The winds pounded upon the side of the house sitting in the shadow of Gravelly Spur Mountain and seeped beneath the cracks around the windows and doors letting the chill of winter in the walls warmed by the wood stacked and burning in the fireplace.
The sound of bells tinkled as they were pulled from a wood box which sat by the evergreen tree placed with love in the corner of the main room.
Pearl tied the small bells with yarn to the boughs. In a small pan, Grandma Kitty popped corn which would soon string into lengths to surround the tree from top to bottom.
“Well, that should be enough,” she said. “Everyone find a place and let’s get busy.”
The time spent stringing brought all the family ‘round to sit upon every open space as stories of Christmas passed were recalled and hopes and wishes for the coming yuletide rang through the laughter.
“I want a wagon,” Nellie said as Pearl used her to model the popcorn string instead of the tree.
Little Ma, Grandad Bill’s grandmother sat closest to the fire with her sewing in hand, refreshing the dress of the angel which he would soon place on the treetop when all was said and done.
Soon one of the children started singing “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and the rest would join in as the work continued.
A knock at the door brought Bill to find no one there. He stepped outside on the porch seeing no one in sight and not a footprint visible in the light smattering of snow on the ground.
“No one is around,” he said as he returned to his work.
“It was the mountain elf making sure we were hard at work preparing for Christmas morn,” Little Ma said.
“The mountain elf,” what’s that Pearl said as she rushed by her side at the fire.
“You see when our people came to the mountains, from Scotland and Ireland, many of them came with their trunks filled with clothes and bits and pieces of the past from the old country. The elves crawled in alongside the bits and pieces and came to live here with us,” she said.
“What do the look like?” Pearl asked.
“I’ve never seen one but they say they are just like us but smaller,” she said. “They watch after the bits and pieces and make sure they are cared for.”
“Why did they bang on the door,” Pearl asked.
“The bells and this angel were some of the bits and pieces that came over and have passed down through the years,” she said. “They like to see us using them, it reminds them of home. Christmas is the time of year when we all think of home and what has come before and hopefully what will be. I think that is why they knocked, so they could look inside when the door opened. I think when we hang the bells and they ring, it brings them.”
“Do they help Santa on Christmas, is that why you call them an elf?” Pearl said.
“In a way, we are all mountain elves, we all tend to each other’s things, look after one another and help make sure that what is needed be gotten, if it can be got,” she said. “So I reckon they do help him, just like each of us do dear. Now, we best be gettin’ this tree decorated or Christmas will be come and gone and we will have missed it.”
The group begins to sing “Jingle Bells” as the popcorn is wrapped around the tree and the bells swing and ring. Pearl runs to look out the front window to see if a mountain elf may be spying from the other side.