This is what happens when you hear "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus" too many times. I own Gwen and Sophie; Craig B. owns the other two.
Merry Christmas y'all!
At ten years old, I'm used to my dad not being home most of the time. My younger sister Gwen doesn't understand yet, but I do. His job is very important and takes him to places, sometimes far away, to help people in need. He misses birthdays and holidays, and sometimes he misses his and mom's anniversary, but he never misses Christmas.
Until this year.
He called Mom two nights ago and told her he might not be able to get back in time for Christmas. She didn't know Gwen and I were on the stairs listening to her plead with dad to not miss this.
"You've never missed a Christmas, Arnold, ever." She said over the phone.
Then: "You promised me when we got married Christmas was our day. How do I explain it to the girls?"
Gwen had grabbed onto my nightgown, and looked up at me, tears in her green eyes.
"Daddy isn't coming home?"
I shrugged. "Doesn't sound like he can."
As mom had hung up the phone, Gwen raced down the stairs, attaching herself to Mom's leg.
"Daddy has to come home, he has to!" She wailed. Mom dropped down to hug my sister.
"Baby, I'm not sure he's going to be able to this year." She said, looking at me when I walked into the kitchen. "There isn't a plane that can take him out of where he is."
Gwen cried for a bit, then looked up at us, he eyes suddenly full of hope. "Santa can give him a ride home!" She exclaimed, as if it were so simple. "We can ask Santa to bring our daddy home for Christmas."
Being ten and knowing there was no such thing as Santa, I gave Mom a knowing look.
"I'm not sure it's going to be that easy Gwennie." I told her.
"Santa might have already left. That's going to have to take some heavy wishing." Mom added. I could see in her eyes that she was prepared for the worst.
Gwen looked a both of us. "You just have to believe." She insisted. "I'm going to go upstairs right now and ask him."
She tore out of the kitchen and raced back up to her room, slamming the door behind her. I looked back at Mom who had stood up and was now leaning against the kitchen table.
"Why can't Dad come home?" I asked.
Mom sat down in one of the chairs and looked at me. Being the eldest and more realistic of the two sisters, Mom had always given it to me straight, never sugar coating the truth like she did with Gwen.
"There's unrest in El Salvador." She said. "Your Dad stayed behind to help a family find safety even when the rest of his team left. He made it to the city but he's not sure if he's going to be able to find a plane to get him at least to Panama to get home. This might be the first year your Dad doesn't make it home."
"Gwennie will be devastated." I said. "After all, she is Dad's princess."
"As you are his angel." Mom said, her blue eyes flashing. "Sophie, never forget your father loves you both equally. You are both very precious to him."
"Sorry Mom." I knew she was telling the truth; my father never played favorites. Sometimes, it's just hard watching your four-year sister gather all the attention, even though you know you had it all when you were that age.
"Go on to bed Sophie." Mom told me. "God knows the next two days are going to be hard on all of us."
Christmas Eve came and as I walked past Gwen's room to get ready for bed, I could hear her talking to someone.
"Please Santa. Help Daddy get home. You can keep all my toys, if I can just have Daddy."
Poor kid, I thought as I climbed into my own bed, She was going to be heartbroken tomorrow.
Late that night, or rather early Christmas morning, Gwen ran into my room and woke me up by jumping on my bed.
"Sophie, wake up!" She whispered loudly in my face, shaking me by my nightgown.
"Gwennie, go back to sleep." I grumbled, trying to push her off. "Wait until the sun comes up."
"There's someone in the house." She said. "I heard a door, then I heard Mom run out of her room. Santa's here!" She jumped off my bed. "Maybe he has Daddy!"
I shot awake as soon as my brain registered someone in the house and Mom run out of room. Someone was breaking in and Gwen was going to walk right into the middle of it.
"Gwennie!" I yelled as loudly as I dared, jumping out of bed and chasing her down the hallway. My heart skipped when I finally caught up with her on the stairs and grabbed her by her nightgown collar. That's when I heard my mother crying.
My mom doesn't cry for anything, she once joked that it was her family code: Pataki's don't cry. So for her to cry, it must be bad.
Gwen slid down a couple more stairs, with me still trying to pull her back and shushing her franticly. She peeked around the corner and gasped.
"Mommy's kissing Santa Claus!" She exclaimed, in a loud whisper.
Climbing around her, I peeked around the corner. There stood mom wrapped in an embrace of a man in a heavy coat and a Santa hat. I rubbed my eyes, accidentally letting go of Gwen. Like a shot, she sped off.
"Gwen!" I yelled, separating the two adults under the doorframe.
"Santa!" Gwen yelled running towards them. Suddenly she stopped a moment, her eyes going wide and her face breaking out in the biggest smile I'd ever seen.
"Daddy!" She screamed, and began running again. The man stepped into the light and I recognized my dad underneath the heavy coat. He pulled off the Santa hat and scooped up Gwen, hugging her tightly.
"Princess!" He exclaimed.
As I rushed around the corner, Gwen was thanking Santa over and over again. My mom stood there, a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. Dad looked at me, and set Gwennie down, holding out his hands for me.
"I missed my angel." He said. I ran to him, my own tears drenching his sweater as he held me tight.
"How did you get home?" I said still pressed against his sweater.
"Darnest thing." He said, pulling Gwen back into his embrace. "I was sitting in the airport when this older guy walked up and started talking to me. I eventually told him about not getting home and that's when he told me he had a private jet here. Said he was on his way back to the States and asked if I needed a ride. Dropped me off at the main airport about two hours ago. When I asked him how I could repay him, he told me he was paying a debt long overdue. Told me to tell my family that Christmas miracles still happen. Then he was just gone."
"I asked Santa to bring you home Daddy," Gwen said. "And he did."
My dad smiled as he looked at the three of us. "He might have princess, he might have."
He pulled my mom in for a hug, and I stood there, wrapped in my dad's embrace thankful that he had made it home.
I looked out the window and spotted a shadow pass by the moon. And knew that my sister's prayers had been answered.
"Thank you Santa."