Word Count: 1085
Marie Cartwright was just putting the final bow on a large Christmas present when she heard the front door bang open and heard the sounds of her family returning. The door banging open would be Hoss of course. At ten years old, Hoss was already as tall as his older brother Adam at 16, and outweighed him by at least 50 pounds. He was as graceful as a newborn colt but his lack of grace was more than compensated by his enthusiasm. Thus, banging doors open, slamming them shut, knocking over lamps, glasses, and anything else that got in his way was not uncommon. She smiled as she thought of her big stepson with his big heart.
She wondered what was keeping the rest of her men. She didn’t have long to wonder, because just at that time the door opened again and she heard the voice of four-year old Joseph. She couldn’t quite make out the words, but she could hear the excitement in his voice and knew that he was eagerly relating some new discovery to his father. The talking turned to giggling as she heard steps coming upstairs and she figured Ben had swung him up on his shoulders to bring him upstairs. She quickly put the last present under the bed and walked out of the bedroom to meet them.
She laughed at the sight that greeted her. It was Ben and Joseph, but rather than seeing Joseph on Ben’s shoulders as she had expected, she saw Ben and Adam bringing Little Joe upstairs, swinging him as they did. Little Joe was giggling uncontrollably as they threatened to throw him as they swung him. She adopted as stern a look as she could muster as she scolded them.
“What are you doing? You put him down before he gets hurt.“ Ben and Adam made a great charade of trying to decide what they should do.
“Mama! We found a tree and it’s so big it is gonna touch the top of the house. Papa said he may have to cut a hole in the top of the house, it’s so big!”
“Well my goodness, Little Joe. I don’t know about a tree that big…. And remember, Little Joe. We always put it on the top of the tree at Christmas time. When I was little, my Papa would lift me up high and let me put it on the tree. Papa said the angel would protect the person who put the angel on the tree.”
She watched him as he looked at the angel, turning it over and over, tracing the intricate details and holding it up to the light to make it sparkle. As any proud mother, she thought her child was beautiful and as she watched him with the angel in his hands, she thought to herself that he was an angel holding an angel. It was then that she decided that he should be the one to place the angel on the tree.
“Little Joe, would you like to put the angel on the tree?” s
Yes I did, Joe. Come on and we will do that right now!”
He picked up Little Joe and then picked up a blanket off the sofa and wrapped it around him and headed outside.
“You go on, let me get my coat.”
Ben took Joe and walked out into the middle of the courtyard so they could get a good unobstructed view of the stars. He began to point out the constellations and the individual stars that he had used as a ship’s captain to guide his ship. He told Joe their real name, as well as their common name and holding Joe’s hand, he traced the pattern of the stars making up the various constellations of stars.
He was pointing out the North star when Marie said, “Ben, the way you describe them, I can see them with my eyes closed.”
She put her hand on his arm as she spoke and a shiver of excitement ran through him at her touch. He moved Little Joe over to one arm and put his other arm around Marie. They stood there, gazing at the stars until Marie said, “I sure hope Santa isn’t up there.” They watched Little Joe’s eyes widen slightly.
“You don’t want to be responsible for Santa not visiting us do you, Ben?”
“Papa stop!” Joe yelled, starting to cry. “You’re hurting Mama. Stop Papa.”
Joe touched his father’s face and turned it toward him. Their laughter stopped abruptly when they realized that he was upset.
“Oh no, Little Joe, Papa and I were just playing. He didn’t hurt me at all”
“Oh Son, I would never ever hurt your mother.” Ben reassured him.
Little Joe looked deeply into their eyes and then relaxed as he realized that they were telling the truth. “Well you sure sounded like you were hurting Mama, Papa,” he said with a slight frown on his face.
Ben said, “Little Joe do you remember that time that Adam and I were acting like we were gonna throw you down the stairs and you were laughing and Mama told us to stop it?”
Little Joe thought for a minute and then said, “Yeah Papa, I knew you weren’t really going to throw me down the stairs.”
“Well Mama knew I wasn’t going to really squeeze her too hard, too.”
This explanation was sufficient for Little Joe so he smiled at them both. Marie said, “Now then, young man, we’d better get you to bed so Santa can come to visit you.”
Ben and Marie took Little Joe upstairs and got him in his nightshirt and listened to his prayers and before his head hit the pillow practically, he was sound asleep. Ben and Marie stood together at his bedside for several minutes, just watching him sleep, his face again angelic in appearance. When they finally turned to go, Marie said softly, “Good night, my real little angel.”
Ben and Marie walked arm in arm into the hallway. Marie started back downstairs, but Ben held her arm and stopped her from going. She looked at him quizzically and said: “Ben, we have to put out all the Christmas presents.” “Later” he said and pulled her close to him again and arm in arm they walked into their own bedroom and he closed the door.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!