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December 3, 2011
2 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
An Elf’s Dream
By Clara Garcia
It’s a great place to work, especially for Misty, who squeezes in some study time while everything is baking and cooling. Misty, like most young elves in Christmasville, would like nothing better than to work at Santa’s Magical Factory. Only 300 elves get to worked for Santa for more than 150 years. Even though he couldn’t talk about what went on inside the factory, Grandpa Henry would have Misty sit on his lap and wanted to be able to help Santa spread good will and cheer around the world and make the toys that brought smiles to the faces of all the good boys and girls. Misty wanted to make a difference. But the process wasn’t going to be easy. Word around Christmasville was that two elves were going to retire. That meant 85 elves who applied for the two coveted positions were going to be left out in the cold. For months, Misty had been studying for the entrance exam, and it was a tough one. Not only was Misty vying for her dream job, but so was Sarah, her coworker at the bakery. They studied together, they quizzed each other and they confided in one another. “Sarah, I love my mom and I love working here at the bakery, but I really want to work at Santa’s Magical Factory.” “I know, Misty, so do I,” Sarah replied. “We just have to focus. We have to study. And we have to have hope.” “Sarah, what if we don’t get in? What if we have to wait―again?” Misty whined. “What if we did all this work for nothing?” Sarah sat back in the chair in the back room of the bakery. She watched as Misty nervously played with her pencil. “Misty, if we don’t get in, we don’t get in,” she said. “We can’t dwell on the negative, Misty. We have to think positive. That’s what Christmasville is all about― being positive. And if we go in thinking the worst, the worst will happen.” “Thank you, Sarah,” Misty said as she wrapped her
n See Dream, Page 3
tall elf — all Misty wanted to do was work in Santa’s Magical Factory. She had heard stories — rumors really — about all of the mystical and majestic work that went on in the enormous factory up on the snow-covered hill. “Those who work in Santa’s Magical Factory are bound by secrecy — a confidentiality contract barring them from sharing what the toys are made from, how they’re assembled and most importantly, who makes what and for whom,” Misty‘s grandfather once told her. Misty grew up in the small North Pole town of Christmasville with her parents, Matt and Michelle, who are both about 150-years old or so (Michelle won’t reveal her real age, even to her family) and her older brother, Michael, who is 15 years older than his sister. Christmasville is your typical North Pole town with about 2,500 elves. The cobble-stoned streets are lined with mom and pop stores, everything from a shoe repair shop to the best bakery in all of Santa County― Michelle’s Muffins and More. Since she could reach the counter, Misty worked with her mom at the bakery before and after school. Michael works with their dad at his shop, Matt’s Magical Silver Bells. Early every morning, Misty and her mom wake up and sled over to the bakery, making everything from muffins to cupcakes and shortbread cookies to every type of doughnut you can think of. Along with Misty, her classmate and dear friend, Sarah, helps out when she can, which means most mornings.
For most of her2life —foot well, since she was a mere 45-year-old, 1/3
work at the factory, and the only way a new elf is hired is if another retires. Only one, maybe two positions, opens up every year, and this year, Misty hopes it’s her turn. Michael applied once to work in the factory, but their father needed help in his bell shop. Misty’s grandfather, Henry,
he would share stories about Santa, the other elves and how Mrs. Claus would walk around the factory handing out her famous sugar cookies and milk. Since hearing these stories from her grandpa, Misty dreamed of what it would be like to work in the factory. She wanted to experience the magic first hand. She
from PAGE 2
Dream: A young elf realizes her dream after talking with her Pops
the second day. Misty was a wreck during that first day of interviews. She knew she wouldn’t be able to talk with Sarah until after hers, so Misty tried to study, she tried to work, but she couldn’t. All she could to was worry. The night before her interview, she sat down with her father and asked him for some advise. “Pops, what do you think I should do tomorrow? How should I act?” Misty said. Matt reached across the kitchen table and grabbed his daughter’s hands. “What’s wrong, Misty?” he asked. “Are you nervous?” “Of course I am Pops, wouldn’t you be?,” she said. “I was,” he said looking into her eyes. “What? You applied too? When?” “It was before you were born, sweetie. I thought I would be the perfect fit. I thought I could do the same thing my father did. But all I could think of before the interview was that I was going to fail,” he said. “And ultimately, I succeeded.” “But Pops, you don’t work in Santa’s factory. You didn’t get the job,” Misty said. “I know. But in the end, I’m doing what I want. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I was born to make silver bells,” he said. “You see sweetie, I wanted to work in the factory like my father. I wanted to make him proud. “In the end, he is proud of me. I’m proud of me. And I hope you’re proud of me,” he said smiling. “Oh, Pops, I’m so proud of you,” Misty said hugging her father. “I want you to be proud of me, too.” Matt took his daughter’s face in his hands and looked
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 3
arms around Sarah’s neck. “You’re right. We have to think positive. We can do this. I know we can.” “I know you can, too,” said Misty’s mother while carrying a tray full of muffins into the room. “You girls are the hardest working young elves I know. But, just in case, you girls are always welcome to stay here. I’ll really miss you if you go.” “Mom, you’re the best,” Misty said. “But you’ve known it’s always been my dream to work in the factory. I love it here, too. But I...” “I know Misty,” her mom interrupted. “I just want you to know that I will always be here for you — for both of you — and so will this bakery.” The entrance exams and interviews were scheduled for the next two days. Sarah’s was the first day, and Misty’s was first thing
into her eyes. “Misty, no matter what happens, I will be proud of you. I am proud of you. What you have to do is be proud of yourself. Be yourself. Show them who and what you are.” For the first time in a week, Misty was able to sleep. She woke up fresh, ready for the day. After a quick stop at the bakery, Misty headed off to Santa’s Magical Factory. Although nervous, she went in knowing who she was and what she wanted. But, because of confidentiality rules, she couldn’t discuss what happened during the test and interview. But the next day, she showed up for work with cupcakes in hand for the entire factory. Misty happily walked with Mrs. Claus, handing out goodies to all of Santa’s employees — including Sarah.
