I Pray on Christmas

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_viperagp'>viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

I pray on Christmas

That the Lord will see me through

I pray on Christmas

He’ll show me what to do

 

I pray on Christmas

He’ll help me understand

And I pray on Christmas

He’ll take me by the hand.

 

Kathleen stared up at the status board, and couldn’t help letting out a frustrated groan. Her flight had been delayed. Again. She liked her life as a road warrior, for the most part. She got to stay in lovely hotels, spend time in all the great cities of the world, and, she would probably never run out of frequent flier miles and first class upgrades. Flight delays, however, were something she would never enjoy.

Still, there were times when she longed to walk through the door to her own home to a sloppy, drooly greeting from her dog, a nearly ancient flat-coated retriever named Parker. (He was named after her childhood crush, Parker Stevenson, whom she used to watch every week on The Hardy Boys. No one, she thought, had ever made a better Frank.)

She and old Parker had been through a lot together: the birth of her first daughter, who would turn nine just after the holidays, the miscarriage she’d had three years later, and the divorce that had followed two years after that.

When she and her ex had agreed that Clariel was better off with him and his new wife, Kathleen had gone home to bury her face in Parker’s soft black fur. When she’d missed out on the promotion that would have allowed her to travel only when she wanted to, Parker had licked the frustrated tears from her cheeks. And when her friends had all gone home after her surprise forty-fifth birthday earlier that year, she and Parker had shared the last slice of cake while watching a cheesy Hallmark movie.

Now, though, it was December – just a couple of days before Christmas – and while a delay of a few hours wasn’t a big deal any other time of year, she’d promised Clariel they’d spend the holiday together this year.

If only the weather in Denver would cooperate.

— Flight delayed. Stuck in Denver. Will text when I know more. –  She sent the text to her sister Maggie, who had also served as dog-sitter for the last eight days.

— Get a glass of wine. You’ll get here when you get here. – Maggie was always so laid back. Kathleen didn’t know what she’d do without her.

— Tell Clariel… — but she didn’t finish the text. She didn’t have to.

— Clariel’s with me. We’re baking gingerbread. –

— You’re the best, sis. –

— Damn straight. –

Kathleen took her sister’s advice and made her way to one of the bars in her concourse. She didn’t remember ever seeing a piano bar in this airport before. Maybe they were only open for the holidays –booze and music went a long way to calming stressed passengers – or maybe she’d just never noticed it before. Most of the time, she spent her layovers in the VIP lounge.

The bar was surprisingly empty when she arrived, so she chose a table near the piano. The man at the instrument was playing jazzy versions of classic Christmas tunes, and she smiled at him.

He smiled back, blue eyes twinkling and white teeth shining in the subdued lighting. “Got any requests?” he asked, after she’d ordered and received her glass of red wine.

“I don’t know… surprise me,” she challenged. Her favorite Christmas songs were pretty far from the old standards.

The piano player launched into an arrangement of “The Christmas Song” that Kathleen had never heard before, and she found herself relaxing.

“Lovely,” she said, when the last note had faded away.

The blue-eyed musician cocked his head toward her, as if he’d heard something familiar in her voice – maybe her slight southern accent – and was trying to make a connection. His smile broadened into a cocky grin. “Louisiana?” he asked.

“Texas,” she corrected.

“Even better. Okay, Texas, this is for you.”

He began to play a bluesy tune, one Kathleen had fallen in love with, years before, and she couldn’t help but hum along, tapping her foot to the beat.

Her phone chimed, alerting her that her flight was finally boarding, just as he finished the song. She dropped ten bucks in the glass on his piano, thanked him for the music, and made haste to her gate.

* * *

The night was cold, and the nearly-full moon high in the sky by the time Kathleen claimed her car from long-term parking. She texted her sister to let her know she was on the ground and on the way home, and then she lost herself in the music from the holiday station on the radio, singing along as she drove.

Her house was bright with Christmas lights when she finally pulled into the garage, and the scent of gingerbread wrapped itself around her as she exited the car and entered the house.

Maggie greeted her in the back hallway, Parker at her side.

“Hey sis,” she said, “hi, boy, did you miss me?”

The dog was too old to jump on her, but he pushed his face into her hand, and walked with her into the living room, where she saw her daughter asleep on the couch, the multicolored light from the Christmas tree playing over her face.

“She made chili for you, if you’re hungry,” Maggie said.

They went into the kitchen, leaving the child to sleep a little longer. Parker followed along slowly, and collapsed at Kathleen’s feet when she dropped into a chair. “Chili sounds great.”

The sisters chatted while the weary traveler ate, and then Maggie got up to leave. “I’ll see you Christmas morning,” she said. “Love you, kid.”

“Love you too, sis.”

Kathleen and Parker returned to the living room, where Clariel opened her eyes to ask, “Mom? Are you really home?”

“I really am,” she said. “You wanna go to your bed?”

“I’m good here,” the child answered. “But, I’d be better if you sang to me, like when I was little.”

You’re still little, Kathleen thought, but not for much longer.

She pulled an ottoman over by the couch and sat on it, trying to choose a song. Parker came and rested his great head on her knee, and she smiled, ruffling her daughter’s hair with one hand and her dog’s fur with the other.

Then she began to sing the song she’d heard in the airport piano bar.

I pray on Christmas

That the sick will soon be strong

I pray on Christmas

The Lord will hear my song

 

I pray on Christmas

That God will lead the way

And I pray on Christmas

He’ll get me through another day.

Notes: This piece was inspired by Harry Connick, Jr.’s song “I Pray On Christmas,” which was suggested by my good friend Debra Smouse. Photo Copyright: viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 I Pray on Christmas by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.