"Mom, can I talk to you?"
Startled, Laurie looked up and saw Ian standing in the kitchen doorway.
"Sure, honey…I'm sorry I'd didn't hear you…must have been daydreaming." She replied, guiltily.
"It's okay, Robin's been doing a lot of that lately, and I was wondering if…" he broke off and gazed out the back window. At once Laurie knew what he was talking about.
"If she'd told me what's bothering her? No, Ian…but I think I'd better find out. Where are the kids?"
"Playing in the barn with Jack….with the snowstorm coming and all, I thought they should get a little fresh air before we go home. You sure you're up for all this hoopla this Christmas?" Ian added, and Laurie tried to reassure him.
"Yes, son….I'm okay….I always get an extra burst of energy for Christmas anyway!" she smiled. Getting up from her chair, she laid a hand on the younger man's sleeve.
"Don't worry, Ian…I'll go talk to Robin….she's probably just preoccupied with the kids presents and all. Why don't you see what Rick's doing with the kids… and I'll put some treats on the table for everyone."
"Thanks, Mom….they'll have worked up the appetite by then." Ian said enthusiastically, then high-tailed it out the door.
Once her son-in-law was out of sight, Laurie went down the hall and found her daughter in her old room, her high school scrapbook in hand.
"Robin? Are you all right?" she asked quietly. Robin slowly closed the book, then looked up, and Laurie saw tears in her eyes.
"Oh, honey, come here…shh, it's okay…." She opened her arms and Robin immediately went into them, clutching at her mother as she cried.
"Mama…I'm so confused…why don't I want another baby? Ramona's so happy with Chelsea, and Ian keeps saying how wonderful it is to see "another niece"…but I just don't…"
"Honey, there is nothing wrong with you, okay…come sit here with me…" she soothed, sitting on the old bed and keeping an arm around Robin. Fishing a Kleenex out of her pocket, she wiped the young woman's eyes, then had her blow her nose, making her smile.
"There you go…. That's my girl.. I'm so sorry you've been worrying like this…but Robin, you don't have to have another baby if you don't want to…and I don't think Ian does either." Laurie explained.
A light appeared in Robin's eyes as she continued, "I know you remember how wonderful it is to have a new little one in the house, but there were also the diapers, and feedings and sleepless nights while dealing with two other children who need you. I doubt Ian wants another child…he's just happy to see your brother and Ramona happy."
Robin was silent for a moment, then let out a sigh.
"You're right, Mama….I guess I was just jealous for a moment at how much easier a time Ramona had with Chelsea, whereas all I've got is these stupid 'visions".
"And I'm sorry they scare you so much, I never get used to them, honey….but just remember how they helped save Chelsea and Ramona….and before that Robbie and Ron…" Laurie explained. "It's hard to think of that when it happens, but I think as your premonitions ease off, you'll be able to cope better. You do know you can always talk to me or your father about it, don't you?" Robin nodded, then smiled as Laurie kissed her cheek then helped her up. "Why don't you help me put some snacks on the table for your father and the kids…."
"Thank you, Mama…for listening." Robin put an arm around her as Laurie leaned against her. "I always will, sweet." As the two women started towards the kitchen, the gate buzzer went off, and Laurie stopped and went toward the living room.
"Go ahead and bring out the cookies, honey, let me see who's here." She said, then grinned when she spotted a police cruiser at the gate.
Hitting the intercom next to the front door, she teased, "What's the secret password?"
"Merry Christmas, Buddy!" Abby's voice sing-songed, and Laurie heard Ron's laugh in the background, as their son Joey added, "And we've got food!"
"All right, Joey….you know the priorities!" Laurie giggled, pressing the entry button. As the Johnsons parked, Robbie's mini-van came in behind him, and soon the crowd of family and friends were coming in the front door.
"Oh, Mom…the fire's going down…let me get it going again…" Robbie offered, and gratefully Laurie hugged her tall son.
"Thank you, darling…Your father is having so much fun outside, I hate to spoil his good time just to stoke it up …."
