“I’m so excited, Jonathan,” mother said, almost dancing around the room. “But what shall I wear?”
“You look beautiful in anything,” father replied, smiling at his wife. She smirked in response and flicked him with her apron string.
“Thank you, but I think I’ll not be seen at the Nauvoo Christmas Dance in my work clothes,” she said, pulling out her other two dresses to see which one was appropriate.
“Do I get to dress up, too?” Emily asked, watching her mother. “She told us to do that hours ago,” teased James.
“I know. I’m just excited,” defended Emily.
“Children,” father’s stern voice brought the two to attention.
“Everyone is to dress in their very best. We all are going to the biggest and best party of the year!” mother answered excitedly.
“Now, Ruth,” father said. “It is just a dance for Christmas. It’s not like we’re going to see the queen or something.”
“How about this dress?” Emily asked, holding up a dress for everyone to see. Mother nodded her approval.
“The Christmas Eve dance in the Cultural Hall in Nauvoo is not just a little dance. Besides, I haven’t been to a dance for years, Jonathan David Hart. So let me be as excited as I care to be,” she said in response, smiling as she imagined what the dance would be like.
“Better do what she says, Pa,” James warned. “She called you by your full name, and we all know what that means.” Everyone laughed. Every member of the family had personal experience with mother’s full name rule. If the full name was used, the bearer beware.
“You may be as beautiful as you desire, Ruth Ashley Hart,” father said, standing and bowing formally to his wife.
“Why thank you, sir,” she said, curtseying in response.
“Just make it quick,” he told her, standing again and checking his pocket watch. Mother rolled her eyes and shook her head at her husband.
“You are both silly!” Faith said as she combed her hair.
“Not as silly as a little lady I know of,” father said, turning to chase his youngest daughter around the room.
“Are you ready, James?” mother asked, dodging Faith and father as they ran screaming around and around the bedroom
“Yes, Ma. This is as beautiful as I get,” he jokingly said, pulling at his sleeves.
“Now don’t you get as bad as your father, young man,” mother said, smiling.
“How about this dress?” Emily asked, holding up a dress.
“Emily, sweetheart, you only have three dresses. Now pick one and let’s hurry before your father carts us off half-clothed,” mother said, picking a dress and then going behind their little curtain to change.
“I know why you are so picky about the dress,” James sneered.
“Leave me alone, James. I need to get beautiful,” Emily said, smoothing out the wrinkles in the dress she chose.
“Adam’s going to be there,” James taunted his little sister. Emily gave him a fierce look and then pulled her own curtain shut.
“Let’s go! We have a long ride ahead of us!” father yelled from the kitchen.
“Are you sure John said we could stay with him tonight?” mother asked as she came out in her nicest dress. Father admired his wife for a moment and then nodded a yes.
“His cabin is much closer to Nauvoo. I’d rather not make that long trip home in the dark,” he explained. “Do you have everything ready?”
“Just take that bag there,” mother said, pointing to the corner. “Albert! James! Faith! Emily!”
James went to the door holding Albert, and Faith came bouncing out soon after.
“How do I look, Ma?” she asked, twirling around.
“Pretty as a picture,” mother answered, brushing a few strands of Faith’s hair back in place.
“And how I do look?” Emily asked, stepping out and twirling around, too.
“Beautiful, of course,” her mother said, smiling at her two girls.
“Let’s go!” father yelled from outside. “Everyone on with your coats!” mother reminded as she picked up the food basket for the journey in to Nauvoo.
“This is so exciting,” Emily said as she stepped out into the chill of Christmas Eve ready for the long ride to Nauvoo.
“Look at all the people,” Faith whispered in amazement as they drove into a field of wagons and horses upon their arrival in Nauvoo.
“Now everyone, straighten your clothes out and brush down your hair,” mother told them as they climbed out of the covered wagon.
“At least it’s not snowing tonight,” father commented, looking up at the bright, clear sky.
“It’s a beautiful Christmas Eve,” mother added, with a peaceful look on her face. She looked at her children lined up and ready to go into the dance. She smiled and took Albert’s hand to lead him toward the sounds of music and laughter coming from the hall.
Emily followed her mother and father as they slowly walked to the dance. She was looking forward to a night of fun and excitement but was also anxious for the night to be over and for Christmas morning to arrive. Emily looked at her father as he held her mother’s hand and led the way across the street. She hoped he liked his new surprise.
“Here we are,” mother announced as they looked up the few steps that led to a brightly lit and festively decorated building. Emily could see what looked like dozens of people moving around behind the windows inside.
