Christmas in the Valley

Part 3

     In the silvery light of the crescent moon, under the brilliant canopy of the star-studded night sky, the celebrants, after the solemn yet joyous Christmas Eve service ended, now turned their attentions to the fun part of the holiday.
     The dinosaurs and lemurs, now in full knowledge of the true meaning of the season, revelled with their Ozian friends and guests. So much feasting on goodies they have never before seen. Oh, they knew fruits, tree stars, and nuts, but nothing like spiced apples, sweetly scented oranges, or the flaming plum pudding Aunt Em proudly produced. Spike, the ever hungry stegosaurus, immediately gobbled his share and more. Ducky and Mrs. Beakmouth worried the boy would end up with a terrific tummy ache. However, this was not the case, as Spike, despite his bottomless appetite, suffered nary a digestive complaint.
     "Wow," said Littlefoot, stuffing himself with spiced plums and clove-studded oranges, "this is so swell! Christmas is so much fun, isn't it, Ducky?"
     Ducky just smiled, saying, "Yep, yep, yep! Christmas is fun, and I have learned Christmas is a time for love and joy." Of course, Ducky did not share her previous encounter with a special baby and those stable animals. In time she would tell her friends of that miraculous event, and she would endeavor, from this night on, to be more loving and joyous. Not that Ducky needed any more room to love; she was, by nature, already full of love and compassion.
     Zini, who spent much of the evening under the mistletoe, enticing any lemur female with, "How about a Christmas kiss?," momentarily forgot his amorous intentions when he swore he heard bells. He looked around but no one was ringing bells.
     "All right," he said, "what gives? I keep hearing jingling bells."
     Scraps, the patchwork girl, laughed, saying, "Oh Zini, that's just Santa Claus coming to pay us a visit."
     The lemur teen raised an eyebrow and said, "Santa Claus? Who's he?"
     Scraps laughed again, saying, "Oh you'll see as soon as he gets here."

     No sooner did the patchwork girl speak when all eyes were on the sky. Grandma Longneck and Baylene watched what they thought was a tiny red glow streaking across the night sky. The sound of jingle bells grew louder as the object came closer. The elderly sauropods couldn't believe their eyes.
     "It looks like eight – no, nine – animals pulling some sort of vehicle," said Baylene. Of course, being prehistoric creatures, they hadn't seen reindeer in their respective Mesozoic homes.
     "That be Santa Claus," said Petrie, "Dorothy and the Wizard said he drive sleigh pulled by reindeer. He has big sack of presents for everybody in the world!"
     "Oh yes, yes, yes!," said Ducky, recalling Dorothy's explanation of the Christmas tradition of Santa and giving presents. "He travels all over the world on Christmas Eve and gives presents to the children and grown-ups. He must be very special to do that. He is. He is."

     The sleigh slowed down to land in the middle of the valley. Now the dinosaurs and lemurs could see for themselves this jolly man. Amazing still the sight of eight reindeer, all decked in holiday splendor. The ninth reindeer, called Rudolph, headed the team, and his bright red nose served as a beacon.
     "So that was the red light we saw," said Grandma Longneck.
     How wonderfully jovial this man is! A short, fat man with flowing white beard, dressed from head to toe in fur-trimmed red velvet, alighted from the sleigh, bringing forth a huge red bag full of goodies.
     He addressed Ozma at once with, "My dear Queen Ozma, a Happy Christmas to you and your subjects. I hear Oz has gained new residents, so I had to make this my first stop of the night."

     Santa scanned the crowd, resting his eyes the longest on the dinosaurs and lemurs. He looked at Ducky who was just too thrilled to see the fabled St. Nick in all his splendor. He smiled at Ducky, saying, "For you, Ducky, I have a very special gift. You, dear child, had searched for the true meaning of Christmas, and as you learned tonight, Christmas is Hope, Joy, and Love. Compassion and charity. Do not ever forget the lessons of this night, Ducky."
     The little dinosaur clapped her hands, giggled, and said, "Oh, Santa Claus, I shall never forget. Yep, yep, yep!" Then, "Just what is this special gift?"
     Santa laughed, replying as he handed over a gaily wrapped package, "Oh, you will see. The Wizard had told me of your confusion about the meaning of Christmas. I think you've wished for an item or two, so I had my elves pack them just this evening."

     The kids gathered around Ducky, all curious about the pretty package wrapped in gold paper and red ribbons.
     "Gee," said Cera, "I wonder what's inside. Open it, Ducky."
     "Me want to see," said Petrie.
     Spike, who still munched on plum pudding and candied tree stars, just nodded his head and made sounds of approval. Apparently he was very anxious to see what his sister got. No matter whether he received a gift on not; all Spike ever wanted was enough to eat and his family's love. Ducky picked up on this. She did not understand why she would receive a special gift; her friends and family were just as deserving. This she voiced to Santa who understood.
     He said, "Ducky, remember when you and Littlefoot met that first time? The pair of you were all alone, and you were very friendly and trusting toward Littlefoot when he was at his lowest. Think of it, Ducky. He had just lost his mother; you and your parents were separated. If you hadn't broken the ice with Littlefoot, then none of you would have gotten together. No one would have found the Great Valley, thus reuniting with your families. Don't forget Spike. You could have, but you did not, merely left that egg you found. Spike would have hatched with no family, no friends, no one to look out for him. Think about what could have been if Spike and you hadn't found each other."

