Hap­pi­ness Never Dies

Pasatiempo - - Stories - by Lu­cas Weiss

It was beau­ti­ful, like ev­ery­thing she made for us on Christ­mas. My grandma al­ways sent us presents and or­na­ments with the most amaz­ing dec­o­ra­tions. She worked so hard on them. We still had some that were years old, some of the most amaz­ing baubles I’d ever seen, some burst­ing with color and imagination and oth­ers tra­di­tional.

My grandma was sort of the ma­tri­arch of the fam­ily. In a way, she’s the one who pulled us to­gether and taught us ev­ery­thing we knew. She was, af­ter all, the old­est per­son left on my mom’s side of the fam­ily, yet it felt like she could do any­thing.

One of the most amaz­ing things about her was that no mat­ter how hec­tic or crazy ev­ery­thing was, she was al­ways calm, and she some­how man­aged to make us a fam­ily on Christ­mas.

There was lots of gloomi­ness, es­pe­cially with my mom, and when she was sad, it was hard for my sib­lings and I not to feel sad, es­pe­cially when my sis­ter was al­ready stressed with the baby. My mom tried her best to be happy, and no mat­ter what, we were de­ter­mined to have a good Christ­mas, re­gard­less of how hard that seemed right now.

Ev­ery year, my sis­ters and broth­ers in-law came over, and we all dec­o­rated the house with our old Christ­mas records on. We danced, sang, baked cook­ies, and were there for each other.

My mom and I went out on De­cem­ber 12th as a tra­di­tion ev­ery year to get our tree; we cel­e­brated the 12 days of Christ­mas, which we count down, but this year we were a lit­tle late.

Af­ter the fun of set­ting up our tree, my brother and his fam­ily would come over from Taos and spend the night. My neph­ews are ba­si­cally my age, so ev­ery Christ­mas, ever since I was lit­tle, we stayed up late and waited for Santa Claus.

This year, how­ever, was dif­fer­ent than oth­ers. My sis­ters were late, but I fig­ured that didn’t mean much. My mom was still sad, and she had good rea­son, but it was Christ­mas, and I was wait­ing to have lots of fun with all the tra­di­tions we were so used to. I waited and waited, and fi­nally one of my sis­ters came. She was a lit­tle busy, but my other sis­ter was with the baby and wouldn’t be com­ing un­til Christ­mas Day. We went over all of our or­na­ments and dec­o­ra­tions from our Christ­mas col­lec­tion; they were so per­sonal and spe­cial, we would never have any­thing like them again. Dec­o­rat­ing was not as fun as I had hoped, but now it was time for cook­ies. I went over to my sis­ter so we could bake cook­ies to­gether, but she was talk­ing to my mom. I went to my room to wait.

Af­ter a while, I heard the clamor of the front door open­ing and clos­ing. I went out and saw my sis­ter leav­ing.

“Where are you go­ing? We’re sup­posed to make cook­ies and wrap presents,” I said, wor­ried and a lit­tle an­gry.

“Aww, I’m sorry. I think Santa will have to get some­thing other than cook­ies tonight. I have to go home, but I’m com­ing back in the morn­ing to fin­ish wrap­ping the presents.”

I frowned slightly, then sighed, re­al­iz­ing there was noth­ing I could do.

“OK, see you to­mor­row. I love you. Merry Christ­mas.”

She kissed me on the head and closed the door be­hind her, a cold draft of air blow­ing in at me as I stood alone in the en­try hall. I looked back at the liv­ing room; the lights were all up and the presents were out, but I felt like some­thing was miss­ing.

“When’s every­one else com­ing?” I asked, re­al­iz­ing the night wasn’t over yet.

“I’m sorry, honey, I for­got to tell you. They de­cided they were stay­ing home this Christ­mas, but they’re go­ing to come down later and make up for it.”

“Oh.” I nod­ded as she kissed me on the head and said, “Merry Christ­mas,” a hot lump form­ing in my throat.

I know I was sup­posed to be too old for Santa Claus, but I still felt like ev­ery­thing was wrong, so I fig­ured I’d write him a let­ter any­way. I wrote care­fully, hold­ing back tears of dis­ap­point­ment, the sound of quiet Christ­mas car­ols still play­ing in the back­ground.

I called my dad to say Merry Christ­mas, then turned out the light and got in bed with one last sigh.

My eyes opened quickly, my in­ter­nal clock whistling the ar­rival of Christ­mas. I hopped out of bed and ran down to the liv­ing room, where my sis­ters, in-laws, and mom were al­ready chat­ting and drink­ing cof­fee. I got the as­sorted can­dies and trin­kets from my stock­ing and spread them out across the floor, the yelps and gig­gles of the baby mix­ing with the mu­sic, chat­ter, and dogs.

Af­ter a while I re­al­ized that, even though ev­ery­body was cheery, even my mom, ap­a­thy slightly laced the air. I tried talk­ing to all my fam­ily; they were all very kind and seem­ingly fine, but that giddy Christ­mas feel­ing seemed to be gone. A strange feel­ing of anger and dis­con­tent be­gan to grow in­side me as I opened presents and watched the dogs slide across the red brick floors un­til, fi­nally, I qui­etly went to my room and looked through some of my presents.

Af­ter a while, my sis­ters came in and sat down near me, both smil­ing but ob­vi­ously con­cerned that I wasn’t join­ing them. “What’s the mat­ter?” my old­est sis­ter asked. “Well, last night I didn’t do al­most any of the things I usu­ally do on Christ­mas. Even though grandma died, ev­ery­body seems happy, but I feel dif­fer­ent, like some­thing’s miss­ing.”

“I’m sorry. It’s been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent this year be­cause of grandma, but even so, ev­ery­body’s here to­gether and cel­e­brat­ing. Maybe it’s some sort of prob­lem of yours. Just come back for a lit­tle while, OK? Christ­mas has only started.” They both kissed me sweetly on the head and then went back out to join the group.

I thought about this for a while be­fore fi­nally go­ing back out to join the oth­ers.

“Here you go,” my mom said, hand­ing me a green pack­age beau­ti­fully adorned with the words “Merry Xmas, Grandma” writ­ten in sil­ver. I smiled, tears welling in my eyes. As I looked on at the room full of cheer and love, I re­al­ized some­thing that grandma had al­ways taught us— hold dear on the hol­i­days and in life; hap­pi­ness never dies.

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