“Hey, who are you calling simple?” exclaimed Ed to the story narrator.
“Sorry Ed. What I mean to say is that Ed Elf is an uncomplicated soul.”
“Ed loves suits in red and green; smiling; making toys; candy canes; suits in green and red; chocolate; singing carols and, above all else, he loves Father Christmas and Mrs. C.”
Ed interrupted once again. “What about the reindeer and what about Snowy Hare?”
“I’m about to get to that,” said the narrator. “Who’s telling this story – me or you?”
“You are, Mr. Narrator.”
“I can leave you to it if you’d rather,” threatened the narrator. “I’m only here to make your story sound somewhat more epic than an elf’s story might otherwise sound. That’s what narrators do. I’ve done voiceovers for soap powder, I’ll have you know.”
Ed slipped off his hat and bowed before the narrator. “Accept my apologies, sir. No more interruptions…unless absolutely necessary. You might want to add this to the list of things I love – interrupting that is. I do it to Mrs. C all the time. I’m almost sure she thinks it’s cute.”
The narrator continued with a slight cough to clear his throat. “As I was saying…Ed Elf also loves animals, especially the magical reindeer that fly Father Christmas around the world on Christmas Eve. But he did not expect to get quite so attached to a small white bundle of fur with long ears and a twitching nose by the name of Snowy Hare. Only very special children are allowed into the secret of Snowy Hare, who lives with Father Christmas at the North Pole. He wears a tiny red waistcoat and has round wire-rimmed glasses perched on the edge of that twitching nose. He is clever and wise and will sometimes write messages on the bottom of letters sent by Father Christmas. But only on a select few – only for children who perhaps need an extra boost at Christmastime if they have gone through a difficult time at home or school or have even been unwell.”
“He’s great!” said Ed, interrupting once more.
The narrator acknowledged Ed’s comment with a forced smile. This encouraged Ed to think it was now safe to climb on the arm of the grand leather chair on which the narrator was sitting – to get a little closer to the action. He hauled himself up with an exhalation of air that sounded like ‘ooof’ and made himself comfortable.
“I do this all the time with Mrs. C,” explained Ed. “I sit on her desk when she’s working. I’m almost sure she finds that cute as well.”
The narrator paused and looked at Ed in bewilderment.
“Please continue,” said Ed, nodding impatiently towards the book the narrator had open on his lap. “I can’t wait to hear how it ends.”
“It’s about you, Ed. You know how it ends,” said the narrator.
“Well read on anyway – I’m gripped.”
“It was Ed who first discovered Snowy Hare…”
“Just one thing before you continue…” said Ed, interrupting AGAIN! “If you are the narrator, who is reading all the other bits about me taking my hat off and me climbing on the arm of the chair and…”
The narrator was red in the face and bursting to shout at the cheeky elf. But he gained some control of his rage before saying through gritted teeth: “Think of it as me in a different voice. Think of it as me multi-tasking.”
“Fair enough,” said Ed, nodding towards the book once again. “Please continue. Con-tin-ue…con-tin-ue. That’s a cool word. Con-tin-ue. Ha! Con-tin-ue.”
“I’LL CONTINUE THEN!” exclaimed the narrator in frustration. Ed stared straight ahead, his eyes refusing to blink. He might just have pushed the narrator too far. Ed does that sometimes. The narrator again cleared his throat with a gentle cough and continued.
“This is all me from now on – understood?” he asked. “One narrator, one voice.” Ed nodded, afraid to utter another word for fear of being shouted at again.
Here we go then. It was Ed who first discovered Snowy Hare. It was the day before the day before Christmas Eve and snow was falling. Ed had been sent to polish the golden dome on top of the candy cane striped north pole when he saw the snow on the ground in front of him twitch. He had never seen snow twitch before. Ed bent down to have a closer look. He saw two tiny eyes looking back at him.
