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Magical ornaments hold tales of campers past

Their last day at Camp Secret Santa was filled to the brim with activities. Olivia had finally gotten her chance to help at the Post Office, and it was every bit as magical and amazing as her friends said. After lunch, she’d been able to spend a bit more time with the reindeer and was pleased to see Chip nailing his every landing.

They all got their biggest surprise during a scavenger hunt that took them all over the village. The final clue led them to a room inside the Town Hall building, and Olivia gasped when they opened the door.

The room was huge, easily three times as big as the gym at her school, and the ceiling was at least five stories high. Fluffy flakes of snow seemed to fall from the ceiling itself, disappearing long before they hit the ground. Most breathtaking of all, thousands of ornaments hung suspended in midair, slowly spinning and bobbing in place.

“What is this?” Chloe whispered, and Olivia stepped forward and gently touched one of the ornaments. The instant her finger touched the smooth bulb, visions flashed through her mind of a young boy, one angry at the world. She saw him meet Kris Kringle, she saw him working with the reindeer, and she saw him laughing with other kids as they ate a batch of Mrs. Claus’ fresh-baked sugar cookies.

With a gasp, she pulled her finger away and saw writing on the ornament.

“Bryan Bigsley, 1994,” she said, and looked at all the other ornaments. “Guys, I think these are the names of all the kids who have come here in the past.”

“You’re absolutely correct.” Startled, they all whirled around to see Kris standing behind them, grinning widely. “As you can see, we’ve been helping to reignite the spirit of Christmas for a long, long time.”

With a flick of his hand, six new ornaments appeared, and Olivia knew that each one would bear the name of one of her new friends.

“I encourage you to look around,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “You never know what surprises you might find.”

Olivia glanced around the room, unsure where to start. She narrowed her eyes as a flash caught her attention, and she moved toward a glittery purple bulb. It looked ordinary once she was up close, but she could swear it had been glowing a moment ago.

Her eyes widened and she gasped as she read the inscription. “Elizabeth Marks, 1996.” Marks was her mother’s maiden name! And in 1996, she would have been right around Olivia’s age. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and touched the ornament.

She saw her mom as a young girl, scowling with her arms crossed while a younger version of Olivia’s grandmother shook her head sadly. Then she saw her mom laughing as she flew down a sledding hill, and dancing in a ballroom with other kids and a bunch of elves. Moment after moment of her mother’s life she’d never known about passed through her mind, and tears sprang to her eyes when she pulled her finger away from the bulb.

Now it all made sense: why her mother had trusted Kris without question, why she was so sure this camp would be good for Olivia and why she believed the magic was real. She’d been right about everything, and Olivia couldn’t wait to give her a hug and share their experiences with each other.

By the amazed exclamations around her, the rest of the kids were discovering similar secrets about their parents or other family members.

Tears streamed down Gia’s face as she stared at a shiny blue ornament. “I saw my mom,” she whispered. “I never thought I’d see her again, but I did.” Grinning through her tears, she surprised Olivia by wrapping her in a hug.

“My mom was here, Olivia! It’s almost like I get to make one last memory with her, in a way.”

Olivia hugged her back, and then felt another set of arms around her.

“I’m glad I met you guys,” Chloe said as they welcomed her into the hug. One by one, the rest of the group joined in. Olivia stood in the middle of a group hug, surrounded by friends who had started off broken like her but were finally beginning to heal.

Even though a week wasn’t a long time, it was enough to change her forever, and she’d be eternally grateful to the magic of Camp Secret Santa for giving her and her new friends the chance to believe in something again.

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