Poetry

-=A Christmas Moment

     Christmas story
I've been a Navy wife for 5 months now, and while my husband is stationed on
the Kittyhawk, operating out of Japan, I am here in Kansas. The separation is
difficult, but worth it, as he builds a better life for us.

For all those other Navy wives out there who hope for the best things in life
like I do, I submit this story. I hope you like it.

-Heather Dawn Bunch This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Copyright 2002, all rights reserved
-=A Christmas Moment

He really wasn’t supposed to be there. He had been sure just a week ago that at
this time, he would be in another place, and yet, here he was. Just one week
ago, he had cursed that hateful ship, the navy and the fact he would miss the
holidays with his family this year. He knew it was part of the job, and always
a possibility, but that didn’t mean he had to like it, just that he had to
accept it. All of a sudden, two days ago, they had changed course and headed
back to homeport. Funny sometimes how fate works. Well, fate, or disgruntled
engineers working on boilers. Either way, he wasn’t about to complain. He had
told no one he was coming, so no one was expecting him. No late cup of coffee,
no late dinner waiting for him this time.

Opening the door quietly, he slipped inside. The smell of mulled cider hit him
as he entered the door. Breathing it in deep, he knew that she must have been
brewing a fresh pot for the Christmas party tomorrow. Looking down at his watch
he saw 11:58. Everyone was definitely in bed by now, he was sure of it. The dog
padded in the kitchen, and looked up at him as he took off his coat and hung it
by the back door. "Well, almost everyone," he thought. He patted the dog on the
head and she strode off to her warm bed, curled up into a neat ball, and closed
her eyes. He was almost surprised that after 6 months she still recognized him.

As he closed the door behind him and locked it gingerly, he looked around the
house. In the kitchen he could see that she had been baking that day. The dirty
bowl from her stand mixer was sitting in the sink. A few soapy bubbles clung to
the sides of the metal bowl, and the rest of the water was a murky tan color.
Due to the color of the water left behind, he imagined it must have been
cookies that she was baking earlier. His eyes scanning the counter in the
kitchen, a green saran wrapped plate confirmed his suspicions. Sugar cookies.
His favorite.

Rounding the corner to the living room, he saw it. For a moment he just stood
there and looked on. He must have seen a million of these in his lifetime, in
one form or another, but for some reason at that moment, this was the most
beautiful thing he had ever seen. He didn’t dare move, for fear of losing the
moment. It seemed to call to him, drawing him in more with each breath he took.
The lights shimmered on it, some half hidden by the pine needles on the
branches, some shining brightly, creating reflections in the brass ornaments
that hung delicately. As his eyes traveled the span, he saw at the top the
star. Simple, silver. So simple, he thought, that you might even go so far as
to call it elegant. It was the tree he had envisioned every time he thought of
Christmas. That tree, but so much more. It was real this time, not part of some
sadistic daydream of a place he knew he wouldn’t be.

He took a step towards the tree, and then stopped as his shoes squeaked on the
tile floor. He must have had some snow residue on them from outside. He unlaced
his shoes and set them to the side, and then, stepping on to the plush
carpeting with his feet, he sighed. He belonged here, that much he knew. It was
a feeling he had not experianced for a long time it seemed. Looking up at the
ceiling, he could see that she had been busy. Garland and red ribbons hung
everywhere. Paper snowflakes dangled in the air, looking to be suspended by
magic, though he knew it was just fishing wire.

Crossing the room, he could see that a red, green and white chain, made from
construction paper of course, hung in drapes off the stair case banister. More
snowflakes were taped to the vertical bars on the staircase in a pattern so
random he knew that it could only be done a child. Smiling, he reached out his
hand and touched each snowflake gently, feeling the rough pulp with his
fingertips. He remembered when he was little how much he had loved construction
paper. It was the best decorating material, always had been.

Looking over to the piano, he noticed sheet music lie open on the rack. Sleigh
Ride. Her favorite. He knew this, and very well. She would play the carol more
than any other, and beginning the day after Halloween he would catch her
humming it from time to time. He always just smiled and shook his head at her
and she would continue with her humming. On the top of the piano he saw her
town spread on a glittery blanket of white. The little buildings and houses
were lit up, a warm glow from their windows filling up the hallway. The town
had grown. There was a new skating pond, and a library. He knew she had been
searching for a library for her town for 4 years now. It was the first thing
she really wanted, but had never been able to find one. In front of the newly
opened library stood small children in hats, coats and gloves with miniature,
handmade paper books in their hands. Only she would think to edit the
townspeople.

He shook his head. Turning back to the living room, he noticed her Christmas
angel band sitting on the end table next to her rocker. They were, of course,
set up just like a conventional band, all of them in their proper placement.
She was quite specific about small meaningless things like that. He smiled and
then out of pure mischief, reached down and switched the angel playing the
coronet with the angel playing the flute. He knew that his wife would
immediately move them back when she noticed, and then badger him about how long
they had been moved. He welcomed it. There was little he loved more in this
world than teasing his wife about her particulars. Affection for them was
natural, and in everything between them there was affection. Quite simple
really, he thought.

