Maddie and The Not So Jolly Holiday

The ground around me was stiff and cold. My boots crunched through the fallen snow while I tried to catch up to him. It wasn't fair that he always was in front of me. Just for once I wanted to be in front, is that too much to ask? Judging by the sound of fast-paced movement ahead I concluded with a big fat yes.

"John," I whined. "wait up!"

"Hurry up then, Maddie" he said.

"ugh!" I replied, but picked up my pace, ignoring my legs screaming in protest.

I finally reached the clearing ahead of me where he sat on a fallen log. This had been our hideout for years and we had decorated it during each season. The evergreens surrounding the clearing were decorated in cheap ornaments and tinsel. Mom complained, but we bought the ornaments anyways, knowing they wouldn't last and that we'd have to buy more the next year.

"What now?" he asked.

"We make snow angels!" I squealed, attacking the ground.

"You know" he said, "your sixteen, yet you don't act it." Even though he said this, I knew he was right beside me.

"and you don't act twenty-two" I stated.

"Touché" he replied and I made a smug look appear on my numb face.

This is the life, I thought.

I sat on my bed, hot tears streaming down my face. John had been called upon. I knew this may happen since the day he signed up for the Army, but it never became reality.

He sat next to me, trying to comfort me, but I knew he was dying inside. He would miss Christmas, the only holiday where the whole family came up to our humble abode the West Virginian mountains to par-tay like rock stars. The only holiday with dirt-cake and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The only holiday where we weren't forced to finish our homework. The only holiday no one ever missed.

I lay in the snow, the only place I can think clearly without having John next to me. Even the thought of him, his name or anything he liked brought tears to my eyes. I wiped then fiercely away. The below freezing temperature wasn't helping my situation either.

I tried to think happy thoughts around my parents, who, in turn, tried to act happy around me, but it never was actual happiness. It was always fake.

I took all the ornaments down from the trees with John the day he left for Iraq. We always took them down together after Christmas, but the Christmas spirit was lost without him, so there was no point in leaving them up to taunt me. Maybe that was why all I could think about was Christmas without him. The ornaments were his idea in the first place, so it was like not even those could make me feel his presence around me.

I wondered what he was doing in the cruel, unfair world of war out there in Iraq.

Then I thought of something. What John would want. He'd want me to have a jolly holiday season, not mope over something like this. I could almost hear his voice saying, Go have fun, Sis. The thing that really got me was the way I didn't tear up. I didn't know why, but this brought me comfort. I no longer wanted to imagine what he was doing, I wanted to have fun for his sake.

"Mom!" I called.

"Yes, hun?" she asked from the kitchen.

"Can you come into the living room, please?" I asked with a smile.

"Sure" she said as I ran into my Dad's office.

"Daddy!" I said as I jumped up and down.

"What?" he asked coldy. I knew he didn't mean it and even if he did nothing could break my mood.

"Come into the living room, please"

He sighed, "fine."

In the living room I told them about my new-found thoughts and they smiled. No, not a fake smile. A real smile. The only real smile I've seen from them since John left. I knew this was going to be a good Christmas thanks to John.