The glass spheres glittered and sparkled in the candlelight and he sat before the fire. Bone weary, watching the snow spin as the flames flickered behind the bauble he held, his reason for it all, commitment made long ago.
Curls of wood litter the floor, sharpened tools blunted at rest he is free just to watch.
The small carved figures unperturbed by the movement of the water that surrounded them, the sudden apparent blizzard or the incongruity of snow in the middle east.
The mother a Raphalite goddess this time cradling her near naked child, the father shocked and standing at one remove, leaning towards and yet away and above them all the pinprick of light, visible even against the shadows and dancing beams.
Last year they had been more traditional, some part of him seemed to remember – there had been a donkey and shepherds.
The year before that he based them on the original carving by Francis Of Assisi – or was that the year before? They swam together now, the swarm of years and his eyes grew tired at the end of his nights work.
Gently he placed the family on a wooden stand, watching the snow swirl and settle as his eyes drifted closed, another joyful evening complete and not that much time before the sun would rise.
The hundred rainbows of light shone from refracting spheres, magnifying the internal worlds, no use for them now for another long twelve months.
Each a perfect capsule of a moment in time. In place. A perfect entity. Perfect in their imperfections as if some hand had slipped in the carving of that angle of that roof or that animal’s tail.
Stay, just for a while now, and watch, quietly. See…not a hand moves but – there did you see?
It is snowing. That globe, top shelf left, see, just like when you were little and you took one in your hand and shook it?
watch the snow fly and settle and bury the roofs of the city…
And there – bottom right – look, from here you can just make it out – that isn’t a reflection, a trick of the firelight, firelight isn’t the yellow of early morning lamp before sunrise
See, see the shadows dance on the wall as the mother walks her baby to and fro, to and fro waiting through the long night for the morning…
And this one?
This one is beautiful isn’t it you can almost hear the sea as it moves…and yes, yes that man is just having a little sleep on the beach before he goes home.
And why in his suit and tie and angel wings?
I think probably because he was at that party there – see – the one with all the fairy lights and the tinsel?
The one where the people are singing the same carol again and again – yes it does sound an awful lot like that next door….
And why are they called fairly lights? well I think that’s…
Yes, that one over there does look like the big tower you studied in school..
And doesn’t that one over there look just like the front of that card we got last week? All covered in snow and so still. All the roofs and the cars and the….
Yes, that one is all so busy isn’t it – look at the cars go and the trains and the people all rushing to be, be somewhere else…and all those tall buildings, I never realised how many there could be in one place, did you?
And all those lights – they almost look like stars….
The bottom ones look all the same?
Look closer – all different.
But no ones moving there?
They aren’t magic?
But aren’t they beautiful.
Yes, a lovely family.
Yes boys did used to wear dresses an awful lot in the olden days….
But look – there is one where the animals look like they are singing, and there is one where the family are curled together asleep…
Why are they here? How did you think it worked my love, a million children, one night? Doorways aren’t always filled with door.
There, shake the globe again, I know they look like stars don’t they? A hundred snowflakes, snow globes, candles spinning out in all directions oh and see…they are…a million stars against a deep blue sky.
Now sleep…no, not till the morning…no we have rules about unwrapping them you know that….lie down now…close your eyes…listen for the bells.
He straightens slowly from below the tree. The lights flashed rainbows of light over the globe as he grasped it again, a shelf of captured time to go before he was done.
Returning the smile of the child who had not forgotten. A sudden clatter of hooves, a moment, a breath, then all was still.
And that part of the world began to turn again.
And in its ever changing sphere on a shelf a houses lights go out as a mother climbs into her sheet clad bed, listening to what she hopes will be the final chorus from the party next door.
And twelve tiny reindeer swing up and away, flickering from globe to globe, so they almost seem to dance.
Till once again it is Christmas Day.