Family love may serve as the basis for some of our most profound and significant relationships. Family may also be a source of tension and worry, particularly at big life events and holidays. No matter how you slice it — for better or worse — nothing beats family. Everything revolves around family. Read this heart touching story to know what happened in this family during Christmas.
My brother came home for Christmas again this year. It’s not him that I mind so much. It’s the fuss that occurs when he arrives. He rarely calls, he never writes, he’s a three-time college dropout and he’s never stayed with a job for more than six months. He only sees my parents at Christmas and they have to send him airfare to get home. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but when Gerald shows up for Christmas my parents act as if Christ himself has come back to celebrate his birthday.
We can’t decorate the tree until Gerald gets home; then Uncle Jim and Aunt Liz come over and Dad videotapes the evening, completely out of focus. My mother gets weepy and calls the neighbors to talk about how good it is to have the family all together at this special time.
I’m surprised my parents haven’t taken the baby Jesus out of the Nativity set and replaced it with a plastic replica of my brother.
On Christmas morning, after my brother’s favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, hash browns and apple juice, we experience the torture known as “gift time.”
My mother always thinks she knows just what I need. She usually gets ideas when she makes unannounced visits to my apartment. Then she drops unsubtle hints about what I should expect under the tree.
“David, you could use a coffeemaker,” my mother said, when she visited one evening after doing some Christmas shopping.
“But, Mom, I don’t drink coffee.”
“What about when company comes over?” she replied. “Your brother drinks coffee.”
“Gerald lives seven hundred miles away,” I said. “He’s never been to my apartment. If he happens to stop by, I’ll take him out to the Starbucks around the corner.),
My mother nodded. “Still, a coffeemaker is a nice thing to have.”
So, on Christmas morning when we opened gifts, I got a coffeemaker, a dictionary and four packs of socks.
You know what Gerald got? A subscription to Entertainment Weekly magazine and a card full of cash.
I get socks, he gets cash.
“We weren’t sure what you needed,” my mother said to Gerald. “We figured you could find a way to have some fun with the money.”
“Hey, if you want fun,” I said, holding up my dictionary. “Maybe we can look up the definitions to words. How about “irritate” or “animosity?”
But no one heard me since they were too busy watching Gerald count out his cash.
After our meal I cleared off the table and my mother sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” off-key while she loaded the dishwasher. Dad and Gerald sat in the living room watching football.
I wasn’t interested in the game, so I wandered upstairs, on the premise that I was going to use the bathroom.
At the top of the stairs I passed my parents’ bedroom and looked into Gerald’s old room.
I secretly called it “The Wonder Boy Shrine” since my mother hadn’t moved a thing in the six years since Gerald had left. His bed, desk and lamp were there. His school yearbooks were on the shelf; his posters were on the wall. For all I knew there could still be a pair of his dirty underwear stuck under the bed.
Crossing the hall, I walked into my old room, now referred to as “the guest room.” The room had been stripped the weekend after I moved out: new curtains, new paint, new carpeting, new bedspread. My old things were stored in the attic.
Cold, heavy raindrops splattered against the window. I looked out at the plastic illuminated snowman my father set up in the front yard. He’d been putting that thing out there every year for as long as I could remember. Glowing brightly, the snowman was leaning to one side. His red top hat was faded and a thick wad of duct tape held the back of his head together. I knew how he felt. Christmas around this house had the same effect on me.
Why did this have to be so difficult? I probably would have been happy to see Gerald if my parents showed a bit more appreciation towards me for all that I did around here.
I was the one who was here all year long. I helped plant their Impatiens and Geraniums in the spring and never forgot their birthdays and always took them out to dinner on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I even came over at Easter and watched the entire Ten Commandments with them every year! I was here whenever they needed me.
But they couldn’t get enough of Gerald.
“David, what are you doing up here?” My mother startled me from my mental tirade. “I thought you were downstairs watching TV.”
I shrugged my shoulders and looked back out the window.
“You must have lots of memories in this room,” she said, sitting down on the bed. “It’s good having you both back home. But, you know something?” She took a deep breath and then sighed.
I gritted my teeth. I knew what was coming next—another ode to Gerald. Perhaps she could sing it to the tune of a Christmas carol. Would it be “Gerald We Have Heard On High” or “Joy to the Gerald?”
“I wish your brother could be more like you.”
I turned to look at her. I couldn’t believe it. “What?”
“Don’t get me wrong,” said my mother. “I love Gerald dearly, but I wish he was more responsible, more mature, more hard-working, like you are. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about him so much. I hate to even touch his bedroom because I’m always worried he’ll need to move back home. He’s not like you at all.”
I shook my head. “But I always thought…” I shook my head again. “You wish Gerald was more like me?”
“Of course I do.” My mother stood up and gave me a hug. “You’re a good son, David. And a wonderful person. I don’t know what your father and I would do without you.”
I hugged her back. “Thanks, Mom.”
“I’m going downstairs,” she said. “I’m going to try to get your father to turn the channel so I can watch It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Talk about a Christmas miracle. This year she had actually given me a gift that I wanted; her approval.
She liked me.
She appreciated what I did.
She thought I was as good as Gerald.
That night when I got back to my apartment, I made a pot of coffee and looked up the word “family” in my dictionary.
The definition read: “A group of related things.”
With my family, that might be as close as we’d ever get. But as strange as it seemed, I was actually looking forward to next Christmas and hoping my brother would be able to make it home.
I guess knowing that my parents really did appreciate me was just enough for Christmas.