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4 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
Buster Gets a Buddy
By Ungelbah Daniel-Davila
was about the 20th time Ithad looked sky the windowAna out and the street, the and the frontyard
looked the same as it had all day. It was Christmas Eve and no snow in sight. Through the window, she studied the tumbleweed man she had made earlier in the day. She’d named him Buster. He’d prickled her bare hands and she’d had to chase down his head during a gusty moment, but he looked alright, almost like a real snowman except more hollow. She’d found one of her father’s work rags, it was red and made a wonderful sash around his neck. It made him look a little like a desperado. She wished she had a black cowboy hat to plunk on his head. He looked lonely though, like he needed an accomplice. “Annnnnnnna!” Her mother was calling her away from the window. “Help me with these decorations!” Ana removed herself from her perch on the top of the sofa and joined her mother on the living room floor, where she was busy peeling last year’s newspaper from several boxes worth of colorful orbs, stars and a lifetime of “special” ornaments collected during Ana’s six years. Her favorite was the Baby’s First Christmas snow globe. She liked giving it a sturdy shake and watching the snow fall lazily past the picture inside of a tiny baby bundled in yellow and purple blankets, her eyes squinty and crescent in a pink, brand new face. It was hard for Ana to imagine that baby was supposed to be her, that she was ever so small and squished up looking, not like the grown up girl she was now. “Momma, I want to put this one on first.” “OK baby.” “Momma, I want it to go up high by where the angel will be.” In a great swoop, Ana’s momma had her lifted high in the sky near the angel’s branches, and for a moment she imagined what it felt like to be an angel too, soaring around the Christmas tree. She decided on a branch and delicately looped the ornament’s soft gold cord around the piney bloom of needles. She watched it descend from her fingers, and just as the last of the
Ungelbah Daniel-Davila illustration
snow in the globe drifted past her tiny face, Ana noticed something falling out of the corner of her eye. “Momma! Momma! It’s snowing!!” Quickly, Ana scrambled from her mother’s arms, rushing back to the window, her hot breath fogging the pane. She rubbed it away with her fist to get a better look. Sure enough, snow had begun falling outside and was already beginning to crown the small peaks of dirt along the edge of the yard and along the street. It was so beautiful, so gentle. It reminded Ana of the whipped cream on a cocoa. She could hardly wait to get outside and touch it. Patiently, she waited for her mom to squeeze her hands into mittens the size of kitchen mitts, to burry her head under a floppy knitted hat and tuck her into a coat big enough for two. Finally, after a lot of squirming and pleading, Ana was outside, her head tilted toward the sky, catching snow flakes in her mouth, prickling with a sudden cold, then gone, melted against her tongue. She crouched closer to the ground, laying her mitten next to the earth.
All she could feel was the hot, red cushion of the cloth on her hand. She removed her hand from the mitten and tried again, nestling her fingers in the thin layer of snow that had begun to collect on the ground. It felt good, cooling the sweat that had begun gathering between her hot fingers. She took off the other glove, quickly scrapping together the drift of snow into a small pile. By this time the snow had begun to fall more persistently and the drifts along the fence were spreading inward, overtaking the flower beds and even crowding in on the front steps. “What are you doing out here chiquita?” It was Ana’s mother, in the doorway. “Building a snowman!” Ana shouted across the yard. “Want to help me?” Together, they began scurrying across the lawn, raking together piles of snow and depositing them in the middle of the yard, next to Buster. “I think Buster’s lonesome momma, but we are going to make him a friend huh?” “Sure are baby girl!”
n See Buddy, Page 5
from PAGE 4
Buddy: New Mexican snowman
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 5
A voice bellowed from the driveway. Mother and daughter jumped in surprise, looking up. It was Ana’s father, home from work. They had been so involved in building their snowman they hadn’t heard him drive up and it seems he had been watching them for a while. “Pappa!” Ana shrieked, stampeding toward her father. “Pappa! Help us build a snowman friend for Buster, my tumbleweed man!” Soon, a short, but very round snowman was standing next to Buster. “What shall we call him?” asked Ana’s father. “Ummmm … What about George?” suggested Ana. “Why George?” asked her mother. “He just looks like one,” said Ana.
George was dressed in a rumpled old scarf that was kept in the garage for just such a purpose, and a Lobos hat. “He looks kinda funny,” said Ana after a pause. “No, he just looks like a New Mexican snowman!” said her father after further consideration. “All New Mexican snowmen are a little brown. You know, kind of like us.” It was true, the snow had tapered off and as a result, George had come out looking a little tan. The yard dirt had found its way into the snow and now he looked a little muddy. “That’s OK. I think he’s better that way anyway,” decided Ana. “Me too,” said her mother. “He looks more like us.”
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6 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
My Best Friend Scruffy
By Abigail R. Ortiz
We used to do everything together. When I was a baby, I dragged him along all over the house as I explored the world around me. Scruffy’s worn fur and loose threads reflected our adventures, including the time I tried apple sauce and hated it, the time mom backed over Scruffy in her minivan and the time my sister and I got into a tug-ofwar fight with Scruffy as the rope. When I was two years old, we got into everything, like the huge yellow flour tin in the kitchen cabinet. I had pulled the tin out, which weighed as much as my baby brother, and Scruffy and I were throwing flour around the kitchen. It looked like we were sitting on clouds. My mom just laughed when she saw me covered from head to toe in flour giggling and Scruffy in the flour tin. When I was 3, Scruffy would sit at my pink doll table with a purple bonnet on his head and sip tea from a porcelain mug with my dolls, Mrs. Pepper and Cindy. When we finished our afternoon tea and scones, Scruffy was the audience to my imagination. It poured out in Barbie telenovelas or plays I would perform in my sister’s prom dress and heels. When I was 4, we lived on the playground two blocks down the street from my house. I was like a monkey. I jumped from swings, flipped off red monkey bars and climbed over and through the multi-colored dome structure. And when I broke my arm Scruffy sat beside me. When I was 5, I learned how to read in preschool and read Scruffy as many
n See Scruffy, Page 7
ave you seen me? Hfriend and I,stood,tatThere we my best in a
tered picture, hugging and laughing after running through the sprinklers on a scorching summer day. Scruffy’s brown fur was drenched and plastered to his soft body. His blue hat drooped on either side of his chubby cheeks. His smile stretched from one fuzzy ear to the other. His soft, cotton arms wrapped around my neck as I squeezed his tummy. I couldn’t believe I had lost my favorite teddy bear in the whole world. I lost track of him somewhere between aweing over the shiny, new dolls and toys at the toy store and chomping on some delicious, gooey candy at the grocery store that got stuck in my hair. “How could I have lost him?” I asked myself as I taped another flier onto a utility pole in my Belen neighborhood. A tear rolled down my cheek as I wiped my mocos aside with the top of my glove and trudged on to the next utility pole. I had to find him, especially three days before Christmas Day. I wrapped his present, a brand new set of white and black sneakers, in light blue wrapping paper with a silver bow. I carefully placed his present under the Christmas where he couldn’t see it. He was going to love the shoes, especially after losing one of his favorite green and black sneakers. I lent him socks to keep his feet warm, but he hated wearing pink socks with lace. When I was done covering every surface I could find ― and reach ― with Scruffy’s missing fliers, I plopped down on my front door steps like a marshmallow.
