Marti pulled back the curtain and peered out into the gathering darkness, lightened by the steady snow falling gently around the country house. The announcer on the radio barked out continual warnings about the December storm. Gale force winds and dropping wind chills were expected before long. A winter weather warning had been issued. Travel only in cases of emergency and remember to pack a winter survival kit in case your vehicle becomes disabled.
These were warnings she'd grown up with, respected and sometimes even feared.
"Mom, when's he going to get here?" Darin asked.
Marti tucked the curtain back in place before turning to smile at her children. "It won't be long now, Darin. You know he'll be in a hurry to get here just as soon as he can."
"Can we start decorating the tree, Mom?" Debbie asked. Nothing...not even waiting for Roger could deter Debbie from the event she'd been anticipating for weeks.
"Oh, I don't suppose he'd mind if we strung the lights and put on the garland. But, let's wait until he gets here before we put the ornaments on. Okay?"
The two children agreed and soon they were happily engrossed in testing strings of lights and untangling the garland from the box Marti had pulled from the closet earlier. She watched eight-year-old Darin and his sister, Debbie, only two years younger than he. Oh, to be that young again, with only the question of what Santa would bring as one's biggest worry.
She tried to keep from going to the window and looking out at the snowy front yard. He would get here when he got here, if he got here at all. The wind gusted strongly, rattling the screen door on the house and making Marti jump. Was she hoping that he could get here in time? Or wouldn't it just be easier, simpler, if the weather prevented him from leaving town? A Christmas with just the three of them--Marti, Darin and Debbie--would be the best for Marti, but she knew both kids would be very disappointed if Roger failed to arrive. There wouldn't be that heavy tension in the air. She wouldn't feel like she had to guard every word, walk on eggshells and pray that they could keep the harmony going.
It wasn't all Roger's fault, she guiltily reminded herself as she walked into the kitchen to make some hot chocolate. Sure, he was impatient and sometimes selfish and too typically male, but it was her reticence, her hesitancy that seemed to create the problems between them.
Unfortunately, kind Roger, her dear friend from her youngest childhood, had wanted to change the dynamics of their relationship. He had attempted to fill the rather large shoes left by Gary. No one would ever fill those shoes, vacated so unexpectedly when Debbie was only a couple of months old, when both Marti and Gary felt invulnerable and invincible. Perhaps, if Gary had survived the car accident...
No, it was better not to dwell on those thoughts. Especially not on a night like this, a night so similar to that tragic night six years before.
"Mom, can I at least put this ornament on the tree?" Darin called. Marti glanced in the living room, shock nearly causing her to drop the tray of hot chocolate she was preparing to bring in to the kids. Darin was tossing the crystal ornament from one hand to the other.
"Darin! Don't! Put that ornament down. Please," Marti beseeched her son. Sullenly, he placed the ornament down on couch and turned his back to her. Marti rushed forward, placing the tray on the coffee table and picking the ornament up in her hand.
The twinkling lights from the Christmas tree reflected and refracted within the bold cuttings of the crystal.
"Darin, this is a very, very special ornament. I just didn't want you to break it," she explained patiently.
"What's so special about it?" Debbie asked, clamoring up on the end of the couch.
Marti slumped down on the couch, throwing her arm around her daughter and pulling her close. "This ornament has been in our family for more than a hundred years."
"That's a really long time, Mommy," Debbie sighed in awe, poking one pudgy finger at the ornament.
"Yes, honey, a very long time." She glanced over at Darin, stubbornly refusing to turn around and look at her. The pout was in full force, even with Christmas only hours away.
"Would you like to hear about how this ornament came into our family, Debbie?" Debbie nodded solemnly.
The wind rushed around the house. Marti could hear the snow beating against the side of the building and the screen door continuing its spooky rattling. Perhaps they were old enough to appreciate the legacy of the ornament. Perhaps they weren't. It didn't matter. What did matter is that it might pass the time until Roger arrived. When Roger got there, everything would be fine. Wouldn't it?
"Okay, Debbie. Once upon a time, a hundred and one years ago, there was a young woman named May," Marti began.
"Was she your grandma?" Debbie asked.
"Don't be a dope, Deb," Darin protested, perching on the end of the couch. "You know that's not Grandma's name."
"You're right, Darin. No, this May was your great-great-great grandma. And she lived in a fine home back east in Illinois...And this is how I heard her story..."