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“All I want for Christmas is youuuuu, baaaabyyy!” The radio blared…until her Mom punched a couple different knobs, a couple different times.” Hollie sat quietly in the front seat. She’s only been allowed to sit in the front seat for a year or so now. Her tight blonde curls weaved in and out of one another and bounced as her mom rolled over the cement pot holes rudely invading their driveway.
Out of curiosity Hollie asked, “Why did you do that, mom?”
“Mommy just didn’t want to hear that song right now.” Was the response that Hollie received.
Hollie had no further questions. Not that she ever would; but this time you could just hear it in her voice. The lyrics reminded her of the divorce and the way the band played their fine-tuned instruments was much too happy holidays for Mom today. This time of year Mom was a wreck anyhow; Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, Christmas gifts… and now the Christmas music. Hollie unbuckled her seatbelt and wrestled with the car door for a moment before her purple and green, floral moon-boots began to stomp through the freshly brewed Colorado snowfall. Her thin eyebrows sunk low and inward, toward the bridge of her pink nose. She looked as if she almost felt bad or guilty for misshaping and deflating God’s perfect snowflakes. Her mom hurried along two-week-old tire tracks, not wanting to ruin the brown leather boots she bought herself last weekend.
“Honey, come on! Your Dad will be here in five minutes!” Mom warned.
Hollie hustled, hopping through the foot prints she’d already made on her way out to the car earlier this morning. She couldn’t wait to see Dad. It had been four days since his last visit. The excitement and anticipation always overcame the confusion and frustration in missing Daddy. Hollie often stayed up late after her mom was convinced she’d fallen deep asleep; she’d wonder why Daddy had to live by himself now. Doesn’t he get lonely? Does Mommy miss Daddy like I do? Such complicated questions penetrated her innocent and vibrant young mind.
“DADDY!” Hollie jumped up and down on the tips of her toes.
“MY HOLLIE!” His deep firm voice flooded with excitement.
“What are we doing today?!” She asked and with a pathetic grip, she tugged on his Levis.
Daddy responded with excitement, “Well, if it’s alright with Mom, I thought we would do some ice skating up by my house this evening.”
“Oh! That sounds like fun. Hollie, will you go get your ice skates and snow stuff, please?” Hollie’s mother was always good at distracting Hollie.
Hollie was already in the garage fishing through her belongings and reeling in whatever looked winter-friendly. She gathered all that she could and hugged it against her chest as she darted back inside. A purple mitten fell to the ground, not loud enough for Mom or Dad to hear. As Hollie crouched down to pick it up she heard her mother say her name. Which wouldn’t and shouldn’t have been a big deal as parents often talk about their children; but there was a secretive tone, like a whisper in their voices. She began to listen intently.
“Who is Hollie going to spend Christmas night with?” She recognized Dad’s voice immediately.
“Well, I would assume she’d like to wake up in her own house. It’s become a sort of routine, don’t you think?” Mom was always making him feel dumb.
“I understand. I just think it would be really nice to have her stay with me, you know, my first Christmas at my new house.” He replied in a casual attempt to persuade her.
“I’m sure it would, but why would I want to wake up alone, without her, on Christmas day?”
“You wouldn’t want to. And neither would I. But one of us has to.” This was true and Mom knew it.
“This should be up to Hollie.” Mom decided.
“We can’t put that type of pressure on our child.” Dad insisted.
“Hollie!” Mom called out nervously.
Hollie waddled into the kitchen with a pair of overall snow-pants, three gloves (none of which matched the other), two ice skates bound together with tight white laces, and a hat with a fluffy ball on top. Both of her parents were staring at each other, impatiently waiting for the other to speak.
“Hollie, Honey, whose house would you like to wake up at on Christmas day, Mom’s or Dad’s?” He asked a question while his eyes begged for a good answer.
“I don’t know.” The answer they all should have expected.
“We will give you some time to decide, Sweetie, just let us know by tonight.” Mom chimed in.
“Okay. I will, I just want to go ice-skating right now.” Hollie’s chin dropped to her chest as she practiced the art of getting herself properly dressed to skate the pond in Dad’s backyard. Her dad took her by the hand and walked her out to his car and Mom waved frantically as they drove away.
The entire car ride Hollie contemplated where she would wake up Christmas morning. She was distracted when Dad turned on the radio, heard the Christmas music and turned the volume up. It was loud enough to keep Hollie from really focusing on making any sort of tough decision. He really had a way of easing Hollie’s mind. Before she knew it, they were skating circles around each other and tossing snowballs around only to see the exploding white powder sprawl across the frozen water. Rocking her left foot and scraping her blade along the ice, back and forth, Hollie wished she was frozen. She was lost in a world of her own. Then Dad handed her his cell phone. It was her mom. She knew it by the expression on Dad’s face.
Hollie snapped out of it and took the phone. Her knees slowing bent down to congruent, 90-degree angles until she plopped down on the ice. Her eyes drew a blank as she focused all of her attention on the warmth of the little phone; subconsciously pushing it deeper into her rosy cheeks. Hollie’s mom reminded her that if she were to stay the night at Mom’s house on Christmas Eve, the two of them could bake cookies for Santa. Then leave them out with a glass of milk for him and his reindeer. And that was the only part of the conversation Hollie heard. She lifted the phone high up into the air, signaling Dad she was done. Hollie fell back into the snow bank and laid there lifeless, watching the stars come out one at a time. Her Dad gave her a moment by herself then joined her, he pointed out the North Star and the Big Dipper. The air was so pure in Colorado; star gazing was part of a daily routine for some families.
“So that way is north?” Hollie reassured herself.
“Ding! Ding! Ding!” He teased.
Hollie’s eyes got very wide. She whipped her head around to look in the direction of what must be south. South was the direction of Mommy’s house. Her Dad caught on fast and figured it was about that time. He picked Hollie up and swung her over his right shoulder, patted her butt with his left palm and hiked back inside to dry their clothes and have a couple microwavable dinners. Hollie was laughing and smiling again, it seemed as though some stress had been relieved; her dad figured she had made her decision. Even more so when she mentioned:
“I think Mommy would like me to come home now. She is probably really bored without me.”
“Hi Hollie. I missed you. Did you have fun ice-skating? Did you tell Daddy thank-you?” Hollie’s Mom gave her Dad a nod giving her own thanks.
Her mom hugged her…twice. And Dad twirled her golden curls nervously, possibly in an attempt to keep her closer to him.
Hollie’s words traveled about a mile a minute, “I knew that you missed me. That’s why we came back. Thanks Daddy. That was really fun. And guess what? I know where I want to spend Christmas Eve! I want to stay at whoever’s house is closer to the North Star and closer to the North Pole and closer to Santa! And that’s Dad’s house. If I stay at Dad’s house it will be a shorter distance for Santa to travel and I will get my presents sooner and then I will come back to Mom’s house as soon as I can!”
Hollie had it all figured out, her smile shined with confidence and her head held high and she had never been more proud of her self. She was truly a genius. Her dad didn’t looked too excited and her mom didn’t look too unhappy. Infact, they both look the same. They were in awe of their daughter and her innocent but contagious holiday spirit. Mom looked at Dad and Dad at Mom, until they both smiled the same smile at the same time.
“That sounds wonderful, Hollie. I’m sure Santa will be happy too.” Her mom smiled, and this time she meant it.
Dad couldn’t help but grab them both and wrap his arms snug around theirs, for a much needed group hug.