The Castaway Hotel: Book 1

Chapter 39: A Christmas to Remember

Christmas was upon us, almost before we knew it.  I was surprised to learn that both of my daughters and my oldest son would be joining us this time.  Both my older son and daughter had worked out an arrangement with their in-laws to spend Christmas with them over a prolonged New Year’s weekend, when they would celebrate both holidays together.  They did this because my grandsons kept teasing them about coming back, so they could spend more time with their uncles.

My younger son wouldn’t be able to join us, since he still had to work.  Working in retail management, he only had Christmas day off and he worked Christmas Eve until 6:00 p.m.   Not only that, but he also had to work the day after Christmas, and because it was such a big ‘return’ and clearance day, he couldn’t get the time off.  Since that was the case, it would make it too short a time to return, so he informed me he had taken some time off after the New Year, so he could come home and celebrate the holidays with us then.  Originally, he wasn’t planning to come home for Christmas at all, but after meeting and spending time with his new brothers at Thanksgiving, he knew he wanted to return again, the first chance he could.

Before enjoying our Christmas Eve dinner, I sent all of the boys off with my oldest son, loaning him my van to take them for some last minute shopping, or so they were told.  Really, it was so they wouldn’t be around when a few ‘special’ deliveries were being made.  I had ordered some items that I didn’t want to arrive until the last minute, and even paid extra to have them delivered on Christmas Eve, so the snooping boys wouldn’t discover them beforehand.

Once that group returned, we ate and followed that by watching my favorite version of ‘A Christmas Carol.’   After that, I read them the poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ with Cole and one of my grandsons pressed tightly against me on one side and Graham and the other grandson snuggle up against my other side.  Reading this had become a family tradition, when my older children were younger, and I put as much gusto into it as I could muster.  Once we finished with all of that, I sent everyone, except the other grown-ups, off to bed.

We assigned the bedrooms much the same way we had at Thanksgiving, so everyone knew where they were going.  After tucking in all the boys and kissing them good night, I returned to the downstairs, knowing I still had things to accomplish before I could also go to sleep.

My daughters and daughter-in-law stayed up a little longer to help make sure everything was ready for the following day’s meals, while my older son, son-in-law and I spent the next few hours putting together a few presents that needed to be assembled, mainly for my grandsons.  What a pain that was.  I should have remembered how much trouble doing things like that could be, if I’d only thought back to when my children were also little.

After we finally got to bed, it seemed as if my head had just hit the pillow, when my grandsons, Graham and Cole came bursting in to my bedroom, trying to rouse me from my slumber.  All I could hear were screams that Santa had been there and the living room was crammed with presents.  Obviously, they had already snuck downstairs to check things out.

Reluctantly, I got out of bed and made a quick trip to the toilet, while the little ones awoke the others, and then I slipped on my robe and slippers and prepared to join them.  When I entered the upstairs hallway, everyone was there, waiting for me to lead the way down.

The younger boys were so excited that they nearly knocked me over, causing me to nearly tumble down the steps.  After warning them to slow down a bit and take it easy, we proceeded.  Once we reached the foyer, I looked into the living room and then turned back to them with a shocked expression on my face.  “I think we’ve been robbed!” I announced.  “All the presents are gone.”

The little ones darted past me, to see for themselves, as this greatly troubled them.  As they entered the living room, they quickly discovered I had only been pulling their legs.  “No they’re not, Papa,” little Nicky informed me.  “They’re all still there.”

“Oh, okay,” I announced, breathing a loud sigh of relief.  “I guess I’d better get some new glasses then.”  Cole and Graham both chastised me for making their nephews worry, but I think they had really appreciated the sense of excitement it added to the morning.

After we all were seated, with the boys taking up what free space they could find, my older son and I started passing out the gifts, one to every person.  We waited until each of us had opened that gift, before we gave them another, so they would have time to appreciate it, before ripping open the next package.

I was really proud of my older children as well, because they had included gifts for the boys.  Despite my repeated admonitions that they weren’t required to buy any gifts for us, they pooled their money and brought a couple of nice presents for each of the boys, including Jay and Brandon.  I let the boys open those gifts first, but we set aside Jay and Brandon’s, so they could open them when they arrived.

