95. My Christmas Fantasy

95. My Christmas Fantasy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

My Christmas Fantasy

For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.

~Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

After living four months in a cramped apartment, my new husband and I found a nice little cottage to rent. It was perfect lodging for us with its hardwood floors, a massive stone fireplace, and a great room that served well for dining and socializing.

I especially liked the fireplace, and even though it was summer, I envisioned how our Christmas stockings would look hanging from the mantel. I also knew immediately where to place the tree. “Right over there in that corner,” I announced decisively. After three plus years of dating, Steve already knew how much I loved Christmas and decorating for the season, so any early decisions weren’t a surprise.

In October, my excitement for the upcoming season waned considerably when my father unexpectedly passed away. We knew it would be a particularly difficult year, and somehow, a joyful celebration seemed impossible.

As the holidays approached, Steve and I decided it might be less sad for everyone to invite both sides of our family over for Christmas Eve. Since both mothers were now widowed, it seemed the best way to continue the feeling of family, and we could include our siblings’ families as well. “Maybe a Christmas Open House could become a new tradition,” Steve suggested, “and we can easily schedule it around the later Christmas Eve services.”

With “how” to celebrate Christmas decided, we put up our tree, and I confessed to my husband my secret childhood fantasy. “I’ve always wanted to sleep under the Christmas tree, but my parents wouldn’t let me — they thought it was too dangerous to leave the Christmas lights on.” Of course, the tiny new lights were safer now, but I really thought nothing more about it since it seemed a bit impractical with all of the presents neatly piled beneath it. But my wonderful, new husband didn’t forget.

After our Christmas Eve open house and late service at church, we arrived home and I went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. During this time, Steve was silently at work. When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I noticed that our bed was stripped of the heavy blanket, bedspread and pillows, and Steve was nowhere in sight.

“What’s going on?” I yelled as I searched for him.

“I’m in here,” he replied.

Walking quickly to the great room, I was surprised to see all of the gifts piled to one side and sleeping quarters arranged neatly beneath the tree. Suddenly, all the happiness and excitement of childhood came rushing back to me.

As we lay there together, snuggled close and with only the mini lights on the tree illuminating the room, my fantasy was fulfilled and slumber came easily. But hardwood floors are unforgiving, even with the padding of several layers of bedding. Around 3 a.m., we turned off the Christmas tree lights and contentedly scampered to rest on own soft bed.

Steve and I had many wonderful Christmases together before he left this world, but the memory of our first will last forever. It was the beginning of forging our own traditions along with the promise that he would always know how to make things better. Even in the midst of sadness such as losing my father, he proved that happiness can still occur. He taught me life is simply richer when celebrated with a child’s heart full of wonder.

~Vicki L. Julian

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