“Brandy, let’s go for a walk.” 

Brandy, came bounding out of the kitchen, tail wagging. Jenny always felt her spirits lift when she walked with Brandy. Neighbors would stop to chat with her puppy; he commanded lots of attention. But today, she knew her neighborhood would be deserted, with only parked cars lining the streets.

Jenny walked quickly; it was cold and damp, a shiver ran through her, a mix of loneliness and the cold chill of the evening.

The tree-lined avenue sparkled brightly with tear-drop lights. She had no interest in cars, but she studied their license plates, imagining those who had traveled many miles, with no reindeer to guide them through the bustling traffic.

She turned the corner from Holly Lane onto Sycamore Avenue, and stared at the historic brick house; she had passed many times.

Sadly Mrs. Mortimer died last year; she was a sweet lady, loved by the local community. Her kindness intertwined a string of twinkling lights all connected, touching so many people and lighting up their lives.

Jenny missed their Sunday afternoon chats; over the years she had heard stories of generations of Mortimers who had occupied the mansion and traveled the cobbled streets in horse-drawn carriages.

She often wondered if this stately home was lonely, no more china cups clattering at afternoon tea, no kettle whistling in the kitchen, no sounds of laughter, no piano playing in the corner, an empty vessel, lonely but standing majestically on an overgrown English country garden.

Mrs. Mortimer had never married, occasionally she talked about family, nieces, and nephews who were scattered across the country, she called them snowflakes, drifting in and out of her life, melting and disappearing.

Jenny stopped and stared in disbelief, the house a candelabra of celebration. Lights twinkled on the tree-lined pathway, a house welcoming and warm, the chandelier lighting the nameless faces around the table in a Christmas celebration.

Jenny walked slowly, hesitating with Brandy, taking in this vision, the long dining table adorned in all its finery, Waterford crystal glasses sparkling, wine flowing, candles lit, the house was alive.

But why did this family come together on Christmas Day? They were never around when Mrs. Mortimer was living, maybe feeling guilty, and deciding to have Christmas in her memory.

Suddenly the door opened, its visitors, spilling from the house, loud and boisterous shouting, a scene from a drunken party.

“Ok, let’s get it done.”

Unceremoniously they cheered as a sign was hammered into the heavy clay. “For Sale.”

Brandy tugged at Jenny, she glimpsed back sadly at the house, wiping a tear from her eye and thought warmly of the lady who had occupied the historic house with such grace and remembered her words, which would now ring true, a snowfall of family, who would melt and disappear leaving only a trace of their visit.

A new year will come, bringing with it many changes, maybe a family will move in and make new memories. 

Will Mrs. Mortimer walk the hallways and gently guide them around her home? 

Ferrell writes from Cape May.