- Click HERE for your first Christmas surprise:
I jolted awake.
Something had disturbed me, but I couldn't identify what.
I was miserable. My butt wasn't burning and stinging like it had, but it still ached and kind of throbbed. My head was stopped up, and my face felt tight, and my eyes were gummy. I remembered what I'd said to Chuck, and I started to feel bad, but then I realized I could hear carols on the stereo - Manheim Steamroller, I think - Mom's favorite. I was up here, feeling sick and miserable, and they were all down there having a good time.
Suddenly I wasn't feeling bad anymore, I was just angry.
It took me a few seconds to realize I was covered up. I could barely remember falling asleep, but I'd just laid down on the bed after Chuck left. It was hard to open my eyes, much less focus, so it was hard to recognize that I was covered with my long, terry cloth robe.
Before I could do much more than recognize my situation, much less start to process it, my door opened.
"Good," said Big Mike, sticking his head in. "I was afraid you'd be a heavy sleeper. If Jimmy was in a situation like this, I would have had to bring in a brass band to wake him up."
"Lemme 'lone, Mike," I managed to tell him.
"Not gonna happen,' he said, stepping in.
He was carrying something and pushed the door shut with his hip.
"I know you and I never got to know each other real well. I was working over the summer, then away at college, and hanging out with my friends when I was home, so I guess that's my fault. The honest truth though is, not only do we share a name, but we're both the big brothers - I've always kind of felt a bond with you because of that."
He'd come to my bed while he was talking, and now he sat down beside me. One of the things he'd been carrying was a roll of toilet paper. Now he handed me a wad.
"Blow. You'll feel better."
I was still having trouble breathing, so I did. And again. He pushed my trash can out where I could hit it easily, then he handed me another wad. After a minute, I had all the gunk out of my head, and felt much better. Then he handed me a damp wash cloth, and I wiped my face mostly clean.
"Hey!" I protested.
While I'd been wiping my face, he lifted the robe. I was still face down, and still naked except t-shirt and socks.
"I've already seen everything you have, little bro. Who do you think covered you up?"
I was distracted from saying anything except gasping, as he touched my butt.
"Yeah," I answered, realizing my voice was sullen even as I did.
"Yeah," I repeated, a bit more naturally.
"What'd you do?"
I told him. I told him all of it, right down to what I'd said to his dad.
"Been there," Mike said, after I finished my story.
"Yeah. Believe me, sometimes it's hard to love a man who tears your ass up like Dad does.... At least while he's doing it. And unlike you, I've had to strip naked, pick a switch, and then been reduced to a mewling mess in front of my little brothers. I would never say one of Dad's hairbrush spankings is easy, but it's not bad compared to that."
I didn't know what to say, so I just laid there.
Mike had laid my robe gently back across me. With my nose unstopped and my face and eyes mostly clean, I got a really good look at him. He was wearing red thermal underpants, a Santa Claus t-shirt in green, and one of those red Santa caps. It should have looked silly on a kid Mike's age - he was practically an adult - but it really just looked fun.
That didn't make me feel better.
Then he sat down beside me again and rested his hand gently on the back of my head.
"The thing is, Mike, Dad can be a huge asshole sometimes. He can be a stick in the mud. He can be uptight and unflexing. But never doubt that he loves you very much. It took me a long time to see it, probably because I lived with it all my life - kind of like a fish not knowing what water was. But I did learn to tell the signs, and I can tell how much he loves you guys and your mom."
I squirmed a bit. I guess I knew that he did love Mom and he seemed to like us.
"But why does he have to spank us so hard and so much?"
Mike took a deep breath and looked away for a moment.
"You never had a chance to know our grandpa. Maybe I shouldn't tell you this. I'm not sure even Jimmy or Chris knows. The thing is, when Dad was a little younger than Chris, he got in some trouble. I guess it didn't seem like it was all that bad at the time - it didn't sound that bad to me - but it must have been bad enough. He was out of school for a while, and he had to repeat a grade, and he ended up with a juvenile record, and that kept him out of the college he wanted to attend. I guess he looks at us now, and he sees us doing stupid stuff, and he figures it's better we get a sore ass and maybe be mad at us, than that we screw up and end up paying for it later."
We were both quiet again for a minute. Mike seemed to be thinking, trying to decide something, and he finally spoke again.