“Mija come inside. I’m sure you’ll find Scruffy,” mom said, as I waited outside in the hopes someone would deliver Scruffy home. “But Mmmooommm .... What if someone found him? I know he’s coming. He’s probably on his way right now,” I pleaded, trying to give her my best puppy dog eyes. “OK, but only for 10 more minutes,” she said. I perked my head a little higher and grinned a crooked smile over a missing front tooth. At first, I eagerly waited
next to the house phone waiting to hear about Scruffy’s whereabouts. I was afraid to do anything or go anywhere in fear I would miss that important call. The next day I sat on top of the couch, peering out the front window. I dreamt that Scruffy was on his way home and knew today was the day. “He’s coming home,” I whispered to myself. It was Christmas Eve and I didn’t want to leave my room. Everything seemed so sad without my best friend.
from PAGE 6
Scruffy: A present from her lost teddy bear was the best gift of all
done ripping through my Christmas presents, when I saw it. Shoved behind the Christmas tree was the present I had wrapped for Scruffy, and that’s when I realized he wasn’t coming back. Tears spilled out from my eyes and I wailed in sadness at the loss of my best friend. My mom pulled me into a tight hug. “Mija, it’s going to be OK,” she said as she patted my back. When my tears subsided, she pointed to a package peeking from underneath the couch. “What’s that?” she said. I wiped my eyes and mocos with my pajama sleeve and pulled the present into full view. Attached to the present was a folded yellow paper. It read:
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 7
books as I could get my hands on. I must have read “Amelia Bedelia” and “Abiyoyo,” Scruffy’s favorites, about 100 times. We covered “Blues Clues” coloring pages with every shade in the crayon box. Once, our medley of crayon and paint extended onto the carpet and walls. “Wake up! It’s Christmas! Wake up!” shouted my brother, Rupert. He was bouncing up and down on my bed squealing. I jumped out of bed and bolted to the Christmas tree downstairs. Brightly colored presents splayed throughout the room with glittery bows on top. I lunged at the presents as if I was jumping into a ball pit. Wrapping paper flew in shreds into the air as I squealed at the toys Santa Claus brought me. I was about halfway
Addie, I’ll always be with you and one day we’ll meet up again, but until then, take care of my little sister, Fluffy, for me. I’ve told her all about you and our fun adventures. Now go out and have some more! Love your best friend, Scruffy
I grasped the note with astonishment and read it a few more times before pulling a light brown teddy bear from the box. Fluffy wore a pink bow in front of her left ear. Her body was covered in small colorful patches, including a heart on the bottom of her right foot. I gave her a tight hug before toppling over with laughter. “We’re going to be the best of friends! Get ready for some amazing adventures,” I said.
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8 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
By Mike Stearns
Elementary School. Mikey didn’t have very good luck when it came to play. Burro aficionados will tell of the day that the little guy made the great overthe-shoulder catch and ran headlong into the goal post, knockgo play for the Lobos and be the star. He would see visions of touchdowns in his head. He wanted to hang the NCAA Championship banner by the mantel with care. By the time Mikey hit had made plenty of friends. His radio time didn’t hurt matters as the name “Mike Alan” resonated across the campus at the capital city school. Mikey and Terry would often team up to take on the “yet” brothers in all manner of street sports. The “yet” brothers were so named by his father’s mistaken idea that came out of Mikey’s introduction of his friends. “Hey Dad, have you met Brain and Kevin yet?” was the question Mikey posed. Forever thereafter, the two boys became known as the Yet brothers. The four boys didn’t need to be chosen in games any more. They went on to play the games themselves. Often the four would take on other kids on the playground as a team. They would sometimes split up in friendly competition against one another. They didn’t need the reindeer games to have fun. Mikey still was the runt of the litter, even in the small group of four boys. His reputation was not helped much by circumstances beyond his control. Driving for the winning touchdown on a snowy day on a Santa Fe cul de’sac, Mikey and Terry were poised to take the win. It was football weather with snow on the ground and big
n See Games, Page 9
or Mikey was always lastsides next to last anytime were chosen for any sport. He loved to play, but was always short and very undersized. One might even say that he was the runt of the litter. Mikey was born one day and nine months after his parents were married. He came into the world at a whopping 5 pounds 1 ounce and never really quite caught up. What made the joke really good later on in life was that Mikey was also born six weeks early. His arrival came during the halftime of the University of New Mexico-New Mexico State football game. The doc was none too happy about being called away. That was back in the days when the Lobos regularly won the game, which explained Mikey’s love for everything cherry and silver. Mikey was pretty good, just small. Of course, as a Lobo fan, Mikey loved to play basketball most of all. He was quick, but short. It was back in the day when everyone looked for a 7-0 “Aircraft Carrier” and there was no three-point line. Just like Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, Mikey felt kind of left out of all the games. When he did play, he did pretty well, despite his disadvantage, according to all the “stud” athletes at San Antonito
ing himself out. Held on to the ball, though. Mikey did well in school. It was the one playground where size didn’t matter. The other kids started to come to Mikey for help with algebra or geometry. Still, all he wanted to do was
high school, the other kids had far surpassed him in height and size. At 5 foot 3 inches tall and 103 pounds, Mikey was not the ideal athletic physical specimen. He turned to the broadcast booth to participate in the sports he loved. By the time he was a senior at Santa Fe High School, Mikey
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from PAGE 8
Games: Mikey learned that winning was not what living was about
touchdown, not even in Mr. Cullen’s driveway. He never hit the winning shot. He never turned the ninth-inning double play. But he listened to people. He cared about them genuinely. He helped. Christmases came and went. Mikey loved the midnight service. The singing of “Silent Night” while walking out into the cool winter air always seemed so peaceful. As Mikey’s stature grew, he became a leader in the church. His kind smile greeted everyone as brothers and sisters. He came to know that scoring touchdowns and winning baskets was not nearly as important as uplifting spirits and helping others. Maybe the servant spirit so evident at Christmas was born out being chosen last. The games with friends were better. The candles were all lit on Christmas Eve. Mikey went to altar and lit his off one candle and it dawned on him that this light was universal. And like leading the sleigh out into the night, Mikey’s candle lit the way for all who followed him into the calm night. It all seemed right and at peace. Sometimes, the last can be first.
