

– Santa, if I had known better, I would have sent you a letter! – Linda threw up her hands. – But Jamie said the post office was closed, and you were delivering gifts and couldn’t help.

– Jamie thinks I don’t exist, – Santa Claus smiled. – Your brother is growing up too quickly, alas. Of course, you should have written to me and just put the letter in the mailbox. Remember what I wrote to your grandmother? I see you all. I would have known you were asking me to raise the fog, and I would have done something.

– And now, Santa? – Linda was all confused. – Can’t we do anything now?

Santa Claus shrugged.

– Actually, your gifts will still arrive on time, I know that. Maybe it’s not a big deal if you spend Christmas with your grandmother, without your parents?

And here Linda exclaimed excitedly:

– No, Santa, it’s not about our gifts! Don’t you understand?! My father and mother will be left without gifts, I have spent some much time embroidering a cushion for my mother, and I made a beautiful pen case for my father! And I embroidered a pincushion for aunt April! And I bought cousin Robert a book about knights! And Jamie made presents, too! And now we can’t give them! – And her helplessness brought her to tears.

Alice pleaded:

– Please, dear Santa, do something! A long time ago you persuaded the store owner to give me to Joyce. Can’t you get a handle on the spirits of Lake Windermere?

Through the tears on her lashes, Linda could see Santa Claus stroking his beard thoughtfully and adjusting his glasses.

– You’re a good girl, Linda, very much like your grandmother. You know, these spirits are strange creatures, they like to complicate things, but they are not without empathy. I won’t promise anything – I still have to deliver gifts – but I’ll try to do something.

Santa Claus reined in, and the reindeer swayed their antlers and began to move. They rose majestically higher and higher up in the air, and as far as Linda and Alice could see, they were slowly receding into the night. The elf girl sat on Linda’s shoulder and touched the tip of her nose with her wand.

– Linda, it’s time to go to bed! Santa Claus can’t bring gifts if you don’t fall asleep.

– Do you think the fog will clear, Alice? – Linda asked.

Alice settled into her usual position and shrugged.

– Linda, dear, there are things that neither people nor dolls can influence. You did everything you could. Now we can only trust and wait.

As she was leaving the living room and was about to close the door, Linda glanced back. Little elves were filling the space under the Christmas tree with magic.

The Russian book is available here and here.

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Julia Shuvalova is the author of Los Cuadernos de Julia blog. She is an author of several books, a translator, and a Foreign Languages tutor. She lives and works in Moscow, Russia.

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