"There is one other thing, Mike."
I didn't want to roll over on my butt, even though it wasn't burning anymore, and even the dull ache seemed to be setting a bit, but I was laying a bit on my side. I looked back at him now.
"The thing is - this afternoon - with you... He was right."
I think my eyes went wide, and Mike rushed on before I could say anything.
"I'm not saying you were wrong. You wanted him to understand your side, but your side was talking about the trouble at school. His side was your signing his name. Now me, I understand that you were scared to ask him BECAUSE he's so strict, but I think it's hard for him to see that sometimes, especially when he knows he's right. Since there was no question that you had signed his name, that's probably all he was thinking about."
"How did you live with it, Mike?"
He was silent again, for a long time this time, and I wasn't sure he was going to answer.
"In the first place, I really didn't have a choice, but also realize - this was my life. You were kind of dumped into the deep end. I grew up, and had plenty of time to adjust to it. Most of it seemed natural to me. But the other thing... Mike, he's really right most of the time. I still got into trouble - I guess all kids do. But there was a lot of it that I avoided, because I knew Dad was waiting at home. Friends of mine got busted for beer or pot or just being stupid, but I almost always begged out of it, because I knew Dad would tear my ass up. Just like with grades. I was at the top of my class, because Dad made me develop and maintain good study habits. I learned to do my work when I was young, so it was a lot easier when I needed it, unlike a lot of guys who're smarter than me, but they're didn't have to learn to study and crap until they were in college."
I was quiet, just thinking about it - trying to take it all in. After a moment, Mike got up.
"I can't smell it up here, and my nose wasn't all crapped up."
As he was talking, he went to my dresser and opened the middle drawer (not the one with the paddle in it), and started digging around.
"Now, I can't smell it up here, and my nose wasn't all stopped up, but I happen to know that there is an extremely delicious brunch being prepared for tonight's dinner. Waffles, maple and peppered bacon, quiche, steak, salmon fillets, hashbrown casserole, baked apples, and probably some stuff I didn't notice."
Mike pulled out some pajamas I had that were warm and kind of Christmas-y looking, along with a pair of wool socks. Then he went back to the door, reached outside, and returned with a Santa cap.
"I remember that brush, and you're probably still pretty stiff and a little sore. If it wouldn't be too embarrassing, how about I help you get dressed, and you come down and join us for dinner. We're going to watch Christmas movies and play board games until bedtime, then Dad's going to read The Night Before Christmas."
"But what I said to your Dad..."
"I know my dad, and I could tell he was hurt, but, like I said, you're not the first kid to say it to him, Mike. I think he understands."
It was kind of embarrassing to have Big Mike helping me dress, but it was better than trying to bend over.
"Don't bend too fast and sit carefully, and you'll be fine," he assured me, though I wasn't sure I believed him.
After I was dressed, we stopped in the bathroom, and Mike waited outside while I took a leak and scrubbed my face. Then he put my hat on my head and adjusted it for me, then stood beside me as we walked downstairs.
I felt stupid when I got down there. No one had been ignoring me - they'd all been waiting for me. I talked to Mom and Jason and Ben a second, but then I looked at Chuck. I was afraid he'd be mad at me, but he smiled as he saw me look at him.
I reluctantly walked over to him.
"I'm sorry I said that," I told him.
"I didn't like hearing it, Mike, but I shouldn't have spanked you when you didn't understand why. I'm sorry you feel like I don't listen to you. I'll try harder, okay?"
It was my turn to smile, and I nodded.
I'd never had salmon and I loved it! I loved the ham and cheese quiche and had two slices of that, and to make it even better, no one even tried to make me eat the one with spinach in it (I tried a bite of the one with asparagus, and it was okay).
Everybody ate until no one had room for another bite... until Mom complained about her cinnamon coffee cake going to waist, then everyone managed a little bit more.
After that, Chuck and Mom let the little kids pick a couple of cartoons to watch. Fortunately they picked Muppet Family Christmas and a Charlie Brown Christmas. Then the big guys needed to be schooled in how to play Uno cut-throat style. Then, when the little guys were already have asleep, we watched It's A Wonderful Life. Mom and Chuck really loved it, and I thought it was pretty good, but Jason and Ben only made it about twenty minutes.