The little creature made a noise. ‘Mama’ was the cry. Ed swept aside some of the snow and saw the smallest ball of white fur with droopy ears, doe eyes and a twitching nose covered in tiny whiskers. It was a baby white hare and it was wrapped in a woolly blanket.
“Hey little fella,” said Ed, “have you lost your Mama?” He scooped up the shivering hare. “I’ll help you find her.”
“She’s gone,” muttered the hare, starting to snivel. “A big bird carried her away. She dropped me right here beside the north pole.”
“Well, that’s so she’d know exactly where to find you when she comes back.”
“She’s coming back?” asked the hare, wiping a tear from his cheek.
“I bet she’s on her way right now. But in the meantime, let’s get you inside and warmed up. Are you hungry?”
“I’m very hungry. I love milk.”
“And cookies!” exclaimed the suddenly more positive hare.
“A white hare after my own heart. I too love cookies. In fact, I love chocolate and candy canes and…” The hare was listening intently to everything Ed was saying, his eyes fixed on Ed’s face, as if he was trying to work something out and couldn’t quite manage it. Ed, looking smart in his favourite green and red suit, walked towards the big house.
“…all sweet things pretty much. Anyway, I’m Ed – what’s your name?”
“Never was there a more perfect name for such a creature as you.”
“And what kind of creature are you?” asked Snowy.
“I’m an elf. Better than that, I’m one of Santa’s elves.”
“Wow,” gasped Snowy.
“Couldn’t you tell? I thought my ears, my height, my suit and the fact we’re in the north pole might be a bit of a giveaway. I know you’re only young, but surely. You’re not stupid are you Snowy?” Ed always had a way of coming straight to the point.
“No – at least I don’t think so. I know two and two makes four. I know my A to Z. I know lots and lots of words. That’s good for a hare of my age.”
“Not stupid then,” declared Ed as he carried Snowy through the grand entrance of the big house and into the nearby kitchen.
“No – things are just not very clear to me. My eyes are not very clear, that is.”
“So you are blurry as well as furry,” said Ed. “I know just how to fix that.”
Ed poured Snowy an elf-size glass of milk, popped in a red and white straw for easier drinkability and laid out some cookies on a festive plate before darting off through the swing doors. He was back in a matter of seconds, holding a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles.
“I’ve taken them off one of the Father Christmas figures on the factory line. Your need is greater.”
Ed placed the glasses on Snowy with care and took a step back. The wire frames dwarfed Snowy’s face. “You’ll grow into them,” Ed said with confidence. “More importantly, can you see me now?”
Snowy beamed a brilliant, toothy smile. His droopy ears pricked up. “Oh my,” he said. “Oh my, oh my.”
“I take it that’s a yes?”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I can see your pointy ears and your smart suit. I can even see you are not very tall at all.”
“I can see the milk and the straw and the cookies and the plate and the table and the fridge and the curtains and the light and…”
“I get the picture. As indeed do you – clearly!”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Thank you Ed. Wait until my Mama sees me in these. Wait until I can see her properly for the first time. I have never seen her kind face before. Thank you Ed.”
Ed felt sadness sweep over him. He had told the baby hare his mother would return simply to stop him crying. Deep down, Ed knew that if a large bird had carried her away she would not be coming back. But what of Snowy’s father?
“Oh – Mama said he’s gone to a big place in the sky. Not quite sure what that means – except that I’ve never met him.”
Ed gulped and thought to himself: ‘This gets no easier to handle.’ A diversion was needed.
“How would you like to meet Father Christmas?”
“What – me meet Santa? This is turning into the best night of my little life. When Mama returns it will be even better still.”
When Ed was not sure quite what to do, he could always rely on Father Christmas to put him on the right path. Could Ed really continue to lie about Snowy’s mother?
Father Christmas could not have made Snowy feel more welcomed. “Aren’t you just the cutest little thing around these parts,” boomed Father Christmas in his best Santa voice.
“Hello – I’m still in the room,” said Ed, somewhat crestfallen.
