Laurel tucked her AAA card into her wallet. Her husband had insisted on having road protection for their Christmas trip. Soon it would be time to pack the car, make sure the kids used the restroom before the key was in the ignition and head out of state for vacation. Family vacation was a nice way to put it but really Laurel was running away from home.
It was shortly after ordering the plaques that she decided if Christmas was going to be different than any of the last 41, she’d make sure it was a pleasant kind of different. She hadn’t traveled during the holidays except for once when she was a little girl and now she was going to her brother-in-law’s home in another state. Her tree had always come out of a box but Donald promised a trip to the tree farm where they could cut their own live non-metallic version. She thought only families with big brothers named John-Boy did that.
That reminds me, I must pack some extra allergy medicine. She thought to herself as she made the list of things to bring. Since she was taking along her family of love, she couldn’t really call it running away from home. It was her childhood home she was leaving behind.
In fact it’d been left behind this summer, sold to another family. Now her mother’s final expenses were paid and her family of origin was all together in a New Home. Mama was dancing, Pa was counting the stars from a different vantage point, and Stephen was creating artwork for the mansions.
To stay would be painful. It would be way too obvious that Mama was really gone. Sure, Laurel was happy for her but sad for herself. Mama wouldn’t play piano or label the gifts in Braille so only she knew whose was whose.
I hope this works. If I can focus on the fun of the trip and joy of seeing old friends along the way then maybe I can get through this first Christmas without her. Laurel’s list was complete. She checked it over and vowed to check it a second time before printing.
Although she tried, she couldn’t help thinking of that last Christmas with Mama. She didn’t know how long she’d be able to use it but Laurel made a special blanket for her. Just the year before, the evening hours ticked away as they tied knots in fleece blankets for friends and family. This year Mama couldn’t help tie knots but asked Laurel to make two, one for each of her 24-hour caregivers.
“It’s soft. Did you make me another blanket?” Mama asked her curled fingers awkwardly stroked the fabric.
“It’s not like that first one I made you many years ago. This one has sleeves. Now you don’t have to wear an old sweater to bed.”
“That sounds neat. Can you help me put it on?”
“Sure Mama.” Laurel said easing the fabric over tiny arms. She reached in from the cuff end of the sleeve and holding her frail hand gently pulled it through. Even though Mama had lost most of the feeling in her extremities, she still felt pain.
“Oh this is nice. What color is it?”
“It’s white with black outlines of flowers and butterflies. I didn’t put a back on it so you don’t have that extra bulk to deal with when you’re lying in bed.”
“Black outlines?” Her tone indicating that it didn’t sound pretty. Laurel should’ve known. All Mama could see before losing her sight was light and color.
“Well yeah. It’s pretty though, like a drawing waiting for the color to be added. You can dream they’re any color you want.”
“Now that you put it like that, it sounds neat. I can dream of different colors each night and I can chase the butterflies and pick the flowers. But can you help me take it off? It’s too warm.”
Laurel took the blanket-sweater off Mama. “Okay Alex, you open a present next.” Laurel hoped her voice sounded happy but Mama’s words lingered. When her paralyzed body slept, Mama dreamed of being active.
The phone rang, bringing Laurel back to the present. It was Donald with news of another first. Hotel accommodations with a view of the ocean had been arranged. Yes, Laurel was running away to a different state but a Babe born in an unfamiliar land would provide her comfort for the journey until she too went Home.
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