It seems the holiday train has already left the station and is moving fast upon its tracks. If I listen very closely, I can hear the whistle blow softly in the distance. Lofty, grey steam swirls up toward heaven, rising from the engine’s shiny red smokestack. There is no stopping it now, so I must hop aboard. I will decorate our tree today with dancing antique ornaments and loose white popcorn on a string. Assorted needlepoint stockings in red, blue and green, will hang from the fireplace mantel. Drooping from above will be twisted evergreen boughs going every which way. Their scent will soon fill my rooms with the freshest bouquet, reminding me of my home town in Michigan near the bay.
I must admit that I’ve caused my own hustle and bustle this holiday season. Thanksgiving fell later than usual so I’ve lost an extra week. I didn’t quite realize it until today, but for the first time since they’ve been born, I won’t be with my boys on Christmas Day. I’m feeling guilty, almost afraid to go. Then I remind myself that one has his own family, with a large extended family of in-laws to boot. My two guys will watch over each other much like they have all of their lives. Some things never change. The thought of such warms my heart, bringing the slightest smile to my face. I’m their mom, it can’t be helped.
Santa’s elves will be scurrying this afternoon, preparing for his early arrival in St. Louis. Our own train (minus the swirling grey steam) will be surrounding the bottom of our smaller-than-usual tree. A bright red table-cloth will be pulled and freshly pressed, and hidden gifts will be yanked from their hiding spot. If it weren’t for the sparkling eyes and awe of a certain “wonder child,” I might go lighter on the decorating this year. Impossible! At nearly two, she’s starting to believe in the “magic”‘ of it all. She’ll point to twinkling colored lights, sniff pine garland like a pup, and eat cut-out sugar cookies before dinner. Yes, “Grandma”‘ will sneak them to her!
You see, I’m leaving my boys this year to visit my father. He is my special “Santa Clause,” born on Christmas Day. He’s young at heart, fit and fun, and still makes me laugh at silly things that no one else may understand. He lives near Phoenix, in the “Desert of the Sun,” where tall Saguaro cactus grow; a place on earth of red clay, brown-sugar sand, and terracotta dirt. “Rattlesnake” is even printed in golden foil on restaurant menus there!
This year my father will turn 81 years old. He taught me the first “lessons”of my life. In my heart he will forever be my “daddy” and I his little girl. He is, of course, the best present I could receive, and so a ticket in my pocket will be my favorite gift of all. As an extra bonus, I’ll be there to see him blow out dripping birthday candles and cut his favorite frosted chocolate cake.
Memories to last my lifetime….