Christmas Eve night. The mountains of North Carolina were giant silhouettes in the darkness. Sheriff Andy Taylor sat on the bench outside the courthouse, watching the stars.
It had been a hard year. Maybe the hardest of his career. The sheriff was downhearted, which didn’t happen often. But then, sheriffs have feelings too.
When it started to snow, Taylor shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets and slipped into a trance. Christmas morning was only a few hours away, and he wanted to feel cheerful, but he couldn’t seem to make it happen.
His deputy joined him on the bench. The scrawny, high-strung lawman had just finished doing his nightly rounds, shining a flashlight into storefront windows; checking doorknobs. All quiet in Mayberry.
“Whatcha doing, Ange?” said his deputy. “Why the long face?”
Taylor flashed a fake smile. “I’m just looking at stars.”
The deputy was obviously concerned, but Taylor hardly noticed. He was too busy thinking about all he’d seen during his years serving this sleepy hamlet. He’d seen it all. Or just about.
He’d once seen the town drunk ride a cow down mainstreet. He’d seen a local goat eat dynamite. He’d jailed bank robbers, swindlers, chicken thieves, speeders, escaped convicts, moonshiners, and Danny Thomas.
Life was moving too fast. The world had gone from AM radios to color TVs. He’d watched the tailfins on Chevys and Fords get taller each year. He’d seen skirts get shorter, hairstyles get shaggier, music get louder, and people get meaner. Airplanes gave way to rocketships. A man hit a golf ball on the moon. Divorce was becoming more fashionable than blue jeans.
But this year…
This year was a humdinger. It was worse than the rest. This was the year the world fell apart. People in town were more frightened and skittish than ever before. And sometimes it seemed like nothing in Mayberry was going right.
Taylor looked at the nightscape and tried to figure out which constellations he was looking at. But he was never very good with astronomy. A single star hung in the distance over the nearby backwater of Mount Pilot.
“You see that star?” said Taylor to his deputy.
“Yeah. I see it.”
“You reckon that’s how the Bethlehem star looked?”
“Bethlehem? Are you sure you’re okay? You worry me.”
The sheriff never took his eyes from the sky. “What do you think it was like, Barney? Bethlehem and everything?”
The deputy seemed to be thinking about this. The sheriff could hear the cogs in his friend’s head.
His deputy said, “Well, I think it woulda been darn crowded in that stable, for one thing. All them goat herders and wise guys.”
“Men. You mean wise men.”
“Correct. Males. No ladies were present.”
The sheriff paused. “No women? It was a childbirth.”
“Well, except for Mary. She stopped in for a little bit.”
Good old Barney.
The deputy went on, “I, for one, think it woulda been pretty dang exciting to see the Three Kings bearing their gifts, the gold, the silver, and the bronze.”
“You mean the frankincense and myrrh.”
“Do you even know what myrrh is, Barn?”
“Do I? What do you take me for? What I know is that it was quite an important night. There were angels in the sky, and cherubs proclaiming, ‘Peace on earth! Goodwill to men! Glory on the eggshells day-oh!”
“It’s French. Read the book, Ange.”
The sheriff and the deputy fell silent. They watched their tiny hometown do what it did best. Which was nothing at all. Wreaths adorned each window. Shopfronts featured twinkling lights. The snow was picking up tempo.
Sheriff Taylor asked his deputy, “You think we’ll get through this year, Barney? It’s been a difficult one.”
It was a serious question indeed. And it hung between them for a while. Even the sheriff could feel the weight within his own voice. There was doubt in it.
“Yes, I do,” said his deputy. “I know we’re gonna get through it. In fact, I’m certain.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“What makes me sure?” The deputy raised his voice. “Because, Andy. I just know it.”
“But how? How do you know?”
His deputy looked away like he was blowing a fuse. “You beat everything, you know that? Because I know, Ange. I just do. You wanna know how I know?”
“You really wanna know?”
“Well, then I’ll tell you. I know because this morning I drove to pick up Miss Emma Brand from her hospital checkup. And do you know what I saw when I walked into the hospital?”
Taylor shook his head.
“Babies, Ange. I passed the maternity ward and saw all kinds of babies. Lots. The nurse even let me hold a few. They spit up on me and everything.”
“Is that right?”
“It was beautiful. And last week, when I directed traffic for the school crossing, do you know what every boy and girl did when they passed me? They said ‘Merry Christmas, Barney,’ and gave me handmade Christmas cards.”
