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A Certain Special Christmas

by Mary Jo Shannon

“Mom, the weather report for Wednesday doesn’t look good – a major snowstorm. I think you should come now.” Kathy’s voice betrayed her anxiety. Wednesday was the day I had planned to drive to her home in Silver Spring, Maryland to be available when her second baby arrived. I could understand her fear of weather causing a delay – she needed me to care for three-year-old Erin. I agreed and assured her I would leave right away.

Soon I was on the interstate, and though I dreaded the beltway, I followed Kathy’s written directions accurately and soon arrived safely. That night I went to sleep, knowing the few extra days with my daughter’s family more than compensated for the Christmas preparations left undone at home.

“Mom, Mom, wake up!” Kathy stood by my bed, gently shaking my shoulder to rouse me. The clock on the nightstand read five o’clock, but she wore her winter coat with a scarf around her neck. Skip was beside her, also dressed for winter weather.

Bewildered, I got up and slipped into my robe. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“The baby is coming. Skip will take me to the hospital and you explain to Erin when she wakes up. Fix whatever you want for breakfast – Erin will just want cereal. And the men are supposed to come to install the carpet, but be sure Max is closed up and don’t let him out. Skip will call you when the baby comes. Oh, I’m so glad you came early!”

With that said, she and Skip scurried down the stairs and headed for the hospital. I watched from the bedroom window as they drove away, the car surrounded by swirls of snowflakes, like a snow globe when you shake it. My mind was also swirling with the directions I had been given – Erin, breakfast, men to install carpet… And Max, Kathy’s lovable big yellow “Heinz 57 varieties” dog, whose bark, which was much worse than his bite, terrified strangers. Be sure to keep Max up.

When Skip called to tell me their second daughter had arrived safely, the men were installing the carpet, the dog was barking behind a closed door, and Erin was tugging on my dress saying, “Nana, Nana, please take me to see the new baby!”  Somehow we managed to survive the day and had dinner ready when Skip came with the news that mother and baby would be coming home the next day – Wednesday, the day I had planned to arrive!

When my babies were born, I stayed in the hospital a week or ten days. I could hardly believe Kathy was discharged so soon. She and baby Sarah Rebecca came home in the snow; the snow that caused me to drive up early.

When my babies were born, I took it easy for a week or two. Kathy jumped right into preparing for Christmas — she even went shopping and took Erin and the baby to see Santa. Her new carpet and the dining room walls wearing fresh coats of paint, (thanks to Skip’s hard work the previous week) brightened the house for the holidays. The tall spruce, its branches loaded with a array of unusual ornaments, looked and smelled like Christmas. I helped wherever I was needed — wrapping packages, cooking, caring for the baby and entertaining Erin.

The weather that December set a record for cold temperatures in Silver Spring. The snow was heavy and more was predicted. It appeared that I would be wise to stay until after Christmas. This would be the first and only Christmas during our marriage that Harry and I were not together.

Harry had not accompanied me on this visit because his mother was in poor health. We both knew it might well be her last Christmas with us, so he stayed home. We talked on the telephone, relaying information to one another about those we loved – he about his mother who was hospitalized and I with glowing reports of the beautiful little girl who had come to make this Christmas a special one for her family. We left unsaid the poignant feelings we both experienced with this special Christmas.

On December 12, 2011, that little girl will celebrate her twenty-second birthday. On December 15, she will graduate from UNC Greensboro with a double major in international studies and art and a minor in history. In January, she will leave for London where she will continue her studies at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

This will be another special Christmas.

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