A MERRY FAERIE CHRISTMAS
A Mrs. Bagge Story by Bernice Ramsdin-Firth
The year had turned and the season for giving and receiving had come round once again. Families were bustling up and down the street, Merry Christmasing each other or joining in groups to sing carols outside of malls and where ‘Sally Ann’ Santas plied their trade, soliciting funds for the poor from harrassed passers-by. Not Mrs. Philomena Bagge’s favourite time of year.
Cursing the commercialism and those begging bearded buffoons, as she called them, she had given up on Christmas long ago. She was also a little envious. “I’m poor,” she would grumble, “ but nobody notices me!” Every year she did her best to keep clear of Christmas, shopping early in the morning to avoid the crowds and muttering “Humbug” to any storekeeper impertinent enough to wish her a Merry Christmas, even though Happy Holidays seems to have replaced it these days. Well, a skunk by any other name…. She even went so far as to turn off all the lights in her house. (though not her precious TV): a feeble protest against the lurid night time light show the season’s madness brought to her neighbourhood. And any child with nerve enough to carol outside her door was sent off with a flea in his ear. She was glad when it was over.
The Faerie in her attic, though, had come to appreciate this happy season. And while their beliefs differed from the Christian ones, let it not be said they lacked spirituality. Mother Nature, Gaia, was their deity and they worshipped her just as fiercely as any Christian believer. But they understood the message of peace behind the Christ child’s birth and rejoiced along with their human counterparts. They made gifts for their chlldren and for one another, and even brought a tiny tree into their attic, decorating it with fancy bows made from discarded Christmas wrapping and sprinkling it with fairy dust. A bright star sitting on its peak lit the whole room, to the delight of the children. In consequence, at this time of year there was always a slight glow in Mrs. Bagge’s attic window, in contrast to her dark house; enough to scare any child from approaching her door.
But this year, as the Faerie looked at their tables decorated with nuts and berries saved from the fall woods and gardens, flowers pinched from florist shops and their plates laden with last summer’s honey and pollen, (traded with bumble and honey bees in return for combing the lice out of their fur) they decided things would be different. They would somehow include “the Bagge Lady” in their festivities. But how? They loved Mrs. Bagge; they lived in her house (though she didn’t know it), they often ate her food (mostly milk and honey and jam), and she had provided the children with endless hours of harmless mischief. So what to do for their crabby landlady that would bring at least some pleasure to her? They could keep the children from plaguing her of course, not a popular idea with those small editions of their parents. They could make her a present, but what? What would a person who hated the world as much as Philomena Bagge did like for a present? A suggestion was made—perhaps they could decorate her house with fairy dust, and even provide some their favourite food. As they thought about it the Faerie became more enthused about the idea; yes, that would be just the thing, fairy dust, and cake, and music, yes, there must be music. Plans were laid and they set to work.
Christmas Eve came and when Mrs. Bagge climbed into bed the house outside suddenly lit up with a golden glow that picked out its best architectural features, (this was a difficult one for the Faerie, considering there were few to choose from). Because her blinds were closed she didn’t notice the light, but as she lay there she heard a beautiful sound, not exactly caroling but a sweet humming that swelled into a glorious Stabet Mater. Getting up from her bed she looked out her window, and on seeing the glow surrounding her house, feared it was all ablaze.
Shouting “Fire!” she ran down the stairs and out the door. But look where she would, all was well, no fire to be found anywhere, just a magical glow. Mouth open, she stood staring up at this strange transformation until, chilled, she went back inside to find, to her surprise, every room hung with wreaths of fir and cedar and holly. In every corner sparkling lights glistened and on her dining room table sat artistically arranged walnuts and berries and colourful honey candies. In the centre with candles lit on either side, a tiny decorated pollen cake took pride of place on one of her best plates. Then another surprise—by the fireplace lay a present wrapped in fine tissue, with a silver bow and her name written in tiny letters. When she opened it, a white toque and a pair of warm white gloves emerged, knitted from the fur of a purebred Samoyed dog that lived nearby, (looking somewhat tattered after the Faerie were finished with it).
Angry at first that her house had been invaded by some do-gooder, but then confused, Mrs. Bagge sat down before the gifts of food on her table. Tears came into her eyes and she wiped them away, ashamed of her weakness. But as she tasted a honey candy and listened to the exquisite sound of the music, it began to fill her soul and sucking on a honey candy, though leaving her bounty otherwise untouched, she climbed back up to her bed and fell deeply asleep, as she had as a young child, before life got in the way.
The next morning she was awakened by the sound of church bells, having slept better than she had for many a year, and for the first time she didn’t grumble about the noise. She put on her rabbit-eared slippers and best dressing gown before going downstairs, though she suspected the night before’s events were only an overindulgence of wine before bed. But no, there were the toque and gloves, the fir boughs and holly, the decorated table, and the goodies still waiting to be enjoyed. Staring at the bounty before her, she sighed. “Oh, what the heck,” she said and ate the whole lot, leaving the tasty little pollen cake to the last. When every bite was gone she lit a fire in the fireplace and wearing her new gloves and toque, she sat in her favourite chair and raised a glass of her best sherry to whoever had provided these things, (assuming, as she didn’t believe in Santa Claus, that it was probably someone from the ‘Sally Ann’, though how they got into her locked house she didn’t know).
But let it not be said she wasn’t grateful for this largesse, for after that at Christmastime, wearing her white dog-fur hat and gloves, she would drop a penny or two into the pots of bearded Santas, who, like the proverbial postman, deliver their message in all kinds of weather; especially outside mall doors, ringing their urgent kindly bells.