By Christmas, the First World War ended. The children had decorated the pine tree with a popcorn-strung garland, an assortment of handmade ornaments from school, and a few carefully placed candles.
Both Christmas Eve and Day had separate dinners that were planned to the point of perfection. Other than Lucy’s mother, only the immediate family gathered to partake in both meals. Everyone dressed in their finest, shoes polished, and under Ma’s eagle eye, not a hair out of place. It was the one time of year when Erik and Harry would allow their mother to dictate what they wore.
After dinner on Christmas Eve, the family attended church to hear the story of the birth of Jesus, the miracle of light that came into the world.
The service ended, and the family walked the short distance down Madison Avenue to their home. Snow was falling lightly. It had a magical quality when Hannah looked upward and imagined the angels dusting their wings off. She skipped ahead, kicking up the fresh thin layer of snow on the sidewalk. She was laughing, when an icy wetness suddenly hit her in the back of the head.
Her mood evaporated as she spun around to glare daggers at her brothers.
“Hey, how dare you!” she said.
Harry had the audacity to look innocent, while Erik couldn’t help but chuckle. The adults and Amy hung back farther, lost in conversation.
Hannah quickly knelt down and grabbed a handful of snow, formed a ball, and chucked it at her brothers. It missed, flying between them and ended up smacking Pa in the side of the face.
Both boys were briefly shocked, before dissolving into laughter.
“Oh, you’re in for it now, Hannah-panna,” Harry teased.
“Be quiet!” Hannah shouted. “You started it!”
The adults were upon them a few seconds later. Pa was wiping his cheek with his gloved hand, but it was Ma who was angry.
“Who threw that?” she demanded.
“It wasn’t us. It was Hannah,” Erik said.
“Yeah, but I wasn’t aiming for you, Pa” Hannah said. “One of them hit me in the back of the head.”
“A likely story,” Harry said coyly, smirking.
Ma’s eyes shifted to her younger son. “Actually, it sounds about right. Come. We will discuss this once we’re inside.”
Pa pretended to be stern, but when he walked past Hannah and the boys, he half-smiled. He winked at Hannah, and then his face was impassive once more. As Hannah watched her parents retreating down the road, she grinned.
Once back inside their small home, Pa worked at starting a fire in the grate, while Ma sat Erik, Harry, and Hannah on the sofa to give them a brief lecture on how to treat each other with more respect, “most especially on Christmas.”
“How is pelting each other with snow when it’s already freezing outside a Christ-like attitude?”
Pa, finished with the fire, came to his wife’s side, and wrapped an arm around her.
“I think, perhaps just this once, we might excuse the children. It is Christmas, after all. There will be plenty of time for extra chores in a few days.” He smirked knowingly.
“Hmm,” Ma murmured, although her eye twinkled as she exchanged a look with her husband.
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