Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Home (01/09/06)
By Jeffrey Snell
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I really wasn't in the mood for Christmas; certainly not one like Mom had planned. I imagined myself fourteen hours away in my favorite cushy chair, a bowl of chips and a bottle of rootbeer on the table, watching football (taped from Christmas Eve). Ah that vision wooed my heart like a siren--a fine celebration of Christ's birth, tinsel resting on the television. Please don't misunderstand; I love my family. But I rather enjoyed the previous year, my first Christmas on my own, spent quietly in my apartment without obligatory conversation about rather mundane topics.
"Harri--" in black letters caught my eye as I passed by, and I pulled into the next left turn lane. You see, in Detroit suburbs, a six-foot-wide raised median separates two-way traffic on major roadways. At intersections, direct left turns are not permitted; one must first pass through the intersection, make your way to a left turn lane as soon as possible without causing an accident, execute a u-turn, go back to the intersection, then turn right onto the desired road. You must pass your street to attain it--whether you miss the sign or not!
Nearing my old neighborhood, familiarity returning, I recalled Mom enumerating who would be there.
"Uncle John is coming! He wants to hear all about your new job. And your cousins from Alpena, the Jenkinses, you know their little boy is three now? And big Cousin Ralph--remember he always slaps Daddy's back so hard? Oh my <I>word!</I> Oh, and I almost forgot Auntie Pat! She'll be beside herself when she sees you!"
Well, let me tell you as a matter of fact, Auntie Pat is beside herself most of the time. But she gives delightful hugs, and I do enjoy her special brie tarts. Honestly, neither had I any desire to hear all the same old tales from Uncle John of 'when I was an engineer....' And conversations with the Jenkinses usually entailed questions like "So Ken, when are you going to... meet a girl... get married... start a family?" Many uncomfortable options to choose from.
Snow-capped porches and roofs on both sides of the street were adorned with pine garlands, red bows, lights, and the occasional ornament. One yard charmingly had an authentic (if rusty) sleigh resting in snowdrifts with those lighted, animatronic reindeer hitched to its reins. Stoutly-proportioned snowmen stood proudly in many a yard as well, wearing unique wardrobes assembled from odd items of clothing. A small grin emerged on my face, and I turned left onto Calliope Place. Two blocks to go, and, despite my dread at revisiting stories and people predictable as a lake-effect snowfall, I discovered a peculiar warmth rising in my heart.
After parking on the street--judging from the crowd of vehicles, I was last to arrive--I trudged through six inches of fresh snow, stepping in prints where I could, toward my old house: a banana-yellow two-story with white trim and peeling muntin windows. The air was crisp and hushed. Powdered pine trees edged the drive and the weathered porch steps still sagged--perhaps a bit lower now--under my feet. Reaching the top, I touched a column worn to bare wood from many a visitor's hand, and my thoughts suddenly brimmed with sweet memories of bike rides and birthdays, tree forts and snowball fights.
Taking a deep breath, I noticed a light snowfall beginning. Like tiny feathers meandering to the earth, the flakes softened my mood even further. Strains of Bing Crosby and laughter and warm light seeped through curtained windows. I paused, savoring the glow. I heard Aunt Pat's unmistakable squeaky voice and chuckles of Uncle Jack and Dad as they certainly were teasing her, Mom chiding them to leave her sister be.
Smiling, I silently thanked God for bringing me back home, for ignoring my selfish complaints along the way. Nodding to His glorious grace, I lifted my hand and knocked.
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