During our last chapter the family spent their first Christmas truly as a family. Not just the Thurgoods and Edwards sharing a Christmas with the Meyers, but as one family. The past year had brought them together in a way that was warm and loving. Sam was both damsel in distress and savior, loving her had brought about events that bonded the family together.
JJ was a hero not only to Kathryn and his family, but many others too. The family had followed in JJ’s kindness and helps many more than he could alone. Some they rescued from near financial ruin, others JJ had done more physically to help. Their acts of kindness, inspired by love and generosity have brought them onto Santa Claus’ nice list.
The Ten of Them. Chapter 22 Composed by Hard93
They discovered many more gifts not given by anyone in the family. They all had one thing in common it would be nearly impossible for anyone else but Santa Claus to give that gift. None of the gifts have been available commercially, and are utterly unique in many ways. Many of us have stopped believing, but now we rethink that. Maybe there is more magic this time of year, especially when you are surrounded in love, kindness and giving.
I remember reading an article that the New York Sun published over a hundred years ago. The editorial named; Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus. Maybe that’s why I truly never stop believing, although is really easy to. Quoting one sentence of that article, “Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”
After we had opened all the presents, we begin cleaning up. I couldn’t help but notice Kathryn and Sam staring out the window longingly at the snow. I finally gave up and sent them to dress for going outside. I know they wanted to make snowmen so badly. How often do you get a chance here to do that? It had only snowed twice in the last four years.
Once we had bagged all the wrapping, keeping some boxes but discarding many more, Mom points me out the window at the snowmen Kathryn and Sam has made. Kara and Daniel, Marshall and Misty, even the Coach and Helen had joined them. It’s not exactly all snowmen they are making. They teamed up and built snow forts.
I began laughing as the first snowballs begin arcing across the backyard. Alyssa and George are watching out the other window and it isn’t long before they are laughing too. Joan and Johnny laughs as Daniel hits Marshall. Marshall is even laughing too, as he throws snowballs back rapidly getting Daniel a couple times. Nobody is actually trying to be mean or vicious with their snowball fight, they’re just having great fun doing something they don’t get to do very often.
Kara and Kathryn seem to be laughing so hard they couldn’t hit each other if they were five feet apart. Sam and Misty tossed back and forth at each other with Sam dodging getting more snow off the ground as she rolls out of the way. Even though still in my pajamas and robe I’m tempted to join them.
The snowball fight doesn’t last all that long, and it seems like pretty evenly distributed, each team gotten hit about the same amount of times. They just got too cold to continue. They hug each other laughing as they come in from the cold. Mom made some hot chocolate and we bring them into the kitchen to start breakfast and warm-up.
Kathryn takes Sam and dresses her in some warm dry clothing after they share a short hot shower. Kathryn wears one of her new sweaters given to her by Michelle for Christmas. As family members return I can’t help but notice many are wearing Christmas presents. Kara is in the silk dress Kathryn gave her, is very flattering to her, without being slutty. Daniel’s hands constantly caressing Kara’s shoulders and back his hand runs smoothly across the silk.
Helen says, after seeing the two and how Daniel is constantly caressing Kara as she smiles brightly, “Newlyweds.”
Mom giggles as she says, “Bet they don’t make it five minutes after they finish eating.”
Grandma adds, “I’m surprised to see them come back myself.”
Kara remarks, “I can hear you.” Looking lovingly at Daniel she continues, “We have to go to Daniel’s parents after breakfast. But don’t expect to see us until New Year’s after that.”
Joan asks, “You leaving for a honeymoon?”
Chuckling Daniel states, “No, just locking the door. Don’t bother coming to knock on it.”
Blushing Kara says, “We’re going to finish breaking in the house...” Daniel kisses Kara preventing her from continuing her statement. Everyone in earshot knows exactly what their talking about. Kathryn and I haven’t finished breaking in this house, but now more bedrooms are available than were before which may make it easier. While Mom was gone to California, Kathryn and I snuck in her room, we made sure to clean up afterwards though.
It’s hard to find time when we would not disturb anyone by all the noise Kathryn and I make. It seems to be impossible for us to make love quietly. We had discovered a few things, and a few positions where the noise we make can be muffled. Normally Kathryn just screams into a pillow, that’s about as quiet as we get.
I wonder what it’s like to have a house to ourselves, that’s definitely something that will not occur very often for Kathryn and me. Now she is due to deliver our daughter in March.
We have Sam who seems not be able to sleep at night unless she is with us. She’s had a few nightmares since the events at the pizzeria. A few were pretty bad and Sam cried for nearly an hour before we calmed her down and she finally fell back to sleep. I can’t blame Sam for being frightened, if things hadn’t happened exactly right, if they would have fired instead of reacting to the pepper, I would have died like my great-great-great-grandfather.
I am not going to worry about what might’ve been. If you do that you can drive yourself insane, when you consider each and every choice you make and each and every choice made after that can generate millions and millions of possibilities. Quantum-mechanics make my head hurt, it does every time I think the last thirty minor decisions has more than a billion outcomes, any which can make a major change in your life. I mean ouch, like who wants to figure out if stopping for a cup of coffee saved you from being in a major accident. The guy that left as you walked in him stopping for a cup of coffee put him in that major accident you missed.
Like so much in life it’s all about timing, this land come up for sale only a few days before I decided to buy property and move out of California. Mom made the decision at the same time that she wanted to leave. If we were not of like minds at that time that may have delayed the decision and we’ve not gotten this property.
Then every other decision along the way, if I had decided to wait to get the mail the day I met Kathryn when I did. Who knows what changes would occur to my story. If I and my mother hadn’t befriended the Edwards, if I didn’t care about hurting Kathryn’s feelings and just ignored her what changes what that brought about, if I allowed her sisters to separate us in the seat on our first ride into town together. If I would allow them to push Kathryn out of the way, that first kiss would never have happened. If it didn’t happen would we ever had the premonition that set us on this path. If we followed the premonition exactly, Kathryn and I wouldn’t have Sam. We would not be expecting so early in our lives the birth of our first child. Then again we would not have gotten presents from Santa Claus. I feel we’re doing better than what was expected.
