Was it normal? Nothing else was normal about this particular Christmas Day so why should my behaviour be an exception.
Nevertheless, I craved normal. In the light of the circumstances, pseudo-sameness would have to do. I hunted through the bedroom looking for the Christmas presents. I knew there had to be some and since there wasn’t a Christmas tree to put them under, they had to be elsewhere. Mom had decided to wait until we returned home for the holidays before doing the tree. It was too late now. I found the presents, unwrapped, on top of the cedar chest in mom’s room. The pretty paper, usually recycled year after year until it would have been embarrassing to use it again, was missing. We had always been glad for the Santa and Poinsettia stickers that we could use to cleverly cover up last year’s cello tape.
My brother thought I was crazy. He didn’t say it, but I could see it in his expression. Since he couldn’t come up with anything better to do, he went along with me. I had asked for a new nightgown and that’s what I got. Mom had ordered them—there were two—from the catalogue. One was white satin with a pretty pink embroidered flower on the shoulder. Forever practical, mom made sure it came lined with something akin to flannelette. If I were going to try it out while I was home, it would need to be warm since the upstairs bedrooms weren’t heated. David and I exchanged what we had brought for each other. It was one of those practical Christmases. I got a phone from him, and he got the frying pan from me that he had requested.
Once the gifts were dealt with, I retired to the kitchen, filling my mind with lists of things that needed doing. Routine, blessed routine. I had already taken the turkey out of the freezer, so it was just a matter of dealing with the rest. Chop the celery and onions, sauté them in butter, mix the bread with raisins, chopped apple, the seasonings. Stuff the bird. Track down the potatoes, carrots, and turnip. As always, mom had prepared well for our coming. I worked on automatic pilot, doing the tasks one by one in the same order as the practice of years had always dictated.
The day passed in a blur. David had disappeared—holed up in his room upstairs. He’d never been much of a kitchen man, except perhaps when on his own turf. We are both solitary souls, perhaps more solitary on this particular Christmas Day, yet united in a way we had never been united before.
I pulled out the good china. Christmas Day was the one time in the year that the Rose Briar came out of the hutch. It’s been almost eighteen years since that particular Christmas so I don’t remember if I brought out the crystal too, but I probably did. It was a shame to just let it sit there and, after all, Christmas is a special occasion deserving of the best.
With the table set and the meal prepared, I called David down from his upper room. He sat on one end, and I sat on the other. It’s a wonder I didn’t set two extra places, but that might have been considered excessive considering the circumstances of this particular Christmas Day.
My brother wasn’t a believer, so I took the lead and asked God’s blessing on the day, thanking Him for His provision for us.
I poured juice into the goblets. My brother watched closely, uncertain as to what eccentricities I might come up with next. I raised my glass and reached across the table. He understood and raised his glass as well, gently touching mine. The thin tinkle of fine crystal rang out.
“To those who are absent from us today,” I said, barely under control.
Dad had passed away three months earlier and I had wanted to make this Christmas special for mom. My plans had been good, but God’s were better. In two days, David and I would bury our mother. Her death three days earlier was almost too much for us to bear, even though I had tried hard to keep the day as normal as mom had wanted.
As I put the glass to my lips, I realized that God had indeed provided the best for mom. Her absence from us on this particular Christmas Day meant celebrating it with dad—and with Jesus.
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