Thursday, December 25, 2003

A Very Proper Little Bear
By Lazette Gifford

The proper little bear arrived at the door at sunset on Christmas Eve. He checked the address again and gave a tentative nod. He and Master Aristotle had been exchanging missives for several months now, and he didn't think he could have gotten it wrong.

But my, it sounded noisy in there! Master Aristotle had said there would be a gathering at his home this night, but he had never expected anything this... loud. No doubt it would end soon, though, and he and the renowned Aristotle Bear would sit down to a proper, dignified discussion.

With that thought in mind, he carefully straightened his blue bow and then tapped lightly on the door -- but of course no one inside could hear above that din. For a moment he considered turning away, but he had come such a long distance to meet the famous bear and he would not be dissuaded now just by mere noise.

So he knocked harder. He heard laughter and music -- and the sound of far too many feet heading toward the door.

"I'll get it!" someone shouted inside.

The little bear straightened his shoulders and lifted his head, the epitome of a proper little bear as the door opened --

And he found himself facing a cat! A very large cat with bright blue eyes and a black nose and ears. The cat looked right and left, perplexed, while the little bear stared rooted on the step, not even daring to breath. Behind the cat came he could see movement everywhere, and the sound of music crew even louder.

"Well, I could have sworn I head a knock," the cat said, his ears and tail twitching. He started to step back, and just chanced to look down. "Oh, there you are! My apologies. Do come in!"

"I'm -- I'm looking for the home of Aristotle Bear," eh stammered, ready to bolt at the slightest provocation from the cat, no matter how undignified running might be.

"Yes, of course," the cat said with a quick nod. "You must be the guest he's expecting. Come in out of the cold!"

The cat stepped back and for the first time the little bear could clearly see inside the room. Bears of all sizes, shapes and colors were gathered in groups about the room. But there were also cats, dogs, birds, bunnies and squirrels! The little bear stepped inside despite himself. So astounded by the sight that he half expected to even see humans, despite knowing they always slept soundly through Teddy Bear Time.

The aroma of fresh baked cookies, gingerbread and mulled cider filled the room. His little tummy rumbled and he felt a flush of embarrassment, even though he knew no one had heard above all that racket.

Oh, surely there had to be a mistake. An important bear like Aristotle couldn't be here in this cacophony of chaos!

"I'm Wind," the cat said, giving a quick bow of his head and a very un-cat-like smile. "Aristotle is over there by the tree, telling the young ones a story. Have fun!"

Aristotle gave a nod of thanks, despite his misgivings about the cat, and turned to the tree. He could see a gathering of young bears, surely too young to be taught any wisdom! He could not, however, see maser Aristotle yet.

Calm, the little bear reminded himself. Calm, serene and above all, proper. He did so want to make a good impression!

So he moved in and around the bears and other creates, his shoulders back and his head high --

"...And that's the story of the Christmas House," a steady, clear voice said.

A dozen smaller voices called out, "Oh, tell us another!"

"Another please!"

"Tell us about the high shelf!"

"And how you found a home!"

"Please, tell it again!"

"Perhaps later," Aristotle said and didn't even reprimand the young bears. Oh yes, a very proper looking bear, despite the story telling. "Oh, don't look so disappointed! TiBearius and CanToBeary, do please go get the boxes. It's time to decorate the tree."

The young bears were not the only ones who became excited by that news. The very proper little bear watched on, amazed and perhaps more than a little dismayed by the very childish reactions of joy and pleasure in every creature in the room.

But still, having come this far... well, he stepped forward to present himself to the esteemed and famous Master Aristotle.

"Sir," he said when Aristotle came close, the young bears still trailing around him. "I am Beartholomew Lucian Bear. We have corresponded, via the mail. I believe you were expecting me?"

"A pleasure to meet you at last, Beartholomew! And I'm so glad you could attend our Christmas Even gathering. I do look forward to a late night discussion with you, once things have -- quieted."

Well, that at least sounded more proper. "Thank you, sir."

"My pleasure. Ah, here they come with the boxes. Do partake of the cookies and cider. They're quite good, as always."

"Thank you, sir."

Aristotle went to work with the others, directing the decorating of the tree. Beartholomew hoped it didn't take too long. He almost fretted at every lost moment he could not have intelligent, quiet -- proper -- conversation with Master Aristotle. Except that fretting would be far too undignified.