Rewarded for the love and kindness we’ve given, and challenged to continue. That’s what a present from Santa really is, both the award and challenge. You did good and got the award. See if you can do it again I’ll let you know next Christmas.
The truth is I receive so much love this year I couldn’t help that it overflowed. That’s the thing about love. When you give it freely you normally get it back, and then you have more.
When I started dating Kathryn I didn’t realize I was going to get all of the ten of them as my family. Now that seems small to the size of family we have now. In three months our family will add two more. Kathryn will have our daughter Amanda, Marshall’s and Misty’s son who I believe they’ll name Marshall Junior and call MJ. Whether they want to admit they are family or not Ron and Reese will add another to the family later next year in early June.
Reese’s top Sergeant Charles Sampson, a man she really respects will be here in ten days. I talked to him a couple times, Ron and I are going to fly out and pick them up, and they think they’re going to be boarding passes for him, his wife Jane and their son Jim. What we have is a chartered aircraft with enough cargo space to fly out their household items, pack all their clothing and personal items into cargo containers that will be loaded on the aircraft. Because Kathryn and Reese are both pregnant, they are not going to go. Ron and I will go out a day ahead and ensure everything is ready when they arrive on Saturday morning to fly back with us.
We’re going to put them into the 1924 House. It should be enough room for the three of them. Marshall and Misty’s garage apartment is only a single bedroom. We offered for them to stay here and use one of the main bedrooms and their son use one of the bedrooms next to it. Reese told me of his reluctance to move in on a complete stranger. So we offered the use of the 1924 house for them. Top Sergeant Sampson insisted on paying rent for the house, and I reluctantly agreed.
He almost insisted on paying for the lessons until I explained that he is required to pay it forward. I explained that we would assist him in doing that, Ron and Reese is doing that with him as part of repayment for their lessons. Charles chuckle before he asks “Does it matter if I have someone in mind for your next set of lessons?”
I ask, “They are available now? If so we could add one or two more persons it shouldn’t be that difficult, and we have the room.”
Charles stops chuckling and asks, “Are you serious? You offered for me to live in your own home and we had never met. Now you’re doing the same for someone you haven’t met, being referred by someone you haven’t met.”
I tell Charles, “You do come very highly spoken of, and Reese really respects you. I believe that respect was earned not simply given to you. She is someone who I trust with my family. If she trusts you, whoever you trust has earned that too. So yes I am serious.”
Charles says seriously, “Mitch has been sleeping on my couch the last few months. Other than a few nightmares he’s pretty much okay. He does suffer from posttraumatic stress syndrome, and he lost both his legs in Afghanistan.”
I say, “Well bring Mitch along it solves two problems, it gives Mitch a place to stay and then gives him an income so he can maintain a lifestyle he deserves.”
Charles replies, “I hope Mitch can accept that, I worry about him. He’s a very good man and he saved my life at least twice. He knows Ron and Reese, he also knew Sam’s parents. Sam’s Dad saved his life once, before he saved mine. I’ll do my best to repay that debt to him.” I hear Charles put his heart in his statement.
I tell Charles, “We’ll do our best to help him. Hopefully we can show how he can make money and use it to help others something I’m pretty sure he would love to do.”
Charles laughs then says, “You’re either psychic, or an optimist. You’re right about Mitch loving to help others.”
I say, “We’ll make sure Mitch understands that our help means in some way he pays it forward, even though I think he’s done enough to earn it. Have a Happy New Year, and I will see you two days after. I’ll meet you then, be at the airport at 9 o’clock on the third to check-in.”
Charles gives his insurances that he will be there with his family, and will try his hardest to get Mitch to accept our offer. Then he wishes me a Happy New Year.
Kathryn and I settle in and watch some TV, there showing Christmas movies and Sam settled on my lap as we watch. It doesn’t take long and most of the family comes in and joins us, Daniel and Kara have left for his parents and we don’t expect to see them for a week. Mom made popcorn and brings three large bowls that we share from.
Another one of those lifetime moments occurs as Kathryn leans against my shoulder with my arm around her, Sam is leaning against my chest with her head on Kathryn. I don’t even want to take a deep breath for fear of moving the two. That image of the moment Mom captures of us sitting there Sam with a bowl of popcorn on her lap as her and Kathryn are munching on it. I have it printed out, when school begins again I will put it in my locker, I carry a wallet size of it too. It happened while we were watching it’s a wonderful life, and that’s what I think every time I see that picture how wonderful my life is with my two girls and my big family.
The time off from school is passing too quickly, and we’re home most of the time just enjoying being together.
On New Year’s Day we have a big family gathering plan to watch the parades and have a large lunch together. Kathryn and I go grocery shopping the day before New Year’s Eve. We buy most of the traditional foods you eat on New Year’s for this part of the country. While we were at the grocery store I get a text from Joan asking us to pick up the ingredients for tamales.
Kathryn reading the text grins and says, “I love tamales, remember when we got them in San Antonio.”
With a chuckle I say, “Those were pretty good but just wait till you taste Alyssa’s.”
Kathryn still smiles and says, “If they are like any of Alyssa’s other dishes they’re going to be something really great.”
I say, “She doesn’t make them very often and I’ve only had them once but they were outstanding.”
Kathryn giggles and says, “I guess I can get her to show me how to make them.”
I chuckle as I say, “That’s the whole point with those, because the whole family makes them.”
We’re fortunate to find all the ingredients at a local grocers, and I buy enough ingredients to make a hundred and twenty and I wonder if that will be enough. With all the other food I’m sure we should have enough. Anyway I’m sure they won’t last more than a day even if we do have leftovers. Not when Johnny and I can each eat a dozen at a time.
