The first story out of Santa's Sack is quite fitting! Her first story written for us, and we couldn't be more proud! Gah! This one needs a heavily issued tissue warning, people! Well, let's dash away with -
Alice's White Rabbit a.k.a. Sally Hopkinson
Name: Christmas Wishes
Beta/pre-readers: AshesAshes, Discordia81, LizzieD
Disclaimer: Well, no, I don't own Twilight or the characters, Stephenie Meyer does; but the story is mine.
Summary: As the holidays approach, Renee must say goodbye to her mother. As she awaits the arrival of Bella, Edward and her other children, Renee fondly reminisces about past Christmases and the role her mother played in all the Christmas magic. As she deals with her grief and the impending holiday, can there be a little more magic left for her?
It was two days before Thanksgiving and most people were working their way home before the long holiday weekend. But, not Renee Swan. She was waiting in the hospital lounge for her family to arrive. She had spoken to her mother's doctor this morning and heard words she never wanted to hear: cancer, too far advanced, nothing could be done now. How could this be possible? Her mother was so vibrant just a few weeks ago.
She thought it might be pneumonia. But, cancer? NO! After speaking with the doctor, she pulled herself together and called her children. Garrett was at work, but his boss said he would get a message to him to call. Bella didn't live far from the hospital, so she was picking up her husband, Edward, and would arrive shortly. Renee's middle child, Liam, lived out of state, but he would arrive here sometime this evening. Not knowing how these things went, Renee called a neighbor and asked her if she would take her dog, Rosie, for the night. Once all the calls and arrangements were made, there was nothing more Renee could do but sit by her mother's side and listen to the quiet whoosh of the ventilator and the incessant beep of the heart monitor.
With the holiday season just about to begin, Renee started to reminisce about all the past Christmases she shared with her mother. Her mother absolutely loved Christmas the most out of all the yearly holidays. Though, when Renee was growing up, she had always made every holiday festive. How could it be possible that she wouldn't be here for Christmas this year? She was the heart of their family and loved playing Santa Claus for everyone. As Renee settled into a chair to anxiously await her children's arrival, she closed her eyes and let her memories wash over her …
When she was a child, Christmas Eve was spent hanging stockings by the fireplace, carols sung by the piano, and her mother reading the classic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". And, Christmas morning was magical! Renee would come downstairs to find the door to the living room closed tight and her mother waiting for her in the kitchen with breakfast on the table. The anticipation that was building made eating difficult. But, her mother insisted that Renee eat before she was allowed to see what Santa had left under the tree.
As the years passed and the family expanded when Renee and Charlie got married, there still was at least one present under the tree for Renee from 'Santa'. There would still be little surprises in the stocking hung so carefully by the fireplace. As Renee and Charlie's family grew with the arrival of each of their children, Renee's mother insisted that some of the old traditions be kept alive. The magic of Christmas would live on in the reading of that Christmas classic and the gathering around the piano to sing some of their favorite carols.
As her children got older, Renee and Charlie had to be creative where they hid the kids presents since they still believed in Santa. Years later, when she was all grown up, Bella confessed that one year she had found the hiding place, unwrapped all the presents to see who was getting what, and then rewrapped them so no one would be the wiser. Mother and daughter laughed at that little revelation. Renee had thought she and Charlie had been so clever.
When the children were all grown-up with families of their own, Renee would help her mother carry on the tradition of 'presents from Santa'. The year that Charlie died, Renee's mother made sure there was a present for Renee under the tree from 'Santa'. As hard as it was to get through that Christmas, it still made Renee smile. With Charlie gone and her mother getting older, Renee made the decision to ask her mother to come live with her. It just made sense to consolidate households and share expenses.
The years that ensued were good for the two women. They each had their own groups of friends, but they enjoyed sharing their time with each other as well. With family spreading out as Renee's children got married, Christmas was still a time for everyone to gather around Renee's mother. There was still that pull to tradition, hearth, and home. And, every Christmas was still magical. There were still presents from Santa and stockings hung by the fireplace, filled to overflowing.
Not realizing that she had fallen asleep, Renee was gently woken from her reverie by a gentle hug from her daughter. Seeing the tears in her eyes, Renee pulled Bella into her arms, and they both cried for the woman they loved. Edward sat with the two women, consoling each in turn; he knew how close his wife was to her grandmother. He knew how difficult the coming hours would be for both women, and he would be there for them if they should falter.
Once Liam and Garrett arrived, they all made their way up to the ICU to say their goodbyes to the woman that meant so much to all of them.
At 3 AM, with all the family gathered around, Renee Swan's mother passed away. Garrett and Liam were to stay at their mother's house that night, but Bella and Edward were going to their home.
