The song played loudly over the external store speaker, and Katelyn stopped walking to listen. “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams,” brought tears to her eyes. It’d been eighteen months since Kevin left on his tour of duty; eighteen months without R&R, scant letters, and rare phone calls. Last year, she had wished him home for Christmas, and he was supposed to come, but then the 101st infantry was slaughtered and his troop had to take their place. The next twelve months were spent in worry. His repeated requests for R&R had been denied. This Christmas didn’t look very promising, either. It would be another six months before the powers that be would even consider bringing his unit home.
She whisked the tears off her face and started walking again, faster than she was before, distancing herself from the store front music. She had made promises to him, and she intended to keep them all. So far, she had been successful. This one was proving a bit harder for her though. She was not in the holiday spirit at all. She had promised Kevin that she would decorate and put a tree up every year, whether he was there or not. Christmas had always been a big deal to Kevin, and now that they shared a son, she knew that is was even more important to him now. She blinked the last of her tears away as she opened the door to her son’s daycare, punched in the security code, and planted a smile on her face.
“Mommy!!” Parker screamed, as he always did when she picked him up. His chubby arms wrapped tightly around her neck as she hugged him close to her. She looked into his big blue eyes for a moment before putting him down and helping him get ready to go. She was always amazed at how much Parker looked like Kevin, though Kevin had never had a chance to lay eyes on him. He was born two weeks after Kevin left, a rough birth that he almost did not survive. She longed for the day her two men would finally meet, and she held hope that the next time he came home would be the last time he would have to leave.
“Shall we stop and see Santa on the way home, my big boy?” She asked him, as she placed his red knitted cap tightly on his head, leaving his golden curls sticking out from underneath. His big eyes grew larger in his excitement of seeing Santa. She took his hand and led him out of the center.
The bustle of the busy city never ceased to amaze Parker, so she insisted on walking the three blocks home to their small but comfortable apartment, never in a hurry, and always allowing him time to explore to his heart’s content along the way. She took a detour today, and led Parker towards the large Marshall Fields two blocks in the opposite direction. It required they go through the park, and since it was Christmas Eve, she considered it to be a nice, though cold, diversion.
Halfway through the park, as she found herself wallowing in self-pity missing Kevin again, she felt Parker pulling at her arm. She stopped and looked down at him, then in the direction he was pointing. One of the evergreen trees in the park had been decorated with lights and ornaments, and a small sleigh was assembled before it. Santa was sitting in the sleigh, clasping the reins of the twelve reindeer in front of him. There was a large red sack in the back of the sleigh as well.
“Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas.” The Santa spoke. His eyes sparkled brightly from beneath his round silver frames, his round cheeks were rosy, and his belly jiggled as he laughed. “It’s Christmas Eve, and you should cheer up. I think I have just the thing to do it.” He reached out to the evergreen tree and took a beautiful red jeweled ornament off the tree and handed it to Katelyn. “Take this ornament and make a wish on it. If you do this at precisely midnight tonight, your wish will come true.” She gave him a look of disbelief but took the ornament from him and put it in her pocket. She gave Parker a moment to relish in Santa, then they went back through the park they way they had come in, headed now for home, her detour to the department store Santa forgotten as her fingers played with the satin on the ball in her pocket.
As they reached the front steps of their apartment building, Katelyn swooped Parker up into her arms. “Oh my darling. I forgot to ask you what you asked Santa for?” she said simply to him.
“Snow.” was the quiet, baby-voiced reply, just as snowflakes began to fall from the sky. He laughed as he looked up, pointing. “Snow!” He said again. She hugged him again, drinking in his baby scent, and enjoying the sound of his laughter.
“Yes, Parker, snow!! Let’s hurry upstairs so we can watch it from our window!!” She smiled brightly at him. She wished that her requests were so easily met.
She made them a small but festive chicken dinner, and after a bath and a story, Parker went willingly to sleep, his excitement about Santa’s expected visit fresh in his mind as he dozed off. She quietly sat on her couch, wrapped in her favorite blanket, with only the lights of the Christmas tree on, and watched the snow fall outside her window. She grasped the bejeweled ornament in her hand, turning it around, and marveling at its beauty. She spun it softly as it dangled from her fingers, and she laughed as the stones caught the light of the tree and left little pin pricks of light dancing along the walls . Her mind began wandering again, back to Kevin, and try as hard as she could, she couldn’t stop thinking about him, and she drifted off to sleep, dreaming of days filled with memories of him.
She was abruptly awoken by the sound of sirens outside of her apartment building, and she jumped off the couch. She glanced at the clock. 11:59 the digital display said, and her fingers itched over the ornament. Though she knew it was a foolish, she began wishing, gazing into the red gemstones as if she were hypnotized by them. So mesmerized was she in her wishing that she almost didn’t hear the doorbell. Her reverie broken, she drifted to the door, wondering who could be there this time of night. She look through the peep hole and noticed it was the Santa from the park.
“What do you want, and how did you know where I live?” she asked through the crack she opened with the chain lock still on.
“I’m sorry its so late, but you see, I have another package to deliver before I head back to the North Pole.”
“Another package? Where is it?” Her skepticism obvious in her voice. Santa stepped back to make room for another body to step in his place.
“Kevin O’Shea reporting for R&R. Mission accomplished.” came the voice. The voice that came from the mouth she knew so well from tracing it with her own lips so many times. She flung the door open and leaped into his arms.
As he carried her over the threshold, a voice called from a distance:
“Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” Her eyes left Kevin’s face long enough to look for Santa, but he was gone. She looked for the ornament, carefully laid on the table as she went to the door, and noticed that it too was gone.