"No problem, Mom." Robbie dropped a kiss on her cheek, as Ramona gave Chelsea to her grandmother to hold while she helped the two younger Simons take off their coats.
Just then Robin came in with a tray of cookies and munchies, and set them down to greet everyone. Suddenly a black streak shot into the room, making a beeline for an ecstatic Melly and Joey.
"Jacky! He knew we were here, Grandma!" the young girl squealed, hugging the happy dog. Joey just beamed.
"He is the smartest dog in the world, Aunt Laurie….he's even smarter then Webster!"
"Well, that's a nice thing to say, Joey…..I think it's because he knows who his favorite playmates are…" Laurie assured the teenager.
"Well, speaking of playmates…" Rick came into the house, followed by a snickering Ian and A.J., and immediately everyone laughed.
"What…you've never seen snow on someone before?" He smirked, clumps of the white stuff dripping off his jacket.
"Rick…you kook…let me get those wet things off you…which one of you goofs dared him to make a snow angel?" Laurie pretended to fuss, then giggled as her husband pointed a wet finger at his brother.
"Tattletale!" A.J. called, then zigzagged away from Rick's attempt at a headlock.
"Have to catch me first…"
"Hold it…after dinner, guys….or else Santa's leaving coal in your stockings…" Linda came out of the kitchen with a tray of drinks, and immediately there was a stampede to pick up a hot beverage.
"Here, love…I've got a dry shirt on the bed for you…" Laurie finished divesting her husband of his wet things, then found her hand in his as he started toward the bedrooms.
"And I have something for you, too, sweetheart…but first.." Rick whispered as he opened their door, then sat on the bed and pulled her to sit next to him.
'What is it, darling…" Laurie asked, starting to worry at the intensity of his gaze.
"I'm sorry, I should have made sure you were okay for having everyone over…will you forgive me?" he asked, bringing her left hand to his lips.
"Oh, love…of course….but I'm okay…just a little sore still, but I can handle it…" Laurie told him, tears in her eyes at the expression on his face. "I was upset at not getting to pick up everyone's presents myself…but "
"But nothing, darlin'…." Rick stopped her from fussing by kissing her soundly. "Jaime and Steve stopped by both the "Wedding Shop" and the mall, and got all the things you had ordered…" he murmured as he released her lips.
"Rick? That's so…oh I love them…and I love you too, for giving me back my Christmas spirit…" she told him tearfully. He stroked her hair as she added,
"I've been feeling so useless….so old…"
"NO, you're not old, or useless, sweetheart! Who said anything like that?" Rick interrupted fiercely, upset at his wife's thoughts.
"No one did, darling…it's just how everything looked to me…then you reminded me how very lucky, and happy we are…we've had so many blessings….and you do so much to make Christmas special for us…" she assured him, wrapping her arms around him. For several long moments they held each other…
"Well...how about I make Christmas even more special..." he said after a while, then frantically started searching his pockets.
"Darling...do you mean this?" Laurie picked up a small green box from the floor, and Rick let out a deep breath.
"Thank God...thought it might be in the snow..." he began, then grinned at his wife's comical face.
"Snow? I am so sorry no one got a picture..." she smiled, then squealed as he popped open the box.
"Oh, Rick..." Laurie gasped, looking at a sparkling Christmas Tree pendant, green jewels winking up at her with an opalescent star perched on top. Gently she lifted the gold chain holding the circlet surrounding the tree from the box, then flung her arms around his neck.
"Thank you, Rick, thank you my love...what a beautiful gift..." she sniffed, then giggled as he told her, "all for you, my elf...you are Christmas to me...and I never want to see you unhappy at Christmas ever.."
"Not as long as you hold me...wake up with me each morning..." she replied, nuzzling his face with her lips. Taking the necklace from her hand, Rick fastened it around her neck, then sealed the catch with a kiss.
"Grandpa? Grandma? Hurry...Santa's coming!"
Laughter burst from both of them as their grandchildren's voices sounded outside, and Rick sighed and quickly pulled on his fresh shirt. "Are we ever going to spend Christmas night alone...with no interruptions?"
