I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Tara glanced out the kitchen window as she finished rinsing off the last of the dinner dishes. A thin blanket of snow coated the yard, and more snowflakes flew from the sky. It looked like they were finally going to have a white Christmas. Every year since their marriage, Adam hoped for a white Christmas like the ones he had when he was younger, but the Navy had never sent them somewhere it snowed until this year. Toweling off her hands, she shut off the faucet and grabbed her mug from the counter before heading into the living room. Maddie and Cassie sat contently on the couch sharing a blanket and watching a Christmas movie. Tara smiled at the sight of the twins cuddling together. It has been a hard few months for them without Adam home for the holidays. Continuing into the foyer, she straightened up shoes and misplaced toys. She was looking forward to her parents being around tomorrow to help with the girls and for the excuse to celebrate. Adam made plans to surprise the girls and Skype into the present opening, but it didn’t make the fact that he was deployed any easier. She paused in front of the picture of him in his uniform and reached up to touch the frame. Draining the last cooling drops of her decaf coffee, she dropped her mug off in the kitchen.
She turned off all the lights until only the Christmas lights wrapped around the tree and the light from the TV filled the front of the house. Her daughters made room for her under the fleece blanket, and she started their yearly showing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Per tradition, the two girls fell asleep long before the movie ended, and Tara turned off the TV. Cassie woke up enough to walk herself into the twins’ bedroom, and Tara carried Maddie into the bedroom. After tucking them both in and whispering them promises of Christmas, she closed the door and padded down to the living room. As if on cue, her phone rang with a video request. She turned on some Christmas music and answered. Adam’s tired face filled the screen, and her lips lifted in a smile.
“Hey babe,” he greeted.
“Adam,” she breathed, not trusting her words beyond his name. All the stress and sadness rushed forward and tears slipped down her cheeks.
“Oh baby, don’t cry,” he soothed. “I promise I’ll be home soon. How are the girls doing?” Tara sniffled and managed to pull herself together enough to answer.
“They’re okay. I let them watch as many Christmas movies as they wanted too. The other day when we went to the mall, they asked Santa to bring you home for Christmas. If my mom hadn’t been with us, I think I would’ve lost it.”
“My strong, strong girls. I miss them so much, and I can’t wait to be home to hug all of you.” It seemed so cruel that they could see each other’s faces but not touch each other. Tara wiped at her eyes again, knowing that it was hard for Adam to see her cry.
“You will never guess what happened today,” she said, trying to steer the conversation away from how much they missed each other.
“What?” he asked, leaning forward. There was a mischievous grin on his face, and a soft giggle escaped her.
“We are going to have a white Christmas tomorrow. It’s been snowing all day.”
“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “I’ve been waiting for another white Christmas for five years, and it happens the year I’m gone. I may have to have a serious talk with the weather man,” he joked. She yawned and glanced at her watch. “It looks like you need to get some sleep, love. We’ll talk tomorrow morning. I love you.”
“I love you too, sailor,” she answered and hung up. Locking her phone, she slumped against the couch. The familiar words of I’ll Be Home for Christmas filled the silent living room, and she buried her face in her hands, unable to keep back the tears. A knock on the front door startled her, and she hesitantly got to her feet. Wrapping her sweater tighter around her, she unlatched the door and opened it.
Her next door neighbor and best friend stood on the porch with a plate piled high with cookies and deserts.
“I saw your lights were still on, and I had some leftover goodies.” Kristi held the plate out with a smile. “I know its been hard without Adam home, but you are so loved. I know your parents are coming over for Christmas morning, but we wanted to invite you and the girls over for dinner tomorrow night.” Tears flooded Tara’s eyes again as she embraced her friend.
“Thank you, Kristi. Merry Christmas.” Tara took the plate.
“Merry Christmas, Tara.” Kristi gave her one more hug before disappearing back into the night. Tara closed the door and flipped the lock. She set the plate on the kitchen counter and unplugged the tree in the living room before heading upstairs to her bedroom for the night.
She woke up the next morning to the twins bouncing excitedly on the bed, screaming at the top of their lungs about Christmas. For a brief moment, she forgot that Adam was gone, and she turned to wish him Merry Christmas. She swallowed the lump in her throat and held out her arms to the girls. They dove into her embrace and willingly cuddled with her for a few more minutes. Her phone buzzed on the nightstand, and she grabbed it. The twins chattered to each other while she peered at the notification screen.
“Alright girls, Gramma and Grampa are going to be here in a few minutes. Can you two go get dressed in the outfits we got for today?” she asked. They both nodded and scurried off the bed. She laid back on the pillow and typed out a quick message to Adam before getting ready for the day herself.
She poured herself a cup of coffee as the doorbell rang, and she turned on the Christmas music as she passed the stereo. Cassie and Maddie tore down the stairs, sliding on the wooden floor in the foyer.
“Girls,” she scolded as they collided into her.
“Sorry, Mama,” they chorused before running off to the living room. The doorbell chimed again, and she hurried to answer the door.
“Merry Christmas,” her whole family shouted as she swung open the door. She took a step back as she took in all the faces. Her eldest brother stood next to her parents, and her little sister had a baby on her hip.
“You’re all here,” she breathed. Her mother stepped forward and embraced her.
“We thought we would call in reinforcements with Adam gone.”
“Well come in, come in. The girls are in the living room.” Tara watched everyone file into her house, and she couldn’t believe her parents. Her empty house no longer felt so empty. Her daughters’ excited squeals told her that they were excited to see their aunts, uncles, and cousins. She wandered into the kitchen and watched her father put the homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven. She leaned against the counter and took a deep breath, enjoying the familiar smell.
“How are you doing, Tara?” her father asked, setting the oven timer. He helped himself to some iced tea from the fridge making her smile.
“Better than I expected. Thank you for making this all happen.”
“It’s what family does, Sweetpea.”
“Tara, there is someone else at the door,” her mother called. Tara frowned and set her mug down on the countertop, glancing over her shoulder at her parents.
“Did you guys invite someone else?” she asked, walking through the living room. They shook their heads, and she looked at her siblings questioningly as she opened the door. Addie and James shook their heads.
“Do you have room for one more?” a familiar voice asked.
“Daddy!” Cassie screamed from her spot on the couch. Tara pivoted to face the open door, and her hand flew to her mouth. Cassie and Maddie ran between the couple and flung themselves into their father’s arms. Adam let them go and pulled his wife into his arms. She buried her face into his shoulder as she realized that he was really here.
“Merry Christmas, darling.”