Christmas Past, Christmas Future

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A short story for Christmas…

Disappointed, delicate fingers affix the red and gold bow to the top of the three-foot tree. She arranges the ribbons so that they cascade down the artificial limbs and fill holes left vacant by too few ornaments. The mismatched memories smile at her as she places the polished, silver star back in its foam, resting place. “Too heavy, again.”

She had purchased the star a decade before, unaware of where or when it would be used. That Christmas would be spent under hotel sheets, a reunion eleven months in the making. “Next year,” she had thought when she placed the box in the trunk of her car, atop suitcases, next to carefully wrapped packages and one hand-made poster that read, “Welcome Home!”

The star waited, hidden away under foam and cardboard, for its debut. Patience extended through too-small houses, temporary quarters, and Christmases with no tree at all. “I’ll enjoy Mama’s tree,” she had thought one year while driving through Chicago, six hours into their trek home. “My star would have been perfect on Mama’s tree.” Thirteen hundred miles there, and thirteen hundred miles back with only three days in between.

She had hoped this would be the Christmas the star would brighten the top of her tree, for this Christmas would be special, more special than all the others. This Christmas welcomed new beginnings and bid farewell to old fears. The star was to be a shimmery symbol of all to come and all to leave behind, but her three-foot tree could not bear such weight.

“I can wait one more year,” she tells him and rubs her cheek against his hand, rested on her shoulder.

The house that holds their future is filled with Christmases past. Between the floorboards and up the grand banister, one hundred years of holiday celebrations mark the mantels and linger in the parlor.

One more year.

Five hundred final miles.

“Next year,” she says and smiles at the worn box. “You will have a home.”