After picking up several other ingredients for the New Year’s feast Kathryn and I head home. Sam meets is at the door, she looks a little annoyed because we didn’t get her up from her nap. Sam decided that I need protected and she is determined to be my protector. Sam looks so cute with that look on her face and her hands on her hips. I can’t help but pick her up and begin to kiss her on the neck that causes her to giggle.
After a minute or so Sam makes me let her down and she runs to the restroom. When she returns she tells me, “Daddy, I love you but you made me mad. How can I keep you out of trouble if you leave me at home?”
Sam does have a point, I know she doesn’t see herself as a small girl, and she’s far more capable than most girls three or four years older than her. In many ways Sam is more capable than many adults, she’s very skilled at martial arts and her size isn’t too much of a disadvantage because of the techniques I taught her.
How do I explain to Sam in such a way not to hurt her feelings or belittle her? Pondering that for a moment before I speak, “I love you Sam, I’m your Daddy and it’s my job to always look out for you. I know you love me, and want to make sure I’m safe. I love that about you.”
Sam smiles brightly then interrupts me, “Daddy I gotta keep you out of trouble. If I don’t who’s going to?”
I look to Kathryn who is trying to keep from laughing out loud, she shaking so hard her pregnant belly bounces and I know Amanda will start kicking any second. I playfully say, “Well Sam your Mom for one, but I’ll do what I can to make sure I stay out of trouble too.”
From the expression on Sam’s face I can tell her mind is working fast as she comes up with her counter argument. Looking into my eyes Sam says, “Mommy and you need help doing that, that’s where I come in.”
Kathryn can no longer contain her laughter; Sam confuses Kathryn’s laughter and is uncertain of how to react. Kathryn bringing herself under control finally says, “Sam thank you for helping keep your Daddy in line.”
Maybe I’m a little frustrated but I try to keep my voice pleasant as I say, “Whenever there’s something going to threaten either of you you’ll find me between it and you. After all I think it’s my job.”
Now giggling along with Kathryn Sam says, “Silly Daddy we know that, we just got to make sure there’s no trouble to start with.”
The images that go through my mind some aren’t that pleasant. I wonder if Sam had kept me out of trouble at the pizzeria, if I hadn’t stopped those two men how many more people would they had killed? Sometimes being safe is not good for others, the ones you save who would otherwise have died.
The two murderers had the video surveillance of the previous restaurants in their vehicle. They had walked through and killed every person in the restaurants before stopping the video tapes. The district attorney decided to try them on the murder cases and leave the attempted armed robbery off. There was more than enough evidence to convict the two. Of course the district attorney was seeking the death penalty because of so many murders the two had committed.
Sam gets my attention again and she pulls me into a hug and gives me a kiss on my cheek. Sam says with bright eyes that sparkle like fiery green emeralds, “I love you Daddy.”
It’s then that I noticed that Sam’s eyes are green. When I first saw Sam her eyes had been brown. I realize Sam has the same trait of Hazel eyes that change colors depending on her mood. That was a hard time for Sam right then, it was no wonder she was upset having gone through all that. These are the same eyes that Kathryn shares, looking into Sam’s beautiful eyes I say, “Sam I see you have your Mommy’s beautiful eyes.” That gets Kathryn’s attention and she takes a deep breath noticing Sam’s eyes are green.
Sam asks, “What do you mean Daddy?”
Walking over to a mirror near the door I pull Kathryn close so Sam and Kathryn can look into each other’s eyes as well as their own. I tell Sam, “Sam look how beautiful and how green you’re eyes are. Look at your Mommy’s eyes and see how green they are. Aren’t they just like yours?”
I’m looking into the two most beautiful sets of green eyes I’ve ever seen when I look into their faces. Kathryn has a few tears of joy, realizing Sam’s pain had caused her eyes to be brown for so long and now that pain has finally left. I explain to Sam, “Sam you have the same type of Hazel eyes as Kathryn. When your Mommy is happy, her eyes are very green like they are right now. When you’re happy you’re eyes turn green too. Aren’t you very happy right now Sam?”
Sam looking into Kathryn’s eyes then back into her own eyes. A bright smile on Sam’s face replaces the briefest moment of confusion. Sam really can’t speak at the moment and she just starts to continually kiss each of us turning back and forth kissing Kathryn and me.
Kathryn takes Sam and I begin to bring in groceries. Sam and Kathryn are placing the groceries away and each trip I kiss one or the other and get a giggle in return. It isn’t long before I’m bringing the last of the groceries and begin to help them finish storing the groceries away.
After bending over and straightening up Kathryn has a funny expression then unexpectedly runs to the bathroom. I follow because I fear she may be having a relapse of morning sickness. But at the door I can hear Kathryn is relieving herself, walking in with an amused look on my face I asked, “Amanda push someplace uncomfortable?”
Kathryn with a giggle says, “I guess she wanted a little more room and pushed on my bladder.”
Allow my hand rub Kathryn’s pregnant and extended belly before I say, “Don’t be in a hurry for more room little girl, I’ll get to see you soon enough.” Kathryn giggles at that and nods her head.
From the door Sam asks, “Mommy are you okay?”
Kathryn answers, “I just had to go to the bathroom that’s all.” Now with the smile she adds, “If you to stop treating me like I would break, I would appreciate it.”
Scooping Sam up and turning back to Kathryn we both say, “Nope not happening.”
Kathryn with a mean expression that I know that is just playful, this close I can feel that she’s not really upset and before she can say anything I whisper to Sam, “If your Mommy were really mad her eyes would be brown.” Sam looks at her Mommy and begins to giggle.
Kathryn hardening her expression to no avail, her eyes still remain green, says “What are you two talking about over there?”
Sam giggles, and I smile before saying, “We know you’re not really upset because your eyes are still green.”
Kathryn exhales “I guess that’s why I can never play poker, every time I got a great hand I would get happy about it. I guess I gave myself away.”
