Home for the Holidays: The Favor
A Quick Note About Little Stories with Holiday Roots
Though it's been a while back now, a holiday writing contest inspired me to work on a collection of mini stories. They turned out to be such fun to write that I wound up with several, and I sometimes tweak them as a writing exercise. This Number 5, The Favor, evolved from thinking about what it be would like to have politicians who are not, shall we say, typical.
Andrew was feeling his youth. Both over-eager and slightly apprehensive, he still couldn’t believe the interview was his. Not realizing who he was dealing with, he was amazed that he had been able to keep the conversation going for so long.
“Before we finish up, Sir, I'm wondering how your family copes with the realities of your being responsible for the changes occurring now that you are our National Education Amelioration Director.”
“Well, constantly being in the spotlight isn’t easy but we work hard to maintain a solid perspective on family life. I try to set aside regular down time with our children, though it’s not frequent enough just yet. My wife definitely carries the brunt of it.
"Since so much travel is involved we talk to the kids about how our life isn’t normal," and with a serious blink he added, "I make sure my wife has what she needs, and she makes sure the kids have what they need. We work hard to to communicate regularly and clearly, and importantly, we maintain a sense of humor."
“That’s good advice for everyone, isn’t it?” the self-confident reporter commented with a flattering smile, hoping to disarm his assignment. “What will your family do for the holidays, Sir?”
As he relaxed the father was open, "You know, we make it a point to leave the city for as long as possible during the holidays. We get out of Dodge and leave technology behind us for a real slice of country life at my parents’ home."
“I don’t suppose we could visit you there in order to get a glimpse of what that’s like for your family?” the emboldened reporter ventured.
“Not a chance, my young friend, not a chance of that. We’ll be tucked away for a much needed break from life on the run having an extended visit with family."
“Well, what is it like for you there? Are your parents and other family members in awe of you because you now hold such a crucial office? Do they treat you the same, or do they treat you with kid gloves?”
The inexperienced reporter was surprised by the look in the Director’s eyes at this personal question. Andrew nearly panicked at the thought that he might have taken too much liberty.
“Are you kidding?” the Director laughed after a thoughtful minute and a direct look into Andrew's eyes.
The reporter couldn't get a word in edgewise for several minutes.
“If my parents treated me differently I really would wonder what was wrong with them. No, I look forward to being home again because I can totally relax there. I’m simply my parent’s son at home.
“They don’t just look to me for answers, they still let me ask questions. Early mornings, while my family sleeps in, we sit at their bay window overlooking an iced pond, catching up on all the important stuff of life.
"Every Christmas season, while the dawn wakes birds, deer, and other critters and we watch them make their way from the woods to the field behind the pond, my parents patiently clear up youthful misperceptions about the past, and they fill me in on the family’s latest news.
“I used to be ruffled by the fact that they still encourage me to do my best and then some, but I now look forward to the advice they give me, especially about my children. They just keep pouring the coffee until the kids wake up.
"Once the kids are around the sunny table with my parents serving them food and conversation, I get to step back and use my clinical skills to watch the interaction between them. It’s an amazing thing to witness.
“Drinking from the same mug I used as a teenager, I watch my son’s mannerisms. Oblivious to what he’s doing, he separates the food on his plate just like my dad, and he tilts his head the same way my dad does when he’s in a discussion--back straight, chin up, eyes thoughtful."
Andrew marveled at the openness with which the director shared his personal slice-of-life scenes with him despite knowing that it would be shared with the world. He wasn't sure just yet how it was going to all fit in his story.
"Dad has a magnificent German Nativity Pyramid that he is teaching my son to put together. Each year he takes him to a new level with its intricate works. His grandfather teaches him much more than engineering as they work together.
“And as our daughter sits primly at the table beside my mother, her attentive eyes will take in everything, just like mom’s. She’s a miniature version of her grandmother. It's amazing how much they favor. I don’t understand how she looks exactly like my wife and somehow she’s a carbon copy of my mom.
"The two of them sing all the traditional carols together while the rest of us mostly listen. We try to follow along, but their voices are a perfect blend. It sounds as if they practiced together for months when they sing on Christmas Eve.
“The kids only visit their grandparents two or three times a year, so I always am in awe at how these mysteries happen. My wife takes it all in while she indulges in the homemade hot chocolate my mom makes just for her, shaking her head in wonder during every visit.
“I can observe it objectively for a while, but there aren’t words to describe the feelings such moments evoke. Being there is more than the quiet woods and the deep snow that lets us disconnect from the rest of the world. It’s far more than the fun of the Christmas season or the anticipation of the New Year."
After an introspective pause the Director's tone changed notably, “You are Andrew, right?"
The reporter nodded in startled assent, with no time to think about what might come next.
"Well son, there's something special about family. You can’t buy it, and you can’t replace it if you throw it away." Then, with a firmness that comes from experience he asked, "Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir, I do understand. Thank you," came the unnerved reply from somewhere in the reporter that he was too young to understand. Such a direct question had taken Andrew by surprise. The interview was moving in an unanticipated turn for this fledgling reporter.
Quickly another question came, “So how about you, young man? You going to spend time with your family at Christmas? Are you going home for the holidays? Or will it be spent with friends?"
The frank look told Andrew this man was not finished, "Or worse yet, are you going to work on your career during the holidays?" Then, after a heavy pause, "Think about what’s important before it’s too late, okay?”
The reporter was curiously stunned. How could this guy have known? Then it hit him, this mature man had just shared a universal truth with him and he was expecting an answer.
“I won’t forget what you've said, Sir." It dawned on him that there was more to the advice than he yet realized. "Thank you again--you’ve done me a great favor.”
Nativity Pyramid from Germany:
More from this Home for the Holidays Series
The following links offer more of the stories in this series. While our expectations of what holidays will bring can prove to be disappointing, letting our minds wander over what could be the best of them in some cases can inspire us in unexpected ways:
• Fostering Care -- Home for the Holidays, Number 8
On Christmas Day our gifts were nice, yet, that day I realized that no present on earth could ever equal what being accepted as one of their family members meant to me.
• Christmas Fudge -- Home for the Holidays, Number 6
There’s a small river between the woods and the main field that I want to get reacquainted with. He and I are old friends, and I need to hear his voice again.
• The Gift of a Lifetime -- Home for the Holidays, Number 3
Adam told her he had been listening to the children breathe as they slept. A snow-bound house full of children and grandchildren was just what he and Angie needed to give them the merry Christmas they wished for.
Peaceful Mountain Music Silent Night
✵ Do Yourself a Favor and Take a Look at More Holiday Info :)
- Official Holidays
Check out the federal holidays!
- Christmas Music of John Rutter
Words like talented must be preceded with breathtakingly in order to do justice to John Rutter's Christmas music.
- Keeping Your Holiday Job: Merry Christmas or Not?
Sharing the traditional phrase "Merry Christmas" on the job can be an interesting experience. Such a simple greeting said with kind sincerity can provoke a whirlwind. What do you think about this true situation?
- Fun Christmas craft ideas for kids and preschool children
Preschool Children love to help with crafts and even the tiniest of tasks can make them feel important.
- Evaluting Web sites - The Web as a Reporting Tool
Learn about reporting from online research.