Then, there was the tree again. He walked over to it and then around it
several times. Bright blue and red glass balls hung from the lower branches in
a random array. He knew that the girl must have helped, just as she did with
the snowflakes on the banister. "Sometimes," he thought to himself, "the very
best things are that because they aren’t perfect." He knew that where the
ornaments were on the branches must have been beautiful to her. And really,
that’s all that mattered.

As he walked around the tree he noticed that she had put up two strings of
bubble lights. He loved bubble lights. As a child they were the one constant
with each tree for him. Always at the very bottom were the bubble lights, so
that he and his sister could watch the bubbles rise in the colorful water to
the tops of the tubes. They were in the middle of the tree here, but he
imagined that was a good thing, seeing as how, as a small child, his sister
suffered a minor burn from touching the lights.

He saw the ornaments as they dangled from the branches. Stopping, he reached
out and held a small mouse on a sled. Hers. From her Meme, he thought. Long
since gone, the legacy of the woman was this tree. He looked to the right of
it, seeing another of the ornaments she had received from her mother’s mother;
a smiling ice cream cone with "1989" printed on the leaf of it’s hat. Below it,
a canvas ornament done with yarn. Obviously hand made, and made a while ago.
Hers as well, he thought. From her grandmother on her father’s side. There were
several like this. A roller-skate with buttons for wheels, a bell with a little
jingle on the bottom of it, a mail box with a green flag, and a Santa that gave
you a kiss, chocolate of course, when you squeezed his cheeks.

There was an F-18 flying above the ice cream cone. His. He admitted envy about
very little in his life, but told her that he had jealousy of her ornament
collection years ago as he helped her take down her Christmas tree one year
before they were married. Internally, he knew that at that moment, she vowed to
make sure he one day had just as many ornaments with memories attached to them.
The first year they were married, she had made him an ornament, and every year
since then, he knew that he always had an ornament or 3 under that tree. This
was last years. He remembered how he had gone in to Hallmark with her, thinking
it was a bad idea. She loved Christmas shopping. Lived for it. She immediately
gravitated towards the ornaments in the red plastic shelves. While she had, he
thought at least, been looking at some ornaments for their daughter, he eyed
the jet. As far as ornaments went, it was pretty cool. The markings were
correct on it, and the afterburners even lit up if you plugged it into one of
the light sockets on the string around the tree.

He would have never bought himself an ornament. It seemed like a strange
purchase to him. Looking to his wife he asked her if she had found anything,
and she had told him that no, the ornament she wanted for their daughter, Amy,
was sold out here. They left. Two weeks later, as they opened gifts in front of
the fireplace that morning, the jet became his. He asked her how she knew and
she gave him the same smile she always gave when there was an explanation but
refused to tell. Much as it frustrated him, he loved that smile.

There was a small fire going in the fireplace and he knew that she must have
just left it to smolder out for the evening. As he rounded the tree, still
studying the ornaments, his foot nudged one of the gifts. Like every year he
had shared Christmas with her, there were 4 colors of wrapping paper. She
strived for perfection when it came to wrapping presents. Her ribbons crossed
at 90 degrees, and the ends of her packages were wrapped so they were as close
to center as she could get them. It wasn’t the wrapping that surprised him so
much this year, but the quantity of the gifts. He could see from the tags that
it wouldn’t be a Christmas little Amy would soon forget.

Then he noticed a gift that wasn’t wrapped right. No, he thought, not not
right, just differently. The paper was mangled and the ribbon was flattened and
creased. Next to it there was another gift wrapped in a similar fashion. He
knew his wife wouldn’t have done these. Without even really needing to, he
lifted the tags on the gifts. "To Mommy Love Amy." "To Daddy Love Amy." He
smiled.

"I thought they were wrapped beautifully myself," he heard behind him.
Standing slowly, he saw her there. Hair in a ponytail, a sweatshirt and red and
white flannel pants. He couldn’t remember when she had looked better. "Welcome
home," she said smiling at him.

Wrapping his arms around her he whispered, "Surprise…"
To which she replied, "Indeed it is."
"Merry Christmas," she said leaning back against him as they sat down on the
couch. As he glanced about the room, holding his wife, he noticed that the
flutist had taken her proper place in the band of angels on the end table. He
looked down at her and she smiled. "Oh come on," she said. "You knew I’d move
it back." He laughed and nodded, hugging her. In the morning there was time for
explanations; right now all that needed to happen was holding. She kissed him,
and nestled right up to him, as both of them just watched the light from the
fire flicker and the tree glimmer. Right then, if only for 21 days, he knew he
was home.

-Heather Dawn Bunch Copyright 2002, all rights reserved

contributed by Heather Dawn Bunch [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
          

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