“It’s about time you made it,” Brother Curry’s voice came booming through the crowd as they walked through the door. He pushed his way through the milling people to shake hands with father and nod politely to mother.
“Merry Christmas, John,” mother said, looking at Brother Curry and then looking around the room. “My, doesn’t this place look beautiful!”
A large string of pine garlands was draped around the walls with bright red ribbons tying the branches together. Candles were glowing in the windows reflecting a flickering light back into the room and dancing off the glass bulbs which were hung on a giant Christmas tree. The scent of pine mixed with spice was everywhere, and the sound of laughter seemed to accent the cheerful music coming from a small group of people with violins and flutes.
“I think that looks beautiful,” James said, pointing to the side wall. A table was set with a lace tablecloth and held glass dishes full of pies and sweets. “May I be excused, ma? I’d like to go…um…mingle with friends.”
Mother smiled at her son’s obvious intentions and nodded her consent. James was at the table in a flash with Faith tagging faithfully along behind him.
Emily stood quietly and looked with wonder at all the ladies with their nice dresses and the men in their best clothes. Some were in such fancy clothes that Emily felt embarrassed for a moment about her own dress. Then, however, she noticed that most of the people dancing and having fun were in nice but modest clothes like hers.
“Hello, Emily,” Adam said, coming up to her from behind. Emily quickly turned to him and flashed her brightest smile his way.
“Hello, Adam, Merry Christmas,” she sweetly said. Adam motioned for her to follow him to a series of racks which held the coats of all the dancing guests. Adam fumbled in the piles and came up with a small package. Emily held her breath in anticipation, suddenly realizing that she hadn’t brought anything for him.
“Look at this!” Adam said excitedly. He unwrapped the small bundle and proudly held up its contents for Emily to see.
“It’s a …book,” Emily said, wondering what kind of a book he would’ve gotten her for Christmas.
“It’s a great book,” Adam added, opening it up and flipping through its pages. “My grandfather sent it to me for Christmas. It’s about ghosts and spirits and Christmas spirit. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.”
Emily’s stomach sank as she understood Adam’s words. The wrapped bundle wasn’t for her after all. She felt her chest tighten a little as she held back the tears of disappointment. But then something changed inside of her as she watched his face glow with excitement. Here he was sharing a great present with her, and all she could think of was herself. Emily mentally kicked herself and then smiled as she suddenly realized that Adam was sharing this great present with her because he liked her. All her negative feelings melted away, and she turned her attention to her friend.
“That’s wonderful, Adam. I guess you really did get the right scarf, huh?” she asked, thinking back to his birthday party.
“You mean since it has books on it?” he asked.
Emily nodded, noticing the scarf carefully wrapped around his coat on the rack behind him.
“Pa told me that you made a scarf for your Pa,” Adam said, putting his precious book away.
Emily sighed at the reminder of her Christmas disappointment.
“I did. And it was really nice but then we had to give it to some missionary who was cold,” she explained, her head still turned down.
“Wow. That was sure great of you to do,” Adam said enthusiastically. The respect in his voice caught Emily off guard, and she quickly looked up at him. He was looking at her with the kindest expression she had ever seen on his face. This Christmas was getting better with each passing moment!
“Can you keep a secret?” she asked him, suddenly feeling happy again and anxious to share her surprise with someone.
“Sure,” he replied, placing his book back into his coat.
“I made my Pa another surprise present,” she whispered, looking around her to make sure her father wasn’t anywhere close by. Noticing that he was several feet away talking to some men, she continued. “I cut out some paper snowflakes and glued them to a board. Then Ma helped me make a frame for it. Now he can hang it above his bed so he can look at the snowflakes any time he wants to.”
“That sounds great,” Adam said. He was about to say something else when Emily felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Emily, come over here and meet some new friends of ours,” her father said. Emily looked up at him and hoped that he hadn’t been standing there too long. She waved good bye to Adam and then followed her father over to where her mother was still standing, holding an excited Albert who was singing along with the music.
“Emily, this is Brother Vern Worthington and Brother Steven Richards,” mother told her, pointing at the two men standing nearby. Emily put out her hand to them to say hello.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Brother Worthington said, gently shaking her hand. Emily smiled politely and then put her hand out to Brother Richards. As he took her hand to shake it, she realized she already knew this man.
“You were the one from the storm,” she said, looking up at a much drier, much nicer looking man than the one she remembered from that night. The two men chuckled at her surprise.
“Yes, Emily, I am. And I wanted to thank you personally for the gift you gave us that night,” he said, shaking her hand and holding it tight. Emily blushed as she looked up at her parents who seemed to be beaming with pride in their daughter.