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 9
flakes hitting the boys on the nose. Just as the Yet brothers were fixing to go down, Mikey’s mom shouted out the door, “Get in this house right now. You will catch yourself a death of a cold. I mean now, mister.” “But, Mom,” pleaded Mikey, “we are just about to score. Mr. Cullen’s driveway is within striking distance.” “Get in here now,” was the maternal response. Game called on account of motherly love. She didn’t really get it that the Yet brothers were laughing their butts off, rolling in the snow in the Cullen driveway. Mikey still wanted to play in the real reindeer games. But the Lobos weren’t calling him. As small as his size was, his heart was conversely bigger. People began to trust Mikey and confide in him. He listened with compassion and caring. His advice was usually sound. He was trusted. While Mikey did not grow in size, he grew in stature. He worked with youth groups and with the sick and older generations. He was active in church. Mikey wanted his life to have meaning. He wanted to hear the cheer of the crowd. He desired the accolades that came from the reindeer games. He wanted the dang ball. He never scored the winning
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10 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
The Roadrunner and the Fox
By Brent Ruffner
rations and had plenty of hooks in case the fox tried anything funny. The bird’s decorations made every animal in the area jealous. The animals around him already weren’t too fond of the roadrunner because of his arrogance. The roadrunner saw his peace offering to the fox as a way to start over ― a way to bring back the spirit of Christmas to his soul. This holiday season was the first that the bird was in the holiday spirit. In year’s past, he would fly to San Diego where he stayed in a palm tree to remind him of anything but the holidays. The bird took care of the fox the first few days. The bird shared some meat he had gotten from another animal that fell victim to the cold winter. After a week, the fox felt good enough to go out onto the branch and lie in the sun. He felt good. He was out of the cold and the bird was, after all, an animal to talk to while passing the time. Christmas was near and the two animals started to bond with one another. The fox would hunt for food down by the river and the bird would make sure the fox had a warm place to sit. All of the area animals didn’t know what to make of this friendship. The two animals were the least liked in the community and had the best Christmas decorations ― something everyone despised. But the roadrunner and the fox were determined to change people’s attitudes about them. They knew that they were good animals ― just misunderstood. Every year, the town had a celebration. It was a gathering of all the animals. But
n See Friends, Page 11
uring the Dother manyholiday season, animals and little creatures
made their homes in various spots around Valencia County trying to stay out of the cold. The roadrunner and the fox were no different. The roadrunner and the fox seemed an unlikely pair. But the two met out of terms of necessity more than the genuine liking of one another. It was last November — right around Thanksgiving. The fox was old and wise and normally could take care of himself. But this November, the fox was hungry and tired. It was a tough summer with hardly anything to eat and what was around was difficult to catch. The fox needed to get out of the bitter cold that had made his old bones ache. But the fox knew deep down that he could muster enough energy to make it to a safe shelter. As the wind whistled by, the fox could feel his skin tingle and a chill came over his body. The fox had survived in Valencia County for three seasons now, and didn’t feel welcome in anyone else’s territory. Every creature in the area thought the fox posed a threat and were scared of his bushy tail and his long, white whiskers. The fox didn’t know why the animals were afraid. He was a small, smart fox who had piercing blue eyes that animals took as a threat when the fox stared out onto the mesa. Just when the fox was out of breath and about to give up, he remembered something that he knew could save his life. He looked up and saw a rather peculiarlooking bird in a tree near
Ungelbah Daniel-Davila illustration
the Valencia County NewsBulletin. The bird was silver and brown and looked as if he meant business. So the fox, curled up in a ball, stood up and wondered if the bird could help. He had seen the bird from time to time, but he knew no one really was friends with that bird probably because of the look he always gave those who passed by. But, he thought the bird was his last opportunity to be warm and safe in the tree that could have a bit of food for the starving fox. The fox stood up, looked at the bird with his piercing eyes and said, “Hey, I see you are alone up there, roadrunner. Can I come up there and get out of this wind?” The bird, shocked that anyone would have the guts to ask him of a favor, looked stunned. He thought, “What is this
fox up to? Is he going to eat me?” The bird agreed the fox could climb up the large piñon tree, but the fox didn’t look like he had the strength to do anything after he climbed the 35 foot tree. As the fox started up the tree, he felt his grip slipping as he had lost his strength from walking down to the Rio Grande earlier that day. The bird saw this and went to help the fox who was about halfway up. The bird, who had the strength of a super chicken, managed to pull the fox to safety by using his claws like a vulture. The fox wondered why the bird was so inviting. “Why would this bird, who is much smaller than I am, let me sit in this great tree? Doesn’t he know I could eat him?” The bird wasn’t worried. He had just decorated his tree with Christmas deco-
from PAGE 10
Friends: A pair of holiday heroes
But from a distance, the town’s residents saw a massive pile of food coming their way. It was just what everyone wanted. Fish and worms. Everyone gathered around the fox and roadrunner. The animals couldn’t believe the two animals could come up with such an amazing gift. One animal remarked that the pair were conspiring to poison the rest of the animals in town. Shortly after, one animal, a rabbit, tried the worms and found them to be delicious. After that occasion, the animals accepted the fox and roadrunner as members of their community and loved them the same as everyone else. The bird and the fox were small, but changed the town’s holiday season in a big way.
