For 22 years, Tommy has been with us at Christmas. The first year he was still in the womb, and our announcement of his presence was the Christmas surprise for my older sons, who were between 12 and 16 years old at the time.
The year after he was born, we had baby toys under the tree for the first time in years, and his brothers laughed as they watched him do his "big eyes" look at the tree and presents. The next year he was afraid of Santa but tore into the presents like a pro.In 2003, when we were tearing down and moving the old log cabin. What a mess--you can see what Tommy thinks of it!
The year he was four, my husband shot a deer a few weeks before Christmas. Tommy was upset--he was sure Daddy had killed Rudolph. To reassure him, I took him outside to show him that this deer's nose was not red. Bad idea--the deer, hanging upside down in preparation for skinning, had blood all over its nose! Traumatic would not be a strong enough word to describe Tommy's reaction to that. It took a little while to explain and convince him that this was a doe and not a reindeer; then he watched the skinning process with interest.
Each year as he grew, he delighted in Christmas. The brothers grew up and moved out, one by one. Last year it was just Tommy, Larry and I gathered at the tree on Christmas morning, and instead of parents and child it felt more like three adults--and it was very comfortable.
This year he is in Germany, unable to get leave from the Air Force to come home. It's his first Christmas away from family, and it will be our first Christmas morning without a child to enjoy it with us. (To tell the truth, it will be the first ever in my life without a child present!) He is joining some Air Force buddies, and staying overnight with another soldier who couldn't make it home. We miss him and he misses us, but we'll all get through it with the help of the telephone and memories.
I wish the APO mail service had managed to get his package to him--even though one I mailed only a week ago got there, the one with his Christmas tree, the photo album I made for him and the homemade cookies didn't arrive--and it was mailed on December 11th. Go figure. He'll need that WVU sweatshirt before the bowl game on January 2nd, certainly. But military mail doesn't follow the same path as private mail, and there is no telling when he might get that package.
Tomorrow morning we'll get up to a quiet house. We'll make breakfast and enjoy listening to carols and to the birds at our feeders. We'll call Tommy around 8 am (2pm his time) and share the holiday long distance. Then later on we'll pack up to travel to Derek's house to make dinner and share gifts with his children and girlfriend, and this time the sharing (we hope) will be live via the internet and a webcam to Iraq.
Two soldiers in the family, miles from home, and yet still connected with the strength of family and love. Derek's been there-done this many times before. For Tommy, I suppose it will be a rite of passage--and perhaps it will be the same for me.
Merry Christmas A1C Larry T. Holstein. Your family is proud of you.