With a chuckle I say, “We’ll just get you a pair of sunglasses the next time you play poker with the family.”
Kathryn giggles and says “Maybe I’ll just start wearing them around all the time.”
Sam gets a concerned look before she asks, “If you do that Mommy how can I tell if you’re happy?”
Kathryn finishing using the bathroom is now washing her hands and she glances in the mirror at me. Playfully she says, “If you see a worried expression on your Daddy’s face you’ll know that I’m not happy.”
Sam looks at me and asks, “Daddy do you know every time Mommy is not happy?”
With a chuckle I say, “Yes, and she knows every time I’m not happy too.”
Sam looks at the both of us turning first one to the other than begins to smile. I’m not sure what she’s thinking of but she’s happy and that’s all I’m worried about. Kathryn comes and hugs the both of us.
Mom walking by notices the three of us in the bathroom. Shakes her head before she asks, “What’s all this about?”
We turn to look at her; Sam and Kathryn both have bright emerald green eyes showing their true happiness. It’s then that Mom notices as well. Mom takes a deep breath and a large smile crosses her face before she asks, “Sam are you wearing colored contacts?”
Giggling Sam says, “I got eyes just like Mommy they give away that I am happy.”
Mom says, “My grandmother’s eyes were like that too. I never remember them being anything but green. I found in the Bible a letter written by Grandpa where they talk about her eyes changing to blue as he left. He wrote how he wanted to see her eyes turn green again.”
I say, “That makes sense, since Sam and Kathryn has some of the same ancestors as we do. It’s possible that it’s a family trait that didn’t make it to us.”
Kathryn says, “Grandma Elizabeth has the same type of eyes too, and I’ve seen hers turn green occasionally. She’s had so many things happen in her life that they seldom stay that way when she remembers something that haunts her from her past.”
Sam asks, “Mommy does any of my aunts have eyes like ours?”
Kara’s comes to my mind; I think I’ve seen them change shades. Kathryn says, “Both Kara and Karen have eyes like me, but they tend to look bluer even when they’re happy.”
I say, “I bet when you see her next they’re very green.”
Kathryn giggling says, “If they are not I’m kicking Daniel’s ass.”
Mom jokes as she says, “I bet there green too, you should’ve heard her screaming when I walked back from Helen’s last night.”
Kathryn asks, “Good screaming?”
Mom laughing fully for a moment before she replies, “Of course, it sounded like she was having a great time. I’m a little envious.”
Kathryn looking at me sadly says, “I’m glad she was having a good time. I just wish I could. That’s the only thing that sucks about being pregnant.”
I remind Kathryn, “You will not be pregnant forever sweetheart. I waited for you for a long time before, and I can do it again.”
Kathryn looking into my eyes says, “I’m not worried about you cheating, I know you wouldn’t do that. You’d feel so guilty about it and never be able to forget that guilt.” I lean in give Kathryn a kiss, and Sam still in our arms takes the opportunity and gives us both the kiss on the cheek.
We go back and finish with the groceries, and I give a call to Joan letting her know I got the ingredients for one hundred and twenty tamales. Joan giggles and tells me that’s a lot, I tell her that’s only about six per person when the family is all there. Joan asks where I got the ingredients from, and she talks to Alyssa later that evening they come in with the ingredients for about another hundred and twenty.
Jokingly I say, “You must’ve heard Kathryn’s stomach growling in the background when I mentioned tamales.”
Kathryn lightly punches me in the arm for my joke. She then says, “When we were in San Antonio the tamales there were really good. JJ says yours is even better.”
Johnny carrying in the last of the groceries says, “Mom makes the best I’ve ever eaten.”
Alyssa says, “Tomorrow afternoon will start on them, I want about hundred and eighty, for New Year’s Day. We will need to make all of them, so we can keep that many for New Year’s.” Alyssa looks at Johnny and me, which causes Kathryn and Joan to giggle. Johnny and I get that not me expression, the last time I had Alyssa’s tamales Johnny and I had gotten into them early and eaten a lot. We didn’t get any for dinner, but they weren’t any left at all after dinner.
Joking Johnny says, “Hey JJ Mom’s only making thirty extra for each of us tomorrow night.”
Alyssa says, “Who said you’re getting any. You can have six on New Year’s for each of you, JJ and Johnny. The sixty extra are for the girls were going to help me make them.”
Kathryn gives a triumphant, “Yes!” This is immediately followed by Joan doing the same. Mom and Sam are giggling at the rest of us.
The feelings I’m having are unpleasant, and I hate to admit they exist. I really don’t want to get mad at the situation because I really would regret it later, and with an eidetic memory like mine you learn quickly not to make those types of mistakes. It’s not that I’m perfect; it’s just that I can’t forget any of my mistakes. So I calm myself down as fast as I possibly can.
Johnny doesn’t have the type memory like I do, so before he can really get mad about it I say, “Johnny we can go get enough ingredients for another hundred and twenty from the grocery store. I’m sure we can find some more volunteers to help make them.”
Alyssa says, “Now that’s the best idea yet.”
I start to find the volunteers to help make the tamales; I give a call to the coach who declines, he and the boys are watching a football game. Johnny learning that the game is on disappears with only saying, “Sorry.”
That left no one but me to help make more of the tamales. Then Ms. Clark comes to mind, we haven’t got to see the girls Miss Clark brought over in a while. I’m sure they’re all out from school over the Christmas break, and it is early enough in the day that she still should be at her office. After talking with Kathryn and Alyssa, I give Ms. Clark a call and ask, “Miss Clark I know it’s short notice, but I was wondering if you could bring the girls out. We were going to have a dinner on New Year’s with most of the family. We’re making tamales this evening I’m sure I can afford enough ingredients so the girls can make some to bring back with them. We’ll make dinner for the girls too.”
Ms. Clark says, “JJ you’re a lifesaver, those girls have been bored to death since Christmas. It’s getting bad trying to find something to keep them busy.”
