Summary: A short story of how Hoss had a special way of making sure his family had positive Christmas memories no matter what happened.
Word Count: 841
Hoss’ words were reassuring. “Every man has to fight his own battles in his own way.” Remembering those words, Adam had to smile even though he hadn’t thought of those words applying to Christmas before. As he watched his younger brothers at the tree that afternoon, it seemed appropriate. Jamie was handling his gift with reverence. Hoss had clearly been planning for Christmas well in advance. In looking through Hoss’ room, Adam had found several wrapped parcels marked ‘Jamie’, ‘Joe’, and ‘Pa’. He had smiled when he found them seeing those little paper tags with Hoss’ penmanship so easy to read and so distinctly his style too. There wasn’t one for him, but then Hoss hadn’t known he would be home. If not for the tragic accident, he wouldn’t have been there, but the telegram with that news drew him home.
When he walked down the stairs with the three items in his hands, Joe had almost challenged him wondering why he had taken anything from Hoss’ room. It seemed that Joe had a nearly reverential attitude about the room. He didn’t want anything touched in there seeming to think that somehow he could keep up the pretense that Hoss was still there if his room looked like he had only stepped out for a moment. Most likely, he didn’t even like knowing what Adam had been doing, but Adam wasn’t going to hide it from him either.
“I was looking through his things getting a feel for what life was like in the years I was gone, and I found these. They’re marked with your names. They appear to be gifts to all of you from Hoss.”
Ben had taken his from Adam’s hands like a father receiving a newborn babe. He held it not removing the cloth from it. Joe took his and looked like he wanted to take it back to Hoss’ room as if he hadn’t received it. With excitement, Jamie however quickly removed the cloth wrapped around his and found a carved pair of bookends. Each was a scene from the Ponderosa. One was a mountain scene and the other was the big lake. Jamie examined each to make sure he didn’t miss a single detail turning each one over and over his hands to give them a thorough inspection. Then with tears threatening to spill, he looked to their father.
“Pa, did you see these? They’re so beautiful. Wherever I go, I can take the Ponderosa with me, and Hoss too.”
Jamie had fought his sorrow and found a way to keep Hoss in his heart. Watching their father, Adam wondered what he would do. Slowly he unwrapped his gift. It was a hand carved pipe rack. It looked like it was meant to stand on a desk or table. Carefully setting it on the small side table next to him, Ben took his pipe from his pocket and put it in the stand. It fit perfectly.
“I knew it would. He must have measured it when I wasn’t looking. His hands and his heart are right there for me. I can reach out and touch them any time I need him.”
Joe reacted in anger. “It’s not enough. It’s only wood. Cold and hard.”
Silence prevailed for a time as no one wanted to react to that. Not wanting to let Joe’s words be the last thing said about Hoss’ absence on this first Christmas without him, Adam was the first to dare to speak.
“Why don’t you unwrap Hoss’ gift to you?”
“I guess I should. At least I have a gift.”
It was meant to hurt. It didn’t. Adam had already suffered guilt for not being there and sorrow for the loss. Nothing Joe said was going to make either of those worse.
Unable to help himself, Joe was moved by his brother’s gift. Holding it in both hands, he caressed a small carving of a stallion running all out with its mane and tail extended because of its speed.
“It’s something you shared, the love of horses and an appreciation of their beauty. You’ll always have that.”
“It’s strange. It’s almost like he knew he wouldn’t be here, and he left a part of himself for each of us.”
Jamie sounded a bit like a philosopher. Adam was beginning to like this new brother more and more.
Joe offered the olive branch to Adam trying to soften the blow he had delivered earlier.
“I’m sorry he didn’t leave anything for you.”
“He did. I have all of you.”
About that time, Hop Sing announced their Christmas meal.
“There’s only two drumsticks, and I aim to get me one of ’em. House rule is first two to the table gets the drumsticks.”
Adam quoting Hoss lines caught both Joe and Jamie off guard which Adam had been counting on. He was halfway to the table before they realized they needed to run. Ben smiled. Hoss was with them and helping them heal, each in their own way.