"Nope-and you wouldn't have it any other way...would you, my Santa?" she grinned.
For a reply Rick stood up then pulled Laurie into his arms.
"What do you think?" he told her with a wink. A child's giggle let them know that one of the "interruptions" was listening outside.
"Just a minute!" he called back, then exchanged one more kiss with his wife.
"All right, munchkins…" Rick finished buttoning his shirt, then decided to surprise their audience. Laurie laughed silently as he tiptoed towards the door.
"One, two, three…gotcha!" he yelled, pulling open the door and finding Melly and Katie on the other side.
"Uncle Rick….you heard us!" Melly squealed as he picked her up, then Katie hugged her grandmother and asked, "What's a munchkin?"
"Oh…I think someone needs to hear about the Wizard?" Laurie smiled, putting an arm around her.
"Mom..sorry about that…I didn't see they went to get you and Pop…" Robin appeared in the hallway, grinning as she saw her mother's present.
"That's so pretty, Mom….I'm glad Pop found it.."
"I'm glad he did too, sweet….but wait until he sees what I got him…" Laurie beamed, then followed Rick and Melly into the living room just as a loud series of jingle bells was heard at the door.
"It's Santa, all right!" Davey yelled from his spot on the sofa, and he raced his sister to the door.
"Is that you, Santa?" Rick boomed as he put Melly down to join the others.
"Yes, Rick…open up, it's snowing!" came the deep voice, and as the excited children pulled open the door, a taller-then-usual Saint Nick "ho,ho,ho'ed" his way into the home.
"I knew you'd come! You can come even when it snows…" Katie declared, hugging the red coated man. Misty blue eyes twinkled behind the white-bushy eyebrows, and Rick knew the emotions filling "Santa" at the faith of the child.
"Of course I can, especially when you and your brother Petey have been so good, and so have Andy and Lala and, you, Davey!" "Santa" declared, allowing the children to lead him to Rick's chair.
As each of the Simon grandchildren and children took their turn with Santa, Jaime Austin slipped into the room and took their pictures so Robin and Linda and Ramona could finish putting dinner out. As they stuck some last minute presents under the tree, Santa gave a whistle.
"Now…I think some grownups here have been extra good, so I'm going to give them each a present to hold them over until tomorrow…"
As first Robin, then Robbie sat on Santa's knee, Rick found himself next to A.J., and he slung an arm around his little brother.
"I think he makes a good Santa, don't you?" he whispered, and A.J. nodded.
"Course we still need to get a picture of him when he calls Oscar and Mom over….that ought to be good." He grinned.
"Ten dollars says Dad makes an excuse not to sit on Steve's knee.." Rick offered, then a stern voice came from behind him.
"Twenty says I tell him about the whoopee cushion on his chair at dinner last week."
"Uh…okay, Dad." Rick agreed, then sighed as their friend spotted them.
"Okay, I see Rick and A.J. over there…come on and sit on Santa's lap.."
"Yes, go on..son." Oscar smirked as Cecilia Simon and Rudy Wells joined him.
As the children laughed and cheered, the two brothers sheepishly went over to a laughing Santa.
"I was just guessing about the cushion, Cec.." Oscar admitted, "but that'll teach him to set us up."
"I like your style, Mr. Goldman.." Cecelia smiled, as he took her hand and kissed it.
"Thank you, Mrs. Goldman…"
"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Goldman, when are you going to tell them." Rudy asked, not noticing Laurie standing nearby.
"How about at dinner." Oscar volunteered, then pretended to groan as Santa called,
"Okay, Oscar, you and Cecelia haven't been to see old Santa…."
As the couple jokingly made their way through their family and friends, Laurie quickly made her way to stand next to Linda.
"That is so cute….I love what a great Santa Steve makes…" her sister-in-law said, and Laurie nodded, beaming. She caught Rick's wink as he got ready to take some pictures, and she couldn't help but blow him a kiss. "Wait until he finds out…" she thought, then impetuously hugged Linda.
"He does…but I know one present we both got …"