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Hannah makes discovery about her mom

Hannah Montgomery carefully placed a chipped golden star at the top of her miniature tree. The small tree was her most treasured possession, despite the fact it always ended up crooked, no matter what she did.

The strand of twinkling white lights had thankfully lasted another year, although the same couldn’t be said for the ornaments, whose box had somehow gotten crushed in her closet under a stack of books. A few could be salvaged, but the rest had to be tossed.

She’d been planning to spend her allowance on a big sheet of Christmas window stickers, and although they would make her window look pretty, she’d much rather have a fully decorated tree, especially because hers was the only one they’d have in the entire house.

She headed downstairs to the kitchen, where her mother sat sorting through the day’s mail. A shiny red envelope was pushed off to the side, and even from the doorway Hannah could smell the sweet scent of peppermint wafting off it.

The same envelope arrived every year like clockwork, right before Christmas.

“Here’s yours,” her mother said, handing Hannah a sparkly green envelope smelling of fresh-cut pine and cold winter air. She took the envelope, already knowing what was inside: the same Christmas card she received every year from the grandparents she’d never met. She’d always been curious about her mother’s parents, but her mom never wanted to talk about them; the yearly Christmas card was the only communication she’d ever had with them.

“Mom, would you be able to take me to the store?” Hannah asked, giving her mom her sweetest smile. “I really need to go.”

Her mom smiled back but shook her head. “Not right now, sweetie. I was just about to get dinner started. What do you need?”

Hannah sighed. “Nothing. Just some new ornaments. Most of mine got broken.”

Her mom pursed her lips, glancing down at the red envelope. “I think I have an old box of ornaments up in the attic. If you can wait until after dinner, I’ll grab them for you.”

“Really? Thanks!” She skipped back to her room, hardly able to believe her mom actually had Christmas ornaments stowed away. They’d never even had a Christmas tree, which was why she’d been ecstatic when she’d found her miniature one at a garage sale for only $3.

She heard the sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen and decided to find the ornaments herself instead of risking her mother changing her mind. The steps to the attic were in the closet in the spare room, and she carefully made her way up the narrow stairs.

She started scanning the writing on the stacks of boxes pushed against the walls. When she got to a small box in the back corner, her eyes widened.

“Charlotte, ’81-’92” she read aloud as she grabbed the box, knocking down another stack of boxes in the process. She’d never seen pictures of her mother as a child, so she eagerly pulled out a stack of photos, her search for ornaments forgotten.

A cute little girl stared out at her from the pictures, one who looked a lot like she did. In many of the pictures, she was with a man and woman who looked oddly familiar.

“My grandparents,” Hannah thought, smiling at the man’s twinkling blue eyes.

But as she flipped through the photos, confusion set in. She stared at a picture of her mother as a toddler, playing with a tiny boy with pointed ears. Then one of her feeding a carrot to an enormous reindeer. And more of her with the pointy-eared boy.

By the time she came to the picture of her mother sitting in a shiny red sleigh, her hands were shaking. She flipped the picture over, reading the description scrawled on the back.

“Charlotte’s first sleigh ride. North Pole, 1990.”

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