Chuck and Big Mike carried the little guys up to their room. When they came down, we'd turned the TV and lights off. The on and off drizzle and crap we'd had all day had finally turned into a real snow, and Mom put on some carols so we could watch our very own White Christmas.
Jason and Ben woke me about six o'clock the next morning. I was surprised they weren't already downstairs, until I saw a ribbon tied across the top of the stairs, holding a sign that said 'do not break until seven a.m..
I don't mind wearing pajamas, but I don't sleep in them. I got dressed, after a few seconds in the bathroom, and then I laid back down, while the boys talked about what they hoped Santa had brought.
About 6:45, Chris joined us, and, a few minutes later, we all went to the top of the stairs. Chris started singing Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, and the rest of us joined in. We made it through that and Frosty, and were maybe halfway through Santa Claus is Coming to Town, when Mom and Chuck came out and told us to come on down.
Jason and Ben rushed downstairs and into the living room. Their yelling told me they weren't disappointed. I came around the corner to see the two of them fawning over brand new Huffy bikes. I was glad for them, but a little disappointed as well, since I'd really been hoping for a Mongoose Rebel. At least, I was disappointed until Big Mike waved me over.
"I think this is yours," he said.
Sitting before me, wrapped with a green ribbon with a matching green bow, was a satin red laptop.
I couldn't believe my eyes, but I looked at Chuck, and he nodded.
Then Big Mike poked me in the back.
"Dude, you're getting a Dell."
Then he started laughing. I didn't get the joke, but it really was a great Christmas.
- Click HERE for Leti's Christmas surprise:
Father, Scott Duval, sons Luke (13), Terry (11), Conrad (10) Nephews Paul (12) and Riley (6) Neil Duval, father of Paul and Riley.
It was the age of wisdom.
Terry always thought that he knew everything! And I… well I liked to be with him and I usually though that his ideas were good, even if it got me in trouble sometimes. I hated it when we were both in trouble, but I hated it more when he was in trouble alone. I was not sure if I should follow him, at all. Dad said that we should stay together, but he said that he was not going to wait in line for me to see Santa.
When our brother Luke was eleven he said that he was too big to sit on Santa’s lap in the Mall. I was worried that he wouldn’t get Santa presents any more. We were very lucky, we get lots of presents, parent’s presents, and grandparent’s, and also some other nice relative’s presents, but we always got a stocking full and a Santa present. That is usually the nicest or biggest gift of the year. That year when Luke didn’t go to the Mall to see Santa, I was really worried. I love my older brother and I didn’ want him to be sad. I was very glad and very surprised that he got a big Santa gift, like Terry and me. I asked dad about it, and he said that even if Luke was too old to sit on Santa’s lap, he did write a letter, and Santa knew he was a good kid. Terry was eleven now and he said that he won’t visit with Santa in the Mall and that I shouldn’t either. That sitting in Santa’s lap is for babies.
I didn’t like him saying that, if eleven was too old, this would be my last year to be able to talk to Santa. Dad had some last minute things to get ready for Mom, and Luke and Paul wanted to go to the library. I told dad that I wanted to see Santa and he said that he could drop me and Terry and that we had two hours. Two days before Christmas. The line was not too long. I even told Terry that he didn’t need to stand with me. Dad gave us some money and he could get some snacks, later we could go to the toy store. I thought it was not a bad idea, but he insisted that I was too old already for that babies, and he was going to the movies.
While we were in the car, he mentioned that he would like to watch the Star wars movie again, he said that we should ask dad. Dad said that there was not enough time, that he would take us to watch it again after Christmas. But dad didn’t now Terry and good as me. I knew that when he had a notion, he had to do it; even if it meant big trouble. He said that he was going to be with me. Then when dad left he said that we should go to the movies and watch as much of the movie as possible. I said no. I really wanted to see Santa; it was going to be my last year. Why wouldn’t he understand?
He had a cell phone. Dad would call him to let him know were he would pick us up. I was alone on the line, and now I didn’t feel like talking to Santa anymore.
