1945: “Will Daddy be home for Christmas?”
“Yes, baby, he will. Are you excited?”
“Oh, Mommy, I am!”
“Susie, do you remember Daddy from before the war?”
“No, Mommy. But his letters are so wonderful.”
1955: “This stinks like a garbage dump on the East River on a 100 degree day. My old man says I have to stay home on Christmas. The sock hop is going to be so cool, and all the cats and dolls will be there, but not me.”
1959: “No, you can’t come home for Christmas, Susie. You’re seven months pregnant. Why do you think we sent you away?”
1962: “No, Momma, I won’t bring Patty home for Christmas. You’re the ones who wanted me to give her away. And now you want to see her? And stop calling it ‘home.’ The Village is home now. Good-bye, Momma.”
1975: “Momma, it’s me, Susan.”
“Susie?! Where are you? We gave up trying to find you.”
“Momma, can I come home? I’m scared. I have cancer. I booked a flight for Christmas Eve. Please say ‘yes.’”
“Yes, Susie, yes!”
1981: “No, Momma, I just can’t do it. Don’t you understand? I know you and Daddy were there for me when I had cancer, but it’s never good. There’s too much water under the bridge. We always fight. And the children won’t come. There were so hurt when Frank left. The boys heard what he said—that he couldn’t take any more trouble from other men’s kids. They want to go see Patty in Minneapolis.”
“But, Susie, I don’t know if your father will last until next Christmas.”
“I just can’t, Momma.”
2001: “Patty, I’m going to visit Grammy in the nursing home for Christmas. Wish me luck.”
“Hello, Momma, it’s Susan.”
“Oh, hello, dear. Did you say your name is Susan? Now, that’s interesting. I had a daughter named Susan. She was a good girl. We had some problems with her, though. Don’t tell anybody, but she got pregnant when she was a teenager. Of course, we made her go away. That’s just what you do. I hope someday people stop doing that. It was terrible. I used to cry at night. But I always put on a brave face to her. Tried to make her realize how wrong pre-marital sex was. But it didn’t work. She—well, dear—she became very loose. Sometimes I think it was our fault. We lost track of her for a while. That was horrible. Can you imagine not knowing where your daughter is? But then we found her. Something happened. I don’t remember what. But, one day she just called up and asked if she could come home. Of course, we said ‘yes.’
“But then another bad thing happened. I begged her to come home for Christmas one year. Her father was dying, you see? She wouldn’t do it. When he died—I guess I can tell you, dear—you’re such a good listener—I hated her. Isn’t that terrible?
“Don’t cry. It’s OK. Time heals all wounds, they say. And one day, years later, I just realized that all the hate was gone. That was a wonderful day! Because, you know, my daughter was such a sweet girl. I hope she knew how much I loved her.
“It’s OK. My, my, you’re a sensitive one. But enough about me. What brought you here, dear?”
“I came to visit my mother.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Kind of like going home for Christmas—except she lives here. Did you bring her a gift?”
“I brought her a picture of my family.”
“How wonderful! Could I see it? What a large family! Who are all these people?
“These are my children, Patty, John, and Peter; and—
“They don’t favor each other, do they?”
“No, ma’am, I guess not. And these are their spouses, and—
“No divorces? Oh, what a blessing. My poor daughter, she had so many divorces. Well—don’t tell anybody, but I’m not really sure she married all those men. But I can tell you this—it hurt her something terrible, just the same. She thought we didn’t know, but we knew.”
“And these are my grandchildren—my mother’s great-grandchildren—Jimmy, Sarah, Julie, Tommy, Edward, and Carol.”
“Now isn’t that funny. My name is Carol, too. I’m sure your mother is very proud of this fine family. I’m sure she loves you very much.”
“Yes, she does. She recently told me so for the first time in years.”
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