Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Last Christmas Story Ever

Many years later he would recall the incident as a fond memory. Many years later it would be one of his finest. He'd been awake for hours, wondering what tomorrow's winter bounty would yield. It must have been a least three o'clock in the morning when he was finally starting to doze off. Just as he was at the point of losing consciousness, he heard a whisper. "Wake up. He came!" she said in a very hushed tone. Without any delay, he sprang up from his state of near slumber, and, with a smile on his face, he helped her out of her bed, and into her chair. He giggled a little, muttering in a hushed tone to her, "not a creature stirring."

Out in the living room, the tree was glowing unlike anything he'd ever seen. It had an aura to it that could only be due to the energy put forth to the room. He smiled, and chuckled a little... too hyper-active to be able to maintain his silent, and adult-like demeanor. "Will he be mad if I open one?"
"I think we should wait for the morning." she stated with a half smile. "Now help me onto the couch, could you?"
He grabbed a hold of her left arm with both of his and pulled hard. He could hardly budge her at her size, but after a few moments of prodding and pulling, she eventually laid down on the couch.
"Come here" she said.
He laid down in front of her; his head resting somewhere in between her breasts and her chin. She curled her neck down to place a soft kiss on his forehead, and he turned around to again face the glowing tree.

The next morning she again woke him up. It couldn't have been later than 6 AM, but once again, his energy was completely restored instantly from his short slumber due to the aura that had been placed around the morning. He ran into his parents' room, shouting "It's Christmas!" in a tone that he would never use again after that morning. They spent the morning playing the new all ages edition of Trivial Pursuit, and listening to carols over the new stereo. He played with a spinning top given to him by his brother, which would spin onto its stick if you got it to spin just right, which his thumbs were not yet strong enough to make happen.

The present she gave him was oddly wrapped. It looked sloppy, and like something soft was inside. It was one of the last presents he received that day. At first, in order to act like he cared about the wrapping, he unraveled it slowly, and then after her comment of "get it over with kid!" he tore away at it as if it was one of the presents labeled from Santa (to whom his brother had already ruined for him that morning, although at 5, he'd already had his suspicions.)

Under the poor wrap job was a soft white stuffed polar bear with a make-a-wish button pinned to its heart. He had seen the bear a thousand times in her arms, and knew it was given to her by the charity along with a trip to Florida.

The rest of the family later came up for a traditional Christmas dinner of ham, green beans, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. They exchanged presents, and friendly tidings of masked faces for the evening, just as he would one day learn is the Christmas tradition; pretending to love thy brother, that is.

Two months later, he arrived home from school one day, and asked where she was, knowing that she was to be returning from the hospital that morning. His mother's friend was watching the house and replied to him with a slightly consoling tone, "she's gone sweetie." He could recall very little of what happened next.

Years later, they had just survived one of the worst years of their lives. The business their family had built went under, they were hundreds of thousands in debt from years of excessive spending, in some attempt to fill a long gone void. It was New Years day, and they were driving back from visiting family in Philadelphia, crossing the Delaware river. For his mother, pot had been the thing to fill the void. To his father, work was the filler, and for himself, it was music. It had been music ever since only a month after her death, Clapton released "tears in heaven," which it was explained to him, was the story of his lost child.

It was 1999, and as they crossed the river, he asked his father to turn up the radio, when he'd heard an only recently familiar tune. "There's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last."

That line chimed through the radio, and for the first time since her death, he saw his father cry. Of course his mother was sobbing as well, although she'd always been an emotional one. He bent his head down, ashamed of his own tears, thinking "please, please let it be." He'd spent some of the youngest years of his life in agonizing misery over things far too complicated for his feeble mind to understand at the time. He was an anti-socialite because of the event, to which he would remain impartial to being for the rest of his life. He had become the world's youngest pessimist from the ages of 6 to 12.

Then it occurred to him that he was less than two years away from the age where she left. It occurred to him that she was his current age, almost exactly, when she first fell ill. It occurred to him that if she were there with him, that he could help her out of the wheelchair with one arm on her back and another on her legs. That she could have picked her up and delicately set her down on that couch. Until now, he'd always imagined her being much larger than him. It was an odd epiphany.

"It's been so long since I've seen the ocean"

He looked out across the great Delaware river, and for the one tiny strip, couldn't see where land began again. He smiled, and thought of that December, when he was only 5, and of his sister's smile, and soft whisper when she awoke him. Even retelling this, years later, in his mid twenties, he would still have trouble hiding his tears, and his smile upon writing these very words. At this point he realized that he could never feel that sort of smile brought to his face without the tears taking their own places as well. There are no smiles that don't contain tears somewhere on the other side of their spectrum. So he wondered; "should I smile, or should I cry?"

"I guess I should." The radio replied

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