The air was crisp and the wind cut right through you. A light covering of snow
blanketed the ground. They huddled in a small group around a barrel that burned brightly.
Nameless, faces in the bleak streets. Young and old alike; they struggled for warmth
around the tiny flames. These were the lost and homeless of the city, they lived where ever
they could find shelter and warmth. They were the only security each other had, an
underground society of misery and lost dreams.
This was Christmas in the city; the shelters were full to overflowing and the dinner lines
had long since closed for the evening. There in the darkness of an alley, a woman-child
huddled neath the thin covering of newspapers. This was her Christmas bed, her stomach
full of turkey and stuffing they had served at the local shelter. They had no bed for her this
cold and lonely night. Her greasy hair could have been brown or auburn in color but
looked black plastered against her forehead. Her eyes were azure blue in color but they
had lost all their sparkle for life. Her figure was lost beneath the layers of filthy clothes she
used to keep her small frame warm.
She shivered in the cold as her mind traveled back to her last Christmas. There was a
beautifully trimmed tree in the corner of the cozy room. Presents were piled beneath it's
bows and lights twinkled merrily throughout the room. A fire was roaring in the hearth,
filling the room with a joyful warmth. Garland was draped from the rafters and hot
chocolate and egg nog graced the mugs on the coffee table. Christmas carols filled the air
with choruses of "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man." Her parents were busy with
preparations for the friends and family whom were soon to arrive. The scent of roasting
turkey and Christmas baking filled the house and made stomach's grumble with
A bitter sweet ache filled her heart; how could she have been so miserable with what
she had? She wondered again at what she thought was so horrible about the place she ran
from? The life she had led for the past 8 months was hard and cold while her memories
were full and warm. The horror of living on the streets had clouded the pain that drove her
from her home. She was 16 but she felt 40; she had done anything to survive during these
months, things she never imagined during her sheltered life. Now she wanted time to roll
back so she would never had made the decision that she did. What she had sacrificed
wasn't worth the pain and humiliation she had suffered.
She tucked her frozen fingers deep into her pockets, deeper then they had ever been
before. This was the first real cold snap of the season and she wasn't sure she could
survive it. Her fingers burrowed deeper still, looking for warmth.. Lost there in the
deepest recesses of her pockets was an object. Her fingers found the round cold thing, she
was unsure of what it was and her fingers played with it for a moment. She wrapped her
hand around the thing hoping it was something of value but deep inside herself she knew
the impossibility of it. Pulling the object from her pocket, she held it for a moment
wrapped tightly in her fist. She closed her eyes and wished as she unclenched her hand.
Very slowly she opened her eyes and there laying on the palm of her hand was a toonie.
She held her breath and just looked at it, she was lucky after all, it must be a Christmas
She stared at the coin for a long time; wondering what to do with her prize. From deep
within her heart a warm glow began to spread, she knew what to do with this miracle. She
abandoned her place in the alley and wondered up the street; there was a dinner around
the corner that was open all the time. She moved with purpose through the deserted
streets and into the warmth of the dinner. She changed the precious coin into quarters and
went to the pay phone at the back of the room. She picked up the receiver and her fingers
dialed the old familiar number. She waited as the phone rang........Once....Twice...her
knees shook as she prayed. "Be home...please be home." After the third ring a gruff, sad
voice answered. "Hello." She held her breath for a second as her heart fluttered in her
chest. "D....Daddy?" squeaked from her dry lips as a river of tears coursed down her
She cleared her throat quickly and softly said "Merry Christmas Daddy." She could
hear soft sobs coming from the other end of the phone.
"Thank God you are alive." He
finally was able to say. "Where are you? Are you all right? We love you, Puss." The tone
in his voice pleaded with her. His voice was filled with so much emotion his words were
barely a whisper. She swallowed the lump in her throat and replied.
"I love you too Dad and Mom too. I want to come home. Can I come home?" Her voice now pled with him to give her another chance.
"Can you come home?" His voice was shocked yet joyful all at once. "Of course you can come home. Where are you? I'll come right away, or....can you
get here by yourself?" He caught him self then. He knew that she thought they smothered her and he didn't want to scare her away again.
She told him her location and he told her to sit tight, he would be there in a couple of
hours. When she hung up the phone there were tears streaming down her cheeks. The waitress behind the counter looked at her and she smiled broadly. "I'm going home" she said softly "I'm going home". She went to the ladies room and washed her dirty face. In the mirror she saw a light in her eyes that had not been there for what felt like a life time.
She stared at the light for a moment and realized that it was hope. This Christmas, in an
dark, cold alley, she received her Christmas miracle. As she moved to take a seat in a
booth to wait for her father she thought to herself. "There's no place like home."