I ran out of weekend before I ran out of things I needed to do this weekend. Oops.

I still need to sew two more buttons on a skirt I made (but at least I finally sewed in a ribbon to keep the waist from stretching and drooping); make the packaging for my Sinterklaas gift (I did figure out a box to use, and more-or-less decided what yarn to give); and finish up the Mobius-loop scarf I am knitting (currently about 7″ / 18 cm wide; I guess about 3″ more plus i-cord edging should do it); order one more present (already decided on). In addition I need to do a few more non-crafting chores, not planned for this weekend but needing to be finished before we leave: order one present, mail a couple of packages; finish and send my cards.

Here, have an unabashedly-sentimental Christmas story whose plot jumped me last night. (Possibly it was meant for someone who’s doing Picowrimo and got lost.)

It was a very weird day.

Actually, Mom was kind of strange all week; she kept rushing around, getting distracted, forgetting what she’d started to do and then trying to do three things at once. But today was definitely the weirdest day. I don’t know if Vanessa knew what was going on, but she’ll never admit it when she doesn’t. Anyway, I sure didn’t.

Mom took the day off from work, which she never does unless one of us is sick or we have a big occasion planned. Then she made us all get up on time, even though it was summer and we didn’t have to, and made us waffles for breakfast. Normally she only does that on holidays, or sometimes on Sundays, the few times when no one has any plans and we can all hang out in our pajamas half the day. After breakfast, instead of making us clean up, she shooed us upstairs and told us to put on our good clothes – in fact, first she wanted us to wear our Christmas outfits, which is truly bizarre behavior in July. But mine was too small to even get into, and Vanessa said, in that sarcastic teenager-voice she’s been practicing, “Mo-om! Do you want us to melt?” so she let us wear our summer dresses that we got for V’s middle school graduation.

Once we were all dressed and Mom had loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, she checked us all over and redid Jessy’s hair. Vanessa had braided it for her, but while we were busy doing our own hair, Jessy had been practicing what she called “tumblesauces” and it all came out. Then Mom said, “Come on, everybody, in the car. We’re going to Gramma’s.”

I just stared at her. “But Mom, that’s an hour and a half away! We’ll never get back by five and today is our day to Skype with Dad. We can’t miss him!”

Mom said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” in a vague, unconvincing way, but it wasn’t fine, and I was about to tell her so in no uncertain terms, when she added, “Gramma has a computer now, remember? She got it so she could talk to Dad, too. If we’re running late we’ll just stay a little later and call from there. Now, get in the car.”

I would have argued more, but everything felt so strange that I just got in the car like she said. Mom did hold Jessy up to kiss Dad’s picture as we left, though, just like she does every day. (You can see the lip marks on the glass. Ew.) I tried to play alphabet with V on the way to Gramma’s but she wouldn’t, just kept looking out the window, and Jessy’s too young to play yet. She keeps getting as far as H and then trying to jump to Q, which is her favorite letter.

When we finally got to Gramma’s, things were weird there, too, even before we got in the door. From the steps outside I could smell turkey cooking. Who roasts turkeys in July? Inside was even stranger; we walked in and there was the Christmas tree, all decorated with lights on, and all of the Christmas decorations that she refused to put up last year. Gramma said then that she couldn’t celebrate Christmas without her son there, and she couldn’t believe in ‘Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men’ when he was fighting in a war. She didn’t even give us presents. That was OK for me and Vanessa, because we understood (and anyway I think Santa brought extra stuff to make up for it) but it was hard on Jessy, who loves the doll clothes Gramma makes her every year.

But now, under the tree I could see boxes with all our names on them, including a whole bunch of little ones for Jessy and a big one for Dad. He hasn’t been home for two Christmases now, and I was beginning to get a little worried about Gramma. My friend Emily’s grandmother had some disease with a long name that made her forget things like what day it was and only remember stuff that happened way back, and I was scared Gramma was getting the same thing. She’s pretty old, though not as old as Emily’s grandmother.

Gramma was acting strange, too, which didn’t make me feel any better. She welcomed us in, gave us cookies, fussed over everyone like always, and sat down with Jessy on her lap, but while she acted happy, she seemed sad too, at the same time. At least, she kept having to wipe her eyes whenever she didn’t think anyone was looking.

Grandma said to us, “The turkey’s got another hour to cook. Who wants to play games?” and something in me finally snapped.

I said, “No,” and it sounded real quiet and real loud, both at the same time somehow. Everyone just looked at me, so I went on, “You have to tell us what’s going on. Why are we dressed up? Why are we here? Why are we having Christmas in the middle of summer?”

Mom looked at Gramma over my head. They must have understood each other, because Mom stood up, walked over to me, took my hand, looked at Vanessa and Jessy and said, very seriously, “Kids, your Gramma and I have something to tell you – something big.”

My knees felt like they were swimming around inside my legs, and I wondered what could have happened – I couldn’t think what was so bad they thought we needed an extra Christmas to make it better. Or worse, I was afraid that maybe I could. Then behind me, a man’s voice said, “Let me tell them, Jen.”

He must have come in so quietly that no one heard the door open. All of a sudden Gramma was on her feet, Mom had an expression on her face I’ve never seen before, and Jessy hid under the table. Then Vanessa screamed. I might have wondered if she’d seen his face on “America’s Scariest Axe-Murderers” or something but before I could even start to put a thought together, she’d somehow teleported herself across the room and was hugging him and shrieking and crying, all at once. Then I finally knew who he was.

You’re probably thinking how stupid I am, right now. All I can say is, when you’ve only seen a face on a computer screen for two years, it looks different when you see it right there in front of you. And of course before I was only little and I never really thought about what he looked like; he was just Daddy. My knees locked up then, and so did the rest of me. I didn’t know what to say or do or anything. But Mom had finally gotten jessy out from under the table and he kissed them both, even though Jess still looked like she wanted to cry. Then while I was still figuring out what to say that wouldn’t sound dumb, he came over and picked me up like I was still Jessy’s size, and I didn’t have to say anything at all.