When there were only three kids in front of me. An adult came close to Santa and whispered something in his ear, the kid on his lap waited and then he talked to Santa a little more and then he got a hug and was placed down. There was a clock on the wall near Santa, and I could tell that I had been here for 40 minutes. Terry was not back, so I thought that he was watching the movie already. After the kid left his lap, Santa stood up and went into the yellow door that was close to his chair. He came out some minutes later. Everyone on the line was happy about it. When he sat on the chair he asked one of his helpers to wait and told him something. The helper stood in front of the line and he said:
“Is someone here called Conrad? I am looking for Conrad Duval?”
I put my hand up, like in school. “I’m Conrad.”
“Santa needs to talk to you…”
The kids in front of me moved aside, it was like being called by the school principal. Now I was scared. I came closer and I was thinking about all the things that Santa could ask me and all that I know about Santa. I knew that the man in the Mall was not the real one. We worked just like other people worked in an office, he would transmit the messages to the real one. Or something like that. He looked nice when I was closer.
“Are you Conrad?”
I nodded. I was not able to talk.
“Come here little guy. I won’t bite you.”
“Conrad, you wanted to talk to me?” I nodded again.
“I have something to tell you first, it’s okay, and you are not in trouble.”
“I mean, is Terry in trouble?”
“Terry is your brother?”
“Yes.” Santa sighed.
“Yes, he tried to sneak in to watch a movie.”
“He did? Where is he?”
“He is at the Movie’s office, he was the one that told us you were here. We need to call your father or mother.”
“He has a phone. Dad was going to call him.”
“Do you know your dad’s number?” I knew it, but Terry and also Luke; they had told me that if in trouble it was better to play dumb.
“Not really, I’ve never called him.”
“Do you know your address, is your father there?”
“He is shopping, he will be around here in one hour. Can I still talk to you? I mean I have a message for Santa.” Big eyes, if they are teary it is much better, Luke told me that was a way to get the adults to say yes. “It’s important.” I could tell that the kids in line were getting impatient.
“Go ahead. What do you want from Santa this year?”
I had to think, here was my chance, and it was going to be the last one. And suddenly it didn’t matter. I wanted an Ipad. I knew it was expensive and Dad had said that he would get us one to share, soon. I wanted one and thought that Santa would be able to…
“I wish my brother not to be in trouble.”
“I have not say in that, what he did was naughty.”
“I know, but will he get a present from you? I mean Santa?”
“Well, I… there are still a couple of days before Christmas.”
“What can he do?”
“I think that your father would know. What do you want?”
“A lego millennium falcon.” I knew that was what Terry wanted. If he was
on the naughty list at Christmas, and did not get a Santa present, I would share it with him. We shared all out toys anyway.
“Okay, I can do that. Now, one of my helpers will take you to the movie’s security office to see your brother.”
I followed the helper; he was dressed in red and green, with golden spots. The movies were not far, but I tried to walk slowly. I knew Terry was in a lot of trouble.***
Terry was sitting alone in an empty office, I was allowed in, and run to hug him.
“I wanted to buy a ticket, and they said that the movie had already started and that I should wait for the next one and there was no time. I tried… I told them that I needed to use the bathroom and… they let me and… I got in the theatre and… sorry about what I told you, you are not a baby. ”
“Has dad called?”
“No, I tried but I got the voice mail and… I told them that his phone should have run out of battery.”
“Did you try mom, or Luke?”
“I’ll try Luke.”
Luke was with dad. It was an awkward conversation. I talked with Luke, Luke talked with Dad. Then Dad said something to Luke, and Luke told it to me; I talked to Terry. Dad arrived 10 minutes later. Luke and Paul were with him and he talked to the people in the movies.
Dad looked tired as we walked to the parking lot.
“I guess we need a to find a new Mall,” he mentioned, looking at the rear view mirror, “you are all banned from this one.” Paul and Luke, pretend not to hear. “Your mom will be thrilled… Conrad, you did talk to Santa, didn’t you?”
“Yes dad. I talked to him.”
“Good, he told me, that is good, I guess the Mall wouldn’t survive another of the Duval family visits.”
That moment Luke’s phone rang. It was sound like the Star wars imperial march.
“That’s mom” I said before Luke had time to answer her.
“Yes, mom. Yes, he is here, I guess his phone died,” We were close to a corner and dad parked. He took Luke’s phone and got down from the car. We looked through the window but we couldn’t guess what he was saying.
Dad came back in two minutes later and looked at us and sighed.
