When families gather at Christmas, there can be old resentments, present passions, failed relationships. Yet there are other ghosts of Christmas, memories of happy times and loving faces no longer present, generosity and unselfishness, and, always, the ineffable grace of the Child in the Manger.
This year for me there is also my own special holiday ghost, the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, who first appeared last fall in Ghost at Work. Bailey Ruth’s new adventure - Merry, Merry Ghost - is a Christmas mystery.
And oh what a glorious, happy, rollicking time I spent with my impetuous, redheaded ghost.
I’ve truly never had as much fun writing as I have had in penning three tales about Bailey Ruth. (Ghost in Trouble will be published in Fall 2010.) I first met Bailey Ruth in Ghost at Work as she swung around a cumulous cloud on her way to apply at Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions to return to earth to help someone in trouble. When she was a young girl, she was rescued from drowning. She went on to have a long and happy life. In Heaven, she realizes she would like to help someone in turn.
Her association with the Department and Wiggins, its supervisor, has its ups and downs. Bailey Ruth is impetuous, impulsive, and scarcely ever met a rule that she wouldn’t ignore if she felt the circumstances warranted. She well understands this is likely why she hasn’t been called for a second assignment.
However, she decides to try again, this time vowing that she will be careful, circumspect, avoid appearing (Wiggins frowns upon emissaries appearing), and generally remain unobtrusive.
When she arrives at the Department of Good Intentions, Wiggins admits she’s been on his mind for a particular assignment because she loves Christmas. Bailey Ruth, true to her impulsive nature, responds immediately in this passage from Merry, Merry Ghost:
I was swept by that wonderful feeling of the season when workaday cares recede and we glimpse a world bright with love. “Ooh. Christmas.” Every Christmas Eve, Bobby Mac (a robust tenor) and I (an energetic soprano) entertained Rob and Dill with our duet of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as we pulled a sled laden with gifts into the living room. A two-foot tall stuffed reindeer with a shiny red nose was harnessed to the sled.
I came to my feet, quickly attired in my best Mrs. Claus suit and floppy red Santa hat, and belted out my most spirited version of Rudolph. Tap was popular when I was young and the wooden floor of the station a perfect venue. . . . four slap ball changes, four shuffle hop steps, a shuffle off to Buffalo . . . Sweeping off my Santa hat, I ended with a flap cramp roll and a graceful bow.
Flushed with success, I lifted my gaze to Wiggins.
He sat, brown eyes wide, expression bemused.
Had the man never seen a hoofer before? Had I blown any chance for adven - to be of service? Had my impetuous nature once again landed me in trouble?
So, yes, Bailey Ruth loves Christmas, and Wiggins dispatched Bailey Ruth to her beloved hometown of Adelaide. I hope you will enjoy going home for the holidays with Bailey Ruth as she protects a little boy, assists a determined grandmother, encourages young lovers, and corrals a killer in time to put the sparkle back in Christmas.
To learn more about Carolyn Hart, vist her website.