On Sunday morning, Grant woke up early to watch the sunrise.
“The Eleventh Day of Christmas – the eleventh day of my sojourn here.” Grant paused, remembering the lessons he had learned so far. He thought about his reunion with Elsie, opening a door, only forgiveness unlocks, a path from desolation to redemption.
“Merry Christmas season, Grant,” Nicholas appeared out of nowhere. “ I’m glad to see you reconciled with your family.”
“You have got to stop sneaking up on me like that.” Grant startled. “As for my family. I’m grateful for the opportunity to rise above the pain of the past, working to healing our schism through love and forgiveness.”
“You have learned many lessons the past eleven days.”
“The gift of this experience is a blessing. A true Christmas miracle.” Grant didn’t dare ask Saint Nick about his fate – would he return to his old life or would he live the rest of his days in this reality?
“I hope the lessons you have learned will carry forward into the future.”
“I promise to rely on God’s will, when I miss the mark, I will repent and seek to right the wrongs I commit.” Grant steadfast in his statement.
“Even if you were to return to your former life of luxury, you will hold true to the spirit of Christmas?” St. Nicholas questioned.
“My former life is dead. I am not the man I was. I have been born anew by the spirit and hope of grace and a renewal of conscience. How can I return to the darkness of pain and anger, allowing the seeds of greed to rule over me? If I were to rise in the ranks of business again it would be with a focus of responsibility, people over profits, conservation and quality practices.”
“You have a new job now. You are vested with the grace to serve, not the authority to rule.” Nicholas commissioned. “Peace be with you. Our paths will cross again soon.”
Just as quickly as he appeared, St. Nick vanished in an instant.
“You look as though you’ve seen a ghost,” Marissa pulled up to the curb.
“No ghost, a spirit of a lively and sometimes unpredictable saint,” Grant thought as he entered the car.
“Zeke, it is great to see you again. Thanks for inviting me.”
“I kind of owe you one.” Zeke shrugged with a smile.
“Hope you are hungry.” Marissa smiled at Grant.
“We’re going to The Flying Pancake,” Sarah squealed. “They have the best cinnamon chocolate pancakes in the world.”
“Sounds scrumptious.” Grant had never heard of the off the grid, Capitol Hill gem. The thought of pancakes and maple syrup hearkened back to his days growing up in Shuskan. His mom made the best buckwheat apple flapjacks and huckleberry waffles.
The Flying Pancake is in a funky bungalow. The eclectic and inviting décor pays homage to Seattle’s vibrant arts scene. Flying saucers, mimicking the ‘Space Needle’ are a theme of the restaurant imbedded with slogans ‘Our pancakes are out of this world’ and ‘Extraterrestrial Pancakes.’
Seated in a corner nook, they perused the versatile menu, which includes fifty pancake recipes, artisan waffles, omelets and home style Seattle inspired dishes. Grant, with no money to his name, remained hesitant in ordering.
“Order whatever you like. It is my treat.”
“Only if you allow me to return the favor, after I start my new job.” Grant insisted.
“Deal,” Marissa conceded. She had to admit she hope to keep in touch with Grant. They had a deep connection – that she couldn’t quite understand.
Conversation came easy for the diners. Zeke and Grant chatted about sports, especially the Seahawks race for a Super Bowl run. He patiently listened to Sarah recount her favorite fairy tale, ‘The Snow Ballerina,’ about an enchanted ballerina who can dance on ice. Joel discussed his love of guitar and goal of being in a band.
Following breakfast, the quintet headed to the iconic Space Needle. This symbol of Seattle, rises 605 feet above the cityscape, offering a stunning panorama from its observation deck.
“Jessie Katz says that the Space Needle’s saucer landed here when a race of green aliens known as the Kuru, landed in Seattle. And the flying saucer serves as an intelligence division on extraterrestrial research. All outer-space aliens coming into earth’s atmosphere are teleported to the Space Needle, where they are processed by immigration and then sent to Area 51.” Joel spoke with such conviction, Marissa and Grant struggled not to chuckle.
“Joel, hate to break it to you,” Zeke’s tone severe. “Mom adopted you from the Kuru. You are an alien.”
“Is that true?” Joel upset.
“Don’t listen to your brother,” Marissa said reassuring, rolling her eyes at Zeke.
“Will we see the Kuru in the Space Needle?” Sarah chimed in.
“Jessie Katz has an active imagination. If extraterrestrials do exist, they are not at the Space Needle. The symbol of Seattle dates to the 1962 World’s Fair, constructed by humans to be an innovative cutting-edge work of architecture.”
“Then why does it look like a spaceship up top?” Joel insisted on the validity of the extraterrestrial hypothesis.
“Its futuristic design complements the city’s skyline.” Marissa realized this may be a losing battle.
“I think the whole thing is a cover-up. They built the spaceship at the top of the needle to house the Kuru, hidden from view. Super top-secret CIA stuff.” Joel held.
“My brother the future conspiracy theorist.” Zeke sighed.
“What do you think Grant?” Joel asked.
“I am inclined to agree with your mom. There are no Kuru in the Space Needle” Grant maintained. “I think the Kuru actually live in a tunnel behind the EMP, after all that is home to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.”
“You’re probably right.” Joel mulled.
The group boarded a high-speed elevator that climbs 520 feet in ten seconds to the Observation Deck.
