Christmas Coming of Age Inspirational

One Hero’s Journey

Life changed forever when we moved into the yellow duplex on Holly Street.

The whole neighborhood was steeped in magic. Morning glories encircled our yard like an ornate frame around the Kodachrome of my childhood.

We had a rubber tree! Imagine that! My Daddy and I would rake the thick, crispy leaves and burn them in our backyard incinerator. Yep, that was long before the EPA. And my mom turned out Rice Crispy treats like they were going out of style. Which they never did. Love them still!

I had just turned eleven and was immediately mesmerized by Connie, the girl next door. She seemed to be everything I was not. She wore her freckles like badges of honor. I tried to bleach mine with lemons from our tree.

Connie was genuinely bigger than life. Forget that, on tiptoes, she barely reached my ear. While I cultivated a slouch to compensate, she carried herself like some bronze princess in my National Geographic. Except that Connie tended to wear less clothes.  Once I looked out my kitchen window to find her perfecting her genuflect in nothing but a tan and threadbare white panties. I was in awe.

Our moms were both in the PTA. They become fast friends and often shopped together. Sometimes they’d buy us matching clothes.  My favorites were these pastel one-piece striped clam diggers. Posing for a snapshot, I towered over Connie yet shone only in her reflected glory.

But of all the things that impressed me about Connie, the most compelling by far was her quest to find God. Not fascination. Not curiosity. Not preteen rebellion for her Fundamentalist Dad.  Nothing short of a quest, it was a hero’s journey.  

As enchanting as Holly Street appeared to my eyes, Connie knew she was destined for more. She searched for road maps at every turn. By eleven, Connie had read much of the Old Testament, having cut her teeth on the Bhagavad-Gita and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. While I was amused by Dr. Seuss and transfixed by Harry Potter, Connie studied infused versus imputed righteousness.

One day like any other, Connie announced that she had found Him. She said He had suddenly appeared where she least thought to look. At first, I thought she was joking but, while Connie could really crack you up, I knew this was not something she would take lightly.

Now keep in mind that I was baptized Catholic on the way home from being born. At six, I made my First Communion in a stiff, crinoline dress, carrying a mother-of-pearl missile. I would be making my Confirmation next year and was studying the Catechism in preparation.

“Who is God?” the small blue pamphlet asked, knowing a simple answer was forthcoming. “God is the Supreme Being,” it rotely explained, as if that were all that needed to be said. Connie attended my Catechism class on Saturday mornings, too. Never missed a one. But mechanical answers only propelled her zeal.

“I can’t wait for you to meet Him,” she gushed.  “He can be a bit shy at first, but I know He’s gonna love you like I do!”  Admittedly curious, I had to follow.

The sun was beginning to set as we made our way down Holly Street, turning right onto Sunset Blvd. Halfway down the block, in an iconic Hollywood landmark named Crossroads of the World next to Blessed Sacrament Church, she looked suddenly anxious.

“I hope they’re not closed. I couldn’t bear it!” Connie could be a bit dramatic. Relieved to see the light within, she led me into a small, cluttered pet store. Brushing past ice blue parakeets, hamsters scurrying nowhere fast and even a tank of shimmering starfish, she remained undistracted. Panting, her eyes searched frantically for God-knows-what.

Sinking to the floor beside an empty metal crate, she began sobbing inconsolably. Bewildered, I attempted to give her a hug, but she stiffened, and I instinctively drew back out of respect for a sorrow too sacred to speak. Her bright blue eyes went dark and empty. Jenny, who owned the store, reminded her that it was closing time, but Connie was far away and seemed not to hear.

As if stricken nearly dumb, Connie gasped in quick, rhythmic whispers. “Where? How? Who? WHY?”

“You must be looking for Manny,” Jenny said. “A lovely couple adopted him this morning. Rest assured they will give him a good home. He really was cute, wasn’t he? Kind of temperamental, though. I don’t envy them, to be honest.”

“Do you have their address?”, Connie pleaded. “I have to find Him. There is something I need to ask Him.”

Jenny wrinkled her nose. “Honey, I know he was really expressive, but are you saying he could talk?”

“You wouldn’t understand. No one would. I just need to find Him. I’ve been looking for Him all my life.”

Everywhere I stood, I was in the way. Any words I tried to offer were intrusive. I didn’t know where to look or how to show proper reverence for the moment. What was happening to my friend?

“I think you’ve mistaken little Manny for something valuable. He’s not even a pedigree,” she added. “But it’s almost Christmas and he’s going to make their daughter, Maria, so happy. She broke her leg skating, which pretty much crushed her Christmas spirit.”

Connie’s color seemed to return a little. “That’s so like Him,” she said with authority, “going where He is most needed. Still, I must find Him.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t give out any personal information about my customers. Could I maybe show you another dog?”

Without answering, Connie bruskly pushed past her and out into the chilly, darkening boulevard. The stars seemed exceptionally bright. One in particular caught my eye.

“Wow! Look, Connie! Is that Venus?”, cautiously breaking the silence.

“What? Venus? No, I don’t think so. Wait!” And then she was off again, headed in the opposite direction from Holly Street. As angry as I expected my dad would be, I didn’t know what else to do but follow. Connie was my best friend and pinky promise runs deeper than water.

“Don’t you get it? The star! We need to follow the star.” She was beginning to sound a little impatient with my cluelessness.

“Connie, our parents don’t even know where we are. They’ll be worried. And really mad! I wouldn’t be surprised if this blows Christmas. No gifts. No nothing. We’ll be grounded forever!”

“You can go home if you want to. I’m following the star.” And off she went.

