I lay there, on my stomach, blankets pulled securely over my head. Determination and procrastination were invited to keep me company. My eyes were glued shut, hoping to block any stray ray of light that found its way under the blankets.
Maybe I can hide here all day…my mind told my body.
The sounds of my door creaking open and feet pattering across the floor, along with giggles and warnings to “Shhhhhhh…” filtered in through my barricade against the day.
Someone was on the bed next to me. I felt blankets move and before long the warm body of my four year old slid in next to me. She snuggled up to my side, just like every morning.
A smile crept in with her, etching itself on my face. Then an arm planted itself across my back. The body attached to this arm could be none other than Jason, my eight year old.
I chanced a peak through a porthole I made between the blankets and pillows. There he was, staring back at me, the corners of his mouth stretching ear to ear.
“It’s Christmas, Mom; get up!” He had more important things to do than to spend time using many words.
“Yeah, Mommy, I want presents!” Beth chimed in as she bounced out from under the covers.
“Where’s Daddy?” I whined.
“Downstairs…” Jason began, but was interrupted by Beth.
“He said we can’t have presents ‘til you’re up!” Beth continued to bounce on the bed rattling my full bladder.
“Beth… Jason…!” John appeared in the doorway. “Leave your mother alone, she hardly slept last night.” His eyes danced as he suppressed laughter.
The children scurried from the room, muttering something about presents and food. I breathed a sigh of relief, although it was short-lived.
John sat on the bed next to me. “So... when are you gett'n up?” Mischief played in his voice.
“I thought you said I could sleep…” I moaned.
“I did let you sleep… Come on, I want presents…!” I looked up and saw his mouth frowning, but the corners of his eyes turned up in smiles. He tried with all his worth to act pitiful and childlike. I could not help but to laugh at him.
I sat up, fully awake now, “Ok, what are you up to?”
Like a kid let loose in a toy store, he bounded off the bed and flew about the room gathering jeans, sweatshirt, socks and anything else I might need to wear and throwing them on the bed. “Come on, get dressed! I’ve got coffee waiting downstairs.” Then he was out the door.
The door clicked shut and his footsteps pounded down the steps before I could ask him “Why?”
I dressed, brushed my hair and teeth, and then found my way to the kitchen, where I stood frozen in the doorway. My hands flew to my face and rubbed my eyes. I must be seeing things.
There at the kitchen table sat my brother, whom I had not seen in four years since he joined the Marines. He had been stationed in Germany for two years before his deployment to Iraq. No one dared hope he might be home in time for Christmas. But here he was, drinking coffee at my table.
His face beamed with excitement, “Merry Christmas, sis!” Alex’s hulk-like body rose causing the chair to groan as he came over to offer one of his famous bear hugs. I gladly accepted and soaked his uniform in tears of wonder and gratitude for his safe return.
“Do Mom and Dad know you’re here?” I managed to ask between sobs and laughter.
“Yep, I woke them promptly at six this morning with breakfast in bed. They’re on their way over. I wanted to get here and see you first.” His eyes sparkled and danced.
I turned to John, who sat at the table watching my brother and me. “Thank you for getting me out of bed.” I walked over and threw my arms around his neck. “How’d you get the kids to keep quiet about their uncle?”
“Easy,” his eyes still danced in delight, “I kept them out of the kitchen.”
“This is the best Christmas gift anyone could ever give.” I wiped more renegade tears from my face. I knew this Christmas would always be etched in my memory.
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