I knew Ms. Clark was going to jump on the opportunity to bring the children out; it gives them an experience with a family. It exposes them to at least four different couples financially capable of adopting. That is her job, to ensure the well-being of the children either through adoption or by the state. A lot of the social workers became familiar with all the family during the recent adoption of Sam. Occasionally when Ms. Clark would come out in the past she would bring one or two other young girls with her. It would give Sam some interaction with children her own age, but it also gives Ms. Clark an opportunity to talk to Sam in a more relaxed manner. Children seem to relax more when another child is involved.
I left to pick up the additional ingredients that Alyssa wanted me to bring, not only were we going to make tamales, but tacos for dinner for the children. We would involve everyone in the process of making dinner, because we could take the ingredients from the stove and allow the children to build their tacos at the table. We would keep the children safe and nowhere near the cooking surface, but give them the thrill and experience of preparing their own meal. To a child it is a big event doing anything for the first time.
By the time I return, with Sam who insisted on coming Ms. Clark is there with the children, she had a couple little boys with her this time. The house is full of voices of children as they play and I tell Sam to go play with them. It doesn’t take Sam long to find one of the girls she has befriended from Ms. Clark’s visits. The two skip off together happily.
Kathryn displays a wide smile as a young girl feels Amanda kicking with a look of wonder on her young face. Alyssa seems to be very affectionate to that young girl and I wonder if I’ve just added to the family. I can hear the game going on downstairs, and realize the Coach and my brother-in-law’s moved over here knowing that Alyssa will not turn them down from having tamales. I’m thankful I got more than what Alyssa asked for.
MC is even there, she has a young girl on her lap and they both talk with a smile on their faces. I think to myself MC needs someone special in her life, she is a beautiful woman although I know she’s been heartbroken by someone just recently. He assumed she was out of work, poor and when a richer woman come along he dumped MC for her. After MC said she didn’t want to see him anymore she informed him that she was actually a billionaire. Needless to say the asshole tried to apologize, I don’t think she accepted his apology and he didn’t show up for Christmas. I’ve had a hard time dragging MC out of her home ever since then. It’s really good to see her smile again.
Ms. Clark walks up to me and says, “Thank you JJ for having the children over, it looks like they’re having a good time for the first time this week.”
I can’t help but ask, “Ms. Clark how tough is it for single woman to adopt? MC, Michelle seems to be hitting it off with that young girl in her lap.”
Ms. Clark giggles before she says, “You called her a member of your family right, so then she’s been checked out by the organization already. If she did the paperwork, we can have the child in her home in less than a week, and finalized in two months.”
Alyssa has the same young girl up in her arms right now and I ask Ms. Clark if the same holds true for the Judge and his new wife. Ms. Clark simply shakes her head yes with another giggle.
Who knows that play house might get a lot more use now that Sam isn’t going to be the only child her age around here. Sam and her friend come back up to me and ask, “Can we go out to the play house?” Sam adds, “Please Daddy.”
I look to Ms. Clark who only shakes her head yes, I look back to Sam and say, “You can go for a while but you have to come back in for dinner and to help make tamales. You can take a few of the girls with you if you want.”
Sam with a bright smile says, “Okay, Daddy I just want to show my play house to my friends.” Sam takes a hold of the young girls hand and the two skip off together, and they talk to a couple of the girls before going out to Sam’s play house.
Ms. Clark says, “Maybe I should go keep an eye on them.”
I switch to Sam’s play house channel on the TV set and Miss Clark looks surprised for instant before she says, “I should have known, you are a protected parent with enough money to do things like that.”
I chuckle and say, “It’s a two-way channel by the way, there’s a TV set inside Sam’s play house displaying us right now.”
Sam seeing the display says, “Hi Daddy.”
A couple of the other girls have come to where they can see and stand near Miss Clark. Sam’s friend Cindy says, “Miss Clark you’re on TV.”
Ms. Clark giggles and says, “So are you Cindy.” Cindy’s eyes got large at that bit of news, and Sam giggled at her expression.
In a bright voice I say to the girls, “Why don’t you two put on a show for the other girls, they can watch and then take turns putting on shows for you.”
Sam giggles saying, “That sounds like fun.”
Sam and Cindy start whispering back and forth as the figure out what they want to put on for a show for the other girls. We let the girls watch as Sam and Cindy begin singing a song before long the girls in the room join in, even the three-year-old that’s clutching to a teddy bear much like Sam’s.
Ms. Clark mouth nearly falls open in shock at the youngsters change in behavior, pulling me over to the side she tells me. “That’s Crystal she just came to us two weeks before Christmas, her family died in a car accident and she’s been withdrawn. The only thing beforehand she would say is that’s her teddy bear. She barely leaves it to take a bath, and it always has to be in sight or she panics.”
I ask, “So she came with the bear.”
Ms. Clark says, “No, that’s the oddest thing, it showed up on Christmas morning. No one at the orphanage gave her the bear; I got a good look at it a couple times. It doesn’t have any of the normal tags. It’s not from build a bear and unlike any teddy bear that’s on the market. It had a note saying it was from Santa Claus, but who believes in that.”
With a chuckle I ask, “What you never read, Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus. You deal with children all the time, they believe even when people say they shouldn’t believe in the spirit of Christmas. Only later in life when we get disappointed we stopped believing in that spirit. Maybe if we still believe the world would be a better place.”
Before Ms. Clark has time to reply, Alyssa announces it’s time for everyone to start help making dinner and then will make the tamales right after.
Sam says, “We’ll be right there Aunt Alyssa.”
Ms. Clark and I bring the rest of the girls in, and Crystal actually allows me to pick her up. Ms. Clark only shakes her head at the difference in the young girl. Walking to the table with the young girl, I stand her in a chair and she holds to her teddy bear and I steady her by one hand on her other shoulder. I ask Crystal, “Have you ever done this before young lady?”
