I WISH I WERE WITH YOU
Everything is right…but everything is wrong.
Mother's got her poinsettias precisely placed in their designated positions; this year’s Christmas Tree creation is standing sentinel in its rightful post at the front windows. Christmas never changes here.
But this year it’s surreal somehow.
Because I’ve changed. And he’s helping me.
My need for him starts like an irritating itch. A bug bite. Just a passing annoyance.
But I scratch it. I irritate it, stir it up, set it off.
I dwell on my thoughts of him.
Once scratched, the need refuses to be ignored.
I can’t sit here all prim and proper with them any longer. I’ve got to go call him. I’ve got to scratch the itch.
“Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” Our family code for ‘I’m going to the bathroom.’ We don’t make mention of our ‘business’; it’s understood.
The gold-plated doorknob is warm in my grasp. I barely hear a whispered click as the heavy door latches. They can’t hear me in here; it’s as sound proof as an isolation chamber.
I slide my cell out of my blazer pocket and hit speed dial one.
Answer. Answer. Answer! Yes!
“Merry Christmas, sweetie.
“I’m ok. I just I wish I were with you.
“I know they do, and I love them, too, but…
“You’re right. And I’m thankful I have a family to spend Christmas with.
“Yeah, and this year’s scheme is gold decorations from tip to trunk, topped with a gigantic gold bow Her gaudiest tree yet.
“No, I asked them, but mom and dad ‘didn’t have time’. It was a great service, tho. The children sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and acted out the nativity story. Thanks for talking me into going alone.
“Oh! That sounds like so much fun. I wish I were there with you.
“No, my family’s not the carol-singing type. Daddy did submit to letting me play The Carpenters Christmas cd, though.”
I muffle my phone against my chest to stifle a sob.
Oh, great! If she doesn’t quit crying, I might just cry. Man I miss this girl. If I had any doubts before, they’re gone. She’s the one.
“Did Karen sing this one, baby?
‘I've just one wish
On this Christmas Day
I wish I were with you.’
“Don’t cry baby. I don’t sing that bad.
“I know, you told me. And I think of you now whenever it comes on the radio.
“Next year, baby, I promise.
“Yeah, and every Christmas after that. No one will ever keep us apart again.
“I love you too. Now go back in there and remember why you love your family.
“No, mine aren’t better, they’re just good in different ways. Maybe if you think more on loving what you do have, you’ll stop craving what you don’t.
“Yeah, and I have you too. Forever.
“Merry Christmas, Darlin.”
I flip my phone shut and stick it in my back pocket. Gotta stop this crying. The hook on the once-white bathroom door comes free with a tug, and I shoulder the swollen door open. My sister Jan’s kid, Nathan, is out here hopping like a bunny; I had taken too long, and he had to “go bad”. He scoots around me and swings the door shut behind him.
Before I reclaim the patched easy chair, I add a log to the stove. The frosty breath on my ankles reminds me how December creeps in through the baseboards and the window frames of the old farmhouse. I poke the embers with a stick, and flames stretch and jump, chasing the chill out of the room.
I settle into my seat and take a sip of cocoa. Nathan tears across the room and climbs into my lap. The family grows still. We’re all waiting.
The fire in the woodstove and the lights on the Christmas tree spotlight Dad. He’s contemplating the flames. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”*
The tree in the corner is wearing a popcorn and cranberry garland and the same old hand-made ornaments as every year, winter comes in through the cracks, and the young’uns always make a racket, but I’m glad I’m here on Christmas Day.
And next year…
Next year, she’ll be here too.
*Luke 2:1 KJV
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