As Thanksgiving dawned, the family gathered to begin the daunting task of all the arrangements that needed to be made; the phone calls to extended family and friends. Though it was a holiday, they were able to get in touch with some relatives. As the day wore one, thoughts went to what to do for dinner. No one was in the mood to cook a huge meal. So, the decision was made to just go to the local diner. Everyone tried their best to be cheerful, but nobody was feeling very thankful that year.
With the weekend coming to an end, Garrett and Liam had to get back to their homes and jobs. Bella and Edward took it upon themselves to help Renee decorate for Christmas. Even though Renee felt no holiday spirit without her mother's presence, Bella insisted that her grandmother would be really upset if they just ignored the holiday that had meant so much to her. So, the three of them went about sorting lights and decorations. While the weather cooperated, they went to work hanging the outdoor lights on the lamppost and the two evergreen trees—one in the front of the house and one in the backyard. They tested all the strands of lights before hanging them in the trees. They laughed when they had all the light strands stretched across the front yard in order to plug each in to make sure that all the lights worked.
Once the outside was decorated, everything was attached to extension cords and timers. They proceeded to gather some of the figurines, garlands, and window candles for inside. By the time the light was waning, everything was in place. Slowly, as day passed to night, the lights started to twinkle on one by one. All but one. The large fir tree in the backyard remained dark. Hoping that it might just be a loose connection or a bad timer, Renee decided to wait until the morning to check it out. It had been an emotional day, and they all needed a well-deserved break. After sharing a simple meal together, Bella and Edward made their way home.
Though some routines would never be the same again, some just couldn't be ignored. After passing a quiet evening watching mindless TV and the 11 o'clock news, Rosie was fussing to go for her bedtime walk. Renee bundled up against the chilly night and took Rosie for a stroll around the neighborhood. The dog was a creature of habit and immediately pulled Renee down the driveway and left onto the sidewalk. The houses were fairly close together—only about 20 feet separating Renee's from her neighbor's. The big fir tree was clearly visible from the sidewalk. Sadly, the lights were still not lit.
Days turned into weeks. Renee tried to gather some holiday spirit around her by shopping for presents and baking cookies. Listening to Christmas music was, at times, soothing—wrapping her in such warm memories of past holidays. At other times, the music brought her to tears, remembering the times she had sung those same carols with her mother. And, every night, Renee walked Rosie. Every night, she looked over her left shoulder as she passed the break between the houses. And, every night, the fir tree in the backyard remained dark. If you asked her, Renee couldn't explain why this upset her so. All the other lights and decorations were sparkly and festive. There was no logical reason why this should bother her. It just did.
On Christmas Eve, a neighbor invited Renee over for dinner, knowing that she would be alone. She put on a cheerful face though, inside, she was more depressed than she had been all month. As the days had counted down to the holiday, a darkness not unlike the unlit tree in the backyard, seemed to throw a shadow over everything. Renee found it very difficult to accept that her mom would not be here to enjoy all the things that had made this house a home.
As the evening was drawing to a close, Renee said her 'goodbyes' and 'Merry Christmases' to her friends and slowly walked back to her house. There was a light coating of snow already on the ground and the flakes continued to fall. It would be a white Christmas. A small smile graced Renee's face and pictures of past Christmases with piles of snow flashed through her brain.
Once back in the house, Renee went about filling up stockings for Bella and Edward to hang by the fireplace. Bella and Edward would bring her stocking in the morning. It was heartbreaking to see the empty hanger where her mother's stocking should have been. But, Renee was determined to try to stay cheerful on this special night. As the midnight hour approached, Renee once again bundled up to take Rosie for her nightly walk. The snow was still falling very lightly as they stepped outside, but there were patches of stars starting to shine through. As they slowly walked down the sidewalk through the light coating of snow, Renee was determined not to look down the dividing lawn between the houses. But, before she got to the point where she could see into her backyard, Rosie stopped in her tracks and looked up at Renee as if to ask "Aren't you going to look?" Taking a deep breath to steel herself from the inevitable disappointment, Renee slowly turned to look at the fir tree that had stood all month with strands of lights covering the branches that refused to illuminate. She gasped and tears started streaming down her cheeks. The tree was lit-up and gleaming, with the light reflecting on the snow.
Renee looked up to the now crystal-clear, starry sky and whispered, "Thanks, Mom. Merry Christmas."
Sally - Simple, short, sweet, and everything above! You should be proud with this one honey! Tugged at heart strings and everything! My lord woman - way to pull that emotion! I'm weeping! Thank you soooo much honey for letting us have the honor of posting your first ever story! We loved it! Everyone - show her some love! Review and tell her how much you enjoyed or let her know how many tissues you disposed of during her first story! Thanks so much!
- Tina and Amy