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 11
this year, the animals didn’t have enough money to eat food that was traditional ― worms and fish. So, the pair decided to gather enough food to feed the entire town. Each morning, for nine days, the fox used his keen smell from his gigantic ears to find worms that were in abundance in only a few places along the river. The roadrunner would use his running ability to gain a head of steam and float over the river until he saw fish worthy of a Christmas feast. Finally, both animals got enough food that one of their trees branches fell all the way to the ground with all the food they collected. No one saw the food because of the blinding lights from the Christmas decorations. So, when everyone gathered on Christmas Eve, it was a somber occasion.
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12 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
A Magical Christmas Eve
By Julia M. Dendinger
enough, nine seats. The seats were empty and nine people wandered around the platform. They carried various instruments and tools and were testing and tinkering with the machine. Eight of the people were small and slight, not much over Matt’s 5 feet. They were dressed in drab brown, wrapped up against the cold. But the ninth person was different. Tall and imposing, dressed in red and white, it was hard to deny that Annabelle might be right. “Santa?,” Matt managed in a small voice. The figure jumped in surprise, dropping an instrument in the dirt. “Son of a ... hey kids. What are you doing out here?” For the second time that night, Matt and Annabelle were stunned into silence. Santa was a girl. Young and pretty with red hair and no beard in sight. “You’re ... you are ... you ... girl ...,” Matt stammered. She laughed, high and bright like a sleigh bell. “It’s 2011 kiddo. Roll with the times,” she said. “I’m Kristy Kringle. Daughter of the infamous Kris and Maude Kringle.” “Maude?” Annabelle asked. Kristy sighed. “You probably know her better as ‘Mrs. Claus.’” One of the other people working on the machine came over and handed Kristy an iPad. “It’s not good, boss,” he said, muffled under his hood. “The capacitor is shot. It went way over capacity. I think we’re in trouble.” Kristy poked the tablet, swiped her fingers across the screen and muttered a few choice words under her breath. “You shouldn’t use those words,” Annabelle said. “You’ll get coal in your stocking.” “Well, if we can’t fix this, no one is getting anything in their stocking this year,” Kristy said, shaking her head. “If we can’t restore power, we can’t leave here. And well, there might not be a Christmas.” Annabelle looked at the machine. “What is this thing, anyway? Where is the sled and reindeer?” she asked.
n See Kringle, Page 13
he air was heavy with piñon smoke as Annabelle and Matt walked down the ditchbank. They had started their late night walk bundled up against the cold, but as they walked, they loosened coat buttons, unwrapped scarves and abandoned hats all together. “Stop walking so fast,” Annabelle huffed. “You know I can’t keep up.” Matt stopped walking, and throwing back his head in frustration, wondered once again why he had thought it was a good idea to bring his little sister along. “Hurry up. We’re going to miss it if you don’t hurry,” he said. Annabelle trotted up, face blotchy and sweaty. He had spent days using books on astronomy and information from NORAD Tracks Santa to figure the exact moment and coordinates when Santa Claus would be flying over their alfalfa field in Tomé. Not that the sled could be seen from space, but still, it would be pretty cool to be able to say he was there. His dad had even lent Matt his expensive GPS equipped phone to make sure they were in the right spot. Squinting at the screen, Matt checked their location. Nearly there. “I don’t know why you brought that thing,” Annabelle grumbled. “We’ll know when we’re in the right spot. We’ll be able to feel the magic of Santa.” Matt opened his mouth to declare the superiority of science, but suddenly he realized the night had somehow gotten brighter. Something blazingly bright was coming down into the field. There was a double boom, a whump of impact into the ground and then nothing. Annabelle stood rigid, mouth open and silent. “What was that,” Matt whispered. The two stood stock still, listening and waiting. At first the night was silent. Then the sound of voices could be heard. A dim glow lit up the crash site. “I hear people,” Annabelle said. “Do you think it was an airplane?” Matt didn’t think so. It had looked like a big ball of light. Suddenly, his sister let out a gasp and a squeal. “It’s Santa Claus,” she said. “Come on!
Let’s go see him.” She grabbed Matt’s hand and began pulling him into the field, toward the voices. “Wait, wait ... we don’t know that. It could be anyone,” he said. “It’s Christmas Eve. Who else would fall out of the sky?” Matt liked her logic, but still wasn’t sure. “It could be dangerous,” he said, starting to walk towards the crash site anyway. “Besides ...” He paused to listen to the voices. “I’m not sure Santa swears that much.” Slowly, they crossed the open field, creeping towards the place where the something had crash landed. As they got closer and their eyes readjusted to the moonlight after the bright flash, what they saw didn’t make much sense. A large platform was sitting in their father’s field. It was a mass of steel girders, flickering lights and oddly
from PAGE 12
Kringle: With the magic and spirit of Christmas, toys are delivered
“So Santa really is real!” “Of course he’s real. And so is magic!,” Annabelle yelled. “It’s all magic, not a bunch of stupid wires and worms. Now, make this thing fly lady. There has to be a Christmas.” Annabelle’s face balled up in fury and tears. “Make it fly,” she screamed. “If you’re real, you’re magic and you can make it fly!” Kristy shook her head, tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry, honey. But there’s nothing I can do. I’m not magic,” she said softly. Annabelle’s sobs echoed across the field. Kristy’s eight helpers stopped their work and came to see what all the noise was about. “This isn’t happening,” the little girl cried. “Some kids, all they get for Christmas comes from Santa. Oh, you have to fix it. You have to make the deliveries.” There was muttering and shaking of heads from the helpers. “Well if you won’t, I will,” Annabelle declared. Before anyone could move, she darted over to the platform and grabbed hold of it with both hands. “Now you listen to me you ... stupid thing. I don’t know how you work and I don’t care. The important thing now is that there are kids and families depending on you,” she whispered. She stood there, head down, talking quietly to the machine. Matt, Kristy and the eight helpers watched silently, not sure what to do. “I think you should take her home,” Kristy finally said. “We’ll keep trying.” As Matt started towards Annabelle he felt a small tremble in the ground. Suddenly the platform gave a clank and a metallic groan. “Annabelle! Get away from
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 13
Kristy seemed to mull something over before she spoke again. “Look, there’s never been a sleigh or reindeer. What you are looking at is a wormhole generator. Basically, it allows us to enter a point in space that gives us direct access to the home of every kid in the world simultaneously. That point in space is our warehouse of toys, which happens to be in another dimension,” she said. “By activating the wormholes we can be everywhere at the same time and since we are outside of time, we can make all the deliveries in one night.” She paused and looked apologetically at Annabelle and Matt. “Sorry kids. No magic, no flying reindeer. Just a rather temperamental piece of machinery.” Matt stared at her wide eyed.
