A small house adorned in simple, soft light, glows with coziness against the snow. Smoke rolls out the chimney, promising warmth, and a single green wreath is hung on the door. Inside the home is more simplicity but amongst the garland, yellow lights, cotton snow and cookies, are silly homemade ornaments, their worth in sentiment only.
The smells of peppermint and cedar come from the tree and the crackling of the fire soothes the family dog to sleep. The cat is curled up on the mantel, amidst the garland and toy soldiers, absorbing the heat wafting up from the mesmerizing fire.
The house is still.A creaking rocking chair and the ticking of a grandfather clock are the only sounds to mix with the fire slowly dwindling down to coals, making a sound much more efficient than a lullaby.
Every now and then a soft whimper will add to the sound, bringing Katy out of her gentle slumber in the chair next to the fire, to look at the bundle sleeping in her arms. The baby, a beautiful daughter that she named Jessika, is six months old and is now experiencing her first Christmas morning; asleep in her mother’s arms.
Her Christmas is quiet this morning at the strike of midnight, as it will probably be next year, and the year after that, and maybe even the one after that. But Katy aches for the morning when Jessika will anticipate Christmas morn in the same way she had. The way she had with Jesse.
She had once woken up at midnight, anxious to see his face and exchange presents with the only man she had ever loved. He always had a new, romantic way of telling her “merry Christmas” and to this day she remembered every single one of them.
Her favorite being the time she woke up to candy canes hung from every possible place in their room, including Jesse himself. He had to have bought over two hundred candy canes to accomplish that. They had laughed so hard.
She smiled, it had never been about the presents, it was always about the spirit and feelings this joyas morning had brought them.
Christmas had been many anniversaries for them. It was the day they first met, when they were only ten years old.Her father had taken her ice skating and she had tumbled into another little boy when a rock found its way under her skates, they became friends and spent the rest of the day skating, tripping, and laughing.
It was the day he had asked her to be his girlfriend, when they were fifteen. His arm tucked around her as they sat on the front porch swing snuggled in blankets. It had been a quiet question, but her yes was very loud and she succeeded in pouring hot chocolate all over both of them.
Christmas had also been the day of his proposal, when they were nineteen and ready to take on life together. She’d never forget his smile when she said “yes”. In all their planning, they wanted to keep Christmas special for them, so the following year, it became their wedding anniversary as well.
But it was also the day he died last year. Christmas morning, he lost his fight to cancer. Why had she lost him on their special day? Why couldn’t it have been the day after Christmas? Or even Christmas eve? On one of these days she could have separated the pain from the happiness, but instead she was forced to blend them together.
Tears slipped down her cheeks as she rocked Jessika. The daughter in her arms was the last present they would ever exchange, constantly there to remind her of the man she would always love. She looked down at her daughter’s gentle face and imagined the way Jessika would come running into her room in just a few short years on Christmas morning.
A weak smile spread across her face as she pictured Jessika at six years old dancing in front of the fire with a new doll she had just unwrapped. She saw herself and Jessika decorating the tree together as they sang Christmas carols too loud and not caring who heard them.
She imagined baking Christmas cookies with her as they watched White Christmas, quoting every word because they knew it by heart, and going through pictures of herself and Jesse every Christmas morning, talking about and keeping the special memories alive.
She wanted to remember everything she and Jesse and done together. Everything she wanted to keep doing with their daughter. Everything she had to do to keep him alive with her, with them.
Jessika whimpered again and Katy leaned forward ever so slightly to cause the chair to rock gently, humming softly to Silver Bells. She smiled at the way Jessika smiled in her sleep, as if caught in the middle of an amazing dream; the same way Jesse had. Looking away from the captivating face and staring sleepily into the fire, she fought back tears that she knew would not be her last.
Especially on Christmas morning.