Now it was time for them to receive my gifts.  I had asked the boys to make out their Christmas lists before we had even reached Thanksgiving, to give me time to do my shopping.  The holidays are a particularly busy time for me, with all the school functions, parties, etc., so I wanted to make sure I had time to look around for the things they wanted.  That’s why I was surprised when they presented me with a single, joint list upon which the only request written was – ‘the only thing we want for Christmas is to be your sons.’

This moved me greatly, but didn’t do much to help me to decide what to get them for the holiday.  Therefore, I decided it might be best to buy things that all of them would benefit from, and then I threw in another special gift for each of them.

After handing out my gifts to my grandchildren, I handed the boys a single card, addressed to all of them.  I gave it to Danny to read to them all, because it contained clues to locate their gifts.  It went like this.  “Your first two gifts you’ll discover, in a room that’s meant for all - the one you should see quite clearly, while the other will require balls.”

After Danny read this, they all looked at me oddly, because they couldn’t make sense of it.  “Aren’t all the rooms meant for all of us?” Ricky asked.

“Think about it,” I challenged him.  “Is there one room that indicates that it’s for all my children, as well as me?”  They all began to think about my clue.

“He means the family room,” Dustin concluded, before they all went racing in that direction.  It was only a few seconds later before we all could hear shouts of delight, and a few minutes after that they came charging back to thank me.

“Well, what did you get?” my older son asked.  Although he had been out with the boys when these items had been delivered, I was sure his wife had filled him in about the gifts.

“The gift we can see clearly is a large screen TV!” Kevin announced, excitedly.

“And the one that needs balls is a pool table,” Cole added, while Ricky came over and whispered in my ear.

“We talked about this before we came back in here.  We thought you were being nasty, when you said it needed balls,” he told me.  “I think all of us thought you meant our balls, and that it was a gift meant just for boys, but we couldn’t understand why you’d say that in front of your daughters.”  He giggled after telling me this.

Obviously, that possibility had never dawned on me as I was writing that clue, or I might have been inclined to word it differently.  However, I couldn’t let that pass without comment.  “That will teach you about jumping to conclusions,” I informed him though, before playfully punching him in the tummy.

My son wanted to know where I found a slate top pool table, and I informed him it was one I had refurbished, after chancing upon a liquidation sale at a local pool hall.  The place was going out of business and they were selling everything quite cheap, and I couldn’t resist a quality, antique table.  I felt it was something everyone could enjoy, so I made sure I didn’t miss the opportunity of purchasing it.

The pool hall owner also suggested a great place to get it sanded, refinished and recovered, and they did an excellent job.  My son agreed, but now my attention was being required again, as it was now time to give the boys my next gift.  Reaching into my bag of surprised, I handed them another card, with one more clue on it.  This time I gave it to Dustin and he read it to the others.

“The room was meant to make things whole, but now it will serve another role.  In it you will find a brand new tool and if you use it wisely, you soon will rule.”

“Dang it, not another puzzle we have to figure out,” Ricky whined, but only jokingly.

“Come on, we don’t have a room that makes things whole,” Kevin grumbled.  “That would be like a hospital or nurse’s office.”

“Only if you’re thinking about people,” my younger daughter informed him, having figured out the riddle on her own.  “But what happens when you’re playing sports and someone rips your shirt or pants?”

“The sewing room,” several of them screamed together, as they went racing up the stairs to the small room located near the guest room, which my wife had used as her sewing room.  I had now turned it into a small office space for the boys.  We soon heard another shout of joy, followed by the sound of footsteps rumbling back down the stairs.

“It’s a ‘puter,” Graham announced, having trouble with the word, due to his excitement.

“The new tool is a computer,” Danny clarified.

“Yeah, that’s what’s going to make us rule,” Cole added.

“So we can’t use your computer any more?” Ricky wanted to know.

“You will still be able to use it, when I’m not working on it,” I explained, “but because there are so many of you now, I thought we needed a second one, to make sure each of you would be able to have time on it, whenever you needed it to help with schoolwork or to chat with your friends.”

“Awesome,” was Ricky’s response.

“Wow, this has been a really great Christmas,” Dustin announced, to let us know he really appreciated everything.

