It was the night before Christmas, and the power was out. The whole neighborhood was cold and dark. Marianne packed a bag with supplies and they bundled up to check on the neighbors.
Miss Marta answered the door dressed in a parka. She had a shawl draped over her shoulders and a scarf wound around her hood until only her eyes were showing.
Charlie smiled and pointed to the bag. “We have sandwiches and candy canes and oranges and flashlights and extra blankets.”
“I think I’ll be okay,” Miss Marta said. “But I won’t say no to a candy cane if you have extras. If you run out of blankets, let me know. I have a few extra in the closet.”
Mr. Jones took a few sandwiches and oranges. Miss Kathryn needed a flashlight. The Smith family were grateful for the extra blankets.
After an hour of checking on neighbors, the bag was empty and they were ready to go home and warm up as much as they could. They pulled the sheets and comforters off the beds and made a fort out of couch and chair cushions and sheets next to the Christmas tree, with a nest of pillows and comforters inside. Still wearing their coats, they crawled inside and curled up.
Marianne sighed. “This is warmer than I thought it would be, but it’s not very comfortable.”
“I think it’s fun,” Charlie retorted. “Let’s read the Christmas story. It’s not Christmas without it. Not really.”
Isaac crawled out of the fort and returned with a Bible. “I’ll start reading. Do we want to pass it around every few verses?”
“Every three verses. Three is a lucky number for our family. There are three of us,” Charlie said.
They read the Christmas story by candlelight, huddled together in a fort by the Christmas tree. Then they said prayers, brushed their teeth, and went to bed. It wasn’t very comfortable sleeping on the floor in their coats, but they all managed to fall asleep just the same.
Isaac woke up in the middle of the night. He wasn’t sure at first what woke him. He was much too warm and someone nearby was snoring. He sat up stiffly and unzipped his coat.
The soft glow of multicolored Christmas lights shone through the sheet walls of the fort. It was strangely magical. Isaac crawled out of the fort and hung up his coat in the closet.
He crawled back into the fort and gently shook Marianne’s shoulder. She sat up, looking confused. “Where are we, and why is it so warm?”
“The power’s back on,” Isaac explained. “I thought it might be more comfortable sleeping in the bed now that there’s heat again.”
“Good thinking.” Marianne stretched. “Ouch. My back is already a little sore. I’m too old to sleep on the floor. Well, lead the way. I want to get this coat off before I melt.”
Isaac looked over at Charlie. He was snoring softly, curled up in the nest of pillows and blankets. “Should we wake him up?”
Marianne shook her head. “I think he’ll enjoy waking up right next to the tree. But we should take his coat off so that he doesn’t overheat. Here, I’ll do it.”
Charlie didn’t wake up as they took his coat off and turned him on his side. He did stop snoring. Then they took their comforter and pillows and left Charlie with his.
They hung up the coats and went to bed. On the way past Charlie’s room, Isaac paused to look through the window. He could see a light fall of snow lit by the light of the streetlamp. It was good to have the power back on.
They all slept in the next morning. Charlie woke them up at seven, but that was late for Christmas morning. They put the cushions back on the chairs and couch so that they’d have somewhere to sit, and Charlie wrapped himself up in his comforter. It trailed behind him as he handed out the presents.
They opened all the little presents from friends and family, and Marianne got up to make breakfast. Isaac looked around the living room at the wrappings decorating the floor like a strangely colored fall of leaves. And then he noticed another package under the tree. How had they missed that?
“Charlie, there’s one more,” he said, pointing to the package.
Charlie looked under the tree. “That wasn’t there before. Did you just put it there?”
Isaac frowned. “No, I didn’t. Let’s see what it is. Who’s it from?”
Charlie picked up the package and turned it over in his hands. “There’s no tag.”
Marianne held out her hand. “Let me see.” She turned the package over a few times. “It looks like they wrapped it in a brown paper bag. Let’s see what’s inside.”
She tore open the paper, and an electric blue blanket tumbled out. A few white snowflakes were stitched on one corner. She picked it up and shook it out. “There was no note inside, either.”
“It looks warm and soft.” Charlie held out his arms and Marianne dropped the blanket into his hands. He stroked the fabric. “It is soft. We should put this in the reading chair in my room.”
“Sounds good to me.” Marianne stood up. “I’ll start breakfast while you both clean up in here.”
She left and Isaac followed her, returning moments later with a trash bag. They cleaned the room up rather quickly. Isaac picked up the blanket and held it out to Charlie. “I like your idea of leaving it on the reading chair.”
Charlie smiled. “Yeah. It will remind me of the best Christmas ever. We got to visit our neighbors, and read the Christmas story together by flashlight, and sleep in a fort by the tree. It was so much fun!”
They never did find where the blanket came from. The power stayed on for the rest of the holidays. The blanket stayed on the reading chair, and every time Isaac saw it, he remembered that the best Christmas ever was the one that they spent together, in the cold, with the power out.