The Last Time

By: Angela Harper

I’ve always loved Christmas; something about the songs, the bright lights, and the overall spirit of happiness has always made December a joyous month. I was not one of those children who grew up believing in Santa. My father ruined the magic of St. Nick Christmas of 1989 when he fell asleep in the living room after a long night of putting together bicycles for my sister and me. Knowing that my presents came from people who loved me was more meaningful than believing some imaginary guy in the North Pole delivered everything. I have several fond Christmas memories, but the one that stands out the most didn’t become so meaningful until 2004.

I believe it was Christmas of 1991, it may have been 1992; I’m not quite sure, because the year wasn’t important. Christmas was spent with my mom’s side of the family in Norfolk, VA. My grandparents, Granny and Pop-Pop, were so happy that all of their children, both son in-laws, and all their grandchildren were able to be at the house for Christmas. My memories of that day are scattered, but I can vividly recall the feeling. I remember my sister jumping rope with me outside while my estranged Uncle Martin watched with pride while smoking a cigarette. He didn’t buy any presents for his nieces (my sister, 2 cousins, and myself), but I didn’t notice. Having my uncle home was enough to make me happy; I don’t have any memories of him prior to this encounter. My cousins Nicole and Erica lived in Connecticut and we rarely got to see each other because my military father kept the family on the move. I’m the baby of the group and was content to tag along behind my eldest cousin Erica.

We took a family picture; I copied my big sister pose (I didn’t do a good job). The day was perfect. I don’t remember any gifts I received that year, except for a watch from my Uncle Lynn, Aunt Bernadine, Erica, and Nicole. My Uncle Lynn set it and then put it on my wrist. It was my first watch; a red band, blue face, the long hand blue with a happy face, the short hand red with a happy face; a beginners watch to help me learn to tell time. I learned to count seconds, minutes, and hours. Perhaps I should’ve learned to stop time instead; because that was the last time my entire family was together.

In the years that proceeded Erica died, followed by Uncle Lynn, and then Pop-Pop. Uncle Martin hasn’t showed up to a Christmas since that one we were all together; he did come to the funerals and to Aunt Dawn’s wedding, but not a Christmas. In lieu of losing our family did gain Uncle Keith (Aunt Dawn’s husband) and shortly after Pop-Pop died they had a son, Harrison. I love watching him open his presents and only wish he could have known Erica, Uncle Lynn, and Pop-Pop.

New Christmas memories have been made, but none of them will ever surpass that Christmas. If someone gave me the option to turn back the hands of time and relive one day in my life, I would choose that Christmas. Even if they tricked me and one day turned out to only be 1 hour I would savor every second.

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