Winter. Oustide, a world of snow. A little boy and girl play in the yard, free of any worry or care. Inside, an elderly woman sits in a rocking chair, watching her grandson play and enjoying the warmth of the nearby radiator.

In the kitchen, two figures work around each other. As they prepare their dishes for the evening meal, a sense of warmth and familiarity surrounds them. For a brief moment, they pause, stare into each other's eyes, and share a cordial embrace. But as soon as it begins, the moment is over, and both return to their cooking.

Presently, the two children come inside, flush from their activity and the sudden warmth. Taking off their outside clothes with care, they find a warm mug of hot chocolate and a selection of cookies awaiting both of them. As they enjoy their treats, they sit next to the boy's grandmother, and listen to her tell a story of Christmas past. The couple in the kitchen, finished with the preparations for dinner, stand together in the doorway and listen.

And as Ellen finished her story, she reflected on how wonderfully peaceful this Christmas was. The decorations had come together easily, cooking disasters had been kept to a minimum, and even Stu was on his best behavior, for once. Still, there would be other times to focus on such things. Now it was Christmas, and Ellen was determined to savor the moment.

Then Barley came through the door, dressed as Santa Claus, and the celebration really got under way.

When all was said and done, it was a quiet, peaceful holiday.

Part of The Village Square's Secret Santa Project (2010)

To: Fading Butterfly Wings. I'm sorry it isn't better.