"Are you excited, honey?" Sylvia asked.
"Yea, a little bit," Steve said staring at the highway traffic ahead. He
momentarily turned to his wife and smiled. "OK, maybe its more than a little
bit. It has been over ten years since Iíve been home for Christmas."
"Iím so glad you were able to take time off over the holidays to do this."
"Me too. However, it will be a little strange not having to prepare a Christmas Eve sermonĺ Oh, turn it up, turn it up."
Sylvia turned the volume up on the radio and the sonorous voice of Bing
Crosby filled the mid-sized Chevy. Steve began crooning "Iíll be Home for
Christmas" along with Bing. Groans from his adolescent children in back entered the mix.
"This song got me thinking about this trip in the first place," Steve said.
"I remember growing up, we would turn out the lights in the house on
Christmas Eve and leave just the Christmas tree lights on. The twinkling
colors created the perfect ambiance for the holiday. Presents flowed out from
under the tree and my brother and I would beg mom and dad to let us open at
least one present on Christmas Eve."
"Dad, youíve told us this about a hundred times already," a voice from the
"Chris, your dad is just excited, let him reminisce," Sylvia replied. "What
do you remember most about Christmas day, honey?"
"My mom and her siblings would rotate hosting the holidays between them. If
mom hosted Christmas, then everybody would come to our house and bring food
to share and presents to exchange. I would stuff myself so full that I
figured I wouldnít need to eat for a week."
"When would you open your presents, Dad?" Melissa asked.
"Well, that was never a set rule. John and I would open our gifts from mom
and dad in the morning of course, but the extended family gift exchange was usually after dinner. Then we would play games, talk, and laugh. I remember that mostĖ the laughter."
"Are any of your uncles or aunts going to be there this year?" Chris
"I donít think so. Ever since mom and dad moved, they havenít got together
like they used to. I know it will be different, but it will still be great."
"Thereís your exit, Steve," Sylvia said.
"Hi, Mom and Dad," Steve hugged his parents and proceeded to carry in the
"Donít worry about your luggage now," Steveís mom insisted. "Come into the
living room and let me get you something to drink."
Steve marched up the split-level stairway and glanced around the living
room. "You got new furniture since the last time we were here."
"Oh yes," his mother hollered from kitchen. "That other stuff looked ghastly
and sat even worse."
"Didnít you put up a tree this year, Dad?"
"No. Where would we put it? The roomís already filled with your momís new
"Now Howard, its not that crowded." Steveís mom returned with some lemonade
for everyone. "Actually, after we moved, we just didnít see the point of a
tree with only your dad and me in the house."
"Mom, do you remember all the old ornaments John and I made to decorate the tree."
"Oh, yes," his mother said. "I think we threw most of those away though. We
had so much junk at the other place, we just couldnít bring it all."
"Tell me about it," Howard added.
Steveís childlike glow faded with the thought and he changed the topic. "What time does the Christmas Eve service start tonight?"
"Well, we didnít think youíd be up for church after traveling all day. So we
rented a movie for tonight. We found this one called ĎChristmas with the
"Iím glad we got to see your folks, but itíll be nice to get back home," Sylvia said as they pulled out of the drive and waved good-bye. "What did you think, honey?"
"You know, I can do without the tree, trimmings, and all that stuff, but it felt like Mom and Dad left out Christ this Christmas. Thatís hard to take, because itís certainly not how I remember it."
"Dad, your songís playing," Chris said and pointed to the radio. Steve reached over and turned off the radio just as Bing sounded the Ďhí of Ďhome.í
"I did that Bing. And it's not always like you think itíll be."
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