Molly, holding tightly to her father’s gloved hand, did a skip and a hop. She was now old enough to be his elf-assistant while shopping at the special Christmas Market downtown.

Father had cloth bags under his arm, and a long list in his coat pocket. Slung across her shoulder, Molly carried her special purse with money all her own to spend at the market. Her head was full of all the wonderful things Father said where at the market: painted sugar cookies, hot cocoa with whipped cream, every sort of toy, sparkling spun sugar and bright ribbon candies.

As they approached the long, low-slung market building, all dressed for the season with evergreen garlands, bunches of holly, wreaths with silver bells and big red velvet bows, Molly heard music. Molly loved music; it made her feel tingly inside; made her feet want to dance; made her voice want to lilt.

By the entrance to the Market, two musicians were playing, flute and violin cases open at their feet. The woman had a long, honey-coloured braid snaking down her back. A black coat engulfed her thin frame. Molly noticed her funny gloves with the fingers, red in the cold, sticking out. Molly closed her eyes, and saw the notes floating up from the flute, dancing above the woman’s head.

Her accompanist, with long unruly red hair, like Molly’s, and a scruffy beard, held his violin tightly under his chin. He caressed the bow like a lover. Though Molly did not recognize his playing as passion. To her, he was simply joining his notes with those of his friend’s in a lively dance in the breathe-puff air.

Molly tugged her father’s hand, “What’s they playing?”

“Part of Handel’s Messiah, I think,” he responded.

With a quizzical look on her face, Molly asked, “Why are they playing out in the cold?” She thought such musicians played in orchestra’s in concert halls like on her Father’s music.

“Why, muppet, they might need money for food, or a place to stay. Sometimes people have to use the streets to make their way in the world.”

“And money for Christmas,” added Molly working her way through the question.

Dropping Molly’s mittened hand for a moment, Father reached into his jeans pocket, pulling out his wallet, and dropping bills into each of the cases. Without stopping their concert, the musicians nodded a thanks.

The Christmas Market was magical. The air was full of wonderous aromas: aromatic spices; fresh loaves of dark peasant rye bread; strong, sharp cheeses; seductive, silky chocolate; cinnamon sticks in mugs of hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream. A stream of voices, speaking in all sorts of languages, filled Molly’s ears with exotic sounds.

At various stalls, Father lifted Molly up so she could see the array of cheeses, breads, and meats from which she help would choose. He let her linger at displays of dolls, stuffed animals, and fantastical dress-up clothes.

But his bags were getting full and heavy. Molly was feeling a bit overwhelmed; she had never experienced any thing that assailed all her senses so.

Father knelt down to Molly’s height. “Aren’t you going to spend your money? It’s for specialness at the Market.”

Molly nodded, a serious look coming over her freckled face. She pulled her father towards stalls arrayed near the exit. She choose two sugar cookies, shaped and painted as Christmas angels. She held tightly to the bag, and moved towards the delicious smell of a hot chocolate stand. Standing on tippy-toe, she asked for two hot chocolates to take with them. “Please add some whipped cream,” she asked. The woman at the stall smiled, and poured the hot chocolate into large cups so there was room for Molly’s request.

Father smiled. He assumed Molly was planning a Christmas outing picnic in the car before heading home. Balancing shopping bags, and a cup of chocolate, keeping Molly in close sight, they left the Market. Father headed towards the car, but Molly said, “No, this way.”

They moved towards the music, still filling the chilly air. Molly stopped before the musicians, placing the bag of cookies and her cup of cocoa down between the instrument cases. She nodded at Father to put his cocoa there too.

The couple stopped playing. “Thank you. You have already been very generous.”

“Not my idea,” Father said, smiling down at his daughter.

“My name is Molly. I love music. Thank you for your Christmas gift to me.”

© Lorraine

image: Eugene Ivanov: The Street Winter Musicians

written for Tale Weaver #151: Christmas Edition. Michael asked: “Weave a tale this week about an Act of Kindness.” To consider, “As Christmas approaches . . . what an act of kindness might mean in your part of the world?”

Wishing everyone the best of this festive season, and a special 2018.