Saturday, December 25, 2010


As a child, one of Shirlene's Christmas traditions was to sit in the window on Christmas Eve while the sun set. She and her sisters didn't care about the colors of the sun as they reflected off the snow. Rather, they looked for the headlights of their father's old beat up truck bouncing down the gravel road. Anticipation made the four of them silent. The cool air in the room chilled their fingers and noses as they sat still. None would bother to stoke the fire for warmth.

An hour, or maybe two, later they would see the headlights and jump from the couch to restart the fire. In another half an hour they would be sitting on the floor, their excitement growing, as their father handed out the gift they had made for each other. The few gifts under the tree would be unwrapped in a frenzy. Thank yous would be exchanged in little shrieks of joy and laughter. A quick meal of sandwiches would follow and then Shirlene would climb between the cold sheets of the small bed she shared with Mary Beth. The two would whisper their Christmas morning desires late into the night.

Shirlene had planned on celebrating Christmas Eve in the same fashion. She'd talked with Joe, the love of her life, about bundling up and staying warm with hot chocolate on that one cold winter's night each year, about watching the sun set and opening just family gifts Santa's expected arrival, about whispered wishes and the comfort of loved ones snuggled close. He'd thought she was insane, but agreed to try it. Over the next years, he grew to like the peacefulness of her Christmas Eve's.

Shirlene walked toward the table carefully balancing the Indiana Jones cake in her hands. There was no sunset or gift exchange tonight. Not exactly anyway. The room was lit by the glow of six candles, one to mark each passing year of a new Christmas Eve tradition. Setting the cake down carefully, she kissed her growing son's head before taking a deep breath and belting out the first notes of "Happy Birthday".

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

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