Home for Christmas (Reprise)

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.  Dad was even more so.

Mom, Circa 1943

Mom, Circa 1943

 

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

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.”

“I hope you told her I still am!” Dad quipped when he heard the story.

One day not long 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.

68 Comments

Filed under Adult Traumas, Christmas Stories, Dad, Family, History, Holidays, Love, Mom, Music, Taking Care of Each Other

68 responses to “Home for Christmas (Reprise)

  1. Very sweet, Elyse. Your dad and mom were both beautiful. Best wishes for the New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is lovely and I’m crying now.

    Like

  3. So elegantly told…sorry I am late to the party. Are there any tissues left?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a remarkable story. Just the way things are supposed to be. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It a wonderful story that I don’t get tired of reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is such a beautiful story. It is amazing how this one song is tied to so many memories for us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is sad but sweet. It’s like, you’d not wanna see dad suffer being without the love of his life but he’s happy with her now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Moving story, loved it, such a beautiful Christmas story. That it’s true was even more touching. Thank you, Elyse, for your sensitivity and your wittiness, you are a delight. Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015 wished your way with lots of love, light and laughter. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, your parents remind me of my own with their long, loving marriage. That’s such a poignant song. I can see why it would bring back such bittersweet memories.

    Like

    • I keep wondering how their marriages seem so close. I’m thinking that they just kept quiet about the hassles they experienced, while we grumble about them! But I’m glad you were similarly lucky in your choice of parents!

      Like

  10. Such a poignant and heart-tugging story. Even this cynic got a little misty-eyed. Memories can be bittersweet and make us long for a time in the past, but how lucky we are to have them.

    Merry Christmas, Elise! (You’ll let me get away with saying that instead of Happy Holidays, won’t you? 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a touching, lovely story. They really were the greatest generation, weren’t they?

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    • Thanks, Peg. I think maybe that they just appreciated what they had. They were more accepting. So they probably grumbled less than we do!

      Glad you like this story, Peg. It’s awfully close to my heart.

      Like

  12. one of my absolute favorites, and thanks for sharing it again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is such a wonderful story, I don’t tire of reading it. Your parents are such a classic love story and you were fortunate in your choosing out of the Guf.

    Like

    • Thanks, Val. I was incredibly lucky in many ways. Parents and birth order! (Being the baby is a great place to be.)

      It’s getting a bit easier to look back, and appreciate them, as well as just miss them.

      Like

  14. meandcoffeefairy

    Wonderful story, and I just wrote a post about “Worth Remembering”, you had a memory “Worth Remembering” too. Both were about our Father’s too!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. thegoodthebadtheworse.blogspot.com

    That was simply beautiful and so touching! Thank you for sharing! What beautiful parents you had!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. *misty eyed* True love always gets to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Damn you Elyse, I got tears in my eyes. The radio is on and no lie, I’ll Be Home For Christmas just came on. I don’t know who’s singing it’s a woman. This is a beautiful warm story.

    Like

  18. What a beautiful story! My parents married in 1944 – on Valentines Day – just 3 months after meeting at a USO dance. A month later, my father went off to Europe as an Army medic. Thanks goodness he came home safe and sound. It must have been even tougher to have lost both of your parents on holidays, but I love the significance of your father “going home” one last time to be with your mother on Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think there is a good time to lose folks. But I’ve read that Christmas is one of the most common “death days” (which is awful).

      I love the idea of folks meeting at a USO show! My mom, an amateur singer, sang for the USO during the war. She didn’t venture far from home, though!

      Like

  19. What a wonderful love story. I’m sorry you’ve lost both your parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Julie

    Now I understand a little more why I feel so close to you Elyse. My parents were dating when Pearl Harbor was hit, they were coming out of a movie theater in Chicago and the paper boy was yelling “EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT” They were married in February of 1943 till death when their ashes were mixed and they are now together forever. (mom in 2003 and dad in 2007) After my mom passed we started clearing out the house. We found love letters that dad had sent mom during the war (he was Air Force) We had no idea my funny daddy could be so mushy. What a concept!

    Yep. pass the hanky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Julie, how wonderful! What a lucky find. I do envy you. It seems that love forged then was something special, don’t you think?

      This is exactly why you need a blog. And what better story to start it with, Julie!

      Or you can write it up and post it here if you’d like.

      Like

      • Julie

        I don’t know if I can really remember enough of it to make a story about it Elyse. I agree, love forged then was something special. Definitely. I feel somehow cheated. Although mom and dad would fight, it was almost as though they did so for our amusement, and there was absolutely no denying their love for each other, and for each of their children. My mom had this special gift of being able to make you feel like you were her favorite. Each of us were her favorite.. Huh, it seems once I get talking about them I might be able to make it a story…

        Liked by 1 person

  21. So moving… love the sailor beard…

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I think I have the same thing in my eyes that zorbear does.

    Incredible story, Elyse. Maybe your best ever.

    Like

  23. Paul

    Beautiful story Elyse. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. You’ll have to ‘scuse me — I got sump’n in my eyes…
    😕

    Liked by 1 person

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