Once Snowy had been warmed and fed, a small bed was made up for him in one of Mrs. C’s old sewing boxes. He was soon asleep – his new glasses resting beside him on his pillow.
“Next time you want to take something off one of the dolls on the factory line, you ask me first – understand?” said Father Christmas.
“I understand. But I told him they were from a Santa figure – not a doll. I thought he might not wear them if they were meant for a girl. It’s only a white lie.”
“A lie’s a lie, whatever colour you dress it up in,” said Father Christmas. “And wire-rimmed glasses are worn by boys and girls, you silly elf. Anyway, it’s done now. You meant well.”
“Talking of which…” said Ed, who went on to explain what he had told Snowy about mother hare. Father Christmas listened closely and pondered for a while.
“My dear Ed,” said Father Christmas, “here is an example of when a lie can actually prove positive. Being protected from the truth in the short term can be of immediate benefit. In this case, it has bought us some time until we decide what to say to young Snowy in the long term.”
“But I thought you said a lie’s a lie however you dress it up.”
“I did, young elf. But then I say a lot of things.” Ed looked puzzled.
Father Christmas poured himself a large glass of milk, took one of the cookies from the plate and went to talk to Mrs. C. By the morning, he was sure they would have a plan to help Snowy ease into his new life in this special part of the North Pole.
Ed looked concerned when he saw Father Christmas carry Snowy into the study to explain the situation that very next morning. What could Snowy possibly hear that would not make him sad and lonely over the loss of his mother?
When they emerged some time later, Snowy was wearing a smart red waistcoat.
“Do you like it?” said Snowy to Ed. “Mrs. C made it for me. Look, it even has my initial ‘S’ on the pocket.”
“Red is most definitely your colour,” said Ed.
“Santa is going to take me on a personal tour of the workshop. He said that as I’m going to stay here for a while, I should get to know the place and the characters in it.”
“You are very bright for one so young. Has anyone ever told you that?”
“My Mama told me all the time. Santa told me earlier. Now you have told me. That’s three in all. Santa says he can see me being of great help to him one day with my clever mind.”
“A great help to us all, I’m sure,” said Ed. “Just having you as a new friend has made me happy. To have a very clever new friend – that’s even more special. I’ve not had one of those before…well, not a furry one anyway.”
“Santa gave me another gift.”
“Aren’t you the lucky creature? Let’s see it then.”
“Oh you can’t see it – even though it is the biggest gift of all.” Ed was intrigued. “What is it then?”
“It’s the gift of hope. Santa says as long as we have hope we have life. I know Mama is gone from me for now. But I know that I am safe here and will be very happy here. I know Mama dropped me here for those reasons. And I know that I have hope in my heart I might one day see her kind face.”
With that, Snowy hopped across the table and took a bite out of a chocolate chip cookie.
Ed smiled at Father Christmas, who winked a knowing wink. As the years went by, Snowy became a crucial part of the family.
The older and wiser Snowy became, the more he understood his Mama would not be returning. But he never lost hope he would see her face for the first time. One Christmas morning, Snowy unwrapped his gift from Father Christmas. In the box was a small, double-sided photo frame closed by a golden clasp. When Snowy opened up the frame, there was a photograph inside of a pretty white hare with a floral scarf around her neck.
“Is that…is that?”
“It’s your Mama,” said Father Christmas. “I’m only sorry it took so long for me to find it for you. My magic only runs so far.”
Snowy held the photograph to his heart. “I knew I’d see your face one day, Mama. I always had hope.”
As Ed promised, Snowy did grow into his glasses and Mrs. C continued to make smart red waistcoats for him. Father Christmas put Snowy’s clever mind to good use, allowing Snowy to write very special messages on Santa’s letters to some very special children in the world: children who had suffered troubled times or felt the sadness of loss.
Snowy gave them all hope – and that is the biggest Christmas gift of all.
Copyright: Phil Jones 2014