that,” he yelled. Just then, the lights blazed on the platform and it pushed off the ground, hovering a few inches above. The eight helpers ran forward, instruments and sensors outstretched. “I don’t know what happened, boss,” one said to Kristy. “There aren’t any power readings, but ... we have power. I can’t explain it.” She shook her head in amazement. “Well I don’t care. Everybody get on. We have deliveries to make,” she said. “I don’t know what you did Annabelle, but thank you.” A white nimbus enveloped the machine and its passengers. Then with a soft pop they were gone like a soap bubble. Annabelle smiled widely and looked at her brother. “I told you it was magic.”
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14 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
Christmas Hoop Dreams
By Jason W. Brooks
One player, the Mercury’s Kara Braxton, stood 6-feet 6-inches tall. Brandy had to look up toward the ceiling to make eye contact, having never seen a woman that tall in person. Parker, who is 6-foot-4, was shooting short jump shots. A ball rolled to Brandy’s feet. Parker jogged over to get it, towering above the Valencia County gradeschooler. The pro star reached down to take the ball from Brandy, smiling and giving her a high five. Brandy stood still and staring as Parker returned to warm-ups, with her mouth open in shock. She had just been high-fived by Candace Parker. Players such as Braxton and Parker seemed to have arms that touched the clouds. They reminded Brandy of reindeer in Christmas stories, with their long arms being like antlers. Brandy returned to her family’s regular seats. Her parents were giggling and talking loudly about the high-five, and she wished they would simply be quiet and enjoy the moment. She sat silently, watching Parker, Taurasi and the other giants shoot shots. Soon, a buzzer sounded as the teams walked up the ramp to the locker rooms. Brandy wondered what it would be like to be so tall. The teams ran down the ramp a short time later to loud cheering from fans. Music played, and the announcer seemed to be shouting in a booming voice from the sky. The teams tipped off, and seemed to be moving slowly, though they were actually running hard. Brandy’s family watched as players leaped near the rim — a rim that had always hung in the sky, the way Brandy saw it. The Sparks won, 83-72, and the Mercury coach decided to give Taurasi some rest and
n See Basketball, Page 15
Women’s pro teams didn’t come to Albuquerque very mother and father. often, so this was a The game would change treat. Brandy had seen her life and the things she the team’s top stars on cared about. And the magic TV, but she was going of Christmas would help her to get to see Candace dreams come true. Parker of the Sparks It wasn’t a regular game. The and Diana Taurasi contest was held at the Pit in of the Mercury in Albuquerque, where the New person. Mexico Lobos usually play. Brandy and her But this game was between family arrived the Los Angeles Sparks and early, before the the Phoenix Mercury. It was teams came out something uncommon for the for warm-ups. Pit: women’s professional bas- The players ketball. These ladies were paid walked down a salary to play the sport they the Pit’s long loved. ramp, and Brandy and her parents the fans hadn’t heard much about the cheered game, but seeing female pro as they athletes was important to her. took to She had just completed her the floor. first year of basketball, playThe ing at a recreation center in players Valencia County. seemed She had seen women comunbelievpeting on a World Cup soccer ably tall team a few months before, and to Brandy. wondered what it was like to She went see women play pro basketdown ball. She was curious about close what the players and their to the uniforms would look like, and court how they would play. to Brandy had seen the Lobo watch men and the Lady Lobos play warmbefore. She knew how those ups, and games went, but this contest stared up at some the giant would be special. players.
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from PAGE 14
Basketball: Believing miracles
strength. Brandy had always been taught to believe in miracles, especially around Christmas. She’s never seen Santa and his reindeer, but she’d always believed they were real. At that moment, streaking through the clouds toward Peñasco, Brandy saw the tiny red light of Rudolph’s red nose. Even though it wasn’t Christmas Eve, Santa was making an early toy run, and just happened to be over Pojoaque. Brandy thought of the antlers, and noticed some large plates by the side of the road. She knew the reindeer, with the sky-reaching antlers above their heads like Candace Parker’s long arms, could hold the plates up for the bus to drive across the ditch. Brandy had a few wishes come true in the past. She closed her eyes and wished for Santa to land the sleigh. Minutes later, the sleigh pulled up in the ditch, to the shock of the players. The driver and Santa set the plates on top of the antlers, and the bus was able to drive over the reindeer and get to the tournament. The Lady Hedgehogs went on to win the tourney, and won the state title the next March. Brandy and some teammates went on to win with their college teams as well, and they made sure to tell everyone that the magic of Christmas is real.
