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It's Like The Movies

the best christmas ever

By Talbot FinchPublished 3 years ago 7 min read

This far south, it never feels like it does in the movies. There’s never any snow or anything. I’ve never even seen the stuff in person before. But it doesn’t matter if it’s cold or not, Christmas is still my favorite time of year. It’s Mom’s, too. She might even love it more than me. I remember when I was really little, she would sometimes play her Christmas cassette during the summertime when she cleaned the house.

This year she’s not as excited as she usually is. I think it’s because of Granny Betty. She died in August and Mom was really upset about it. I’ve never seen an adult that sad about something before. I’d only ever seen little kids cry the way she cried.

She sleeps a lot more now, and I guess I understand it. When I’m very sad about something, I want to sleep, too. But I still worry. I thought she was feeling better for a while, but it seems like the closer we get to Christmas, the sadder she gets.

I also miss Granny Betty, but it’s hard to be sad at Christmastime. Outside, rainbow lights hang from the roof, and they make my bedroom glow all night long. We also have two of those deers made of tiny white Christmas lights. I’m very proud of them. For the past few years, everyone else in the neighborhood had some, except us. Dad always said they were too expensive, but this year they were on sale. This might turn out to be the best Christmas ever.

“You dressed yet?” My sister Sidney sticks her head into my room. She’s visiting from College and staying with us for a whole week. That makes me happy. Most of the time, big kids and grownups are too busy to play with me, but Sid always finds time. Whenever we have to write about our role models in school, I write about Sid.

“No, not yet,” I tell her. I’ve been putting it off. Church is the one thing about Christmas I don’t care for so much. It lasts forever. “Can you help me with my tie when I’m done?”

“Oh, um…” She steps in to look at it. It’s a clip-on. She gives me a goofy grin, and says, “Why, yes, I can help you with it.”

She leaves and I put on my stiff, white button-up shirt and baggy, black slacks. I pull my belt tight and thread it through the extra punch hole Dad put in it for me because it’s too big. He said I’d grow into it one day. Lastly, I pull on my tall, white socks and slip into my scuffed brown shoes. I hate it already. Church probably wouldn’t feel nearly so long if we were allowed to wear jeans and a t-shirt.

I grab my tie and look for Sid. She’s in the kitchen with Dad and my brother Dylan—he’s in high school and I like him too, but not as much as Sid. They’re standing around a chair and all look really worried. Sitting in the chair is Mom who doesn’t look worried at all. She looks…Well, it’s hard to say exactly. It’s not happy or sad or mad or anything. I haven’t seen her much today, but I’m surprised that she isn’t dressed for church yet. She always takes the longest to get ready, but she’s still in her flower-spotted nightgown even though it’s a quarter past four. We’re supposed to be leaving soon.

“Hey, bud. Um, Mom’s not feeling too well.” Sid looks nervous. She doesn’t often look like that.

Dad doesn’t say anything. I’ve learned from the western movies he likes to watch that he’s a “Quiet Type.” Dylan keeps looking between Dad and Sid and Mom like he’s waiting for someone to tell him to do something.

“What’s wrong?” I keep a safe distance in case Mom’s not feeling well in the sense that she has to throw up or something. I don’t like being around throw-up.

“Mom…doesn’t remember where she is. She might not recognize you right now, okay? Maybe you should wait in the other room for a bit.”

Oh, thank goodness. That’s easy! When someone doesn’t remember something all you have to do is find something that jogs their memory and then suddenly, they remember everything again like the flick of a switch. It happens that way in movies all the time. The reason they couldn’t get her to remember anything yet is probably because they needed me here to help. One look at me and she’ll remember where she is again, I know it.

I walk up to Mom and smile.

Her eyes float around the room like she’s lost in outer space. Her head wobbles and jerks slightly as if it’s a struggle to keep it upright. For a moment, her eyes land on me. They look more blue than usual because her pupils are so tiny—they’re no bigger than the tip of a pen. But, her eyes don’t see me at all. They just float away again, back into outer space where nothing matters.

She doesn’t know who I am. I don’t understand it. Moms aren’t supposed to forget about their kids, not if they love them. That’s just a fact. If you love someone, you can’t forget about them. So why can’t she remember me?

