Kevin sat waiting for Marcy by the mall fountain, watching the moving mosaic of shoppers, listening to strains of Christmas songs on the loud speakers. The dancing waters mesmerized him or was he just tired? I never knew shopping was so exhausting. But, then, Annie had always done it.
“Daddy, daddy, look!” Kevin’s heart skipped a beat as he turned toward the familiar-sounding voice of a child. Missy? Instead of seeing corn-silk curls coiling around the rosy cheeks he had touched so many times, he beheld a pint-sized brunette tugging on her father’s sleeve. How he missed his daughter!
“Kev, babe, you doin’ o.k.?” Not waiting for an answer, Marcy handed him three more shopping bags, then leaned over and kissed him. “You’re my best Christmas gift this year,” she winked, “Just have a couple more to get. . .be back in a jif.”
I’ll be home for Christmas. . .you can count on me. . .* Perry Como crooned to the oblivious shoppers over the loud speaker, but the lyrics of the old song wafted into Kevin’s mind. Home – where is home this year?
A memory thrust itself forth - Annie and Missy in the kitchen making Christmas cutouts. Missy, her cheeks aglow with excitement and smears of red icing, stood on a stool waving a spatula, “Look, Daddy, we’re making cookies for Santa. . .”
What had he said? Something like, “that’s nice” or “I don’t have time for Santa or Christmas cookies”. Last Christmas was a fog – so much had happened since then.
He noticed the fountain again. The water droplets erupted into tall designs of individual beads, then cascaded to the sea of water below. That’s how it was with Annie and me – each of us seeking our own selfish desires, our actions and words erupting until we gave up, consumed by the prevailing waters of the culture. He had succumbed to the echoing voices, “If you’re not happy, get a divorce - there’s plenty of women out there eager to please.”
It was true. Shortly after they separated and Kevin moved out, Marcy appeared - young, bubbly and vivacious, smothering him with attention. She was all too eager to keep him from thinking of how much he regretted leaving Missy.
“She’ll be fine,” soothed Marcy. “Kids adjust. Besides, you’re free to spend time with little ol’ me.”
At first, he had felt free - he needn’t hurry home after work, he could sleep in if he wanted on weekends and he could follow all his sports Fantasy teams without reproach. As Christmas approached, however, something kept gnawing at him, a restlessness that he couldn’t seem to suppress.
I’ll be home for Christmas. . .if only in my dreams. . .
Dreams. Yes, we all have dreams, but they quickly disappear like the mist in the fountain. He had dreamed of having a family of his own, a place to call home and now. . . A man in a stocking cap, wearing layered, mismatched clothing and tattered tennis shoes caught Kevin’s attention. He carried a plastic shopping bag filled with aluminum cans as he shuffled from one trash bin to another to rummage.
Poor homeless soul. Like lightning, the thought pierced Kevin’s consciousness and tears began to well. That’s me! He tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but the yearning would not yield this time. Was it too late?
“Here I am, sugar. Sorry about the wait,” Marcy bubbled. “Hey, Kev, you catchin’ a cold or somethin’?”
“We need to talk, Marcy. . .”
* * * * * *
Kevin punched the speed-dial number on his cell, then waited and prayed. Please, Lord, give me another chance.
“Wilsons’ residence.” Annie’s greeting warmed and surprised him at the same time.
“Hello? Anyone there?”
“Annie. It’s me. I was wondering if. . . Annie, I’m so sorry about everything.” He waited for a response. “Annie? Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here.” Three simple words, spoken slowly, deliberately and tenderly answered his prayer.
“You were wondering?” Her voice was soft, open.
“I was wondering if we could try to. . .if I. . .” he choked. “I want to come home.” There it was - all the longing of his heart spilled out in a mixture of hope and fear. He waited for Annie to speak, but instead he heard Missy’s excited squeal in the background, “Daddy’s coming home, Daddy’s coming home!”
“Can you be home for Christmas?”
“Yes, Annie, you can count on me.”
* “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” lyrics by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, c1943.
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