Doris tied the ribbon on the package she was wrapping and pushed it aside with a sigh. The rest of the presents can wait till later, she told herself and slowly made her way to the couch.
Little Barbara, only 4-years-old, and Hank, two years older, sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree playing with their toys. When Doris sat down, Barbara looked up at her mother.
“Mommy, why isn't Daddy home?” She asked with her innocent brown eyes shining.
“Timmy's father is home already,” chimed in Hank. “And you said the war was over.”
Doris smiled sadly. “It takes a while for every soldier to get home. Though the war is over, there is still much to be done.”
“But why can't he come home now?” Barbara continued.
Hank lowered his eyes. “Do you think we will get a letter like Mike's mother did?”
Doris' face paled and her hand flew to her chest. She fought to regain her composure. Taking a deep breath, she motioned for her two children, now very solemn, to come to her.
With them seated, one on one arm of the couch and the other on her lap, she began gently. “It's hard for us to understand why God allows such dreadful things to happen. But no matter what happens, one thing I know, God loves your father and us very, very much. We've trusted Him this far, let's not lose hope now.”
She gave them each a hug. “Now let's get ready for the Christmas Eve service, alright?”
Barbara and Hank brightened at this and jumped up, running with scampering little feet to their rooms. Doris smiled after them but her smile slowly faded again. “Oh Lord,” she whispered, “please bring Chad home... soon.”
On the way home, Doris' mind was elsewhere. There had been many servicemen just recently returned home and it was hard for her to keep her mind off her own husbands absence. Her two children chattered in the front seats beside her, paying no attention to their mother's somber expression.
Suddenly Hank spoke up. “Mommy, you must have left a light on in the house?”
Doris frowned. She particularly remembered having shut them off. She parked the car in the driveway and the children jumped out.
“The doors open too,” said Hank.
Doris face was puzzled as she followed her children in. “Now I'm sure I locked the door...” She mumbled.
The next moment, Barbara gave a squeal and ran into the living room with Hank right behind her. A man in an army drab uniform rose from the sofa and turned around. Doris' mind was plunged into a fog of incomprehension as the familiar figure scooped up both children and held them in his arms. She didn't even notice a second figure rising from the easy chair.
The children cried over and over, “Daddy, Daddy!” covering him with kisses. Chad, as the man was, returned their affection with his face bursting with his smile. Then the children noticed the second person.
“Uncle Hank!” They screamed and wiggled free from their father to reach their uncle's outstretched arms.
Chad turned expectant eyes to Doris. “Hello Dorry.”
Finally beginning to understand what she was seeing, Doris leaned on the back of the sofa for support. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. Instead, tears welled up in her eyes and she began to sob. She couldn't move but just sat there with her head in her hands trying to control her sudden emotion.
Chad took a slow step forward and pulled his wife into his arms. Unable to stop the flow of tears, Doris buried her face in his shoulder.
From their vantage point in their uncles arms, Barbara and Hank smiled at their parents touching reunion. In no time they reached the floor and were tugging on their parents. Each holding a child, the two wrapped their free arms around each other and shared a kiss.
After a proper amount of time, Uncle Hank cleared his throat with a raised eyebrow. “What about the brother? Is anyone happy to see him?”
Doris gave a sniff and a laugh and let go of her husband to give her brother-in-law a kiss. She wiped her eyes. “I don't know what to say. I didn't want to let myself believe that you both would be home for Christmas!”
Another round of hugs and the children were finally ready for their story-telling uncle to answer their questions. Only too thrilled to comply, Uncle Hank took the children in his lap and began his tall tales. Doris and Chad sat down on the sofa and listened and laughed.
During the third story, Doris turned her eyes to her husband. “God answered my prayers.”
Chad's smile held unspoken emotion. “Mine too.”
As a self-styled female crooner (what I prefer to call a canary), I tend to lean toward the more mellow songs of the Christmas songbook. Small wonder that I'll Be Home for Christmas is one of my favorites.
Although the song is a bit downhearted, I find it brings a keener sense of joy and happiness. Today it is one of those famous Christmas songs that you hear every year. But at one time, there was scepticism as to whether it would really make good.
Kim Gannon wrote the lyrics but was turned down in the music business because of the songs dismal ending. He later sang the song for Bing Crosby and in 1943 the song was recorded by the famed voice and, like White Christmas before it, was a great hit. At one point I read that some parts of Europe banned the song, afraid it would lower morale. But evidently it's popularity overturned this rule.
Gannon intended for the song to represent any loved one away from their family and not just World War II soldiers, though obviously this was foremost in the publics minds at the time. Despite the lyricists intentions, when I hear the song, I can't help but think of World War II soldiers longing to come home for Christmas. And many people say the same. It's a smidgen of history to remind us of what we, as a nation, have had to endure.
So next time you hear Bing Crosby croon that bittersweet tune this year, take a moment to consider how your Christmas plans would be different in the era of this song. My story may have had a happy ending, but many did not.
And for all those who are away from loved one's at this time of year, whether overseas or for any other reason, I'd like to wish you a blessed Christmastime.
Merry Christmas all!