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Short Stories for Children of All Ages: A New Year's storyA New Year's story


When Danni went to the Synagogue with his father on New Year's Eve, he saw that everybody was standing and praying. He looked on and listened to the singing of many voices. After the service was over, Danni said to his father:

"Daddy, you go home and please let me go down to the beach. I have something very important to say to the sea. It's a secret."

His father agreed at once, for he knew that Danni was a great friend of the sea, and that he understood how to talk to the waves in their own language. He had learned this because he used to spend day after day at the seaside, listening to the crashing of the waves until he was able to tell just when the sea was angry and when it was calm; when it was in a temper and when it was happy.

It was thus that Danni had learned the strange sea-language which the water spoke when it crawled up the beach, and he knew what it was saying.

So off he ran to the sea-shore. There wasn't a soul in sight because everybody was in his house getting ready for the New Year... Danni stood quite still on the beach and his lips moved quietly as if he were saying his prayers.

"Sea, O my dear sea!" he murmured. "Please bring lots and lots of little children upon your waves! Bring them from far over the horizon. This is all I ask you to do."

These were the only words Danni spoke. Nothing else. Then, all of a sudden, he saw a lovely lady standing beside him, such a very beautiful lady. She was wearing a gown of sky‑blue which fell to her feet. At first Danni was rather startled, but the minute he saw her radiant face he was no longer afraid. He walked over to her and asked:

"Please, who are you, lovely lady, and where do you come from?"

"I may not tell you who I am, dear child," replied the stranger, and her voice sounded like the voice of the quiet waves murmuring on a clear summer's day. "I came because I heard your prayer and to make your wish come true. And now, my child, tell me what you see?"

Then she took off her blue cloak and spread it on the surface of the waves so that Danni could not tell the difference between the blue of her cloak and the blue of the waves, because they both seemed to blend into a new blueness like the sky. Little by little the stranger spread out her cloak until it covered the waves completely. Next she collected its four corners, and, wonderful to relate, there on the waves, quite close to the shore, a small rowing-boat appeared, swaying up and down.

The rowing-boat rocked on the sea like a cockle-shell, and inside it there were children! Five children, thin and cold and barefooted, with the salt water dripping from their clothes. It was clear that their boat had been shipwrecked, or maybe broken loose from its moorings, and had drifted out into the open sea. In their dreadful plight, they had rowed without stopping.

Danni watched the children as they climbed out of the rowing-boat, shivering in the cool air — for evening had now fallen — and huddling together from fear, while all the time the water was dripping from their clothes. They were weeping bitterly, tears streaming down their cheeks.

The children looked at Danni and he returned their gaze, but not a word passed between them. He simply could not speak, for his heart was too full of pity and he felt that if he tried to say anything he, too, would burst into tears. The children just stood there silently. They were tired from their wanderings, and they were half afraid that they might be sent away from this sandy beach, too...

Suddenly, the stranger's soft voice was heard, sweet and tender and motherly, saying: "Come, children, you mustn't be frightened. This is Danni, your friend. He it was, who prayed for you to come. He has lots of playmates who are also waiting for you to come to these sands. Come and meet each other."

Step by step the children walked towards Danni. Nearer they came, and nearer still. Then one of them whispered: "Hello, Danni, here we are. We've had a terrible time and such a hard and long journey that we are desperately tired. But at last we have come."

Danni answered: "Oh, do come home with me. Please do. Mother and father and a house full of friends are waiting to greet you. Tonight is a special holiday. Come along." So they set off together, the children walking unsteadily at first but getting stronger as they walked along. Danni took the hand of the smallest child, so thin and sad was he. As they passed the houses they could hear the noise of laughter and singing from the windows, because this was the eve of the festival and everyone was getting ready for Rosh Hashana. When they reached Danni's home, his mother opened the door and they could see the rooms all brightly lit inside. A white table-cloth was on the table, the candles were burning brightly, while good things to eat, specially prepared for the feast, covered the table.

"Mother, they have come," said Danni simply.

"Wonderful," replied his Mother. "Come, at last! We've been waiting for you for ages, children. Sit down now, all of you, and enjoy yourselves, and eat to your hearts' contents."

She then placed them around the table and they ate and ate until they could eat no more. While they were busily feasting, Danni glanced out of the window. Was not that the lovely lady in her sky-blue gown going up to the mountain top? And were those not holy angels coming down to greet her and singing: "Blessed art thou, New Year, blessed art thou..." And then Danni knew that the lovely stranger who had made his prayer come true was none other than the Fairy of the New Year who had itself come to visit him.

Leslie Daiken

Gan-Gani Let us play in Isreal

Tel-Aviv, N. Tversky Publishing House, 1966

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