I was probably about 13, so Brooke would have been 11, Sue 9. We had a tradition of going to Christmas Eve service at St. Mary’s, our Episcopal church in downtown Wayne. This particular Christmas was one of those magical ones where it actually snowed a lot! In fact, it snowed so much the roads weren’t cleared, and I don’t think we could even get our car out of the driveway. In a very un-Irving fashion, we somehow decided to do something different and walk to the service.

St Mary’s was about 6 blocks from our house, so all 5 of us got our Christmas finery on, but with boots, and walked together to the Gothic-styled church. There was that hush you get when there is fresh snow falling, and because the roads weren’t cleared, there were no cars on the road at all. I remember us walking 5 abreast down the middle of the road, swishing the soft snow ahead of us with our galoshes, not doing much talking. Going down Lancaster Pike, the main road in Wayne, we were the only souls out. All the stores on both sides of the road were closed, though brightly lit with lights and decorations. It was as if we were the only people in the whole town.

The large red ornate church doors were both closed. We opened them, piled in, clomping the snow off our boots, and found the church completely dark and empty. Usually, of course, it was festive with candles and dimmed lights, the nave alight with candlelight, poinsettias, the stained glass windows reflecting the flickering light. Tonight it was completely dark.

However, we walked silently up to the altar and were surprised by Father Kier, a grey sweater over his priestly collar, no vestments on. He seemed astonished to see us, and it was likely he was making his last rounds through the empty church. In fact, he said that he was just closing up, since no one had come to the service. But there we were, and he would be happy to officiate.

So we all sat in the front pew for Christmas Eve service. No candles, lights, organ, or even music (I don’t even think we sang any Christmas hymns). Just Father Kier and the 5 of us. We all took communion together at the altar in that silent church. When the service was over, we trooped home, the only sounds our boots swooshing through the snow and a few giggles and jokes.

We had many Christmases that didn’t engender such happy memories, but that one, even after all these years, I can say was truly magical.