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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Our Christmas Songbook - 11. Chapter 11 Fruit of the Tree of Love

"Eleven Pipers Piping" - Literally

Fruit of the Tree of Love

By Cole Matthews

“Eleven Pipers Piping”


“Okay, everybody,” I called out to the throng assembled in the kitchen. The racket was stupendous. There were voices talking, children squealing, the clank of the oven door shutting, and underneath it all was the steady thrum of Christmas music.

Nobody paid attention. Even my husband, Drake, was busy rolling out dough and instructing one of our sons to put fresh parchment paper on the cookie sheet. My other son had our grandson on his shoulders and was mock charging our daughter, who looked like she was ready to pop out a grandchild any minute.

I was thrilled at the commotion, but I did have something I wanted to say.

“Hey!” I shouted into my cupped hands, trying to get them to look over at me. “I have something to say!”

They ignored me. Our little four-year-old grandson, Trey, was tugging on his mom’s pants leg, but he was grinning, with his apple-red cheeks redolent in the brilliant kitchen light. His brother was at the kitchen table, an icing spatula in one hand and a red colored sugar shaker in the other. His mom was showing him how to get the icing all the way to the edge of the cookie. His cousin had a small pastry bag in his hand and was carefully adding details to the cookie in front of him.

Finally, I started to laugh a little, and it occurred to me.

I grabbed a Christmas bell from the arrangement on the cookbook shelf, and started ringing it as loud and obnoxiously as I could.

They all stopped what they were doing, and stared.

It worked. I put the bell back on the shelf.

“Now that I have your attention, I’d like to point out something very interesting with us tonight.”

“What is it, Dad?” my very pregnant daughter asked, and the wry look on her face made me think she probably already knew it would be a bad, grandpa-y joke.

I didn’t disappoint her.

“I wanted to say that as I look around, I see something remarkable.”

“Oh God,” Drake said. “William Henry Piper, what is this all about?”

“See, I got him all riled up,” I said to the two boys at the table who gave me toothy grins in response.

“I see eleven Pipers piping,” I pronounced proudly. “See, my grandsons are busy piping frosting, and of course, they are Pipers through and through.”

“There’s only ten of us, Dad,” Jeremy, our oldest son said shaking his head.

I gestured at our daughter, Elise. “There’s the eleventh one right there.” I swept the room with my hands.

Drake shook his head, but he was smiling. The grandkids all started laughing, even Trey because his brother and cousin were laughing. Our kids were unimpressed with my pun and returned to their activities, but you could tell they thought it was funny too.

“I’m not a Piper,” Drake said waving his rolling pin in the air. “I’m a Maxwell.”

“You are an honorary Piper, just like I’m an honorary Maxwell.”

Drake grinned, nodding his head, and returned to his cookie dough.

I simply enjoyed the fun our family was having.

We had a cookie decorating party every year before Christmas. It started when Elise was just a baby and Jeremy was five and Tyler was three. Drake would get everything ready, and then bake the cookies while I helped our little nuggets, as I called our kids, ice sugar cookies, sprinkle on decorations, and otherwise, just ‘play with our food.’

It was my favorite event of the year.

Every December 20th, Drake would throw on his apron. I’d put down some newspaper under the table, and the kids would decorate sugar cookies and eventually even gingerbread men. They loved doing that the most. We had cinnamon dots for buttons, little sweet tarts for eyes, strings of licorice for smiles, and even tiny piping bags for them to add hair or other items to the big, brown cookies.

We did it every year, even when the kids were in their teens. Drake and I always made them carve out an evening for us to be a family and ‘play with our food’ as Elise always joked. Even when Jeremy and Elise were in college, and Tyler was in trucking school, they’d be home for a night to decorate cookies. It wasn’t always the solstice, but it was usually right around that day.

After graduation, first Jeremy got married to Sarah and got a job, moving from Mesa to LA. Elise was the next married, and while she and Steve only lived down the road in Gilbert, getting together was a bit of a hassle. Tyler married Gennie just a couple of years ago and already had a son. They lived in Denver.

The cookie decorating party had fallen along the wayside.

Until this year. We couldn’t get together last year because of COVID and Drake’s heart condition. So, for the first time in our lives, we didn’t gather as a family. We were alone, and I just couldn’t get the gumption to do anything special. Knowing our family was away, I felt such despair. We Facetimed but it wasn’t the same.