     Ducky thought it over, and she finally realized just how important she is in her circle of friends. She showed up at the right time when Littlefoot was dealing with his own grief, and she was there when a newly hatched Spike has no one to care for him. Santa pointed out that Ducky's own sunny personality and loving spirit is the hallmark of her existence. Her questions about Christmas had been answered, and she fully understood the season's true meaning.
     "Yeah, Ducky," said Littlefoot, "we would have been all alone trying to find the Great Valley. If you hadn't come along, then none of us would be here now."
     "Think of Spike," said Petrie, "He be all alone, too. Maybe Sharptooth get him or he fall into sinking sand."
     "So go ahead, Ducky," said an impatient Cera, "open your present!"

     Ducky looked at her friends then at Santa. She went to her mother, saying, "Mama, did you know what I wished for? How did Santa know I wished for something special if you did not tell him?"
     Mrs. Beakmouth smiled at her daughter, picked her up, and replied, "I told him nothing, Ducky. Why, I didn't know Christmas or Santa Claus existed until now."
     "Oh, Mama!," said Ducky with renewed enthusiasm, "I wonder what is inside this package. Maybe it is a boxful of tree stars or good smelly flowers."
     "Then why don't you open it, dear." said Mama.

     She set Ducky down then stood back as her daughter began to untie ribbon. Poor Ducky has a time getting the paper off, of which Dorothy lent a kind, helpful hand.
     "Thank you, Dorothy," she said gratefully. "Christmas presents are hard to open. They are. They are."
     Giggling, she opened the box then gasped at its contents. Ducky paused then jumped up and down, cheering and laughing.
      "Musical stuff!," she said joyously, "Bells, triangles, and other things that make pretty sounds."
      She looked at Santa and said, "But I do not get it. How did you know this is what I wanted?"
      Santa Claus replied, "Ducky, if I recall correctly, there was a certain wish that you could be musical like you friend Suri, and Littlefoot's Aunt Maddie. Glinda and Ozma only had to tweak my ear, and, well, here they are."
     "Hey," said Maddie, who, upon seeing Ducky's special gift, broke away from her conversation with Eema and Baylene. "I see you have percussion instruments, Ducky. I wish I could teach you, but all I know is piano and strings. Hey, why not let Professor Wogglebug teach you. It is not hard to learn, and you can be in the Oz Symphony like Suri."

     Ducky, too thrilled to say anything, took a shiny triangle and tapped it. What a lovely tinkling sound it made. She got an idea. Taking the triangle to the Nativity scene, Ducky looked once again at the figurine of the baby Jesus.
     "Little baby," she said, "I will play for you a pretty song. I know it is not very good because I have yet to take lessons, but it is from my heart."
     That said, she struck the instrument many times, sending sweet tinkling sounds over all the valley. Ducky surprised herself that she really did not need a lesson to know what to do. As she struck the triangle in steady rhythm, she thought of this baby, and why he came to this world: To teach Love and Compassion, to save a world from its own darkness.
     Looking at the figurine, Ducky swore she saw the baby smile at her. A warm feeling came over the little dinosaur, so strong that Ducky felt a bit drowsy. Her eyes grew heavy; she dropped the triangle. Soon she drifted off into a deep slumber...

     "Ducky, Ducky. Wake up, sleepy head."

     Ducky slowly opened her eyes, yawned and stretched, then said, "Mama, I am so tired. I am, I am. I had a very strange sleep story. I saw myself with this little baby, and everyone came to our valley and decorated the trees with pretty, shiny things..."
     Upon awakening, she gasped. Hey, it was morning, for the Great Circle was already high in the sky. There was something else: Frozen sky stars fell, covering the valley in white, sparkling finery.
     "Mama," she said, "it is just like the last time the white sparkles came. Then it was really cold, and Spike left us to go with the other spiketails, and Mr. Thicknose helped us look for him–"
     Mama Beakmouth laughed, saying, "Ducky, it's not at all like last time. Why, Glinda sent the snow as a Christmas gift for us, and there will not be any bitter cold. You and your friends can play all day, for it's Christmas. Now, come along, you have many presents to open."

     Ducky did not quite understand. She thought she dreamed it all: the decorations, the music, the story of the first Christmas, the encounter with the Christ Child, Santa Claus, the special gift of musical instruments.
    "Huh? Huh?," she said, rubbing her eyes, "I did not have a sleep story? Did it really happen, Mama?"
     "No, Ducky," Mama said, "no sleep story. It was all very real. You just fell asleep after Santa left. He will be back later today. There will be a special Christmas feast, and he has been invited."
     So it is Christmas Day for real, and Ducky thought about last night's lessons about love and charity. Oh yes, she thought, I will have fun today, but I will remember why this day is so special.

Before she ran off to be with her friends, Ducky hugged her mother, saying, "Merry Christmas! Yep, yep, yep! And Peace on Earth, Good Will to Everybody!"


Copyright © 2006 by PRP.

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