Sam saw his Uncle Todd in the living room looking through the desk. He had to ask him a question, and trying to be patient about his request. But right now, that was getting hard. So he went in and tugged on Todd’s slacks.
Todd looked down and saw Sam there. “Hey kiddo, you need something?”
“We haven’t gotten a Christmas tree and Christmas is only a few days away.” Sam wore an expression that made Todd think he’d be crying any second. He looked at the calendar and winced. Between the Nurses’ Ball, the family that was in town, his unexpected visit to the inner workings of his psyche and learning that Blair was pregnant, the Manning family had seemingly forgotten all about Christmas and the accompanying preparations.
“You’re right, Sam. How could we have forgotten?”
“Well, you were sick and Mom’s having a baby. Maybe we won’t be celebrating Christmas,” Sam said with a frown.
“Not celebrate Christmas? Of course we will be! In fact, I think we should surprise everyone with getting the Christmas tree.” Todd would have continued but the doorbell rang. Having still not really gotten used to the idea of staff in the house, he headed for the door, but Reginald had beaten him there again.
“Mr. Redding is here,” Reginald said unnecessarily.
“Harry, hey, good to see you.” Todd said.
“Todd, hello,” Harry said.
“Grandpa Harry!” Sam called out as he ran to him. He hugged the older man’s leg. “I missed you.”
“Well, I missed you Sam,” he said as as he bent down to the little boy. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around.”
“I saw you with Steve and Liz Webber at the ball,” Todd said. “It’s nice to see you with some other family members.” He tried not to sound like Harry had abandoned him.
“I am so sorry, Todd, that I haven’t spent more time with you since I got here. Especially after you were in the hospital,” Harry told him.
“Look, it’s really no problem.”
“Todd, you invited me to visit with you and your family. I am sorry I haven’t. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”
“You can come with us to get the Christmas tree,” Sam piped up.
Harry and Todd looked down at the little boy. Then Todd looked up. “Well, I guess you could...”
“Please Grandpa Harry?” Sam pleaded.
Harry looked at Todd. “If it’s alright with you, I’d love to come along,” he said.
Todd shrugged his shoulder. “I don’t have a problem with it.” Then he turned and yelled, “Reginald, if anyone comes home, tell them we’ll be back!” With that the three left.
Not five minutes later, Blair walked into the house. When she noticed how quiet it was, she went looking for everyone. She found Reginald in the kitchen. “Everyone’s out?” she asked.
“Ah, yes, Ms. Starr and Mr. Jack have been out for most of the day, and Mr. Manning took Sam and Mr. Redding to go get a Christmas tree,” he said.
Blair looked at the calendar. “Oh, goodness, I almost forgot!”
“Yeah, Sam mentioned it to Mr. Manning and as they were headed out, Mr. Redding came and Sam asked him to join them.” Reginald then moved into the living room with Blair following and showed her the boxes that were in there. “I went into the attic and got down your ornaments and decorations. Just thought it would be good to have them ready for when they got back.”
With that said, Blair heard to front door open and thought that Todd was back. She came into the foyer and found Jack, Molly and Starr there. “Oh, good, you’re here. Your dad and Sam went to get a Christmas tree and should be back soon. Molly, would you like to stay and help?”
Molly smiled at Blair. “I’d love to.” With that, they set to work.
Just as they had finished putting up the stocking and the garland on the fireplace mantle, Jack noticed his dad’s car pull up. He hustled outside and helped get the tree in.
“Okay, right…there,” Blair said once it was in place.
“And everything is downstairs?” Todd asked.
“Yup, Reginald brought it down after you left,” Jack said. “We have the stocking up, all the lights are ready to go outside, and we just need to get the tree decorated.”
“And none of Dorian’s ridiculous ornaments. Good,” Todd replied.
“Would you like one of yours?” Harry asked from the couch. He had come in and sat down the cold temperatures aching him to his bones.
“You have one of dad’s ornaments?” Starr asked.
Harry got up and grabbed a bag he had brought in with him. “This was something else Peter let your mother keep, besides the pictures.” It was a ceramic ball that said ‘Todd’s first Christmas, 1970’
Todd went over and took it from his hands. With barely a whisper, Todd said, “I remember this, remember putting it on the tree.” His hand was shaking as he held it.
Blair came over and took it from him. “We don’t want to break it. It’s something precious.” She placed a hook on it and gave it back to Harry. “Why don’t you put it on?”
Harry looked at Todd, who nodded. He got up and put it dead center in the front. Todd was still staring at it when Harry came over and put his arm around the man. For a minute, Todd felt tears well in his eyes, but he brushed them off with his typical humor. “What, no gory stories of Christmas past? No babies coming home or anything like that? I’m sure we can fill in Harry about all the sucky Christmases past.”
“Well, they weren’t all terrible,” Blair said. “There was the Christmas I was pregnant with Starr.”
“Um, I was in Ireland for that one,” Todd reminded her, even though he knew what she meant.
Harry looked perplexed. “Why were you in Ireland?”
“That’s a long story. Suffice it to say, Todd left me a present.” With that, Blair pulled out the star tree-topper. “He wrote a note to go along with it, ‘To our little star.’ Hence, the name.”
“I thought it was too weird when I got back, but it’s the truth,” Todd added.
Starr walked over to her father and wrapped her arms around him.
When he released her, Todd threw a look to Blair. “Then there was that other Christmas,” he said as he smiled suggestively.
Blair blushed and Starr rolled her eyes. Of course she knew what her father was talking about but from the looks of her brothers and Molly, she knew she was the only one. And then Molly had to ask. “What was the story of that Christmas?” she asked innocently.
“Um, maybe we should get this star up. Who wants to do it this year?” Todd asked in a rush. “Sam, wanna go for a second year?”
“No, I think Grandpa Harry should this year,” he said as he took the star from his mother and handed it to the older man. Harry’s face looked like it was ready to break. He nodded and went up the stepstool. Just before he was about to place it on the top, Sam said, “Don’t forget, you have to make a wish.”
Harry looked down at Sam and smiled then turned back to the tree. “I wish Barbara was here,” he said quietly. Then he got down and patted Todd on the shoulder.
“So do I,” Todd said in agreement.
Blair moved over to him and laced her arm in his. “You alright?”
“Yeah, I am. I also thinking…this time next year, we’ll have another person here for the holidays. I guess…it evens off the scales,” he said.
Before Blair could respond, Jack slipped out of the room and back in with the camera. He whispered in Molly’s ear and she nodded. Then Jack called out, “I think we need an update for the family picture.”
“Oh, yes!” Blair exclaimed.
The Mannings gathered but Harry hung back. Todd shook his head and moved over to him. “Come on, you’re family too.” Harry smiled and moved to the side, standing next to Jack, who was then followed by Blair, Todd and Starr, with Sam in the front. “Now, like last year, everyone say ‘Manning!’” When everyone did, Molly clicked the picture.
With that, Christmas 2012 had at last started for the Manning family.
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