Fiction: Crossing Trails Christmas Tradition

Meet witty Mary Ann McCray and take note the predicament she has gotten herself into for this year’s Crossing Trails holiday program.

| December 2017

New York Times bestselling author Greg Kincaid takes us back to rural Kansas to share the comforts of family and the power of our four-legged companions during the holiday season in Noelle: A Novel (A Dog Named Christmas) (Convergent Books, 2017). Kincaid sheds light on the predominantly male Christmas characters from Rudolph to the Grinch and brings Mrs. Clause back to the forefront to lend a fresh approach to the holiday season.

Mary Ann McCray had been on the board of the Crossing Trails Public Library for what she considered to be too many years. Like most small Kansas towns, Crossing Trails was losing population. With a shrinking tax base, the library struggled for funding. Mary Ann was not sure she understood the other board members. They seemed too easily diverted from their primary mission, fostering literacy, as well as raising the money, volunteers, and awareness to support that cause. The problem was serious. Not only was there not enough money, but people weren’t reading like they used to.

The use of the library was shifting too. It was easy to measure. Book loans were down, but they did a booming business in DVDs, CDs, and video games. The demographics were changing before their eyes. The patrons of the library were older, like her, and the young people who did come in seemed to be there for the free Internet access. They needed to get kids reading books, in her opinion. As a longtime teacher in Crossing Trails, she believed with all her heart that books ignited a passion for learning.

But other issues seemed to continually divert the board’s attention, including today’s topic. Mary Ann had tried to keep quiet, not make waves, but this latest discussion was upsetting, particularly because it involved one of her oldest and closest friends. She leaned forward and raised her palm, like a conversational traffic cop. “I disagree, totally. We don’t need to do this.”

“Why not?” one board member asked. Carol Sampson seemed surprised that something so simple as finding a new Santa Claus for the library’s annual holiday program would prompt such a reaction.

“It’s a matter of loyalty. Hank Fisher’s been playing Santa for us for forty years. We never paid him a dime, and he’s never asked for a thing in return. It’s an important part of who we are — part of our tradition.” Mary Ann tried to check her indignation before adding, “I just can’t imagine Christmas or Crossing Trails without Hank as our Santa.” She thought for a moment about dear Hank, whom she’d known since she was a little girl. True, Hank was over eighty, but asking him to hang up his Santa suit after all these years — it didn’t sit well with her.

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