“Change of plans, guys, I’m taking you home, you will help to put the things down from the car and help Mom/Auntie in what ever she needs. I will be back as soon as possible.”
“Where are you going, Dad?”
“Sorry, this is a special Top Secret mission. No need for you to know. Terry, we’ll talk later about your escapade, stay in your room. Luke, I need to take your phone, your mom already knows.”
Riley was in the front yard when we arrived, he had lots of small snowmen and was playing with them. Dad opened the back door and we all took bags inside of the house. Mom was in the kitchen and supervised, then said that we would ask for pizzas.***
Terry was in bed when I went up. I knew he was not asleep, but he pretended, and I did not have anything to say. I wanted to stay awake until dad came back, but it was not possible.
I thought that Dad had arrived during the night, but he was not down stairs when we got down for breakfast. Mom was by the stove flipping pancakes, holding one crutch with her other hand.
“Where is dad?
“He will be here later.”
“It’s Christmas eve, Mom.”
“Thanks dear, I have a calendar.”
“But dad, needs to be here!”
“What about Terry, is he going to stay in the room all day, today?”
“No, dad say that he could go out, and he needs to write down all that happened yesterday in the Mall.”*****
It was the age of foolishness. After being a couple of hours driving in between the traffic, I finally saw him. The car was parked on the side of the road and he was standing beside it waving a red cloth up and down. He looked really glad to see me.
“It just died on me. It is too heavy to push. I called road assistance and they will send a tow truck, but it will be here in at least three hours.”
“How long ago did you call?”
“Lets get your things in my car and we can wait.”
“They would tow the car to a repair shop, I guess I am out of luck.”
“I got some fast food on the way here, do you want a burger?”
“Yes, please, how are my boys?”
The tow truck arrived after midnight. We took the road back home; the roads were free by then, but I was falling asleep behind the wheel; Neil tried had to tell me funny stories all the way to keep me awake, but I decided to stop at a hotel on the side of the road. I left a message for Pam, and let her know that we would arrive the next morning.
The next day, it was Christmas eve, we drove back home, only stopping for a quick breakfast. Neal needed to be somewhere in town before one and we were there just in time. After that I went home.
“Nobody home!” I opened the door and was surprised by a nice smell of apples and cinnamon. There was also a touch of chocolate. Then Little Riley run from a room close to the kitchen and hugged me.
“Uncle you stay out all night!”
“Where is everyone?”
“We are watching movies in your room! Auntie said we could.”
“Good day, stranger.” Pam said from our bedroom. “Would you give me a hand to get to the sofa?”
“Of course my girl!”
It was not hard for me to carry her to the coach. I sat with her.
“Riley that cookies are have cooled, you can take some for you, and take some to your brother and cousins.”
“What are you watching?”
“Star wars, marathon. We are just starting number five.”
“Everything all right?”
“Yes, his car needs some repairs, but he will be here in a couple of hours.”
“How are the kids?”
“Conrad wanted to wait for you and Terry went to bed early. Luke, Paul and Riley were okay.”
“Are you hungry?”
“We ate something on the way. I can do with some cookies.”
“Good, and I guess that I need to talk to Terry.”
“You better or he won’t be able to enjoy the day at all.”
I called him and we went to his and Conrad’s room.***Dad arrived when we were watching The Empire Strikes Back. He was out all night. He called me shortly after, I didn’t know what to expect.
Luke always says that dad takes my side, I wish it was true. The truth is that he spanks me as mush as he spanks Luke or Conrad… well Conrad is not as much in trouble as I am.
“Dad...” He was sitting on my bed. I was wearing my lounge pants and a t-shirt, I pushed them down and stood by him.
“Terry, I’m sorry you had to wait.”
“Mom told me to write what happened…”
“And you went early to bed.”
“Yes, do you think that you have learned enough?”
“Mmm, I will never do that again, I promise.”
“I hope so,” he said. Dad placed his hand on my back and bend me on his knees, I was waiting for him to lower my trousers, but I felt his hand patting my butt, softly first, then I felt a spank, and then another one, they were not real strong ouchy spanks, more like smacks, I turned to look at dad. His hand was up when we heard a commotion down stairs. Someone seemed to be shouting. Dad smiled at me and his hand descended with a stronger spank. That one did hurt!