Crystal shakes her head no and I ask, “Have you ever had a taco before?” Crystal shakes her head yes, causing her light brown hair to fly in waves. I say, “Judging from that yes I bet you like tacos.” Again Crystal shakes her head yes vigorously.
I take two plates one for me and the other for Crystal, I place a tortilla on my plate and wait for Crystal to do the same after a moment when she doesn’t I ask, “Would you like a tortilla?” Crystal shakes her head yes, so I add one to her plate. Crystal isn’t very talkative, but as long as she shakes her head yes or no I can deal with that. I noticed Ms. Clark is watching me intently as I work with Crystal. The next item to decide on is it beef or chicken, Alyssa had prepared both, personally I like the beef. I take some of the beef and put it on my taco. I ask Crystal, “Which you like best the beef or chicken on your taco?”
Crystal looks up at me, and I can tell she almost wants to say something but is almost afraid to. I gently ask “Crystal do you want the beef or chicken on your taco?”
Crystal still looking into my face like she’s trying to figure out if she says something it will make me mad or not, so I smile to reassure her and wait patiently. Instead of saying anything Crystal points to the beef, and I add a few pieces to her taco before I ask “Would you like more?”
Crystal again simply shakes her head yes, so I add a few more pieces and ask “more?” Still without saying a word Crystal shakes her head yes. Again I add a few more pieces. Crystal smiles up at me which gives me the idea I’ve given her enough meat. So I slide the plates on down, the next few bowls hold, lettuce, diced tomatoes, guacamole, and cilantro. I put a little of all of it on mine, before I ask Crystal if she wants any of it on hers, I ask “Crystal do you want, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole? You might try a bit of this one but it’s a little spicy and if you’re like Sam you won’t like it, but I like it. Crystal simply shakes her head no, so I ask, “Would you like lettuce and tomato or just guacamole?”
Crystal shakes her head no so I asked her to do one thing I know she will do, “Crystal you just point to anything you want on yours?” Crystal gives me a smile and points to the tomatoes. So I add some diced tomatoes to her taco, when Crystal gives me a smile I know that I added enough. Before we go anywhere else I ask, “Anything else?” Crystal again shakes her head no.
So I slide our plates on down, Alyssa has placed a number of sauces to add some kick to your taco. First is a bright red sauce, mostly made from tomato with a tiny bit of cilantro. The next is a green sauce made from Chilies and a bit spicier, the next is a roasted chilies sauce which is a lot spicier. I ask Crystal, “I think I’ll pass on the hot sauce how about you?”
Crystal have been looking at my face and she cracks a smile and gives her head a shake yes. I take our plates and we set down next to one another on the opposite side of the table. I fold my tacos a little differently than most people, most people simply fold them in half but I fold mine more like a burrito, flipping one site in before folding it in half with that side held at the bottom. I found out that causes a lot less spillage, and fewer embarrassing stains.
Crystal mimics the way I fold my tacos, and she takes a big bite chewing happily. Sam comes and sets in my lap she looks over at Crystal and says, “Hi.”
Crystal for the first time actually says anything to another person directly, she returns Sam’s greeting saying, “Hi.”
I can almost hear an audible gasp from Ms. Clark who is now on the other side of the table making a taco for her and another of the smaller children. I look up and see Ms. Clark smiling who explains, “That’s the first word Crystal has spoken to anyone directly in nearly two weeks.”
Alyssa seems to be helping the same girl and I over hear her calling her Anna. She is almost the same age as Sam and also one of the newer girls Ms. Clark has under her care. George shows up with a young boy a little younger than Anna maybe a year or a few months more than that. George slides into line beside Alyssa and gives her a kiss on the cheek, he looks like he needs to ask her something important, and she has the same expression.
The little boy greets Anna with “Hi sis.” Anna returns his greeting with, “Hi brother.”
George and Alyssa both got bright smiles as they simultaneously say, “Brother and sister.” It looks like the couple can read each other’s minds in that instant and I would bet Marshall, Joan and Johnny are going to have a younger brother and sister in a couple months.
Ms. Clark looks at the two for an instant and a bright smile comes across her face as she looks away. I’ve heard it is hard placing siblings; few people want to adopt two children at the same time. I’m sure Ms. Clark worried about having to split the two up. It would be traumatic for the two siblings, the brother and sister placed in two different homes, never knowing if they can see each other again.
Kathryn comes to set down, seeing Crystal she asks, “Could you sit on my lap and we sit together?”
Crystal only hesitates for a moment before shaking her head yes to Kathryn, after sitting her plate down Kathryn gently lifts Crystal and places her in her lap, but Crystal loses her grip on her teddy bear and it falls to the floor, not even thinking Kathryn reaches down and picks up the bear handing it back to Crystal. The look on Kathryn’s face as Crystal gives Kathryn a kiss on the cheek for returning her teddy bear tells me everything. I know in that instant that Crystal will be part of our family. Kathryn feels the connection to Crystal just like we felt for Sam.
My only worry is Sam. I know she was excited about having a younger sister when we told her the news about Amanda. I wonder if she would feel the same excitement learning that Crystal will be part of the family too.
After getting their food George speaks to Miss Clark whispering a question to her and she shakes her head yes still holding that smile after that Alyssa, George, Anna, and her brother go to the patio to eat.
I leaned over whispering into my wife’s ear, “Would you be willing to add Crystal to our family?”
Before Kathryn can answer I practically see Amanda jumping she’s pressing on Kathryn so hard I can see the outline of both little feet. Giggling Kathryn says, “I think Amanda likes the idea.”
I straighten back up and gently ask Sam, “Sam would you like to have Crystal as a younger sister?”
Sam looks at me and her eyes seemed to be as green as ever as she says, “I think she would make a good little sister. Can I adopt Cindy as my big sister?”
