Hang A Shining Star, Chaper 2Chapter One is only two posts down. If you can't scoll down I can't be arsed to link to it. Got a compliment on the last one [thanks] so if you want me to put you out of your misery, better tell me :)
"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions." * Bill McKibben
The air is still quite chilly this morning, although the sun has already risen into the clear morning sky. I look up, and note that there are few clouds, which is a good thing considering all the time we are going to be spending outdoors today putting up the lights.
My cup of coffee is warm against my fingers as I watch out Grandma’s front bay window. There is a soft smell of Irish Cream tickling my nose as the steam swirls up from the mug, creating a warm mist that causes my nose to dew up just a bit with the warmth that contrasts with the cold of the window I have pressed my nose against.
Grandma is still asleep in her room for a change, and I told her to stay in bed for a while this
year. This year, I know I will have company putting up all the decorations. Any other year, I would mock myself for my blind faith. I would berate myself for being to hopeful. No one comes, not anymore. But I have a guarantee; my new step-sister Abigail.
My mother, if I can say anything for her, is a persistent woman. She stuck out five years of miserable marriage to my and Moriah’s father before leaving him. Her next three marriages were successively shorter, and the only benefit I can see coming from them is that she didn’t have any more kids to make miserable with crazy visitation schedules. Still, being a self-proclaimed woman of faith and, as I said, persistent; my mother saw no reason why her fifth marriage could not be a happy one.
Abigail is the oldest daughter of my mother’s fifth husband, Nathan. He had been previously married before, unlike the rest of my mother’s husbands, so maybe he knew what he was getting into. Maybe not. But he did have children by his previous wife, four of them, and hence I have Abigail and her other sisters to love as my own.
Nathan is also pretty close to my mother’s age and so I am fortunate enough to have a step-sister relatively close to my age. Gail and I bonded almost strait away, and she has become not just a sister to me, but a good friend as well.
I was not surprised when she volunteered to join me during my ritual Christmas preparations this year. Gail has a sweet disposition that always manages to stun me. It seems her patience never runs out, a product no doubt of helping to raise her younger sisters. Gail has a remarkable ability to read people, and always seems to know what I am thinking. Of course, she is no angel. She has a dry sense of humor and a biting bit of sarcasm when roused. This, I think, is a by product of treating her father more like a peer than a parent for most of her life.
She acts as if she is very eager to learn about the traditions I had as a child; and whether she does it because it is to humor me, or whether she is genuinely interested, I am going to be glad to have her. Years of doing this by myself, or with Grandma have started to wear on me a bit, and I will be happy for the company.
There is also a voice in the back of my mind that keeps hinting that this may be the time for me to bring back the old ways from my childhood. That maybe, just maybe, I will find a kindred spirit in Gail, and she will love the traditions the way I do, for their own sake. For the memories that can be made from the yearly habit of trying desperately to love everything about your family.
Whatever her motivations, I feel a small thrill run through my chest when I see her bouncy, royal blue Toyota pull up the drive. I can tell I am smiling, as I set my mug on the little table that sits just inside the front door, and reach for the knob.
The shuffle of her feet becomes louder as she skips up the driveway with her half hopping, half lazy gait. I give up all attempt at pretense and pull open the door, relishing the squelch and swoosh it makes against the cold air spilling into the house, and rush out the door.
Gail is smiling too, a crooked, sleepy smile that just barely exposes her slightly pointed teeth to the morning sun. I have a sneaking suspicion she saw me looking out the window.
"Good morning I am so glad you are here." I pull her into a hug, and she pokes me in the side.
"Cheerful this morning, aren’t we? Not our usual bundle of sarcasm and cynicism. I think I like the holidays. You’re friendlier." She wrinkles her nose as she laughs, and hugs me back.
"Oh, it’s early yet, dear. But I am excited."
"How did you get here so early? You look like you have been up for hours already."
"I have," I laugh, tugging her inside. "I always stay the night."
"But you live a block and a half away."
"I know. But I always stay the night. It’s tradition."
"Ahh, yes. The traditions," she teases, as she settles on to Grandma’s couch; crossing her legs. "Tell me about what I have gotten myself into."
"Well, we have a rather full day." I begin.
"I should think so, if I have to be here at 7:30 in the morning What time is the party?"
"Ah." She raises her eyebrows. "So, my family does not have any Christmas traditions. Since this is my first time at your family Christmas, I suppose you better bring me up to speed."
I take a moment to wonder if my excitement is palpable or not. I know it must be radiating off of
me. It seems so long since I had someone to plan my day with. Year in and year out, Grandma always knew what to do. I grin again.
"Well, first, we are going to get the Christmas tree set up, and then we will go outside and put up a light display that will rival the Plaza in New York. Then we will come inside, make Christmas dinner, change clothes and party the night away."
"Wow." Her eyes are wider than I thought a person’s could be. Oops. Maybe I shocked her a bit.
"I know," I giggle in a sarcastic way, "All that fun in just one day. Its almost too much.
Really, the family Christmas traditions have begun to wane. As you can see, no one in the family comes here to help out anymore. Used to, you could hardly move with all the aunts and uncles and children running about the place. No one seems to care anymore, though. No one misses they way it was. Except me, I suppose. I wish you would have had a chance to meet Grandpa. He was fantastic. And he kept the family in line, throughout the day. Oh, I forgot, you’ll get to meet everyone in the family for the first time since mom’s wedding too. That should be fun."
"Oodles, I am sure." Abby rolls her eyes.
"Speaking of family life, how are my mom and Nathan. Is she coming over today?"
"She and dad are doing fine. I think he is a little overwhelmed with her Christmas excitement, though. Did you know she puts a Christmas tree in every room of thehouse?"
"Sick, isn’t it?"
"Well, the girls love it. They keep telling her they want to go get more ornaments for their tree. She says they will later. They are supposed to be coming by later this afternoon to help with the cooking. Charlotte says that she has some ideas for the dinner for tonight."
"Oh, gosh We better get going if we want to get the turkey going on time "