Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Very Kate Christmas by Judy Nickles Excerpt

A Very Kate Christmas

Print - $6.99
Kindle - $2.99
Read the first chapter at The Word Place

It’s a bitter cold December in the Texas Panhandle in 1880. A passing ranch hand isn’t sure what he hears as he passes a deserted line shack, but he goes back to investigate and discovers a newborn baby girl in the lifeless arms of her mother. He stuffs the baby inside his coat and rides hell-bent for the nearest town where she is placed in the local orphanage. There on Christmas Eve, she captivates Dan and Olivia Forrester, an older couple married only six months, who have volunteered to make the season special for the children.
Olivia has raised three children and buried three more. Dan has experienced the tragic loss of a baby daughter and later his wife during the Civil War. Sometime in the waning hours of Christmas Day, they decide the tiny baby girl is part of their second chance at happiness. “There is so much love between us,” Olivia observes, “enough to share.”
Cherished by her parents, doted on by much-older siblings, guided by the wisdom of Mr. Amos, an ex-slave who long ago found a home in the hearts of the Olivia’s family, and given every material advantage, Kate is not shielded from the realities of life but rather encouraged to learn lessons which will strengthen her as she grows to womanhood. Katherine Bancroft Forrester, a miracle--her parents tell her—given to them by the Christ Child.
A Very Kate Christmas chronicles ten special Christmases of the 100 Kate will eventually see. Ten stand-alone stories perfect for reading alone or aloud.

I sure didn’t know what Mother and Dan wanted with a little bitty thing like you, not at their time of life,” my brother Cary used to say. “I still wasn’t sure Mother wasn’t a little addlebrained when she up and married Dan when she’d only known him two months, and then four months later they announced they were adopting you and…”
My sister Regina always took up the story there. “You were the best Christmas gift the family ever had KatieBee!”
My other brother Hart, the lawyer, never had that much to say on the subject, but eventually he accepted the fact of my existence.
Mother and Papa, who were old enough to be my grandparents, put it plainly. “The Christ Child brought you Kate precious. You were a miracle just as He was.”
Perhaps I was, coming into the world as I did in an isolated line shack on the SB Ranch in the Texas Panhandle in that bitter cold winter of 1880. The girl who died giving birth to me was hardly more than a child herself. Somehow she managed to swaddle me against the freezing temperatures. A passing ranch hand heard me crying, stuffed me into his coat, and made fast tracks for Jericho.
After ascertaining I was healthy, Dr. Morrow placed me in the local orphanage on Christmas Eve. It was there my future parents saw me when they volunteered to help with the modest festivities for the other children. Sometime in the waning hours of Christmas Day, they decided I was meant to be their daughter and wasted no time retrieving me from Pastor and Mrs. Gordon.
My name, Katherine Bancroft Forrester, reflected my parents’ previous lives. Katherine was Papa’s first wife who died under tragic and unspeakable circumstances during the Civil War. Bancroft gave me a tie to Mother’s children by her first husband, Spencer Bancroft, founder of the sprawling SB Ranch. Like Katherine, he also died violently when he walked in on a bank hold-up.

One hundred years. Where did they go? I don’t feel old, but I must admit, finally, that I am. One hundred years. An entire century.
I don’t wonder any longer what my life would have been like if Mother and Papa hadn’t taken me out of the orphanage in Jericho. It was meant to be, and life has been good. I only regret Teddy and I didn’t grow old together. I had John and Livvy, though. Now they have children and grandchildren of their own.
Sometimes at night, when I close my eyes, I watch all the people I have known and loved march by as if on parade: Mother, Papa, Cary, Hart, Regina, Mr. Amos, Teddy, Uncle Rand, Mr. George and Mrs. Ella, Mr. Frank …they are as much a part of me today as ever. I owe each one of them a great debt of gratitude for the lessons they taught me. I have tried to repay that debt by passing on their wisdom to three new generations.
I never told anyone but Teddy about the morning Mr. Amos died—or didn’t die. As I sat with him, holding his hand and singing the words of the old spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, I watched that magnificent chariot sweep down and carry his gentle soul away. I’ve never doubted that someday, Mr. Amos will drive the same chariot down from Heaven for me.
And when he does, I’ll be ready.

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