It is just days before the Christmas of 1918 in a picturesque township nestled in the mountains of coal country. Anna Beal, an idealistic nine-year-old, is very close with her father Joseph, a hardworking railroad engineer. As Christmas approaches, a series of puzzling dreams shared by Joseph and Anna about a golden ring mystifies them both. Based on a true story.
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John Snyder was inspired to write this book after his grandmother told him about a childhood Christmas incident she never forgot-and had never told to anyone. Snyder is currently working on a new novel. He lives in Mocksville, North Carolina with his wife, Ruth Ellen.He has two daughters - Nikki and Carli.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A heavy mist chilled the morning air. The Christmas snow, which had fallen just a few days before, was beginning to melt. A curtain of gray fog rose steadily from the thawing blanket of white, lifting into the cold and lifeless sky. The bald oak trees that lined the backyard stood dripping with thaw, their ashen bark blending into the drab countryside. The scene had the mystic quality of a faded dream.
The cold damp air leaked through the back door and crept up my spine, bringing a shiver that woke me from my daydream. Reaching for a leftover Christmas cookie on the plate before me, I watched her as she cautiously shuffled across the kitchen floor. The dismal light of the morning trickled into the room through the window where she stood, casting her image into a silhouette. Her delicate frame was hunched over at the shoulders as she poured hot coffee into a cup. Her hand trembled slightly as she carefully placed it on the table.
"Here, Johnny,"she said in a hoarse voice. "This ought to warm you up."
Her caring smile was enough to chase the chill away and make the dreary day seem filled with sunshine. She returned to the coffeepot and drew another cup for herself. As she took her place at the table, it became more apparent that the years were catching up to her. She raised the cup to her withered lips and took her first sip of coffee. It was then that I noticed something on the little finger of her right hand that I had never seen before: a stunning gold ring with an unusual ruby setting.
"That's a pretty ring, Grandma. I don't think I've ever seen you wear it before. Was it a Christmas gift this year?" She paused and looked down at the ring, twisting it slightly with the fingers of her other hand. She sat in silence for a moment, then looked up and said, "Yes, it was a Christmas gift, but not from this year. I received it many Christmases ago, eighty to be exact, when I was nine years old."
"And you've had it all this time?"
"Yes, but I haven't worn it in years because it didn't fit for a long time. But I guess these tired old fingers of mine are shrinking a bit. I tried it on Christmas morning and it fit on my pinkie just fine,"she said, holding the ring out to admire it. "This is a very special ring, John."
"Who gave it to you?"
"My father, bless his soul. Every Christmas, I take this ring out of my jewelry box and hold it for a while. It helps me remember that special Christmas Day so many years ago when my father gave it to me."
"What's so special about the ring?"I asked her.
"The lessons it taught to those who touched it and to those who were touched by it."
"What do you mean?"
"This ring has a mysterious past. The events that led up to my father giving it to me, and the place where he got it, are mysterious as well."
"Mysterious? Where did he get it?"
"Wait,"she said, as she put her hands on mine. "I'll tell you the incredible story behind this remarkable ring."
Grandma clutched my hands and looked into my eyes. Her wrinkled face and silver hair reflected the many years that had passed since she received the gift of the golden ring. She began to tell me the story, and I had a strong sense of being pulled back in time. As I looked deeper into her eyes, the wrinkles seemed to fade, and the face of a little girl with curly brown hair and brilliant blue eyes began to emerge.
Copyright (c) 1999 by John Snyder
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