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The Christmas Kink

Contributed by Lucille Adams Published on 30 November 2017

This was the Christmas she had been looking forward to for 30 years – Christmas with no rush, no exhaustion. This year there would be time to find the Christmas spirit.

Not since she and Jim were married and Peggy and Beth were nonexistent had Margaret been able to walk out of an orderly kitchen at 2 o’clock on Christmas Eve.

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The whole house was orderly. She glanced around approvingly as she walked into the living room, where she looked into the mirror above the fireplace. Even her hair was in order.

Other years, she had rushed from kitchen to living room, from the turkey to the tree Jim was trimming. When she happened to look into the mirror, her hair would be flying, and always there was a smudge of flour on her forehead.

Jim’s tools would be in the middle of the floor and he would be on a ladder while Beth hopped around, telling him how to arrange the lights. Even last Christmas, two days before her wedding, Beth had helped with the tree. Maybe she and Bob would have a little tree for their baby this year, young as he was.

The girls would laugh if they could see the little tree that Jim had trimmed in 15 minutes. It was on the desk – and beside it were Christmas gifts to be delivered.

The house seemed terribly quiet. Margaret was glad when she heard Jim coming in.

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“Well, what do you know? Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting around with nothing to do,” he remarked.

Jim is still handsome, Margaret thought, in spite of his dark-rimmed glasses and gray-streaked hair. “This is the year I’m playing lady,” she said. “Remember?”

“For my money, you’re always a lady.” He handed her some envelopes. “The postman gave me these.”

“More Christmas cards. And the bank statement,” said Margaret.

“Here, I’ll take that. Don’t want you to see what your Christmas present cost,” exclaimed Jim.

Dear Jim. She shouldn’t have this queer, empty feeling now that he was home.

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“Do you still want to deliver those packages?” He nodded toward the desk.

“I’d like to. I’ve always wanted to deliver our gifts the day before Christmas instead of the day after.”

“I’ll change and be with you in a jiffy.”

Alone, Margaret put an album of carols on the record player. She had always wanted to have time to sit down and listen to Christmas music at her leisure, for she had long had a theory that somewhere within those carols lay the Christmas spirit, if only a person had time to listen. With the first notes of “Adeste Fideles,” she relaxed in her chair.

She wondered what Peggy and Mike were doing – and the two boys. Probably Mike was fixing the tree while Peggy worked on the turkey. This was the first time the boys hadn’t spent Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa.

If it weren’t for the work, she would have liked to have them in the house right now. Suddenly, she was conscious of a voice singing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” That one she could do without. She leaned over and turned off the record as Jim appeared in the door.

“Getting homesick for the kids?” he asked, looking at her closely.

“Oh, no,” she assured him halfheartedly. “Just enjoying the carols. If you’re ready, let’s go.”

“OK. I’ll put the packages in the car.”

“Seems good to have time to wish our friends Merry Christmas,” Margaret said when Jim parked at the Andersons.

Inside, there wasn’t much chance to say “Merry Christmas” or anything else. Young Bob Anderson and his wife, with their three small children, had just arrived for the holidays.

Lois came in from the kitchen with her youngest grandchild in her arms. “When will Peggy and her family get here?” she asked, hugging the baby to her.

“They aren’t coming this year,” Margaret told her. “They bought a television set, so they can’t afford the trip home.”

“What a shame,” Lois said. “But Beth and Bob and the baby will come, won’t they?”

“You forget that Bob isn’t his own boss,” Margaret replied – more sharply than she intended. “With only five days off at Christmastime, they couldn’t possibly come home unless they’d fly – and they can’t do that on a sergeant’s pay.”

Jim and Mr. Anderson emerged from the back of the house, and Margaret said they must run along. As Jim backed the car out of the Anderson driveway, he said, “Nice their boy and his family could get home, isn’t it?”

“Hmm – looked like a lot of work,” Margaret replied.

“It is a lot of work for a woman,” Jim agreed.

“No more than for you. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to put up a big tree – and get a kink in your back the way you used to?”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed hesitantly. “I guess we both deserve a rest. Tomorrow we’ll eat downtown. You’ll have your turkey served in style, and I’ll be sitting across from you with nary an aching muscle.”

They finished their calls in a surprisingly short time. Everyone seemed too busy for more than a brief greeting. It was only 4 o’clock when they returned home.

“Guess I’ll get something to drink,” Jim said, heading for the kitchen.

Margaret walked over to the record player. Maybe she’d try the carols again. When it came to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” she jumped the needle over to the next piece.

The doorbell jerked her out of her thoughts, and when she opened the front door, a grinning Western Union boy handed her a telegram. She ripped open the yellow envelope. Probably a greeting from a relative. But when she read it, she ran to the kitchen.

“Jim! Jim!” she shrieked. “Listen to this. Beth and Bob are coming home. And the baby! They’ll be at the airport at 6:45. Isn’t it wonderful?” And again she couldn’t hold back the silly tears.

“It’s great!” Jim took off his glasses and brushed a knuckle across his eyes.

“Put your coat on,” Margaret directed. “We’ll have to leave right away, so we’ll have time to stop and get a turkey.”

“Yeah – a big one,” Jim exclaimed. “Come on, let’s get to the market before it closes.”

The phone was ringing as they returned from the market, their arms loaded with sacks of groceries. Margaret ran to answer it. Clay City – who in the world? Then she heard Peggy’s voice. “Hello, Mom? We’ve decided to come for Christmas after all. We’re driving and should be in about eight.”

Margaret turned from the phone, her eyes shining. “It was Peggy, Jim. They’re coming too. Driving. Oh, Jim, isn’t it perfect?”

“It’s great!” Jim said as he put down the bulging bags he was holding. “Guess I’d better try to rustle up a bigger tree for the boys.”

“Yes, that little one would never do,” Margaret agreed. “You take care of the tree. I’ll make piecrust and stuff the turkey before we go to the airport.”

Margaret had just finished when Jim called her to look at the tree. “It’s beautiful,” she exclaimed. “The prettiest tree we’ve ever had.”

She stepped over his tools in the middle of the floor and glanced into the mirror. Her hair was a sight. Jim got down from the ladder holding his back.

“Your Christmas kink?” she asked.

“Yeah. Wouldn’t seem like Christmas without it.” He put his arms around her.

“Jim,” Margaret said thoughtfully, “I wonder how it happened that the youngsters found they could afford to come home after all.”

“I wonder,” Jim said, not too excitedly. Gently he brushed the flour off her forehead, and Margaret looked into his face and saw the twinkle in his eyes.

“You’re an old fraud,” she told him. He kissed her then, and suddenly she knew the spirit of Christmas was all around them.  end mark

Lucille Adams wrote for magazines during the second half of the 20th century.

“The Christmas Kink” by Lucille Adams was reprinted with permission from Joe Wheeler (P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433) editor/compiler of Christmas in My Heart, Vol. 24. All rights reserved.

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