“And there’s someone else who would like to thank you, too. The man you gave that beautiful scarf to. Would you like to meet him?” Brother Worthington asked, leaning down to be closer to Emily.
“That would be very nice,” mother said, as Emily nodded her consent.
“He’s downstairs. Just follow us,” Brother Richards said, holding out his arm to point the way.
Emily followed the men as they moved their way through the dancers and past the Christmas tree. They went through a door and down some winding stairs to the basement. It was a little colder, but there seemed to be just as many people dancing and laughing as there were upstairs. Brother Worthington stopped and then waved at someone on the other side of the room, who Emily couldn’t see.
“Here he is,” Brother Worthington said, waiting for their friend to come over to him. A couple of seconds later, Emily heard her mother gasp, and her father clear his throat. She glanced up at them to see what was the matter. They both looked down at her with such excited faces that Emily began to get a little nervous.
“What’s wrong?” she asked them.
“Hello, Merry Christmas.”
Emily heard a strong voice greet them from right beside her. She turned back and looked up at the very tall man standing in front of her.
“This is Jonathan and Ruth Hart, their son Albert and their daughter Emily,” Brother Richards said, introducing the stranger to the family. Mother and father shook his hand and then he looked down at Emily. She put her hand out to shake his as well but instead he leaned down to her and gave her a big hug.
“Thank you for the scarf, Emily. You are an angel,” he whispered into her ear. Now that she could see him up close and heard his voice Emily realized that she was hugging the prophet.
Her heart started to pound. This Christmas was definitely getting better all the time.
As he pulled away from her, she noticed her scarf wrapped snuggly around his neck. The tiny snowflakes she had worked so hard on seemed to shine against his dark coat.
“Thank you all so much for your generosity that night,” Brother Joseph said to Emily’s parents.
“I wish we could have done more, President Smith,” father said.
“My coat had been taken from me that night,” the prophet explained. “Your gifts got me to Nauvoo in warmth, and I appreciate it greatly.”
He turned and motioned for someone to come join him. Soon his wife appeared holding mother’s shawl in her hands.
“This is my wife, Emma,” he said, introducing her to the group. “This is the family who was so kind to me that evening.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for helping my husband,” Emma said, graciously extending her hand to Emily and then to Emily’s parents. She handed mother’s shawl back to her and lovingly squeezed her hand.
Brother Joseph began to take the scarf from off his neck. Emily realized he was going to return that as well. For a moment, she was thrilled at the thought of having her father have the scarf but then another thought entered her mind.
“Please keep the scarf,” Emily said, reaching up to stop Brother Joseph from taking it off.
“Are you sure?” mother asked her.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she answered, looking up at the prophet who was holding the scarf in his hands. “Consider it a present from all of my family. My mother and father, me, my sister Faith, and my brothers James, Albert, and Ephraim.”
Emily could see tears forming in her father’s eyes as she went down the list of her family members. She knew she had done the right thing.
“Thank you, Emily. I will remember all of you every time I wear the scarf,” Brother Joseph said, putting the scarf back around his neck.
“Brother Joseph!” a voice called from the crowd.
“I better be going, Heber seems to need me at the moment. It was nice meeting all of you. You’ll have to come by for dinner some evening in the spring,” Brother Joseph invited. “We would love to have you,” Emma agreed.
“We would be honored,” father accepted, about ready to burst with delight.
With that, the prophet and his wife blended back into the crowd of dancers, and Brother Worthington and Brother Richards followed close behind.
“Just wait till I tell everyone,” Emily said under her breath. She wished that James and Faith could have been here to meet him, too. At least they could come when they went to dinner. Emily’s thoughts were interrupted by her mother’s hand cupping her cheek. Emily looked up at her parents.
They were both looking at her with smiles and pride. Mother had tears coming down her cheeks, and father kept clearing his throat to keep his back.
“That was very good of you, Sweetheart,” mother said, brushing away her tears. Emily felt a wave of joy and peace sweep through her.
“I wrapped the prophet in love, Pa,” she told him reverently, thinking of his words about Ephraim.
“Yes, Emily. Yes, you did,” father said, giving her a big hug. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” mother said, stroking Emily’s hair.
Emily smiled as she clung to her father. She then turned and gave her mother a hug as well. As she looked over her mother’s shoulder, a flicker from a candle caught her eye. She looked towards it and the window it was illuminating.
“Look Pa,” she said, pointing at the window.
Little snowflakes were falling outside in the darkness and the light from the candles made them shine like tiny stars.