“The view from the top never disappoints.” Marissa reminisced about the fateful first date she shared with Trevor at the Space Needle. Standing in the clouds, looking out at the city lights below, they became sweep up in love’s first kiss. It seemed so simple and complicated now. The reflection cut like glass, so distant, so close.
“Breathtaking.” Grant numbed by the stunning panorama of the cityscape, from downtown’s sleek steel high rises to the midnight blue waters of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound, onward to the distant mountain ranges. Mount Rainier permeates the horizon as guardian spirit.
“I love the mists enveloping Mount Rainier. The mountain looks as if it is floating on air.” Marissa lost in the view.
“My dad always weaves tall tales and imaginary myths. He has several stories about Mount Rainier.” Grant used to hate his dad’s silly stories, now he longed for the lore of those nights by the fireside, roasting marshmallows as he recounted stories of old. “Dad said that God commanded Mount Rainier to rise as tall as the sky, serving as a lookout point for the entire world. It is a sacred place, a reminder to revere nature and respect its power. It is a mountain built of fire and earth…a reflection that even the most formidable of earth’s structures may corrode to ash, while God is eternal.”
“Wow, what a wonderful story,” Marissa felt her attraction to Grant grow as they stood, peering into the distance.
“You have helped rewrite my story, Marissa. In this life and…” Grant stopped himself.
“I feel like I’ve met you before you arrived at St. Jude, but that’s silly.”
“I wish I’d known you forever,” Grant realized he sounded cheesy, but Marissa didn’t care. The spark lit up into a flame. Caught up in the moment, Marissa and Grant fell into a subtle, potent kiss.
“I’m sorry.” Marissa pulled away, flustered. “I shouldn’t have crossed a boundary with you, given St. Jude’s.” Marissa struggled to breathe, her mind telling her to run far from Grant, yet her heart dancing at a fever pitch. She couldn’t deny the sweetness of Grant’s lips. His touch soft and gentle. She searched for the kids, luckily, they hadn’t witnessed her moment of weakness.
“Don’t be.” Grant squeezed her hand. Neither wanted to let the other one go.
“Let’s go!” Joel interrupted. Fortunately, none of the kids noticed the kiss. Otherwise, the rest of the afternoon would turn awkward.
After the Space Needle – they ambled through the Seattle Center, stopping for hand dipped tiramisu ice-cream.
“Tomorrow is the Twelfth Night of Christmas,” Sarah announced between messy licks of her melting ice cream. “It means – the Wise Men visited the baby Jesus and gave him gifts. It’s called Epiphany.”
“Tradition holds that on the Twelfth Night angels fill our shoes with candy and on Epiphany we exchange gifts and bake a King’s cake.” Joel added in.
“I’m interested to learn more about Twelfth Night and Epiphany traditions.” Grant barely knew the spiritual meaning of the church celebration of Epiphany.
“There are many traditions regarding the holy celebration of Epiphany. It varies by culture. In Spain they bake a Rosca de Reyes, a king’s cake. Trinkets are put inside the cake, each with a spiritual meaning,” Marissa elucidated on varying traditions. “To celebrate Epiphany, on the Twelfth Night we host a fill the shoes event. It provides new shoes filled with fun candies and gift certificates for kids living in the shadow of their parent’s homelessness. We celebrate with a cake and camel cookies and games. It is a fun and spiritually uplifting way to celebrate Epiphany.”
“This entire Christmas season has been an epiphany for me. I have been transformed by love and hope, even in desperation. All of you have played a huge role in my transformation.”
“No credit here,” Marissa dismissed. “The Holy Spirit kindled your soul’s flame to see come out of the darkness into love’s light.” Marissa insisted.
They capped off the magical day venturing into the Pacific Science Center, which is located a stone’s throw from the Space Needle and EMP. The museum delves into science, math, and technology through interactive exhibits. The highlight of their museum tour included a stroll through the museum’s Tropical Butterfly House, where hundreds of colorful butterflies’ dance midair and quietly perch on passerby shoulders.
Grant pondered his own metamorphosis. This sojourn forced him to a cocoon of sorts, where his past transgressions were examined under the scrutiny of isolation, his heart healed by love, emerging anew as a butterfly out of the cocoon, transformed into a beautiful graceful, albeit delicate creature, a symbol of life and change, desperation to hope. Science’s grandest demonstration of the power of change, God’s work to use science and reason to lead each wanderer back to the intangible, yet strong foundation of faith.
“My soul has taken flight, emerging anew from the darkness of my past.” He thought as he watched the butterflies.
Grant pondered the effect of his past greed. It did irreparable damage, yet he had to accept the lessons learned even in the darkness, a perspective of why greed is a sin. It isn’t just a spiritual sin, rather an active betrayal of nature, the natural rights of others.
The consequences of sin are real, not merely as a blocking of one’s entry into heaven, which is critical and should be a focus; sin in the world affects lives in a negative tangible way, inflicting pain on all creatures, from something as small as a butterfly or bee to fellow humans.
“Thank you for inviting me.” Grant expressed his appreciation as Marissa dropped him off at Saint Jude’s.
“Our pleasure.” Marissa rosy cheeks turning a deep red, she couldn’t forget their kiss. “See you tomorrow.”
“I count the hours.” Grant also lingering on the kiss. He has developed feelings for Marissa, deeper than physical attraction. It is love for her personality, enjoying spending time with her kids…the notion excited and scared him. He decided to keep silent, not wanting to further complicate a friendship he valued.