I hear Dylan’s voice, “Do you think she took too much?”

Then I hear Sid’s, “I think so. Maybe we should call somebody.”

Took too much? What did she take? Did Mom steal something? That doesn’t sound like her at all. But what if she did? What if she accidentally stole something because she couldn’t remember where she was or forgot that she had to pay? They’re talking about calling somebody. Do they mean the police?

I panic. “Please don’t send her to jail,” I say. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to do it.”

Dad looks at me uneasily before turning back to Sid and Dylan. “No. She’s conscious. That’s a good sign. I’ll get some food in her, she’ll be alright. Sidney, take the boys to church.”

Sid does what she’s told and takes us to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Inside, it’s filled with poinsettias and Christmas trees and wreaths. This is the first Christmas Eve mass I’ve been to without Mom and Dad. The service is just as long as it always is, but it feels especially painful this year. I keep thinking about Mom and the things she stole. I’m sure if she just gave them back, it would all be alright. One time I stole a pencil off my teacher’s desk in kindergarten, but I felt bad and gave it back and everything was alright. My teacher was really nice and said I did the right thing by telling her. Maybe Mom could do that, too.

When we get back home, Dad says Mom is doing better but she’s sleeping so we can’t see her. Then he tells us we should get to bed early tonight since it’s Christmas Eve. We normally watch a Christmas movie and make cookies for Santa before bed, but not this year. I hope Santa understands.

Most of the time, I have trouble getting to sleep on Christmas Eve, but tonight I feel sad and it makes me tired. I’m glad for it, because it’s like Mom and Dad usually say—The sooner you go to sleep, the sooner Santa Claus comes! It’s a comforting thought because I know he’ll stop by and leave presents and make everything okay. Tomorrow will be better.

In the morning, Sid nudges me awake and says that Santa’s been here, and he left a lot of great stuff under the tree. In the living room, I find that Mom is awake already, too, and she looks a lot better. Her eyes are normal again, and she gives me a big hug when I see her. I’m not sure why, but she’s crying. All morning long, as we open our presents, she cries. Nobody says anything about it, which I think is odd. It’s like they don’t see it. But, I still have a good time and enjoy opening the presents. Santa brought me a lot of great things including a video game I’ve really wanted. There are also presents for me that say “From Mom & Dad” on the tag. I know they’re actually from Mom though. Dad gets the tree and puts the lights on the house; Mom buys the presents. The gifts from her are very nice, too. There are, of course, some new clothes and a toothbrush kit, but I’m most excited about the two big Lego sets I asked for.

When the presents are all open and the wrapping paper has been stuffed into garbage bags, Mom calls me over. She’s alone on the couch.

“Why are you crying?” I ask her.

She tries to smile and says, “I’m crying because I’m happy. Adults do that sometimes.” I know that they do, but I don’t think that’s why she’s crying now. There isn’t any happiness in her eyes. Then, she asks, “Did you have a good Christmas?”

“Yes,” I say, but I hesitate. I think about the gifts she got for me and what Dylan said yesterday. Do you think she took too much? “I like the gifts you got me a whole lot, but you didn’t steal any of them, did you? If you did, it’s okay but I think we should give them back.”

Her face scrunches up like a crumpled paper towel, and she lets out a sob before she can put a hand over her mouth. Shaking her head, she stands abruptly and leaves the room. I watch her go and feel like I’ve said the wrong thing. I feel like crying now, too.

I walk to the window and look at the Christmas light deers standing in the front yard. I look at them for a long time. Our yard finally looks like it belongs with the rest of our neighbors.

I wonder what it’s like in their homes. In my head, it’s like the movies. Everyone is gathered around their tree and has cups of hot cocoa, and nobody is crying. Nobody stole anything or forgot where they were. Everyone is happy, just as they are supposed to be. If anyone at school asks me, I’ll tell them that my Christmas was like that. I’ll tell them that it turned out to be the best Christmas ever.

Short Story

About the Creator

Talbot Finch

Hello. My name is Talbot Finch, and I write fiction.

If you're interested, please feel free to take a look at my site:

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