“Hey, you’re not done yet,” I explained.  “Back to the living room for your final present.”

Somewhat bewildered that there was still more, the boys did as I asked, and I presented them each with a small box.  I watched their faces and held my breath as they opened them.  I hadn’t even told my older children what was contained within.  I watched each boy closely as he reached inside, pulled out the paper contained within and then unfolded and read it.  This time instead of cheers, I saw tears.

“Well, what is it?” my daughter-in-law asked them, puzzled by their response.

“It’s a certificate,” Dustin told them, slightly choked up.

“For what,” my older daughter pressed.

“It says,” Danny began, “This certificate entitles the above named individual the right to be adopted by Joshua Currie.  Adoption will become official, as soon as the lawyers can work out the details, if you agree to said contract.”  Now the older members of the family understood that the tears they saw had been tears of joy, not sadness, but my grandsons hadn’t yet figured that out.

“Why’s Uncle Gwam crying, Mommy,” little Nicky asked his mother.

“They’re all crying,” Jordan announced.  “What’s wrong?”  He looked up and saw all of us were now in tears, except for Nicky and him.

“It’s because they’re so happy,” Nicky’s mother explained.  “Your Papa is going to adopt them and make them his sons, and your uncles, forever.”

“Goody,” Nicky announced, finally gaining a little understanding about what was happening.

I had forewarned my older children that I was planning to adopt the boys, so we could discuss it, if they had any problems with it, but I didn’t tell them this was how I planned to announce it.  I was pleased that they all agreed it would be a good idea, stating that it was good for all of us, not just the boys.  After receiving their blessing, I thanked them and told them that their approval was the only gift I needed from them.  I would later let the boys know that too.  By the end of the hour or so we had been opening our gifts, I don’t think I’d ever been so emotionally drained.

When Jay and Brandon came over later, accompanied by their parents, we all exchanged gift with them, as well.  I didn’t expect either set of parents to buy things for my boys, but they said it was the least they could do, after everything we’d done for their sons.  They came in, had a Christmas drink or two with us, and the boys informed them about everything they had received.

Sally also dropped by while everyone was there and came in to join us as well.  This was truly an extended family celebration this year.  She had also purchased the boys gifts, and they surprised her by handing her one in return.  They had told me before Christmas that they wanted to get her something really nice, because of all she did to find them a good home and how she always thought of them on their birthdays, so I happily supplied the cash.  They picked out a lovely gold chain for her and two pairs of earrings to go with it.  In the long run, she had more than earned that small repayment.

About ten that evening, the O’Haras, Curtises and Sally began to filter out and head to their homes.  Jay and Brandon talked their parents into letting them spend the night, so they could play with my grandchildren the next day.  I think their parents were surprised by how well they interacted with the two little ones.  Once everyone else had gone, the rest of us all started to unwind.

The eight boys told us all how thrilled they were and what a great day it was, because none of them had ever received so many presents before.  It all added up, when they counted what I gave them and what they got from each other, besides what my older children, Aunt Sally and Jay and Brandon’s families had given them.  I warned them this Christmas was special, but future Christmas might not be quite as elaborate.  They informed me it didn’t matter, because they got what they wanted most.  They were going to be my sons.

My grandsons thought it was special Christmas too and delighted in the fact they had so many uncles fawning over them.  The nephews never lacked for attention or for someone to play with, so they were more than satisfied.

The rest of our time together was very nice, but not always relaxing.  The boys continually tried to involve all of us in everything they did, as they thought we needed to be entertained as much as they did.  I think my older children found that quite cute and appreciated their consideration, which only made all of us feel even closer to each other.

It was a very tearful parting, when it came time for my older children and grandchildren to leave.  Nicky and Jordan once again pressed their parents when they could come back again, so we quickly agreed that that they’d all come home for Easter.  We also agreed to meet for a week’s joint vacation that summer, at the end of July or early August, and I’d confirm arrangements with them by spring break.  That way, they would know what to plan for and exactly when.  Many hugs and kisses were exchanged, as tears were shed, before they departed.  Even knowing we’d all be together again for Easter and a few months after that, for vacation, it didn’t help fill the void created by being separated again.