This year was different.

Everybody agreed to come to Christmas. And to cookie decorating, most importantly of all.

Here they were. Jeremy and Sarah, and their two boys, Nate and Trey. Gennie and Tyler with their son, Blake. Of course, Elise was here with our soon-to-be-born granddaughter. Steve had to work tonight. I know Drake was feeling the same way. Last year, we were feeling pretty low, without our family, alone, and missing them. People say that seeing your loved ones is as good as being with them, but that’s stupid. You need to touch them. Hear them up close, in a group, and see their interactions, and that’s what brings you joy.

That was last year. This is now. Now, they were all here and decorating cookies, joking, hugging, eating together, and laughing. Even as the evening was drawing to a close, I wasn’t sad because the kids and their spouses were leaving. It didn’t really bother me that Tyler and Gennie, and Jeremy and Sarah were staying down the street at Elise and Steve’s house. I’d love to have them at the house, the whole damned group of them. That was fine. Someday, Drake and I will be gone, and they’ll need each other. No, it wasn’t that they were leaving.

[I rubbed my hands together in excitement]

The most important part was in the two rooms where Jeremy and Tyler slept, and Elise painted her nails; the three boys were staying over. Grandpa and Grandpop were the hosts to the three little nuggets, and it would be so much fun. Watching Christmas cartoons, eating popcorn, and just being with those adorable kids would have been enough. Having them wake us up early, making them breakfast, and playing video games with them would be a hoot.

But, tonight would be the best. After the movies and just before sleepy-time, was my second favorite Christmas treat.

“Dad?” Jeremy caught my attention as they got on their coats and readied to leave. “Don’t keep them up too late.”

“We won’t,” I promised.

“They will be in bed by nine,” Drake promised.

“That’s good. But, Dad?” Tyler said, looking me square in the eye. He favored Drake’s bright blue eyes, though we weren’t biologically related to any of the three. “Don’t tell them any ghost stories.”

“Of course not,” I said automatically. “I’m not going to terrorize my grandkids.”

Elise stepped up. “Dad, you can’t tell them scary stories. These boys are way too young.”

“I won’t,” I replied, looking as innocently as I could.

Drake looked at me skeptically, but he agreed, “I won’t allow it. Don’t worry about that. William Henry Piper, promise them.”

“I won’t tell them any stories that could scare them,” I said. “Cross my heart.”

“That’s bullshit.” Jeremy laughed. “You can’t resist ghost stories on Christmas eve. I remember waking up screaming on Christmas morning when I was a year younger than Nate.”

“I won’t,” I said, offended. At least I was trying to sound offended. Drake came to my rescue.

“I’ve broke him of that habit,” my husband promised, and patted Tyler and Jeremy’s shoulders.

Both Gennie and Sarah looked doubtful, but they both seemed to be moved by Drake’s vows.

“I won’t tell them anything I ever told you. No scary Christmas stories. I swear,” I promised.

As the kids left, with spouses in tow, I realized Drake was looking behind my back, where my fingers had magically crossed, seemingly on their own.

“I’m so excited for the night,” I said to Drake.

He gave me a pained smile, but I could see his eyes were supportive. “I know, darling man. Let’s get that popcorn popped.”

“I won’t scare them,” I lied. “I really won’t.”

“Yeah,” Drake said, because, of course, he’d met me.


The younger boy was in a room by himself. He was already asleep, and I wasn’t sure Trey could handle this story anyway. We tucked the adorable little nugget in, plugged in a nightlight, and quietly left Elise's old room. He was drooling on the pillow, which only made him cuter to his grandpas.

We then approached the two cousins, still rambunctiously wrestling and writhing in Jeremy and Tyler's bedroom.

“Are we ready to go to sleep?” Drake asked.

“I guess so,” Nate said, nestling down into the covers. “After a bedtime story, I mean.”

Blake nodded enthusiastically. “We do get a bedtime story, right? Dad said you’d tell us one.”

I looked over at Drake and smiled broadly. “I knew it.”

Drake laughed. “Well, as we always say around here. We have met you.”

“Are you sure you can handle it?” I asked, looking from Nate to Blake, and back again.