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 15
didn’t let her play. The players signed autographs after the game. Brandy, still star-struck and unsure what to say, managed to tell Parker “You’re my favorite player.” Parker asked Brandy if she played basketball, and gave her some ideas about what to work on. Brandy grew up to be quite tall herself, though not quite like Parker. By the time she was a senior at the new Huning Ranch High School, she was trying to figure out which college she would choose to get a degree and play women’s basketball. In a tournament just before Christmas, the Huning Ranch team, the Lady Hedgehogs, was playing in a tournament in a far-away place called Pojoaque Valley. It was snowing, and the bus driver was unsure holiday traffic would allow the team to get to the tourney. Traffic was stopped on a highway near Santa Fe. The driver pointed out how a road on the other side of a ditch was clear and led straight to the Pojoaque gym. The driver said the ditch was about seven feet deep, and if only there were a bridge, the Lady Hedgehogs could get to the tournament. College scouts would be at Pojoaque, and winning the tourney would mean a lot to their season. Seven feet, Brandy thought. If only we had players that tall, with super-human
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16 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
By Deborah Fox
of people not too far in the distance. Just about a block down was a park where people were milling around and tents glowed with light. “Oh, this is the Occupy movement,” Janie said. “I’ve been meaning to check it out.” She saw a man in a pea coat sitting on an ice chest, a sign propped against a tent that said, “We are the 99 percent.” There were lots of average-looking people, college students, dreadlocked 30-somethings, old hippies, housewives, business types, a Native American man with a drum, people of every race and political persuasion. There were several homeless people, too. A perfect sampling of the American people, Janie thought. She liked the inclusiveness of the Occupy movement. As she and Samantha continued walking through the park, they came to the central plaza where a group was gathered. “We’re going to need another tent for the new Janie looked at her and many more who are living donations of supplies and shrugged, and headed for out of their cars.” food,” a woman said. “Does her jacket. Samantha listened symanyone have access to Samantha disappeared pathetically knowing Jane another tent?” into the hall and returned needed to vent her frustraA young man on a bicycle with her black wool blazer. tions. said he could get a fairly The night was crisp and “I’ve come to hate the holilarge tent in the morning. days because it’s all so hyp- cool, and the sky was dark “We’ve been working on except for a crescent moon ocritical. The teachings of getting another latrine, but rimmed in white light. Jesus have no meaning in the city’s saying we’re getThe two women walked up ting too big for sanitation America. Just look around!” the side street and headed Janie had the tree just safety,” another man said. for Main Street gaily lit with about completely put “So, we’re looking at posholiday lights. together and she was sibly starting another The streets were crowded untangling the strands of encampment a few blocks with shoppers and people lights to start stringing from here. Maybe we should out walking to enjoy the them around the tree. set up the new grub tent decorations. Samantha walked over over there.” “Turn here,” Samantha and put her arm around A young man with a backsaid, heading off Main Janie. pack slung over one shoulStreet and onto another “Let’s go for a walk,” der of his oversized sweater side street. Samantha said. “I want to started talking, Janie could see a crowd show you something.”
n See Hope, Page 17
“Oh, Jingle Bells, schmingle bells,” Janie said to Samantha. “I’m just not feeling it.” Samantha continued to sing, “Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock.” “Boy, aren’t you the Scrooge,” she teased Janie as she placed more Christmas decorations on the fireplace mantle. “Well, Christmas is just a shopper marathon,” Janie said. “People are even pepper spraying each other over sale items! What have we become?” She got up from the couch and walked around her friend’s cozy living room. The sparkling Christmas lights cast a warm glow in the room. Samantha had littered the floor with boxes of decorations passed down over the generations of her family. “It’s just not what it used to be,” Janie said. “Whatever happened to the spiritual significance of Christmas?” She tugged at the box containing the Christmas tree. “Do you want me to start putting this tree together,” she asked. “Yeah, please, if you want to,” Samantha said. She was worried about her friend. Janie had lost her job more than a year ago, and was nearly out of unemployment with no employment prospects in sight. “You know, you can always stay with me if you ever need to, Janie,” Samantha said. “Well, at the rate things are going, I may be taking you up on that,” Janie said. “I’m so glad you’re my friend, Sam. Really, it’s a good feeling to know I won’t go homeless. There are so many who are, and so
from PAGE 16
Hope: A gathering of people and a cause brings back holiday spirit
behind her talking about the purpose of the Occupy movement. “We didn’t have a lot of early demands because it’s not a campaign,” said a young woman in sweats and gym shoes. “It’s a shift in the public will.” An older gentleman leaning on a cane spoke up. “Realize we are part of something new; but we come from a long tradition,” he began. “This is not a protest, it’s about taking space, about a shift in mental attitude.” “Yeah, the ground has shifted in America,” a woman in a poncho added. “We’re changing the national conversation.” An elderly woman with short, white hair said she got involved with the movement from the very start. “The Occupy movement is making history and changing the country,” she said. “And it’s about time!” When Samantha saw Janie smiling, she knew her friend had regained
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 17
“Most of the Class of 2011 had to move back in with their parents,” he said. “I went to college so I could live the American Dream, open the doors of opportunity, but where’s the jobs?” “I have a job,” added a young woman. “But my education loan payments eat up so much of my paycheck, I live like I earn minimum wage. This economic system doesn’t work for 99 percent of us, and 1 percent have grossly more than they need.” A man in a black “Blues Brothers” hat wearing jeans and a suit jacket stood up. “The Occupy movement has taken off like a prairie fire because people are fed up with the corruption in high places,” he said. “The Tea Party is the same mindset as Occupy, they’re just different. Janie overheard someone
some hope. “Maybe this is it,” Janie said. “Maybe the American people are really ready to stand firm for a better world.” “I think we are,” Samantha said. “We’ve got to get out of the victim role and realize how powerful we are when we stand together. This is our movement, our country.” Janie looped her arm through Samantha’s. “Let’s go make some hot chocolate and finish decorating,” she said. When they got back to the house they strung the lights on the tree together, and then started in on the ornaments. “Why don’t you put ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ on again, Sam,” Janie said. “Let’s rock the world!”