“Get dressed, I guess your uncle has come. Time to be Merry!”
Uncle Neil was downstairs, hugging Riley and Paul. Luke and Conrad were close with Mom. Later we learned that uncle Neil had just close on a house that was close. They were all going to live a couple of blocks from us.
The next morning Luke got a big set to build a robot, Riley got a new bike, Paul got a smart phone, and Conrad an Ipad. I got the big Lego box to build the Millennium Falcon!It was the best of times!
- Click Here for another Christmas surprise:
I woke early and checked the clock – it was almost 7am. I groaned and sat up, rubbing my eyes awake as the light from my windows barely started to illuminate the room. After getting cleaned up and dressed, I decided I’d go ahead and start the coffee. Evan and Eli’s door was still closed and I expected it would be a couple of hours before either was up. Eli was out late last night with Mike and Evan liked to sleep until noon now days, even if it was Christmas.
By the time I had the coffee started, Mom was up and she greeted me with a light laugh. “I keep forgetting you’re an early riser now days. Sleep well?”
I nodded. “I love that bed. Once I move to my apartment, I’m going to have to buy it from you guys.”
“I think we can manage to donate it to you. We have some of your mother’s things in storage you might want to check out as well.”
I nodded and sighed at the subtle reminder that I needed to take care of my chores while I was visiting. Ten years earlier, I’d already have a couple of strikes on the white board for ignoring it for so long.
Once we had coffees in-hand, we sat at the kitchen table. “Dad gave me the keys, I’ll check it out tomorrow. I doubt there is much I need to keep, unless there is a market for used liquor bottles and tobacco scented furniture.”
We chatted a little while longer before Dad ambled in and joined us after grabbing some coffee. “You’re not getting out of here this time without taking care of that storage unit.”
“Good morning to you too, and yes, Mom was just reminding me.”
He grunted and I could tell he was still upset about Evan. “Sorry. Good morning, merry Christmas, and all that jazz.”
Mom rolled her eyes and patted his hand. “He’ll be fine by the time he gets up and I’m sure he’ll apologize.”
Dad grunted, but grabbed a nearby tablet to distract him by reading the news.
Evan just got his driver’s license a couple of months ago and got his second speeding ticket last night. He was hoping Dad’s Christmas spirit would spare him from the worst, but apparently not. He was rather terrified last night when he pulled me out of the living room to talk.
“Max, just talk to him for me, okay?” he pleaded with a whisper. “Tell him I’ll take the spanking – tell him I’ll take two of them, but I can’t lose my car over the break!”
I shook my head and part of me wanted to beat his ass for being so reckless. “You were going 55 in a 35 in winter weather. If Dad doesn’t take your keys, I will.”
He muttered something and stomped away. I felt bad about not supporting him, but at the same time frustrated he was taking his nickname literally while driving.
A little while later, I heard them talking loudly in the office. Eventually Dad emerged and then returned wielding my old spanking brush. I fled the house so I didn’t have to hear my favorite brother getting his butt beat - even if the little shit totally deserved it. By the time I got back, Evan was either already asleep or brooding silently in his room.
“I take it you took his keys?” I asked carefully.
Dad grunted affirmatively and glanced at me over the tablet, his reading glasses nearly falling off his nose in the process. “He talk to you last night about it?”
I shook my head. “He talked to me before. Wanted me to negotiate on his behalf. I wasn’t as sympathetic as he hoped.”
Mom snorted and Dad nodded. “Good. The kid’s got a lead foot and he needs to learn.”
A few minutes later, the boy himself shuffled downstairs wearing boxers and a raggedy robe that wasn’t fastened. He had some patchy fuzz growing on his lower stomach that he liked to show off, so perhaps his wardrobe choice was a subtle reminder to us all how mature he was now. As much as Evan enjoyed being the baby of the family as a kid, he didn’t like it so much as a teen.
“Morning, bro,” I offered cheerfully. “Merry Christmas.”
Mom and Dad offered their own greetings. He grunted a neutral response and grabbed a Coke from the fridge. He looked at us warily, trying to decide if he wanted to join the conversation or not. We all looked over at him and it seemed to tip the scales enough for him to grab a chair. As he sat down, I saw him wince slightly.
