Published 8:10 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

He loved Christmas! Red and ribbons, parties and presents. Mangers, Magi, music and mistletoe. Just all of it!

Awakening Wednesday morn, Adam shuddered with anticipation, the air full of expectancy.

All his family would soon be coming in, which meant nephews and nieces scampering about like squirrels and the annual resurrection of memories. The time his brother, Henry, knocked over the tree! The year his father received three exact same ties. The turkey that fell off the table and made the “gobble” of a living bird. Aunt Mary’s way of asking for “more” with her British accent and how “Winter Wonderland” skipped on its last chorus as his mother lamented every year, “We’re going to get a new CD next year.”

The skipping Winter Wonderland became as much a part of Christmas as the trees and presents and coffee cake, such that no child dare disturb such imbedded delight by substituting it with something cold and ordinary as a new CD.

Adam sat up groggily in bed, staring at the day’s new light cascading through the window into his bedroom. Christmas in three days! Remembering one more gift to delight his nephew, he dressed and headed to Roger’s Trainland, whistling en route.

He dreaded Christmas! Pushing his feet from under the covers, they swung down to a cold floor as his arms thrust his upper torso into vertical position. Staring through dirty pane glass, Kyle blinked as a tsunami of emotion rolled over his being and sucked him into its undercurrents, dragging him into a familiar state of fear, despair and hopelessness.

In three days, family members, usually insulated by distance, would converge into a prison of walls to enter into verbal sparring. Old wounds and hurts would surface, not flagrantly, but in subtle ways.

A comment here, a fixed stare there, the walls would arise again as petty conversation, like mortar, tried to fill the cracks. The perfunctory “How have you been?’’ “Your children have grown,” all said. The mood would settle into silence as small talk waned.

His “ex” would drop off the kids with cold comments of what to do and the time of her return as Kyle would recall with pain when they were together, establishing their own memories. But that was no more.

Then there was the empty chair. His father, the dominant figure who gave commonality to all, had three years previous passed. His absence swept like a January wind through the house, tainting Christmas with a lingering loss and reminder of one’s own mortality.

Such trials were Kyle’s constant companions, but Christmas brought unbearable levels of intensity.

That afternoon, Adam and Kyle passed while walking in opposite directions down South Main Street. Though strangers, their eyes briefly met.

“Merry Christmas!” exclaimed Adam, jauntiness in his walk.

“Merry Christmas,” replied Kyle.