Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)
TITLE: He's Already Home
By Beth Muehlhausen
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On either side of the traffic-jammed street, warmly dressed Christmas shoppers bustled beneath gently falling snow. Many carried newly purchased gifts while a few sipped from sample-sized, steamy to-go cups: lattes or spiced cider, compliments of a street-side vendor.
At a busy intersectoin two conspicuous television reporters stood respectively with microphone and camera in hand to solicit interviews from those who dared look their way.
A young woman approached them wearing a bright red, double-breasted wool coat accented with shiny silver buttons. Her eyes flashed with something akin to adventure; she seemed on a mission. Bags hung from both hands while she repeatedly hunched one shoulder to keep her purse strap from falling. The elevated heels of her stylish boots clipped along without faltering.
“Say, excuse me, we’re conducting a survey. What does the phrase, ‘Home for Christmas’ mean to you?” The rapid-fired words hurried from the reporter’s mouth.
She tossed her head and laughed. Blonde curls from beneath a fashionable furry hat bounced on her shoulders. Without breaking stride, she called coyly over one shoulder while passing by. “Home for Christmas? A big fresh-cut tree, lots of presents underneath, and the smell of roasting turkey! Bye now?” The cameraman barely captured a five second clip before she disappeared, swallowed up by the crowds.
Undaunted, they spotted another prospect, a middle-aged businessman whose contemplative and curious gaze seemed fixed on the camera from the moment he saw it. “Excuse me, could I ask a quick question? We’re conducting a survey. What does the phrase, “Home for Christmas” mean to you?”
He slowed, then stopped, and shifted his gaze from the camera to study his rubber overshoes. Clouds of white breath accompanied his knit brow, and he gestured broadly with his free arm that held a folded newspaper in one hand. “I don’t know why you’re asking this question, but what is ‘home’ anyway? An inner frame of mind? What are you trying to provoke? A childhood memory? A place of refuge? An expectation that exceeds tangible reality? A dream, something mere longing cannot grasp?”
He held several thick books underneath the other arm. “If you’d like to engage in a philosophical discussion, you can meet me at the coffee shop.” With that he nodded his head curtly and sauntered away from the speechless reporter. His impenetrable long black trench coat shrouded both his thin frame and confined heart and soul. A well-guarded fortress, he disappeared among the throng.
The snow began to fall more rapidly, and with it a breeze shook an ornamental tree’s dry leaves. The cameraman protectively covered his lens with a form-fitted hood. Surely they could record just one noteworthy comment and then head back to the office?
A mother with two children approached - a little boy perhaps six years old and a girl who might have been around eight. “Um, excuse me, may I ask a question of your children, a question about Christmas?”
“Of course! We’re actually killing time right now, waiting for my husband to meet us. So, ask away!”
The reporter knelt down until eye level with the children. His companion leaned in and focused the camera.
“What does ‘Home for Christmas’ mean to you?”
The little girl shyly held her mother’s gloved hand and rocked her body from side-to-side. “Well mister, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday … do you know that?”
The reporter, caught off guard, persisted. “Well, what does it mean, then, when you hear someone say, ‘Home for Christmas?’”
Her brother dug a toe into an imaginary soft spot in the frozen sidewalk and then stepped forward. “Can I tell ya?”
Inspired by the little fellow’s confidence, the reporter switched the microphone to a spot before his face. “Of course – what are you thinking?”
Whether imagined or real, the scurrying of feet on either side seemed to stop, or at least fade away, almost as if the man and child stood apart from time. Oversized snowflakes fell on the boy’s eyelashes but he blinked them away and patted his chest with his small, mitten-clad hand.
“Well, for the first Christmas Jesus’ home was a stable full of animals, like cows and donkeys.”
He seemed excited and sure of himself, but paused briefly (as if for emphasis) before delivering the punch line. Then with a burst of energy he hop-hopped up and down with little kangaroo jumps.
“But that’s NOT His home any more! Nope. He lives in our hearts, now. So on His birthday He’s already home!”
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