As we picked up on new conversation topics, I saw him look occasionally at Dad as if he wanted to say something. I think Mom picked it up as well and asked me if I could help her with something in her bedroom. We both hung out in her closet while we waited for Turbo to say whatever was on his mind.
“Apparently, your brother was rather upset about losing his keys,” she whispered. “He told your dad he hated him and he couldn’t wait to move out.”
I whistled and she nodded nervously. “It upset your dad quite a bit. I don’t think he slept much last night.”
I cringed inwardly. I was fairly confident I told him a variant of that at least once growing up, maybe even around Evan’s age. She seemed to sense my reaction and grinned. “Part of parenting, kiddo. You’ll discover soon enough.”
She left a couple of times to check on them, before returning and saying the coast was clear.
“Okay, they just hugged, so we can go back.”
We returned to the table and I could tell Evan had been crying a little. I didn’t want to say anything about it, but it seemed like fences had been mended just in time for Eli to arrive.
We all looked over at him. He was sporting a bright and very festive Christmas sweater, complete with a string of lights that wrapped around him. We all nodded at him and returned his greeting, but he seemed disappointed in our response to his festive garb.
“No accounting for taste,” he said under his breath. He grabbed a cup of coffee and pulled up a chair. “We doing breakfast before or after presents? Mike is trying to figure out if he should come over first or I go there.”
Mike and Eli started dating in high school. Since his freshman year in college, they split their time at each other’s family for major holidays. It worked out pretty well for them since the Owen’s still lived down the street.
“If they’re ready, we can do presents later,” Dad suggested with a glance to Evan to make sure he was okay with it. “Why don’t you head over there, spend some time with them and bring Mike back around noon?”
Eli was nodding and already texting his boyfriend to give him the updated plans. “Great, they’re ready for me now.”
He dumped his coffee into my empty mug and patted me on my back as he stood. “Take care of my coffee, Butt Bro. See everyone in a few.”
By the afternoon, all the festivities were over. Since Evan was really the only kid left, most of the gifts were centered around him and suddenly he didn’t mind being the youngest after all. Dad still had Christmas music being piped throughout the house and we were all lounging around the tree with egg nog, beers, wine, and a coke while we chatted in pairs and groups.
Dad finally cleared his throat and stood, tapping the side of his wine glass with his wedding ring for attention.
“Thank you all for a great Christmas. I know as we all get older it’s going to be harder and harder for us to gather like this, so it means a lot to me when it happens,” he said as he raised his glass.
There were a few cheers in response and we all sipped.
“I’m thrilled Max was able to find a job relatively close so quickly after graduating. We might even let Evan get his keys back early to help you move. And maybe spend a weekend or two there as well,” he said with a wink to Mom.
Evan seemed to blush from embarrassment about his punishment being publicly announced, but grinned at the possibility of an early reprieve and weekends with his favorite, fun-loving brother.
“Mike and Eli, thanks again for joining us and for my one-and-only Christmas sweater. I’ll increase your weekly pizza and beer money by a few dollars for your final semester in appreciation for such a hideous gift.”
Mike and Eli grinned and were clearly getting drunk after having to endure two family gatherings. “More beer!” they cheered together.
I noticed Evan eyeing the ice chest full of alcohol and I preemptively took a seat near it to prevent any teen mischief. He noticed me drape an arm over it and his eyes narrowed. I just winked back.
Dad seemed to notice Evan and moved towards him, putting his hands on his shoulders. “And as much as my youngest is anxious to move out and join you guys, he still has a couple more years to go. In the meantime, he gets the luxury of being an only child with all the attention and support that provides.”
He seemed to wither a bit, but still grinned. “Can I cheer to that with a beer?”
Before Dad could even say, Eli tossed him one. “Drink up, little bro.”
Dad and Mom both frowned, but Evan still looked at each for approval. I saw Mom shrug then Dad nodded at Evan with a grin.
“Sure, you can have your first beer, but I don’t think you’re going to like it much,” he warned. “It’s an acquired taste.”
Evan popped it open and shook his head. “Naw, I like it well enough. This isn’t my favorite brand, but it’s still pretty good.”
A few seconds later he stopped his guzzling, realizing what he just admitted to.
I freaking loved the holidays.
Last edited by Jack on Sun Dec 25, 2016 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total