Tom sat at the breakfast table sipping coffee. Through the large bay window the bare oaks and hickories stood dark against the thick morning fog. Tom found himself on his wife’s side of the table more often these days. When it was clear, Tom remembered, she could gaze forever through the leafless trees to the pasture and hills and mountains in the distance.
Voices and laughter and the humming of life echoed from Tom’s den. With closed eyes he soaked in the sounds. It was good to hear the old house breathe again.
“Dad…you okay in here?” asked a soft, concerned voice. In the window, Tom saw the reflection of his oldest daughter standing in the kitchen behind him. She seemed like a kid in her husband’s long sleeve shirt and her purple flannel pants.
“I’m good Kate,” Tom responded, hoping his voice wouldn’t betray him. “Get on back in there with your family, I’ll finish making some breakfast. Go enjoy all those presents.” He waited until Kate’s reflection vanished into the hallway before he headed toward the kitchen.
As he opened the fridge, the distant eruption of granddaughter giggles strummed the strings of Tom’s heart. He paused until the laughter faded, and then retrieved a carton of eggs, some sausage, and a heavy orange pitcher.
“Homemade waffle batter?” asked another pleasant voice from the hallway.
“Yep,” said Tom, setting the sausage on a cutting board. “You getting hungry?”
“Absolutely,” answered Maggie. Tom grinned. Still skinny as a rail, he thought, but always hungry.
Maggie peered into the pitcher. “When did you learn to make waffles?”
“Your Momma helped me.” Tom nodded toward the small tin box on the counter. Maggie lifted the index card from off the lid and read instructions penciled in her mother’s elegant hand.
“I want you and Kate to take that box. Be civil and divide those recipes however you two want. Your Momma always wanted you girls to have them.”
Maggie kissed her father on the cheek while he focused on the sausage patties in the frying pan. She squatted and rummaged through the lower cabinets.
“Here it is,” she said.
Tom watched her heave the old, beaten waffle iron onto the counter and plug it in. He snickered at the loosely tied bandanna struggling against her untamed morning hair.
Maggie continued. “I see this old iron and I think of going on vacation…and going camping…and…”
“And Christmas morning,” finished Tom, now cracking eggs and dropping them into a mixing bowl.
“And Christmas morning,” echoed Kate, walking back in from the hallway. “It smells good, what can I do?”
“Set the table,” ordered her younger sister.
“How about get back in there with Dave and the girls,” mentioned Tom. “The old man and the unmarried one can handle this, now go play.”
Kate sidled up to her father and squeezed him. “How about I take over these eggs while they have a chance? I don’t remember Momma trusting you so much around the stove. Take a break, the ladies have reclaimed your kitchen.”
Tom held his hands high in surrender and returned with his coffee to the breakfast table. This time he sat with his back to the window and the trees and the fog. He watched his girls pour and mix and cook and giggle.
Stubborn, thought Tom, just like their mother…and beautiful…so beautiful, just like their mother.
Maggie forked the first crisp waffle from the iron. She cut a small piece and tasted.
“Mmmmmm, try this Sis.” She cut another sliver and handed the fork to Kate.
“Just like Momma made’em.”
“Maybe better,” responded Maggie, pouring the next round of thick batter onto the iron.
“Girls…I’m really glad we decided to have Christmas here again this year,” Tom offered.
“I don’t remember us giving you much of a choice,” answered Maggie, snickering.
“Well, I know it would be easier if I…”
“Daddy, just get used to us being here every Christmas,” shot Kate sharply, before pointing a spatula at Maggie. “And if this one will find her a man and have some little ones, you’ll just have to make more room.”
Tom knew he’d start building tomorrow if it meant more Christmas gifts such as this. He hurriedly turned toward the window, hoping they couldn’t see his eyes in the reflection. The oaks and hickories mingled in the thinning morning fog. Perhaps not much longer, Tom hoped, until he could gaze upon the pasture and the hills and the mountains beyond.
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