Home for Christmas, Again

She told the story every year with a warm smile on her face.  Sometimes her eyes got a little bit misty.

“It was 1943, and the War was on, and your father was in the Navy, on a ship somewhere in the Pacific.  We never knew where he was.  Like all the other boys I knew, he was in danger every day.  We lived for the mail, we were terrified of unfamiliar visitors in uniform.  A telegram sent us into a panic.  And ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ had just been recorded by Bing Crosby.  It was Number One on the Hit Parade.”

That’s how Mom started the story every time.

Of course I’ll Be Home For Christmas was Number One that year.  Everyone, or just about, was hoping that someone they loved would, in fact, be home for Christmas.  That all the boys would be home for good.  But all too many people were disappointed.  I doubt there were many dry eyes when that song came on the radio that year or for the next few.

Mom and Dad got engaged right around Pearl Harbor Day, but the War lengthened their courtship significantly because Dad enlisted shortly after the attack.  It was to be a long war, and a long engagement.  But Mom was in love with her handsome man.  If possible, I think that Dad was even more so.

Mom, Circa 1943
Mom, Circa 1943

My Dad was drop-dead gorgeous, and I have heard that in his single days, he was a bit of a ladies’ man.  Every girl in town, it seemed, had a crush on Dad.

Dad, Circa 1943
Dad, Circa 1943

In fact, my Aunt Sally once told me that she had been manning a booth at a church bizarre one Saturday in about 1995, when an elderly woman came up to talk to her.

“Are you Freddie E’s sister?” the woman asked Aunt Sal.

“Yes I am.  Do you know my brother?” Aunt Sal responded.

“I did,she sighed.  “I haven’t seen him since we graduated from high school in 1935.  Sixty years ago.  He was,” she stopped to think of just the right word, “… He was dream-my.”

“He still is,” Sally quipped.

One day not long after after Mom had passed, Dad and I were looking at some pictures I hadn’t seen before.

“Dad,” I told him with wonder looking at a particularly good shot, “You should have gone to Hollywood.  You’d have been a star.”

“Nah,” Dad said.  “Mom would never have gone with me.  And once the war was over, well, I wasn’t going anywhere else without her.”

Dad circa 1935
Dad circa 1935

Dad never quite got over feeling lucky that he had Mom.  And he never stopped loving her.

But back to Mom’s story.

“It was Christmas morning, 1943, and I went over to visit Dad’s mom and dad.  Grammy E’d had symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease for seven or eight years at that point.  She could still move around (she was later, when I knew her, almost completely paralyzed), but she could barely talk.”

Mom continued.  But your Dad’s mom was singing ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  Well, she was trying to sing it, any how. She kept repeating that one line, over and over again.  ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  I thought she was crazy.”

“You see,” Mom would say, “Your father had somehow managed to get Christmas leave – he was coming home!  He wanted to surprise me and wouldn’t let anyone tell me he was coming.  He was expected any minute, and there I was, trying to leave.  But I couldn’t stay.  That song made me cry; Freddie was so far away, and in so much danger.  I couldn’t bear hearing it.”

So Mom left after a while, she had other people and her own family to see.  Later Dad caught up with her and they spent most of Christmas together.  Both of them always smiled at the memory.  Dad was home for Christmas that year, just like in the song.  It was a magical year for them both.

Mom was always touched by Dad’s surprise and by his mother’s loving gesture in fighting back the paralysis that was taking over her body to try to get her son’s girl to stay.  To sing when she could barely speak.

“I’ve always wished I’d stayed.”

We lost Mom on Easter of 1997, and Dad really never got over her passing.

The song and Mom’s story took on an even more poignant meaning in 2000.  Because on Christmas of that year, Dad joined Mom again for the holiday.  He went “home” to Mom for Christmas again, joining her in the afterlife.

Even through the sadness of losing Dad on Christmas, I always have to smile when I hear that song.  Because I can just see the warmth in Mom’s eyes now as she welcomed Dad home.  This time, I’m sure she was waiting for him with open arms.

*     *     *

This is another re-posted piece.

Happy Holidays to all of you — May 2014 be a Happy, Healthy year for all of us.

