This film is really for Young Adults, but perhaps older adults familiar with young adults may also enjoy this story. I was unaware that there are 40 “Mandie” books written by Lois Gladys Leppard, who wrote her first story when she was eleven years old. Another surprise is that Joy Chapman who plays Miss Prudence in “Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas” is also the screenwriter, producer, and director of the film.
Christmas Tree - Wikimedia
Mandie Shaw (Kelly Washington) is a student at Miss Heathwood’s Boarding School for Girls at the turn of the century. The strict rules and regulations at the school are designed to teach the girls proper etiquette so that they will become ladies in an upper class culture. Mandie let it slip one day to Miss Heathwood (Joanna Daniel) that she was part Cherokee and her uncle Ned would be coming to visit her. Miss Heathwood advised Mandie politely that she should not mention her Cherokee heritage to anyone and that she should meet with her uncle Ned off the premises.
Mandie had a hard time keeping the rules, particularly the one that said you must not be tardy. It seemed that she was always in hot water. In an opening scene, the girls were hosting a dinner for the boys at a nearby Boarding School for young men. Of course, Mandie walked in late. She was helping Farmer Earl with the horses on the grounds and lost track of time.
A Visit to the Attic
Since Christmas was coming up shortly, Mandie wondered to her friend Polly (Amanda Waters) if they could start decorating for Christmas. Polly answered that if you asked Miss Heathwood using proper etiquette, the answer would be “yes.” Polly then asked politely if they could begin the Christmas decorating. Of course, the answer was “yes.” Mandie and Polly were chosen to visit the attic and to take two of the young men with them. Tommy and Robert joined them. It appeared that Miss Heathwood never liked to visit the attic and had a different excuse each year why she would not take part in setting up the decorations.
In the attic, as the four young people navigated the creaky slats, a hat stand holding several hats fell over. Mandie’s companions thought she had done it although she claimed she was nowhere near it. They were allowed to take only what the four could carry easily, although the Christmas decorations in the attic were fabulous and plentiful.
Christmas Angel Ornament - Wikimedia
Another Rule Broken
The next day, a dead rabbit was found on the front steps, and it was decided that rabbit stew would be a nice meal for the girls. While Mandie and Polly were getting ready for bed that night, Mandie thought she heard a noise coming from the attic. Polly did not hear it. No one was allowed in the attic at any time without the permission of Miss Prudence (Joy Chapman), Miss Heathwood’s assistant. Mandie knew that Miss Prudence always kept the attic key in a box on the mantle in her bedroom. She tiptoed in stealthily and headed for the attic, where the hat stand fell over once again. Miss Prudence caught Mandie coming from the attic and forbade her to take part in the Christmas decorating. Instead, she was to have kitchen duty.
Polly told Mandie that the Christmas Ball with the boys would take place next week, and they made plans to go. Polly warned Mandie she had better behave if she wanted to attend. Miss Heathwood told Mandie she was never to go up to the attic again. Mandie asked her “Why don’t you like decorating for Christmas?” Miss Heathwood answered her “Don’t waste time pondering things that are long forgotten.” Mandie put a star at the top of the Christmas tree that she had found in the attic. Shortly thereafter, Miss Heathwood took the star down from the tree.
A Writing Assignment
Miss Heathwood gave the girls an assignment to write a story that would be five pages long. Mandie told her she would write a true story about a girl who hears noises in the attic, but she wondered if Miss Heathwood could think of a good ending for it. Surprisingly, Miss Heathwood told her to take somebody with her and go to the attic. Mandie and Polly went up to the attic. Mandie called out “We brought you bread, but you’ll have to come out.” “Did you leave that rabbit on our step?” Polly said “Something smells putrid up here.”
A Mystery Solved
A red-headed girl stepped out of the darkness and said “I’m sorry. I haven’t had a bath in a month.” She said was trying to get an education. Her mother had always dreamed of sending her here, but now they had eight children, and they could not afford to send her. The girl’s name was Celia and she told them not to reveal that she was in the attic and “don’t come again.”
The girls made cookies for Christmas. Polly wanted to save hers to give to Robert at the Christmas Ball. Mandie saved her cookies for Celia. She also brought her some blankets to keep her warm.
Christmas Cookies - Wikimedia
Celia said she was writing a story; she loved to write. There was a small tin treasure box in the attic. “I’ll open my treasure box when I finish my story,” she said.
An Old Manuscript
The next time Mandie went to the attic, Celia had finished her story and they opened the treasure box. It was a manuscript of a play entitled “The Forgotten Christmas.” But the play had no ending. Another rabbit had been found on the stairs, so Mandie said to Celia “I’ll bring you back some rabbit stew.”
Miss Heathwood had an announcement. The young men at the Boarding School had been hunting for a turkey for the Christmas Ball but had been unsuccessful. “Please don’t be disappointed at their dinner,” she said.
Wild Turkey - Wikimedia
Mandie met uncle Ned and told him about the turkey hunt. He had brought Mandie a golden angel for the top of a Christmas tree. The next day, uncle Ned made turkey calls and tracked a turkey. Mandie used his bow and arrow and was able to bring down the turkey which she gave to Robert and Tommy for the Christmas Ball dinner.
Mandie Can’t Lie Anymore
On her next visit to the attic, Mandie said to Celia: “I can’t keep lying. I’m going to tell them you’re up here and I’m going to convince them to let you stay.”
Miss Heathwood questioned Mandie about the turkey and said to her “You have broken all the rules of etiquette. You will not attend the dance.” Mandie blurted out that a girl was living in the attic. Miss Heathwood said: “Tell her she must leave immediately. We can’t take in every little urchin who wants an education. She will only discover in the end that it wasn’t enough. Evicting her is the kindest thing I can do.” When Mandie told Miss Prudence what had transpired, she said to Mandie “You don’t have all the information. Ask Headmaster Dwayne.”
About to break another rule, Mandie said to Celia “Tomorrow we will get all dressed up and go to the Christmas Ball.” After all the other girls had left for the Ball, Farmer Earl gave Mandie and Celia a ride over in a horse-drawn sleigh.
Another Mystery Solved
At the Ball, Mandie made a beeline to Headmaster Dwayne. She told him about the girl in the attic and asked why Miss Heathwood did not like Christmas. “Once upon a time,” he said, “a girl wrote a Christmas play. She went to New York with it but she couldn’t get the right ending for it and didn’t know the right people to help her. She went back home.”
Celia told Mandie “I finished the play.” Mandie was elated. “Once Miss Heathwood knows you finished the play, she’ll have to let you in.
You will not hear the ending here, so you will have to view the film. It makes for a great Christmas story, so be sure to fit it into your schedule to get you in the Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Merry Christmas! - Wikimedia