I tell Sam, “We’ll have to ask Ms. Clark if we can. I think Crystal really needs us right now, and we can see if Cindy can come too.” Kathryn has a slight confused expression on her face for second then shakes her head smiling as she does. Kathryn and I would do almost anything for Sam, our love is like that. We both sense that Crystal should be with us. We’re not sure if Cindy should be, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask Ms. Clark. Hopefully taking care of three girls shouldn’t be that much more difficult than taking care of two. Fortunately for us we still have lots of family nearby.
Marshall and Misty along with Ron and Reese show up just then, as the coach and Johnny get in line I realize it’s halftime. Jokingly I say, “I guess Alyssa timed dinner just perfect for halftime.”
Misty giggles at all the little girls before she asks, “Why are all these children here?”
I can’t resist playing with her and say, “Misty if you put your hand on your belly I think you’ll figure out why soon enough.”
Now given me an angry look, but her eyes tell that she really isn’t angry, Misty sticks out her tongue before she says, “JJ you know what I meant.”
Giggling Kathryn says, “JJ got enough ingredients to make four hundred tamales, and was looking for volunteers to help.”
Crystal from Kathryn’s lap says happily, “I’ll help.”
Sam quickly says, “Me too.”
Most of the young girls say as well, “Me too.”
Reese and Misty giggles and says, “Me too.” Marshall and Ron kiss their wives, but shake their head no.
Joking with them I say, “They are going to leave me alone with all these beauties.”
Marshall and Ron chuckle before Marshall says, “Like you would ever cheat on Kathryn. We’ll see the sun moved backwards first.”
Kathryn giggles at that before she looks at me and says, “Probably for a full-day before he would even consider it.”
With a chuckle I say, “Not even then.”
Dinner was fun, and I helped Sam and Crystal get seconds along with myself, when we return Sam set in Kathryn’s lap before she says, “You can sit and Daddy’s lap.” It’s then that I’m sure Sam is fine with adding Crystal to the family. Crystal doesn’t hesitate but comes into my lap easily.
A little after dinner I get the chance to speak to Ms. Clark, it’s then that I ask, “Ms. Clark, Kathryn and I would like to adopt Crystal, when can we start the paperwork? Cindy is she available for adoption too?”
Ms. Clark begins, “About Cindy, she is a special case her parents are still alive. Her father abused and neglected the girl after her mother was imprisoned. Unless the mother gives up her parental rights no adoption is possible. Unfortunately she’s between foster homes; I don’t have anyone to place her with. As for Crystal I’ll speak to the judge, I have a temporary order all he needs to do is sign it after we insert Crystal’s name.”
I shake my head with a large smile before I say, “We definitely don’t need the money that the state will give us as foster parents. How tough is it to become foster parents, Kathryn and I would be happy to care for Cindy until her mother is released.”
Ms. Clark says, “With your recent background checks, and your references no problem at all. Cindy’s mother should be released in about six months.”
With a chuckle I say, “I bet you got the paperwork for that too.”
Ms. Clark says, “Would you blame me if I do?”
Still chuckling I say, “I thought it was the Boy Scouts that are always prepared.”
Ms. Clark returns in a subdued tone, “And social workers who don’t have enough room for the children they have to care for.”
That silenced my chuckle in a heartbeat and I ask, “Is there anything else I can do for the children?”
Ms. Clark has a soft smile as she hugs me stepping back she says, “Bless you JJ, you’re helping with the overcrowding already, you helped stretch our food budget by feeding them tonight, and it looks like three more of the children are getting their adoption started tonight as well. If you or anyone else I wouldn’t ask any more them than you have already done, but we need warm coats and clothing.”
I say, “Is that all? I’ll do that in a heartbeat; after all I have a large family that would love to take the children shopping. We can get them warm clothing for the rest of the winter. If you need any more food, or anything else ask and it is yours.”
Ms. Clark asks, “Just like that, I don’t need to beg?”
I say, “Just like that, anything you need for the children make a list and I’ll see that you have it as soon as I can get it. Anything that is needed urgently for the star beside it, I’ll do whatever I have to; to make sure you have that right away.”
Kathryn slides underneath my arm still holding to Crystal as she holds to her bear; she’s not clinging to it like before. They both smile up at me before I say, “Crystal would it be all right if you came and stayed with us?”
Crystal looks from me to Kathryn, who smiles brightly and says, “Please Crystal would you stay with us?”
Crystal reaction isn’t exactly what I thought it would be, she just throws her arms around Kathryn but she begins to cry as she clutches to Kathryn. Ms. Clark says in a very soft voice, “Crystal has not grieved yet, this is actually good.”
Kathryn holds Crystal as she cries and I gently caress Crystal’s back. I whisper, yet loud enough for both Kathryn and Ms. Clark to hear, “You’re safe now Crystal, you’re with your new family we’re going to take good care of you.”
Ms. Clark says, “JJ can you take care of Crystal starting tonight. I think it would be best for her if she stayed with her new parents. I’m sure the judge will approve it.”
It almost sounds like Crystals holding her breath waiting for my answer so I don’t hesitate. Feeling Kathryn’s agreement I say, “I can’t think of a better place for Crystal than with her new Mommy and Daddy and her big sister.”
Crystals head pops up and she looks into Kathryn’s eyes and asks, “Really?”
Kathryn smiles back gently saying lovingly, “Really Crystal, if it’s all right with you.”
Crystal buries her head against Kathryn again and begins to cry once more I can sense a difference in her tears they’re mixed between relief and joy. Ms. Clark has a confused look, like she can sense the difference too but doesn’t understand quite yet. I tell Ms. Clark, “They are joyful tears; Crystal is relieved of the fear of being alone.”
Ms. Clark is smiling brightly as Sam runs to me seeing Crystal is upset and crying Sam holds her teddy bear from Santa and it looks remarkably the same as Crystal’s teddy bear. Sam says, “Daddy, catch me.”
