I am writing a short piece starting with a dismissive tone. Then I will change the tone to encouraging by changing the mood from Indifferent to Passionate. By attempting this I intend to take the reader on an emotional rollercoaster ride to see if they can feel the pain of the character and maybe even a tear followed immediately by a mood change to utter Joy. Let me know if it worked.
Thank God Monday was over. After this weekend’s Thanksgiving reunion, John Reiner was trying hard to recover from the rush of ancient sentiment from beloved and utterly despised family members as well, all the time keeping a smile and trying to convey and equally thankful pose to each and every family member.
If that wasn’t hard enough, his boss had just assigned him a task that had to be completed by Christmas Eve. The next three weeks were going to be pure hell. So much for loving the Holidays, he thought.
“Mommy, do you think Santa will bring me everything on my list”, asked Brittany.
Their beautiful curly brown haired five year old was really coming of age. She had her own goals, desires and solid opinions that would not waiver, and she demonstrated that over the weekend, sporting like a princess to the clan.
“Well I think you have been a good girl this year, dear. Just keep it up and he may bring you everything you asked for. Remember he knows when you’ve been bad and good” replied Lisa, John’s loving wife who never showed any symptoms of Holiday burnout until recently. Sharing the recent bad current events from her own family was weighing heavy on her too. She was trying to keep a positive attitude at the dinner table by keeping silent. The aura around her husband was ominous tonight.
John, knew why. Not only did Lisa have to endure his Hillbilly family this weekend, but things were not going as planned for them financially this year. On top of it all, Lisa was pregnant again and they had shared the good news with his family only to get a host of mixed signals. John’s family all assumed things were fine with the Reiner’s as they usually kept things together. Some even assumed they were rich. Lisa knew how hard John worked to maintain their world. It just wasn’t fair that he had to pretend all was fine with them and could not share his woes, especially after sharing the news that there was a new baby on the way.
At least his career was secure for now as he constantly tried to remind himself. The summer was so grand with all the boating, diving and fishing that no money was saved. To top it off, Halloween was such a party month that now he was really coming back down to earth fast and the gravity was strong.
“Back to the grind before the next Holiday break”, he thought. “Three weeks seems so far away.”
“Daddy, are we going to Nanny’s this Christmas?” asked Brittany with sparkles in her eyes.
“No honey I am afraid not. We just saw them this weekend and need to have Christmas at home”, he replied without even looking up at her, dragging his fork across his plate, pushing the mashed potatoes in a pile as if he wasn’t hungry.
“They may come here honey, would you like that?” Lisa interjected.
“Yes mommy”, Brittany said softly, obviously noticing Daddy’s lack of interest.
John looked up at Lisa, who gave him the glance indicating that he should try a bit harder not ruin the Christmas anticipation that all kids have when Santa is coming.
Feeling guilty, he quickly added, “Brittany honey, we can ask them if they want to come here, but they may not be able to. He paused. “We can go see the Christmas lights and do fun things with your friends here.” He returned his gaze to his plate, rolling around the brussel sprouts in a childlike manner.
Then came the slight tap to the shins from under the table. He looked up again to find Lisa’s hard stare. That wasn’t enough to bring a change in his attitude. He just looked back at her with a blank stare and then returned to finishing his meal.
“Daddy”, his daughter said in an unavoidable soft voice.
“Yes honey”, he responded as he looked up with tired eyes.
“That’s OK, I am just happy to have a Christmas with just us. I love our family the most”, she said sweetly and gave him that heart crushing smile only a daughter can do.
Instantly he felt a rush, quite opposite of the defensive kind he felt all weekend. It was the most liberating surge of hormones he had ever felt, like going from zero to sixty in one second. Suddenly he was relieved of this past weekend’s family trivial pains. Uncle Jon’s nagging voice was gone. His brother’s snide comments left his ear. His boss’s insistent disregard for his sanity now seemed funny and all the malevolent thoughts that were stewing in his tired mind were erased by his daughters sweet smile.
As he stared into his five year old girl’s eyes he found himself in a memory of himself, standing in front of the Christmas tree when he was her age. That was the year he got his first puppy! As quickly as that image took, it was replaced with remembrance of spending Christmas all alone overseas when in the Navy, drunk and lonely. Then his mind leaped to the first year he had spent Christmas without his mother. Next he was back at the baby shower when he had leaned back into the candelabra on the wall while taking a picture. Once realizing he was on fire, he had jumped across the coffee table effortlessly while pulling his burning shirt off his back like a Superhero and klutz all in one. Then it bounced back to the first Christmas with their darling baby Brittany.
His mind was going wild recalling many Christmas’s, and suddenly all the stress of modern living was replaced with a certain kind of peaceful feeling. His eyed started watering and with his throat swelling up, he looked over at Lisa and stated in a wavering but commanding voice,
“We will have no Grinches in this house this year and Daddy has been acting like one! Brittany did you see me turning green?”
He puffed his cheeks out and she responded with most pleasant sound in the world; the laughter of a child. Lisa and John joined in and all ill thoughts were whisked away.
“I guess I am a bit tired and as usual when it rains it pours at work! Only twenty three days until Christmas Eve, yeeeehhhhhhhaaaa!” he said.
Lisa looked at him and gave him that endearing smile that lets you know how lucky you are and they all held hands.
“Uh, oh”, interjected Brittany. “We forgot to say the prayer”.
“Who says we have to say it before dinner. Better late than never” said Lisa.
“Mommy, I want to say it”, said Brittany.
They all bowed their heads.
“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen!” she said and then
added, “And please Lord, tell Santa I am being a good girl so I can get the new Barbie.”
They all laughed and went back to their dinner enjoying the silence and their unity.
Aah, the Holidays. John knew he was the luckiest man in the world!
R. D. Vasvary