“Every last one. I got forty-three cards. It’s enough to make a grown man go all to pieces.”
The sheriff looked at his shoes. The somber silence made his deputy uncomfortable.
“Andy…” The deputy’s voice was breaking now. “You can’t be sad. Cheer up, pal. You’re the heart of this town. You’re my best friend. I need you. If we lose you, we’ve lost everything. C’est la vie, man! E pluribus unum! Status quo! Non sequitur! Et cetera, defacto!”
“It’s Latin, it means ‘tit for tat,’ and qué será será, and livin’ la vida loca.”
Taylor was laughing now. “What are you talking about?”
“It means we’re gonna get through this, Ange. One day we won’t even remember this horrible year, and it’ll be like old times.”
Then the skinny deputy threw his arms around his old pal in an embrace and slapped the sheriff’s back so hard it stung. Taylor could hear his deputy sniffling in his ear. The sheriff smiled, then squeezed his oldest friend in earnest.
And somehow Andy Taylor knew that no matter what happens in this raggedy world, a person can face anything if they have a friend.
oldlibrariansshelf - December 24, 2020 7:00 am
Friends: Best cure for sad faces and hard times.
Babies: Hope in a tiny bundle.
Sean: Best writer to remind us of hope.
ponder304 - December 24, 2020 9:37 am
Amen….Hope in Jesus….The baby born in a stable……
Joyce Mullikin - December 24, 2020 10:45 am
We’re resilient, we pick ourselves up after everything that knocks us down. This virus is very bad but those that make it through will eventually shake it off & resume live as normal again. At least I hope.
Melissa - December 24, 2020 11:01 am
I could hear their voices and see their images as I read this. Thank you for bringing up one of the greatest two people from my memory bank. Merry Christmas Sean, to you and your family❤🎄
Cheryl - December 24, 2020 11:35 am
All heart emojis here. Merry Christmas Sean 🙂
Bob Brenner - December 24, 2020 11:44 am
You are absolutely right! I grew up watching Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Opie. Enough lessons in those shows to last a lifetime! Thanks Sean. Merry Christmas 🎄 Bob
Kathy A Reaves - December 24, 2020 12:02 pm
I wonder if this was supposed to be 1963 since we had lost President Kennedy just over a month before.
Steve - December 24, 2020 12:03 pm
It was the Andy’s, Barney’s, Aunt Bee’s, and Opies that got us thru this year. Yesterday Aunt Bee dropped gifts off to our neighbors. Last night 3 Opies sang a Christmas song out of key at the Wednesday night service. Barney and Andy always showed up throughout this year when you least expected and most needed them.
It’s highly unlikely we will ever forget 2020, but in a week we can finally say we made it, and maybe feel a little pride, hopefully feeling a boldness to continue forward movement. God has us in his hands, and hopefully we will keep Him in our hearts. Be of good courage.
Ronbo - December 24, 2020 12:07 pm
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. Merry Christmas
Leigh Amiot - December 24, 2020 12:14 pm
Hope is what we all need after 2020’s brutalizations. After all these years and in Barney’s hilariously bumbling way, his character reminds us to open our eyes and literally see hope. Merry Christmas, Sean, to you and yours and all your readers.
Jim Curry - December 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Sean, I’m a 68 year old fan and I wanted to thank you for Christmas in Mayberry, I just finished reading it and would say more but I think I have something in my eye, you know what I mean, Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Virginia - December 24, 2020 1:08 pm
A great one. Now I am smiling and hopeful. Tks and Merry Christmas.
joan moore - December 24, 2020 1:11 pm
Merry Christmas and thanks again for your talent, It Is A Gift!
MaryBeth WOOLARD - December 24, 2020 1:13 pm
Great column! I laughed. I cried. Perfect!!!!! Merry Christmas!!!!
Roxanne - December 24, 2020 1:35 pm
I could hear and see this in black and white in my mind! I could see Barney at the filing cabinet pulling out his 43 hand-made cards, while Andy reclined in his chair with his hands folded over his stomach. Perfection! Good ol’ Barn, comin’ in clutch! Good ol’ Sean…
Bob Rennick - December 24, 2020 1:52 pm
Sean, you beat all, you know that?
Connie - December 24, 2020 1:53 pm
Dang it. It’s too early for waterworks. Love and hugs and Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and your family.
