Let me take you back many years. I had graduated from Texas Tech in May and by the end of August was teaching my first year in Amarillo, Texas. My husband of less than a year was in the army at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. Like most newly married couples we were broke, not poor, just broke.
We scraped together all our cash to get him home. All either of us wanted for Christmas was to be together. He’d left August 28th, the same day I taught my first day of school, and I hadn’t seen him for almost five months.
The last day before holiday break the principal asked if anyone wanted the six feet tree in the commons. I said yes. It was a big, real tree. (that hadn’t had water since the day after Thanksgiving.)
I dragged the bushy tree out to my Camaro, strapped it to the top and took it home to my tiny apartment. By the time I got it up stairs, needles were everywhere, but I wanted to put up a tree for our first Christmas.
I had no ornaments so I tried to string popcorn and paper chains together. Then I cut out flour ornaments with a set of cookie cutters I borrowed from the home economics class at school. I stayed up all night painting five dozen cookie decorations.
Tom missed his flight out of New Jersey. I waited at the airport. He missed another connection in Dallas due to ice. Midnight, Christmas Eve. After waiting eight hours at the airport, my Tommy walked off the airplane in uniform.
I almost didn’t recognize him. He had short hair after his shaggy look in college, a mustache, and he’d gained forty pounds. We just stood there hugging while people rushed around us.
When I got him home to an apartment he’d never seen, he barely looked around the tiny place. All he saw was the tree. (it took up half the room). We spread blankets on the floor, ate supper from a fondue pot and slept beneath the tree. The next morning would be for family, but that night was just the two of us.
Over the years we moved a dozen times with the army and several more times after grad school. Kids came along—ending our making love under the tree. The fragile homemade flour and salt ornaments shaped like bells and stars broke. Now only one remains–a bell. But, it’s the most important one and it goes on last.
I love Christmas just as I’ll always love Tom. Maybe that’s why I get such a kick out of writing love stories that take place at Christmas.
Now and then a story comes in full blown to my mind.
That’s what happened to this story. I saw the whole story in my mind and I had to write as fast as possible to get it down.
First a broken soldier who has lost everything. All he needs is a chance. He finds it in a poker game. A long haul that will pay enough to give him a stake.
Add a woman desperate to change her life.
Now to add the magic. Five little rich girls who just want to get home before Christmas. Since I have three grand-daughters a few of the girls sayings were copies from them.
This story came to me almost like a gift in this quiet, worried time and I hope it will make you laugh as a broken soldier learns to care again.
I wish all a Merry Christmas and may the memories you hang on your trees be as precious as the ornaments.
Merry Christmas to all,