The night was clear, with a spattering of stars stretched across the ebony sky. The crisp air had the townspeople huddled in their coats, hats, and scarves. Many of the residents were walking toward the town square for the Christmas Eve celebration, an annual event that had become a family destination for several generations.

The greetings among friends rang out with the sounds of carols in the background. Emma and Jake Campbell were trying to corral their children as they climbed out of their SUV. Jake assisted his mother Mary, as Emma was unfastening Sarah from her car seat. Richie hopped down and took off running across the parking lot. “Richie!” his father yelled, stopping the child in his tracks. He knew his father’s voice meant business and as much as he wanted to see Santa, he quickly turned around.

Emma was running over to him when a man grabbed him and tossed him up into the air, eliciting giggles from the tow-headed child. “I’ve got him,” called out Rob McDonald. Rob and Laurie walked Richie back over to Jake.

Their children, Bobby and Caroline, held hands with Laurie’s parents. Richie wiggled to be put down on the ground, but Rob held him until he deposited him into his father’s arms. Jake held firm to the child as he whispered in his ear. Richie clung to his father’s neck as he nodded. “I won’t run away again, daddy. I don’t want to worry momma.”

Jake smiled as he set his son on the ground before walking over to Emma and taking Sarah from her arms. “Ready to go see Santa, pretty girl?” he asked. Sarah giggled and held on tight to her tall father as he and Emma greeted their friends. “Where’s my grandchildren?” came the booming voice of the fire chief, Mac McDonald.

Bobby and Caroline bounded over to Mac as he gathered them both in his arms at one time. His wife, Bernie carried a container of her famous coffee and she and Mary began to hand it out to the group of friends. Smiling at her rambunctious grandchildren, Bernie handed the children cups of hot chocolate which had been cooled just for them. Rob’s sister, Suzanne, and her husband Brad joined the gathering. Brad carried one of his children in his arms while Suzanne carried the other. “Where’s Tommy?” Bobby asked as he and Richie looked around the crowd for their friend.

“They’ll be here soon. Tommy’s mom isn’t going to walk very fast,” Laurie replied. “Be patient.” Just then Tom and Carol Rivers drove into the parking lot as well. With Carol pregnant with her third child, due any day, Jake and Rob headed over to help their other two children, Tommy and Joanna. Emma and Laurie hugged Carol as they patted her stomach.

“How’re you doing, honey?” Emma asked. Smiling, Carol said, “I’m so ready to have this child. Tom says he’s sure it will be a New Year’s baby!” Soon, the whole gang was gathered and ready to walk to the town square. With promises to behave, the children held hands and walked together just in front of the adults. Fairfield’s town square was decorated with a huge, lighted Christmas tree.

Carols being sung by several of the church’s choirs rang out as a live Nativity Pageant took place. The children, balanced on their father’s shoulders and in their arms, watched in awe of the play with live animals. The high school band then marched around the corner leading the Christmas parade and Santa came rolling in on a fire truck.

“Where’s grandpa? He’s gonna miss Santa,” exclaimed Bobby.

“Oh, he’s helping Santa,” Bernie quickly explained, eyeing the adults who wondered how long Mac would be able to keep his secret.

As Santa climbed off of the fire truck to sit by the tree, the children all scrambled to sit at his feet. As his booming voice rang out, he recited Twas The Night Before Christmas, to an enraptured crowd. To everyone’s amazement, snow began to fall creating a picturesque scene in front of them. It quickly blanketed the area, covering the tall Christmas tree behind Santa, the snowflakes reflecting the lights creating a magical atmosphere.

Emma looked around at the group that was gathered. Years earlier she had moved to Fairfield hoping to find a home. Thinking back, she had to admit that she really wanted was everything that a home should encompass: family, friends, a sense of belonging…and love. On this cold Christmas Eve she saw that she had found what she was looking for. Good friends and best friends. Family and now extended family. Filled with a sense of warmth and comfort, she felt an arm tighten around her shoulders. Looking up into the face of her handsome husband, she knew that tears were threatening to fall.

“What’s up, Emma girl?” he asked softly.

Shaking her head, she smiled through her tears. “I came to Fairfield to find a home. Now I have more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Lifting her chin with his fingers, he placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “You’re my home, baby.”

Looking back around, she saw the faces of Tom and Carol, Rob and Laurie, and Brad and Suzanne all smiling back at her. They feel it too. Home. Love. Family. Friends. Christmas. Lifting her voice with the others, the sounds of Silent Night filled the air, settling deeply into the souls of the gathering. It was another Christmas in Fairfield. One of many that they group would share over the years.

 

Mary ann_

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