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18 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
fter thinking and thinking, Bobby just couldn’t figure out what to get his dad for Christmas. He didn’t have a whole lot of money — maybe a buck 50 he saved up from his allowance for throwing out the trash, raking up the leaves and making sure that the snow was shoveled from the driveway. Bobby had a lot on his plate. After all, he was the man of the house while his father was away. For the past seven months, Bobby’s dad, Sgt. Robert Garcia, had been serving our country in Afghanistan. He had been away before, but this time was different. Bobby’s mom, a school teacher, was about to have another baby. She was always tired, she was always hungry and she missed her husband as much as Bobby missed his dad. They went to Grandma and Grandpa Saavedra’s house for Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t the same without dad. “Momma, when is Dad coming home? I really miss him,” Bobby asked every day. “He’ll be home soon mi hijito,” she would say. “He’ll be home before you know it.” Sgt. Garcia promised his family he’d be home before Christmas. When he would call, about every four to five days, he would always tell Bobby, “Son, you take care of your mother and your soon-
A Holiday Homecoming
to-be baby sister. You’re the man of the house now. I’m proud of you.” “I know Dad,” Bobby would say. “I’m proud of you, too.” With only a few weeks left before Christmas, Bobby knew he would need to get something quick for his dad. But what could he get someone who has been gone for so long? What if dad didn’t like the same things that he did before he left? As Bobby and his mom decorated their Christmas tree he asked, “Momma, I need an idea. I need to know what you think dad will like for Christmas?” “Hijito, he’ll like anything,” she said. “You don’t even have to get him anything. All he wants for Christmas is to be home with his family — with you.” Bobby stopped what he was doing, thought for a moment as tears started rolling down his cheeks. “But Momma, please! Will you take me shopping?” Bobby pleaded. “I need to find something for Dad. I want him to know how much I missed him, how much I love him.” Bobby’s mom grabbed the boy’s hands and guided him to the sofa. She sat him down and hugged him so hard he could hardly breathe. “Bobby, Dad already knows how much you love him,” his mom said. “He knows how much we’ve missed him. He isn’t expecting you to buy him a gift. You’re all the gift he needs.” “Momma ... you just don’t understand. You have your dad here. I don’t. My dad has been gone for so long,” Bobby said. “He’s been fighting in a war. He’s been fighting for us. He deserves so much. He deserves a Christmas present.” Bobby’s mom didn’t know what to say. She was so proud of her little man. “OK Bobby. We’ll go tomorrow,” she told him. “We’ll try and figure something out.” After decorating the tree and a bit of hot chocolate, Bobby and his mom started thinking about what to get his dad. “Maybe a new watch?” Bobby asked. “He doesn’t wear one,” his mom replied. “What about an iPad?” he said. “Maybe,” his mom said smiling. “We have all day tomorrow to find something. Let’s start fresh in the morning. I’m getting a little bit tired.” With the baby due in only a few weeks, Bobby’s mom was getting more and more tired every day. Every one was hoping that the baby would wait until Christmas, but more importantly, wait for Robert to come home. The next morning, Bobby woke up, ready for the day of shopping. He was determined to get his father the perfect gift for Christmas. But as he walked out of his bedroom and into the kitchen, he saw Grandpa Saavedra sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee. “Grandpa? What are you doing here?” Bobby asked. “Grandma had to take your mom to the hospital this morning,” he replied with a big grin on his face. “You’re a big brother!” “Is Dad home? Can we go see her? Can you take me shopping?” Bobby screamed as he scrambled to get his shoes tied.
n See Homecoming, Page 19
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from PAGE 18
Homecoming: The best presents are being with the ones you love
“Do you think she’ll like me?” Bobby asked. “Who? Your sister?” Grandpa said. “Yeah, my sister. That sounds kind of weird, huh? My sister.” “She’ll adore you,” Grandpa said. “You’re her big brother. You’re going to be a great brother.” As they walked closer to the room, Bobby got a strange feeling in his stomach. He was nervous and excited all at the same time. Bobby peaked into his mother’s hospital room and saw a nurse milling about. He walked in a little further and saw his grandma crocheting a pink and white baby blanket. As he walked in a little further, he saw his mom lying in her bed with a great big smile on her face. “Bobby, come meet your sister,” she said. “Where is she?” Bobby answered. “Right behind you,” she laughed. As he turned around, he saw this tall, man wearing a military uniform standing in front of him holding a tiny, little baby. “Daddy! You’re home! You’re home!”
December 3, 2011 • Valencia County News-Bulletin • Once Upon a Christmas • 19
“Sorry buster,” Grandpa said. “Not yet. Your dad should be on his way from overseas and your mom said you can go meet your new, little sister later today. They’re resting right now.” “But Grandpa,” Bobby whimpered. “There are so many things I have to do. I have to get my dad a present. I have to make sure mom is OK. I have to make sure my new sister’s room is ready. I have to ...” “Hold on there mister,” Grandpa said. “You don’t have to do anything. Everything is taken care of.” “NO!” Bobby yelled. “I don’t have a present for my dad! My mom said she would take me shopping today. She promised!” Grandpa held onto Bobby’s shoulders and said, “Bobby, calm down. Everything will be OK. Trust me.” “OK Grandpa. I just want everything to be perfect.” “It will,” Grandpa said. “It will.” As Bobby walked down the hospital hallway later that day to visit his mom and brand new sister, he grabbed onto his grandfather’s hand and held it tight. He was a little bit nervous.
Bobby yelled. “I can’t believe it. You’re home.” Bobby grabbed onto his dad as tightly as he could and began to cry. His dad handed the baby back to her mother and hugged his son. “What’s wrong Bobby? I thought you’d be happy? I’m home, your sister is here and we’re all together.” Not wanting to show his dad he was crying, Bobby wiped the tears from his eyes and let go of his father. “It’s nothing Dad,” Bobby said. “I just missed you.” “I know you missed me, little man, and I missed you ― more than you’ll ever know,” his dad said. “But there’s something else. I know it.” “Dad, I just wanted to get you something special for Christmas and I couldn’t. We didn’t have time and the baby came, and ...” “Roberto,” his father told him as he grabbed onto his face, “I don’t need a present. I don’t want a present. All I want is what I have already have. “I have your mom, I have your new sister and I have you!” he said. “You’re my Christmas present. You’re my miracle.”
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20 • Once Upon a Christmas • Valencia County News-Bulletin • December 3, 2011
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