As Christmas approaches and we start to share stories of past Christmases, I was delighted to find a story titled “Mrs. Scrooge and the Baseballs” in Ross Peterson’s new book “Christmas in Montpelier.”
Ross’s Scrooge was 80 years old– and female.
The troubles of the boys of Montpelier and Mrs. Holmes began in 1950 when the city built a park next to her house. When the boys started a pick up baseball game, Mrs. Holmes came out of her house. Ross writes, “Wearing an apron, leather gloves and a visor, she carried a long handled garden rake.” When the first foul ball flew over her fence, she raked in the ball and put it in her apron pocket.
Ross’s brother Max went to the fence.
“Mrs. Holmes, may we please have the ball?”
“Get away from my fence,” she screamed. “Go away.”
All summer, any ball flying over her fence was history.
As winter approached, Ross and Max found out their mother had volunteered her boys to take care of Mrs. Holmes’s furnace. Reluctantly, the boys turned up wearing caps with ear flaps that they thought would keep her from recognizing their faces.
As they chopped kindling and broke her coal into smaller pieces, they searched the basement for the missing baseballs. They asked to use the toilet and searched under the sink. They searched under the beds, in the closets, and chest of drawers.
She started calling them when her sidewalk needed shoveling.
They continued to deny knowing “those bad boys that throw baseballs into her yard.”
“They’re going to hell,” she said. “I’ll have God waiting.”
Ross and Max went so far as to take out the back seat of her old Buick and crawl into the trunk with a flashlight. No baseballs.
As Christmas approached, their hearts softened and they stopped looking for baseballs. Then on Christmas Eve Mrs. Holmes unexpectedly gave them each a neatly wrapped gift. The next morning, they opened the boxes and found themselves looking at two very old, waterlogged baseballs.
There was also a note from Mrs. Holmes.
“Thank you for not being those bad summer boys.”
And thank you, Ross, for giving us this most excellent Christmas story.