59 Comments

Filed under Christmas Stories, Dad, Family, History, Holidays, Humor, Mom, Music

59 responses to “Home for Christmas, Again

  1. JSD

    Oh, what a beautiful love story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    Like

  2. Elyse, this is the most beautiful Christmas story. I love it. It brought a tear to my eye, just as it did the first time I read it. It is a timeless story.
    Do you think people still fall in love like that these days? A forever love, no matter what. I think the world has changed.

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    • Thanks, Michelle. I love this post too. When I’m missing the ‘rents, I re-read it.

      Dad always felt he had won the lottery when he won Mom, and I think he was right. I was very lucky to have them as my role model!

      Is there such a thing as forever love? I hope so. I’ve been married 27 years, and plan to continue. Day by day you kind of forget how much you care, but in the long run, at least I remember. It’s harder to when you’re grumbling about household chores! If you can talk, I think you can stay together. That’s what Mom and Dad taught me. I think that, while I support the availability of divorce, that it is easier to divorce than work out your problems the way people used to.

      Like

  3. Beautiful story, Elyse. Perhaps, as you say, passing away on Christmas, to go home and be with your mom is really a fitting ending to their story … not that it makes the holidays any easier for you, but, there is a sort of romanticness to it …

    I hope that you had a healthy, happy holiday….

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    • I agree that it is just the right ending. It took me a long time to get there though.

      Still, I am glad Christmas is over. I always am.

      Have a good day, John.

      Like

  4. Such a heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing it.

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  5. What a beautiful story, and thank you for sharing it with us. Yes, your father truly was a handsome man, and how delightful that he was smitten with the charms of your mother. It is so refreshing to hear a story of love, and adoration, and tenderness, and even, yes, of loss. Although I’m sure there is a certain melancholy attached to Christmas and that it coincides with the passing of your father, but the fact that you can hold on to the echoes of the smiles that come to mind when you hear the song, well, that’s a gift that will sustain you for many years to come. Merry Christmas, Elyse, and the best of everything to you and yours in the coming New Year. 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you, 99! I hope you are enjoying your Christmas. And I wish you all good things for 2014,

      I love this story. I wrote it last year and revisit it when I want their company.

      Like

  6. This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

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  7. This is a beautiful story… I have always loved hearing my Grandmother tell stories about falling in love with my Grandfather, “Pop” and waiting for him while he was overseas…
    Admittedly, this put a tear in my eye. But not a sad one 🙂 I hope you have a lovely Christmas, Elyse.

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  8. I love this story, I love the pictures of your parents and their love story.

    Merry Christmas, even though it has a touch of sad it also has such wonderful memories for you and your family.

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  9. Now you’re making me cry. Loved that story and it makes your Dad passing on Christmas just perfect!

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    • Thanks, Mae. It took a while for me to make that connection. (It’s hard to notice poignancy through tears!). But I think you’re right.

      Merry Christmas!

      Like

  10. Beautiful story. Merry Christmas to you.

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  11. Great repost for this time of the year. It reminds us all of what is most important–relationships.

    Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!

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  12. Must you make me feel emotions? All these feelings….I got golfball in my throat from reading this.

    Happy holidays to you too!

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  13. And a beautiful reposting indeed … especially for the season … and I good love story as well!

    Happy Christmas Elyse, and to your husband and son as well.

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  14. What a wonderful post. I’ve been listening to Bing Crosby this Christmas – thinking of my Mom who we lost five years ago, and how she’d light up and sing along when his voice came on the radio – your written memories are perfectly timed. I hope your holidays are filled with warm memories of your parents and good times with your family!

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    • Thanks, Cindi.
      Bing had that effect on everybody in my family. Growing up it was always the first record on the day after Thanksgiving, and it was played constantly for the month. I still love it (my husband disagrees. Strongly!).

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I hope your holidays are Merry, too. And may all your Christmases be … white!

      Like

  15. I love reading your stories, Elyse.

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  16. Wow, what a post. Like really wow. Thanks for this.

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  17. I love this line ““Nah,” Dad said. “Mom would never have gone with me. And once the war was over, well, I wasn’t going anywhere else without her.”

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    • And he really never did. The only time they were apart was a few times when one or the other was hospitalized. Except the year my mom came to take care of me when I had surgery.