I hold my arms open as Sam jumps into me hard with a thump as our chests meet. My arms wrap around Sam keeping her from sliding down as her legs wrapped around me. After taking a breath Sam leans over and begins to hug Crystal and Kathryn now that she’s at the same level. Sam says, “It’s okay Crystal, our Mommy and Daddy really love us.”
Crystal turning her shoulders and head and looks in Sam’s face before she asks, “Are you going to be my sister?”
Giggling Sam replies, “I sure am, look even Santa got is the same type bears to let us know we’re going to be family.”
Ms. Clark sucks in her breath hearing that. Crystal giggles and says, “That’s what my note from Santa said, when I found a bear like mine I would know I’m home.”
Ms. Clark says, “Oh God I wish I had not thrown the note away.”
Crystal reaches into her pocket and pulls out a tattered folded piece of parchment, she unfolds it and it reads. To my Princess Crystal: This bear will show you your new home when you find one like it. Love Santa Claus.
Smiling at Ms. Clark I say, “Doesn’t that make you feel like your nine again, and still believe in Santa.”
Laughing Ms. Clark replies, “I don’t know about being nine, but I do believe.”
Ms. Clark excuses herself going for her briefcase and her prepared paperwork still in the van she came in. When she returns Ms. Clark uses a pen to fill in Crystal’s name onto a form for temporary custody and a second to start adoption procedures. Before Kathryn and I sign them Ms. Clark asks Crystal, “You sure this is where you want to stay?”
Without a moment’s hesitation Crystal shakes her head yes before she says, “This is the family Santa chose for me.”
Ms. Clark smiling says, “I don’t think anyone would be better for you than JJ and Kathryn Meyer.”
Sam says, “What about me, I’m going to be her big sister.”
Giggling Ms. Clark says, “No one has forgotten about you Sam, you’re going to be a great big sister.” Sam and Crystal giggle and hug each other.
Fortunately for us, Uncle George signs the orders and Crystal was ours starting that night, although another judge would have to confirmed the orders in a few days, Ms. Clark was happy to leave her with us due to the overcrowding she was currently dealing with. Uncle George and Alyssa also took Anna and her little brother Alan in that night.
Ms. Clark started the adoption paperwork for MC that night as well, but some issues prevented MC from taking the little girl home that night. Within a week she will have the paperwork accomplished and her young friend Rosy will become her daughter. Mrs. Clark supervisor wasn’t available, to approve us taking Cindy so reluctantly she returned to the orphanage that night as well. Both girls would be coming with us shopping tomorrow.
Hopefully MC can get the necessary furniture for her new daughter tomorrow, and delivered on short notice. Although I think MC in a pinch would get camping gear, MC and her daughter could have an adventure camping in a bedroom.
Our family grew by four or maybe five, some people would say it was a coincidence that I called Ms. Clark but I have a sneaking suspicion someone up there is looking out for the children. Or one more challenge to prove we can live up to it. To quote Stan Lee, who paraphrased Luke, “To who is given much, much is expected.”
I don’t see Crystal as a challenge. I truly see Crystal is a reward. She’s a beautiful little girl, and I can tell already she’s full of love. All that night she didn’t leave Kathryn or my side, only on occasion Sam would pull her away for a moment. It didn’t surprise me at all when Sam led her into our bedroom, and both girls crawl onto my chest snuggle close to each other and Sam took the outside with Crystal between her and Kathryn.
Only about twenty seconds after Crystal put her head down it popped back up, with wide eyes Crystal says, “Sam you’re right. Daddy’s heart does say love you over and over.”
I chuckle and say, “Crystal, it couldn’t say anything else hearts can’t lie. They also don’t have a really big vocabulary.”
Kathryn giggles at that before she says, “If JJ’s heart had a bigger vocabulary, with every beat it would say, I love you Crystal, I love you Sam, I love you...”
I cut Kathryn off, saying, “Amanda, I love you Kathryn, I love you Crystal, I love you Sam and over and over.”
Kathryn gives me a kiss, and then says, “When you said Amanda she jumped.”
I smile broadly, and gives Sam and Crystal a kiss on the forehead and begin gently rubbing Crystal’s back first given her a few circles then moving to Sam’s back and give her a few circles them back to Crystal’s back. It doesn’t take very long before both girls are breathing slow and steady, and I think their sound asleep.
Kathryn whispers to me, “When this year started I had you all to myself. The day we got married, we got Sam, I don’t regret that. I don’t miss having a honeymoon with you. It felt like that from the day I first moved in with you. I really enjoy being Sam’s mother. I know I will enjoy being Crystal’s mother too.”
I whisper back, “I love you and I love being their Dad.”
I thought the two were sound asleep but they both say, “I love you Mommy, I love you Daddy.” In less than a second I feel the first tear on my shoulder from Kathryn. I feel so much joy from her it brings tears to my own eyes. I continue my gentle caress of the girls after wishing them a good night. They wish us a good night in return. Kathryn wishes them a good night and sweet dreams.
Sam says, “Mommy all my dreams have come true, I got you and Daddy and now Crystal, soon I’ll have Amanda too. What more could I ever dream of?”
With a soft chuckle I say, “If you close your eyes and go to sleep you might find the answer to that.”
Sam wishes me a good night again and relaxes on my chest. Kathryn says, “Sam all my dreams are coming true too. I know how you feel my beautiful little Princess.”
Crystals head pops up and she asks, “Can I be your Princess too?”
Kathryn answers quickly, “Of course you’re our Princess, and you’re my beautiful little Princess too.”
Both girls finally relax and go to sleep. I can feel how happy they are, even in their sleep a smile is on their faces. I realize why Sam loves sleeping on my chest. She loves hearing my heartbeat; it’s reassuring to her that she is loved. Isn’t that something that we all want, feeling that intense emotion of love no matter what? Hearing my heartbeat, as it says to her love you, Sam feels that and now Crystal. I do love them as my daughters and always will.