“Of course,” they both said. They were smiling.

Drake was smiling.

I sat on the bed, and began.

“When I was a young man, way back into the mists of time, in the 1970’s, I was living with my mom and dad in Minnesota. It was very cold and snowy. And the sun set very early, like about four in the afternoon by the time it got to about this time of the year.”

“Was it like, below forty degrees?” Nate asked. “I mean, we saw our breath the other morning, it was so cold.”

I breathed in deeply. “Oh, it gets much colder than that in Minnesota. Sometimes it can be below zero.”

“Below zero?” Nate asked, looking dubious at my claim. “That can’t be.”

“It’s very cold, and if you don’t dress very warmly with lots of layers, you can get terribly cold.”

“Okay,” Nate said. I wasn’t sure he believed me.

“Have you ever held something frozen for a long time. Like a frozen turkey or something?”

“Yeah,” Blake interjected. “It can get really cold in Denver. You can die from it.”

“Really?” Nate asked his cousin. When the boy nodded yes, with his most serious look, our oldest grandson scrunched up his face and looked back at me.

“Anyway, I was really pissed with my dad about something, so I left late at night and went for a walk.”

“Was there snow?” Blake asked, obviously used to that.

“Yeah. It was pretty deep too. The sidewalk was shoveled clean, but otherwise, the snow was piled at least a couple of feet deep. But the problem was, it was so cold that night. I was in my goose-down coat, and still shivering.”

I looked at the boys and they were entranced.

I saw Drake was grinning, out of the corner of my eye.

“So, I was going down to the corner store for some chips. I wanted some Old Dutch Potato Chips, because they always made me feel a little better for some reason.

“It’s because you’re a pig about chips.”

Drake was laughing at me.

“So,” I said pointedly. “I walked down the street to the little corner store and bought some chips. I was heading back home when I saw someone sitting on the street, his back to the sidewalk.”

“Who was he?” Blake asked.

“He was some street person,” Nate said flatly. “A homeless kid.”

“That’s right,” I agreed with him. Nate looked surprised, and he looked at Drake. Drake gave him a sad smile.

“He was a homeless kid. He wasn’t very big, and I paused and asked him if he was okay.”

“He’s a ghost,” Nate said, sounding very sure of himself. “This is a ghost story. Dad warned me about them.”

Blake looked up at me and I just smiled at him. The young tween looked over at Drake. Drake smiled too.

“Is this a ghost story?” he asked.

“How about I tell my story?”

Nate shrugged, but still seemed interested.

Blake was more intrigued, but also reluctant to swallow the tale.

“Where was I?” I asked.

“You saw a homeless ghost,” Nate said, trying to sound flippant.

“Oh, that’s right. So, I asked him what he was doing.” I said. “He said he was very cold.”

“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want him to freeze, but I also wasn’t sure who he was.”

“You invited him home, and the next morning he disappeared,” Nate said. “My dad told me the story already.”

I nodded slowly. “I guess your dad remembers our stories, but I’m not sure he knows this one.”

Nate furrowed his brow and looked over at his cousin. He thought for a few moments, and then turned to look at me.

“What happened next then?” he asked, trying to sound bored.

“I asked him to come home with me,” I said, looking over at Drake. He looked back and smiled.

“The next morning, he was gone, right?” Nate said, sounding triumphant.

“Not really.” I answered. “Do you want to answer this one, my dear?”

The boys both looked at each other, confused, and then looked over at their grandpops.

Drake was shaking. He was barely able to hold in his emotions. He looked at me, just like those many years ago, and begged for someone to save him.

I did so.

“So, I brought your grandpop Drake home with me. He was so cold, and so thin. He had some terrible scars, and was hungry, scared, and more than anything, he didn’t know what to do. Your great grandparents invited him in, kept him safe, and it wasn’t easy. But, that’s the story of how we met.”

Both Nate and Blake looked at us in awe. “That can’t be true,” Nate finally said.

“It is,” Drake said, now with a face beaming in pride. “You are the fruit of the tree of love.”

“You are,” I added. I took his hand, and wiped my face. I watched as the boys realized this wasn’t something simple. In fact, it was something quite special for them.

For the Eleven Pipers Piping, it was their origin story.