As would be eating too many of those truly delicious cookies. He stopped himself at three and sipped the cider while he stood in a corner, out of the way. He thought Aristotle looked his way now and then, and he hoped he made a good impression.

Even the young bears got to help. Wind seemed to delight in letting the small ones climb up on his back so that they could reach the branches. He didn't even complain when they pulled at his ears in their haste, or hung tinsel from his tail in fun.

He seemed a rather nice cat, in fact. No doubt that was the influence of Master Aristotle and being associated with such a famous intelligent bear.

The work of decorating went quickly, and the others sang carols and ate cookies while they worked. Beartholomew watched from his corner, thinking that perhaps another cookie wouldn't be that bad...

"Oh dear!" Aristotle suddenly exclaimed, drawing everyone's attention. "I've made a terrible mistake! I forgot to put the lights on first!"

"Oh my," TiBearius said, shaking his head. "How could we have made such a mistake? Why the lights aren't even in the boxes! I'm certain that's where we packed them last year!"

"I fear I took them out last week to check them," Aristotle admitted. "Well, there is no way we can string the lights now, and it's far too late to take everything down and start over. Oh my. We'll have to do without the pretty lights. I'm afraid the young ones are too unsteady to climb through the tree and all the way to the top, and the rest of us are just far too large, and we'd knocked all the decorations back off and break them. We can't -- unless -- Goodness! Mr. Beartholomew, would you be kind enough to help us out?"

"Me?" he said, fairly squeaking the answer.

"I know it's a terrible imposition, but would you be so kind and string the Christmas lights for us?"

"Oh. Well. Certainly, cir," he said. The famous Aristotle asking him for help had to be a great honor. Even... even in this.

"Thank you!" Voices called out from everywhere, startling him.

Aristotle send for the lights, and all too soon Beartholomew found himself climbing up into the boughs of the tree, a long, heavy strand of lights draped over his shoulders.

Being a bear, the climbing part proved to come naturally. And he found it oddly satisfying to move up each level, carefully arranging the little lights around the other ornaments. Up one bought, across another, and up again. He felt downright joyful as he reached the top and found the spot to plug the star at the very top into the lights.

"There," he said, sticking his head out from among the pine needles. "Perhaps you should turn them on and make certain I've done this all properly."

"Oh no," CanToBeary said. "You must come down and see the tree lit for yourself. It would hardly be fair if you missed the first lighting after all that hard work!"

Voices agreed from everywhere. They seemed a very nice group, really.

"I'm certain you did fine, Mr. Beartholomew," Aristotle said. "Do come down and watch."

Well, if Master Artistotle thought so... He made his way back down, careful of the ornaments, and twice rearranging lights. He did so want this to be right!

When he finally arrived on the floor, a bunny gave him a cookie, and a squirrel picked stray pine needles form his fur. Aristotle held the little switch for the lights, but then he shook his head and smiled. "Mr. Beartholomew, would you do the honor of lighting the tree?"

Beartholomew gulped own a bite of cookie. "Oh sir, surely you should --"

"No, no. Come now. Wind, please get the light."

Beartholomew came and took the switch, feeling quite fluttery and unexpectedly excited. At Aristotle's nod, Wind leapt up and turned off the light.

"Now, if you would, Mr. Beartholomew."

He pushed the little switch.

Star like lights glittered everywhere in the tree, reflecting on the ornaments. The star at the top shown with a golden light. Beartholomew felt his breath catch at the beauty, while others patted his shoulder and thanked him, and said the lights had never been so well placed ever before.

The tree was, he thought the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And he had helped to make it so.

"Thank you, Mr. Beartholomew," Aristotle said, all very proper --

"Oh, do call me Bertie!" he said, and laughed as the room light came back on. "Mr. Beartholomew sounds far too proper for a night like this, don't you think?"

Aristotle smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

And when everyone gathered around to hear Aristotle tell the story of The Bear on the High Shelf... well, right then Bertie wished that the party would never end.

The End

Happy Holidays
From Zette and the Gang

(Having a nice quiet holiday. I thought I would copy this from my journal and share it with the blog people. Hope you are all having a nice day!)

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