Mildred Davis - December 24, 2020 2:01 pm
True and beautiful. Thank you
Jan - December 24, 2020 2:07 pm
Simple, beautiful and so true! Thank you!
Steve - December 24, 2020 2:24 pm
You brought it again. Excellent. Merry Christmas to you and yours
Goober Fife - December 24, 2020 2:25 pm
Amen Sean…I agree I can see them, and hear those words too…Thanks for all your writings we ‘Preciate it!
Edith Eubanks - December 24, 2020 2:30 pm
Thank you, Sean! Andy and Barney would say that other folks ought to be mentioned, not them. But they and you have helped us get through all of this. Merry Christmas! 💕💕💕🎅🤶🎄⭐🎁
Heidi - December 24, 2020 2:51 pm
You & Jamie, Thelma Lou & Otis helped us get through rough days this year and we appreciate it. Of course, some Barney and Andy always help too. Merry Christmas!
Wanda Willis - December 24, 2020 3:32 pm
That was wonderful! And the best part? I read it hearing the voices of Andy and Barney! Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family 🙂 Love your posts!
Susan Parker - December 24, 2020 3:35 pm
Merry Christmas to you and Jamie, Sean! With the help of God, we can and will get through anything. (But maybe it’s easier in Mayberry!)
Lanni Fish - December 24, 2020 3:47 pm
I am trying to subscribe, entering my email address correctly, but I keep getting the error message and a request to try again. Can anyone help me figure out what the problem might be?
Melanie Clearman - December 24, 2020 5:02 pm
Smiling through the tears…Merry Christmas to you and Jamie, my friends.
Christopher Spencer - December 24, 2020 5:06 pm
Reminds me of an old hymn, ” What a friend we have in Jesus”.
May all of you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
Love in Christ,
Laurence w church - December 24, 2020 5:17 pm
A wonderful Christmas gift 🎄
Pat L - December 24, 2020 5:19 pm
Thank you and Merry Christmas!!
Ann Syfert - December 24, 2020 6:24 pm
Merry Christmas to you and your sweet Jamie and family, Sean. You and your writings have brightened many a morning for me and I am so grateful, laughter, tears and all. God bless you with many more years of love from your family and friends (us your readers). We love you!!!!!
budmclaughlin - December 24, 2020 7:16 pm
Peace and hope! Thank you, Sean, for your present to the world.
Christine - December 24, 2020 7:21 pm
Merry Christmas and Happy, Peaceful, 2021. Looks like we made it through 2020 with God’s help. And your writings❣🎄⛄
Elizabeth - December 24, 2020 7:26 pm
Merry Christmas to all!
MAM - December 24, 2020 7:31 pm
And I continue to be thankful for my very best friend, my husband! I thank God for putting us in the same place at the same time 53 years ago. I could not have survived this year without my God and my husband! And thanks to you, Sean, for always reminding us of what’s important!
Sheri K - December 24, 2020 7:40 pm
Thank you Sean for all the laughs and tears you’ve shared with us this year! You have been a light for so many and we love you!!! You and Jamie and “the kids” have a blessed Christmas!
Jackie from Chattanooga - December 24, 2020 8:41 pm
Thank you. And Merry Christmas!!!
Linda Moon - December 24, 2020 9:48 pm
We had an early visitor from the chimney today. It wasn’t Saint Nicholas. It was, and still is, an unbeknownst Satan Creature who’s been tapping at the fireplace all day. I hope it’s gone by the time Santa hurries down our chimney tonight. Barney’s and Ange’s conversations will help me get through Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of a Friend who will never leave or forsake us. I’m facing this raggedy ordeal a little better after reading your post, Friend!
Patricia Gibson - December 25, 2020 1:23 am
Judy Broussard - December 25, 2020 3:16 am
Amen Sean. Wishing you and Jamie a very Merry Christmas
Doug Garretson - December 25, 2020 7:52 am
What a wonderful addition to the Mayberry story! I could hear Andy and Barney’s voices in my head as I read. Loved it!
anewsome - December 25, 2020 3:54 pm
Thank you for this, Sean! Mayberry Christmas!!
diana9079 - December 27, 2020 8:49 pm
Love this! Mayberry and Christmas…. Can it get any better?
Julie - January 11, 2021 4:18 pm
“You beat everything Barney (I mean Sean), you know that?”