      A lot of togetherness over 51 years.

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      • A lot indeed. You know…it seems to me I remember a lot of TV sitcoms that treated this theme of not pursuing fame and fortune, i.e. Hollywood opportunities, etc. but choosing to marry and raise a family. Not sure our young ones hear that message now in all there is to watch.

        Like

  18. bigsheepcommunications

    Happy holidays, Elyse!

    Like

  19. monicahlv

    That was a wonderful story. My father passed away on December 13, 2003, and when I heard that song for the first time after that I cried because I realized that he was never going to be home for Christmas again. I had never spent a Christmas without my father before that. It was tough, and 10 years later, it is still tough. He loved Christmas. Hearing your story made me think about my mother and my step-mother who both died before he did. While he might not have been home for Christmas for my sister, my brothers, and me, he was home for them. I will probably still continue to cry when I hear that song, but I will also now be able to be happy that he was home for Christmas for them. Thank you for your story.

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  20. This is a beautiful story.

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  21. What a beautiful story, and told with such admiration…am quite choked-up but ever so grateful you took the time to share! Merry Christmas 🙂

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  22. Leave in 1943 was a precious thing, holiday leave even more scarce. As the war progressed into 1944, there was more leave available in the Pacific (not Europe, with the “Battle of the Bulge”), though it remained a rare thing, more so in the Navy. Your Dad got really lucky twice, it seems – once when he found your Mom, and that Christmas of 1943. I’m sure they will be enjoying each other’s company on this 70th Anniversary, come Wednesday. (And fear not, I will have my 48-star flag out, for all those who did – and most pointedly, never did – come home for Christmas.)
    A great story, worthy of retelling. Thanks for sharing.

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    • This story is close to my heart, John. I’m glad you liked it. Again 😉

      I am basing 1943 on the fact that that was the year that the song came out — and in my mom’s telling she said that the song had just come out. So I suppose it could have been 44, too.

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      • No, I’d say you’re right in that it was 1943. It’s quite possible he was going to a ship being newly commissioned (or recommissioned following battle damage), and thus had time between postings, or that his ship was in for a thorough refit, so the whole crew got liberty. Either way, it takes nothing away from the story.
        I’ll give you a little smile to go with it. Before I was into the re-enacting, I sang for a few years with a choir assembled from various branches of Dean Witter each Christmas. One year, the director added “Home For Christmas”. Somehow, I could never get him to understand why the image of a GI, sitting on his helmet, writing a note home saying he’d be home for Christmas, if only in his dreams, could move me to tears. (He knew I read about history, but was not a veteran, and thus shouldn’t feel so strongly about such things,) He just attributed it to my “unique” personality. 😉

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        • You certainly do have a unique personality, John!

          In truth, Mom never said which year it was, but Wikipedia told me that the song came out in 1943, so I guessed. With research!

          And i agree with you on the poignancy of that image of the soldiers — it is a heartbreaking image.

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  23. This is one of the most powerful and sweet posts I have ever read. God bless your beautiful mom and dad. And warmest wishes to you and your family for a joyous holiday season.

    I know the pain of having a loved one far from home and in harm’s way all too well. My husband was deployed to the Middle East for a year at the start of the last Iraq War and my son was in the Navy and spent Christmas in the Indian Ocean on an aircraft carrier.

    Best wishes to you and yours!

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    • Thank you Linda. This story is close to my heart. I wrote it last year, and re-reading it makes me feel close to both of my parents.

      It must be so difficult knowing that the folks you love are in harms way when everyone is gathering together. I imagine that your husband is out of the war zone by now (I hope, anyway) and that your son is in a safe place if not home with you.

      Happy Holidays to you and your very widespread family.

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      • Elyse, my husband retired after 25 years in the Military in 2008. He is now a defense contractor and still goes into harm’s way but for a lot more money! LOL! My son spent 4 years in the Navy before law school. He’s now a partner in a big California firm. They are all safe and sound if not totally sane! (But that runs in the family!)

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        • Safe is good. Really good.

          Merry Christmas, Linda, to you and yours. (But my husband, who graduated law school in 1980 would consider trading combat pay for legal to be a questionable bargain!

          Like

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