I hope you've enjoyed our stories. We have one more tomorrow for Christmas eve, and then the Twelve Days of Christmas will be complete. Thanks for reading and liking and commenting. It makes hard work a joy and blessing.
Copyright © 2021 Valkyrie, Cole Matthews, Aditus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

This was a beautiful story. It showed how family is really important. I loved the 11 pipers piping, a brilliant way of bringing everyone together.

Edited by chris191070
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14 hours ago, Mattyboy said:

Aw,  now I feel like a kid who's grandpa is telling them a story in bed. Very cozy.

  I was kinda expecting bagpipes or something,  but this was very  fun. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought out bagpipes.  As you suggest, the Pipers are that kind of family.  Thanks for the wonderful comments!

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14 hours ago, Valkyrie said:

I love this story.  The characterization is so well done.  I feel like I'm back with my family when I was a kid, when we'd get together and make Christmas cookies.  It was such a fun tradition.  The story was so unexpected, but sweet.  I love the literal interpretation of 11 Pipers piping :gikkle:  

When we first talked about doing the twelve days I immediately thought of the Piper family which is why I pounced on the idea.  I’m glad you enjoyed it. And as always, thanks for all your help.  Merry CHRISTMAS EVE!

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12 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Family, the glue for the ties that bind us!

This was exceptionally well done...thank you!!!

Thank you so much!  What a lovely compliment. Merry Christmas Eve!

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10 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Thanks again for another tale to warm my heart on a long winter night under the half moon. It was quite beautiful. 

Thanks Parker!  And it’s raining in the desert.  Randy is threatening to build and ark, so Santa can get to us.  It’s our first Christmas here and definitely feels like it, especially after the stories.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

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10 hours ago, chris191070 said:

This was a beautiful story. It showed how family is really important. I loved the 11 pipers piping, a brilliant way of bringing everyone together.

I’m glad you enjoyed it.  I had a lot of fun with it.  The cookie decorating party is a part of our lives, though we don’t have children. It does bring people together to “play with their food” thank you and Merry Christmas!

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7 hours ago, Aditus said:

I love the hustle and bustle. I smelled cookies. Eleven Pipers is ingenious.

Thanks Addy!  So glad the hustle and bustle worked, because eleven characters is so many. Thank for all your help and Merry Christmas!  We are baking something with quark tomorrow out of my new cookbook. Very excited!   

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Just now, Cole Matthews said:

We are baking something with quark tomorrow out of my new cookbook.

Cool! I'm making Christmas bread, with cranberries and roasted almonds. Merry Christmas!

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4 hours ago, raven1 said:

My family didn't have a cookie day tradition, but the description of all the commotion did remind me of getting all the food ready for the Christmas feast with Dad, Mom, brothers, sister and all my nieces and nephews (who were about my age).  I was captivated by the story their grandfather told them. This story and the story of love that created the family is a very special gift from you to all of us.  Thanks Cole!  I have a special feeling for Christmas this year because of all the great authors contributing to this anthology!

Merry Christmas 🎅 

I heavily borrowed from memories of childhood christmases with our extended family.  They were always chaotic, but somehow organized.  I’m so glad you enjoyed it.  Merry Christmas to you and thank you for reading and commenting!

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3 hours ago, Kitt said:

I read this last night before turning in. How appropriate it turned out to be a feel good bedtime story for me!  Thank you.

Thanks so much Kitt!  I’m glad you enjoyed it.  Merry Christmas and hope you have a blessed holiday season!

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3 hours ago, dughlas said:

We've had a cookie baking tradition for as long as I can remember, over 50 years. It's just mum and I now but I can remember those early years when after the cutout cookies were finished the floor was crunchy with spilled sugar and sprinkles. A teen, I was the oldest, than my sister, mum's bf's 3 kids and the 3 neighbor kids. Mum would put a tray on the seat of a kitchen chair so the littlest could reach. We decorated prebaking rather than icing and decorating after the cookies cooled. 

Thanks for the memories.


That is so special!  I’m so happy I could connect like this.  What a wonderful memory, and how interesting. Have a very Merry Christmas and a terrific holiday season! 

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53 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

I hope my time tomorrow, with brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews, is half as much fun. Merry Christmas, Cole.

Knowing you, it will be!  Have a very Merry Christmas! 

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