It was one of those pivotal moments you only get a couple of times in life. Even I knew that. So, I followed. I followed the one who followed the star.

I was pretty sure the star wasn’t really moving, but at times it almost seemed to be. It was like Connie’s faith was somehow compelling it. And then we were on Bronson Street. We’d walked much farther than we ever had. My feet were cold and I was getting hungry for Mom’s spaghetti night.

Suddenly, the star seemed to hover over one little modest house, like an LED Christmas decoration. Wait! It WAS an LED Christmas decoration! I’d begged for that star at Home Depot last week. Dad said it was “too obvious”, so we opted for a Day-Glo Santa.

 The house was nothing special and yet there was something special about it. I hesitated. “We’re not going to knock, are we? You don’t know who lives there.”

“But I do,” she replied. “God lives there. I recognize that green Toyota. It was parked outside the pet store the day I first met Him. The meter had run out, so I put in a dime I found on the sidewalk. He’s in there. I know it.”

“Well, maybe he is, but we don’t know who else is in there and how they will react to us stalking them.”

“We’re not stalkers. We’re seekers, silly. Like the Magi. It will be fine. He will protect us.”

Connie rang the doorbell. The chimes sounded some vaguely familiar tune. She held her breath.

It opened on a scene from a Hallmark movie. Maria sat in red armchair next to the most tinsel I’d ever seen on one tree. In her arms, she cradled an ordinary brown dog with soulful eyes and a bit of an overbite. Her Mom stood in the doorway, wearing a Christmas apron. She smelled of cookie dough and all things good.

“We’ve come to see Him,” Connie said solemnly.

“Jim? He’s at football practice. Are you classmates? You look way too young to be high schoolers!”

“No. We don’t even know Jim. We’re here to see Manny. He knows me. He’ll vouch for us.”

Maria stood up tentatively. Her broken leg was healing, but still tender. “Sit down, please. You know you’re not supposed to put weight on that leg for another week,” her mother gently scolded.

“Any friends of Manny’s are friends of mine. Come on in!”

Connie was clearly in heaven as she held Manny’s head in her hands and stared into His radiant eyes. He really seemed to give her a knowing look, but maybe that’s just my impression. The way they communicated was kind of uncanny, though. Maria saw it, too.

“Would you like to meet with him privately?”, Maria asked. “You seem to have some unfinished business.”

“Could I?”

And then Maria was leading her into a small, sky blue room with a plush doggie bed next to two golden bowls. “I’ll just leave you two alone.”

What went on in that room, I couldn’t tell you. I heard laughter and maybe some tears. I heard rapid speech with intermittent muffled barks.

I lost track of how much time had passed before they both emerged. Time seamlessly blended into eternity. It had no meaning at all. There was only a vibrant, pulsating now.

“Would you like to give little Immanuel a treat?” Maria offered me a biscuit. “That’s his proper name. Jenny could never remember it, so she called him Manny.”

His tongue was warm and sloppy on my fingers. I could feel his warm breath. I have to admit, to me he looked an awful lot like a dog.

We made our way home. Distance compressed like my dad’s automatic measuring tape. Somehow, I arrived in time for spaghetti night. No one asked why I was late. WAS I late? Or where I had been. Where HAD I been? Somehow, it was all understood.

Connie’s parents noticed she was different but couldn’t say how.

All I know for sure is that Connie never lost her freckles, her fervor or her deep conviction that she had enjoyed a personal audience with the God of the universe and somehow been assured of his unwavering love.

As we got older, the memory alternately amplified and diminished.

It was the ineffable secret we shared, igniting my own lifelong quest.

There is one thing of which I am certain. I have never regretted following the one with the courage to follow the star. 

December 22, 2022 19:18

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Laurel Hanson
17:16 Dec 29, 2022

Great story. I really enjoyed the narrator's voice and the interplay between the two rather different characters. The whole idea of finding god in a dog is both a hoot and profound on the level of understanding god to be everywhere. Love - "Morning glories encircled our yard like an ornate frame around the Kodachrome of my childhood" for establishing setting.


Cassandra Adams
23:55 Dec 29, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback, Laurel. The nature of a dog is so unconditionally loving that I thought it would ring true for a child. Glad you featured my opening sentence. I always decide what I want to read by the first sentence. LOL


Laurel Hanson
13:20 Dec 30, 2022

Yep, the opening sentences are critical. Such a difficult part of the process.


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Nicole Of 2022
03:10 Dec 24, 2022

Absolutely amazing work! From the writing to the reading. It's easy to write a story but not so easy to make your readers interested, intrigued, and understanding. But this is your first story and you've done all. Congratulations for finally writing Reedsy. Must've been all that time you spent reading it! Of course, all writers can improve. I'm sure your next story will be even better. Can't wait to read it! Tell me when you've written another. <33 P.s. Not saying this story needs it but you may in the future. Sometimes it's better to he...


Cassandra Adams
22:44 Dec 24, 2022

Thank you so much, Nicole! Your enthusiasm for my story really inspires me to write again soon! I really appreciate your comments and can tell from your writing that you are very real and say what you mean. I love that! Take care!


Nicole Of 2022
01:51 Dec 25, 2022

Aw thank you! Take care!! Happy Holidays <333


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John K Adams
23:48 Dec 22, 2022

This is so great! On so many levels. There are so many quotable lines, hilarious lines! But it all comes together in the most charming and wonderful tale of a most unique Christmas visitation. I can't wait to read more of your stories!


Cassandra Adams
00:12 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you, John. Coming from such a prolific and amazing writer, that really means a lot to me. Your stories always inspire me.


John K Adams
03:29 Dec 23, 2022

You are most welcome!


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