“And they’re ours. Rudolph and the Grinch belong to everybody. But the Christmas Wolves are Kekionga’s.”
Nobody had much to say to that . And so there, Iowa thought. Logic, mythic or otherwise, was one thing and beloved holiday traditions were another. At Christmastime, it’s OK for even logical people to believe in Christmas Wolves, at least a little. She peeked over at Jack and found him peeking back, and smiling that particular Jack smile, the one that said that Jack believed in stuff like that all year round, and that didn’t keep him from being logical at the same time. (She was going to figure out how he did that, no matter how long it took. )
She looked beyond Jack to Bud leaning on the back of the bench watching the crowd (his crowd?) in a benevolent way, and back the other way to the Professor, who had managed to snag a hot cider in a styrofoam cup and was sniffing it with concentrated, uncritical pleasure. Bud had lived here for longer than anyone could quite remember. How many Christmases had he spent in Kekionga? The Professor had come here when she was in high school; he’d been an adult and he was still learning. Iowa herself hadn’t had that many yet, but they were all the Christmases she had.
And Jack, well, she knew it was his first time, but he was already better at it than everyone else. Iowa kind of decided right then that he wasn’t ever going to spend Christmas anywhere else if she had anything to say about it.
“Rankka Rakka Voop Prit Voop!” Josef popped out of the hood of Bud’s red hoodie, vocalizing at the top of his variable sized lungs. Because really, since when was Josef, who was usually the size of a rather large fox terrier, also small enough to hide in the hood of a Carhartt sweatshirt?
“Josef says any holiday tradition with positive social impact is a good one,” Jack translated, and since Bud nodded his approval he was probably correct. Iowa and the Professor didn’t have time for their usual debate about whether Josef ever actually said anything or were Bud, Jack, and several of the neighborhood children were just messing with people’s heads when they interpreted his remarks, because Josef disppeared into Bud’s hood again and reappeared carrying a stem of mistletoe.
“There,” said Jack, “is a tradition we can all get behind.”
“Speak for yourself,” said the Professor. “I am not going to kiss Bud.” Bud didn’t protest, so the Professor kissed Iowa’s hand in a Continental sort of way, and Iowa kissed Josef on the head and Bud on the cheek, then she turned to Jack and kissed him. Properly. And yes, this was definitely her favorite Christmas tradition.
When they finally finished, they were alone. “Wow,” said Jack. “Talk about a winter wonderland.” Iowa went to smack him, because really, he was so corny sometimes, but she stopped suddenly. Because at that moment, just at that single, exact moment, it began to snow.
“C’mon.” Jack was tugging at her hand. “Let’s go by the pet store. We should get some dog biscuits in case it keeps snowing.”
“Sure,” he said. “For the Christmas Wolves. You shouldn’t give ‘em people food.”
Iowa and Jack went running together down Indiana Avenue. And the snow fell around them, as white and perfect as the snow in a Christmas story.
A very Merry Christmas, a happy winter holiday season, and a hopeful New Year, from everyone in Kekionga to everyone else, wherever you are.