The wind whistled through the trees as the sun’s early light created diamonds across the small pond behind the house. The neighbor’s horses moved slowly toward the barn, as they did every morning.
A covey of quail spooked from the sounds of an old truck making its way down the dirt road. The fireplace was still glowing from last night’s fire. Mom and Dad were already up, having a cup of coffee.
“He will understand,” Mom said, putting out the Christmas china, just like her mother had done every Christmas morning for over fifty years.
“I guess,” sighed Dad, taking another sip of coffee, his shoulders sagging in defeat.
She watched him in silence for a moment before responding. “I love you so much,” Mom said, compassion filling her brown eyes as she gazed at him across the table.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, looking into his coffee cup. “You too.”
After putting the bread into the oven, she walked back to the table and put her hand on his shoulders. “It’s times like these that our priorities get rearranged to the way they should be all the time.” Mom removed her apron and sat down at the kitchen table, looking into his eyes. “Your job is not you. How much money you make is not you. The kind of car you drive is not you.”
He glanced up at her, feeling the pain of being unemployed for almost a year, and tears welled up as he looked away. “What am I then, if I can’t provide for my family? We only have one gift for him under our tree!” he said, still looking away.
Mom reached out, gently taking his chin and bringing his gaze back to hers, “Don’t let material things get in the way of living. Every moment we live is a chance to see something remarkable, and you, sir, are missing the show.” Mom then took his hand and led him into their son’s bedroom. ”This is one of those moments,” she said, as they watched their son sleeping. “What if your son were unable to walk, would you still love him?"
“What a stupid question, of course I would,” he said.
“What if he never plays baseball, goes to college, or gives you a grandchild, will you still love him then?”
“I don’t care what he does, I have unconditional love. He doesn’t have to earn it by doing anything,” he said.
“Please make sure he knows how you feel when he wakes up a in few minutes,” she said, “because that is the answer to your question. You are a father who loves his son no matter what, and that is the best gift any child can ever receive.”
As they held each other watching their son sleeping, both had tears in their eyes. Dad whispered to Mom, “And I thought I married you because of your cooking,”
She took his hand and gave it a squeeze, pulling him closer. “I love you too. Merry Christmas.”