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A Bit of Christmas Magic
by Dave Smith 2001 - 2002
Rose Marie Jacobs began her daily walk at 4:40pm today, a little later than usual. At 82 years old, Rose had stopped living by a clock years earlier and did things at her own pace. Having outlived her husband and having no children of her own, Rose was quite alone. But happy was Rose as she took each day as a blessing. Rose was an explorer. Although, since
her arthritis has drastically limited her range of exploration, Rose was relegated to the city
park just a block from her home in searching for things new and interesting. Since it was a
few days before Christmas, Rose felt that same curiosity and magic that accompanied this wonderful time of year. Even alone, Rose believed in the Christmas Spirit.

Having passed the softball field, Rose came upon the two tennis courts at Cox Park, where
a bench provided her a satisfactory place to rest before she would return home. As a young
girl through college, Rose played tennis. Her memories of those days were still fresh as if she had just come off the court. Two pretty teenage girls were on one of the two courts, hitting tennis balls with beautiful form and youthful power. Rose began to see herself in those girls
as she slowly got up and moved close to the fence. She rested her slightly emaciated fingers
on a chain-link section just below eye level. She glanced over at her right hand as the joy of
hitting a tennis ball came flooding back in her memory.

"Hello," one of the girls said to Rose as she gathered a couple tennis balls sitting on the court near her.

"Hello!" Rose answered in a happy voice. "You two are very good."

"Thank you," the girl said with a bit of modesty. "My name is Rachel and that is Vanessa
over there. Do you play tennis?" the girl asked sincerely.

"Oh, my," Rose said bringing her hand to her mouth. "It has been at least 40 years since I
held a racket.although, I did play back when I was your age," Rose said with a gleam in
her eye as she pointed at the pony-tailed Rachel.

"My name is Rose," she offered as Vanessa came over to join the conversation.

"Well, you're never too old to start again!" Vanessa said as she put her hand on the shoulder
of her friend and exchanged knowing glances with each other. "After all, tennis is truly a
lifetime sport."

"You both are way ahead of your years!" Rose said laughing. "Who taught you that?"

The two girls both pointed to the parking lot. "Nick, he is our tennis pro," Rachel offered. There was an old red van parked in the otherwise empty lot. An older gentleman was
sitting in the driver's seat smoking a pipe.

"He is an excellent teacher," Vanessa said with obvious loyalty.

"Hey, Rose. Why don't you let him help you get back into playing?" Rachel said. Before
Rose could answer, Rachel yelled at Nick who waved and stepped out of the van.

"Oh, no. I don't think I could even hold the racket let alone hit a ball!" Rose said holding
her hands to her face. "I would be wasting his time."

"Now, now, now," Nick said as he approached the group puffing on his pipe at the corner
of his mouth. "What are you two ladies up to?" he asked through the fence.

Nick didn't look much like a tennis pro standing next to Rose. He had a distinct belly and a rough beard that needed a trim. He wore a pair of old plain sweats over a tattered collared shirt.

"Nick. Will you teach Rose how to play tennis?" Rachel said in a voice that was more demanding than requesting. "She used to play a few years ago."

Nick held out his hand to Rose. "I believe I can.if you believe you can," Nick said holding her hand now between both of his.

Rose began to blush, a first she thought in at least a decade. "I don't think I am up to
playing again," Rose said halfheartedly. "And its been more like forty years," Rose said
looking at Rachel.

"Let's give it a try, shall we?" Nick said letting go of Rose's hand and walked back to his
van.

"I don't even have a racket," Rose said, almost pleading with Nick, offering it more as an excuse than a problem.

"No problem. I've got a magic wand right here," Nick said pulling a brand new racket,
one that Rose had never seen before. He held it up in the dimming light of the oncoming
dusk. "This is just the thing."

Nick pulled out a basket filled with brand new tennis balls from the side of his van and
walked through the gate onto the court.

Rachel and Vanessa gathered up their own rackets and balls. "See you next time, Nick,"
the girls said in unison. "Good luck Rose! We know you can do this!"

Rose looked after the girls as they walked away. "I'll be busy this next week," Nick yelled back to the girls.

"We know," both Vanessa and Rachel giggled in harmony as they waved.

After the Girls left, Rose was left standing at the gate as Nick set up his basket of balls on
the far side of the court.

"It is time," Nick said walking over to Rose and led her into the court.

After helping Rose with the grip and stroke motion, he started back to his side of the court.

"Ready?" he asked smiling, still holding the pipe between his lips.

"Don't laugh," Rose said as she took her ready position.

"Never."

The first toss of the ball from Nick came towards Rose as she took the racket back for a forehand. A smooth swing at the ball came from Rose's arm. She hit the ball over the net
just to the side of Nick.

"How did that feel?" Nick asked, seemingly not surprised with her first shot.

"Oh, that was wonderful!" Rose said as she felt that same joy in her hand from decades
past.

After a few more tosses, Rose was hitting balls consistently over the net. She looked at her racket and her hand. No pain at all! What a miracle she thought.

As the setting sun cast a winter's twilight across the fields and tennis courts, Rose and Nick continued to hit ball after ball. As the lights came automatically on the courts, to Rose it
seemed like a new day was dawning.

A few days later on Christmas Eve, Rachel and Vanessa came out to the tennis courts early
in the morning to get some hitting in before their family breakfasts. Out on the court was a young girl hitting serves from a basket of balls by herself. As soon as Rachel and Vanessa
came onto the court they ran over to the other side and embraced the new girl.

"Now, all we need is a fourth," Rose Marie Jacobs said laughing, wearing a pretty new
tennis skirt and holding hands with the other two girls.

Across town that same morning, a red van was parked in front of a pair of dilapidated tennis courts. An old man hobbled along the sidewalk and looked at the back of the van as he approached.

"St. Nick" was the license plate and a man smoking a pipe stepped out of the van holding a tennis racket.

"Want to hit some tennis balls, Billy?"

The man turned to look at the crusty old man that had just spoken to him.

Now, just how did this man know my name, William Oliver wondered as he shuffled slowly towards the courts now a bit more than just curious.