52. The Cannons

52. The Cannons

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Cannons

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.

~Leo Buscaglia

My childhood home was the only magical haven I knew of where I could dig into the Christmas spirit and forget my troubles. Unfortunately, as the best-laid plans sometimes do, since I’d arrived home, nothing had gone right. I had a decision to make and it buzzed me like a swarm of gnats that wouldn’t go away. In fact it ruined everything I’d ever loved about Christmas.

Like a frazzled rope in a tug of war, the two men in my life were pulling me apart. I had planned on spending Christmas with my children, parents, and sister. At that time I was married to my first husband, but we were separated. After I’d made my plans, he had broken off his other relationship and wanted back in our lives. He insisted on spending Christmas with us. Meanwhile, the new man in my life had moved to my hometown with the hope that it might speed my decision-making along. What a mess.

Two men. The stronger they pulled, the more confused I became. My dad had done his best to keep them both at bay. Yet between a husband who suddenly begged me to stay with him, and the phone calls from the other man, I found no peace, no joy, and no goodwill toward man.

As always, Mom and Dad had transformed my childhood home into the perfect Christmas wonderland. I stared at their magnificent tree, with its sparkling lights and the ornaments from my childhood. Yet instead of brimming with Christmas spirit I felt empty inside. My father had always played beautiful carols on his piano. But instead of reveling in his music, I found myself in tears. Mom had gone overboard with her usual Christmas goodies. Dad had even made his secret-recipe divinity fudge, but I didn’t have much of an appetite. I found no Christmas cheer this holiday season, only a deepening obsession with the decision I could not make.

Christmas Eve found me acting like Scrooge. While the flames crackled in the fireplace, the children excitedly hung their stockings over the mantel. Yet none of it mattered somehow. Lost in my own depressed state, I couldn’t even muster a smile. My parents tried their best to be festive, but I’d have none of it. Then the doorbell rang.

“Would you mind answering that, Jill?” my mom asked. Mindlessly, I opened the door and found a miracle known as the Cannon family. Their voices resounded with familiar carols as their sweet music floated magically through the frigid night. They stood amidst the freshly fallen snow while the warm-colored glow of the outdoor Christmas lights brightened their faces. Behind them snow-covered mountains jutted against a dark, but star-filled sky. I had never seen a Christmas card more perfect or more beautiful than the one before me. It left me breathless.

“Who is it?” asked my dad.

“The Cannons,” I whispered, choking with emotion as my family joined me at the door.

Like a much-needed slap in the face, this wondrous scene awoke me. Sweet childhood memories rushed through my head. Every Christmas Eve for as long as I could remember our family had eagerly awaited the moment when the doorbell would ring. When it did, we’d open the door and find the Cannon family — eventually reaching ten in number — who went door to door caroling throughout the neighborhood. Always a treat and a highlight of the holiday season, they nestled together on the sidewalk, harmonizing in the night air. Of course, my best friend was in this family so that had always made it extra special.

That night, as the sweet melody of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” rang out through the darkness, a feeling of overwhelming love washed over me. The cloud lifted. My heart opened. This was Christmas Eve. It came once a year. It had nothing to do with my troubles or problems. As I searched through the family’s faces I noticed a few of their family members were missing. Others had spouses with them. Among them I found my dear friend. We rushed to each other and embraced. It had been many years since we had seen each other.

This was what Christmas was about: love, family, friends, traditions, and so much more. I’d forgotten. I’d almost missed it. Who knew if I’d ever be home for Christmas again? I had no guarantees that my parents would both be with us next year. My problems would still be there in a few days, but this moment — this Christmas — would not. Tears of gratitude ran down my cheeks as I watched the Cannon family, still softly singing, stroll on to the next house. As their beautiful voices sang, “Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright,” it was.

~Jill Burns

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