Meet Me Under The Mistletoe
“Are you sure all the presents are wrapped?”
Paul laughed, placing a hand on his wife’s knee to prevent her from getting off the couch. “Dani. I’m sure. All the presents are wrapped and accounted for.”
“I’m just checking! You know if Noah ends up with more presents than Penny, it’s going to be a nightmare.”
“Christmas will not be a nightmare. If our kids yell and pout over what presents they did or didn’t get, we have bigger problems than a missing toy.”
Dani sighed and settled back on the couch. Paul leaned behind him to grab the bottle of wine from the end table beside the couch. He took the glass from his wife’s hand and refilled it, then handed it back to her. “Here, drink your wine and relax. Everything is wonderful.”
Paul refilled his own glass before putting the bottle back on the table. The bit that was left inside sloshed around the bottom of the green-tinted glass. He closed his eyes and leaned his head to the side, laying it against the back of the couch. He sat sideways on his cushion, facing his wife. She sat sideways too, with her legs stretched out and her feet in his lap.
When Riley, their oldest son, was a baby, Christmas was a breeze. They bought a few toys and clothes, wrapped them nicely, and placed them under the tree. When Penny came along, it was still okay. A little more expensive, but at least they were buying for one boy and one girl. There was no envy from Riley when Penny got a baby doll, or vice versa when Riley opened a Hot Wheels racetrack.
The problem came when their youngest son, Noah, was born. The kids started competing with each other. Sibling rivalry developed overnight, and every day felt like a new cage match. Paul understood why Danielle was worried about the presents. He honestly didn’t care anymore. If they were mad about the toys and clothes they received, he’d return them and call it a day.
They had a Christmas music playlist on a low volume in the background. The fire crackled in the fireplace as they shared the homemade cookies meant for Santa. She’d helped the kids make them that morning.
Paul reached over and grabbed his fifth cookie from the plate on the coffee table. “These are delicious, baby.”
One of the wood logs shifted in the fireplace. Paul debated going over and stoking the fire, but he was too comfortable. The fire could wait.
“Do you remember our first Christmas together?” Dani asked.
“Oh, God, do I.”
“Why did we decide to spend $300 on our gifts to each other?”
“We were trying to impress each other. It worked.”
“It’s a good thing we’ve reduced the Christmas budget since then.”
Dani laughed, pointing to the stacks of wrapped presents underneath their Christmas tree. “We kind of had to, once the kids started coming.”
Paul gasped, eyes widening as he dropped his hand to look at Dani. “Remember the mistletoe?”
“No, please don’t bring up the mistletoe!”
“You’re the one who brought up our first Christmas!”
“Shhh.” Danielle laughed, pointing up at the ceiling. “The kids. Don’t wake them up.”
“We both know they aren’t sleeping.”
She sighed and nodded her head. “True. Riley’s probably trying to, but Noah’s talking his ear off about Santa.”
“Penny is staring at the ceiling, laser-focused on listening for hooves on the roof.”
“That’s because on Christmas Eve when she was three years old, you went up on the roof and stomped around. She’ll never forget that.”
“It was a magical Christmas, though.”
“It sure was.”
Paul took a sip of his wine and watched as his wife did the same. She looked beautiful in the warm light of the fire. Age had only made her more graceful. Paul felt one of his life’s greatest privileges was watching his wife grow older and wiser. Dani would never describe her wrinkles as “subtle,” but Paul admired the fine lines of her crow’s feet. They were hardly noticeable.
She colored the grey in her hair, but he wished she didn’t. He loved it when the odd strands of silver shone through. He always told her it was a natural highlight in her blonde hair. She never believed him.
Besides, Paul had way more grey in his hair. When he was younger, his hair was a deep brown. Now it was half-brown, half-grey. He knew his wrinkles were significantly more prominent than his wife’s, even though she’d never agree.
But age had been kind to them. Paul saw it all as visible evidence of the life they’d lived together so far. Riley was already eleven years old! He was too old to believe in Santa, but kind enough to indulge his younger brother.
Sometimes Paul couldn’t believe they’d been married seventeen years already. “Don’t think I forgot about the mistletoe story.”
Dani gasped at him. “No… I thought I distracted you!”
“You could never distract me from our first Christmas together. You left me a note that said ‘Meet me under the mistletoe’ on the kitchen counter, and signed with a kiss in red lipstick. Then you laid out a path of fake snow leading through the hallway and to the bedroom. When I reached the bedroom door, you were fast asleep. I will never forget the Santa-themed lingerie, or the mistletoe above my head.”
“I was exhausted. And you came home late!”
“I came home ten minutes late.”
Danielle laughed, covering her face. “Why do you still remember that? Out of all the memories throughout our two years of dating and seventeen years of marriage, you have to relive that one?”
“It’s one of the best ones!”
“It’s one of the worst ones.”
“I disagree. While I worked on Christmas Eve, you ran around making sure everything was perfect. You cooked dinner, made dessert, and decorated. Then you took care of the last-minute errands we’d forgotten about. We’d only been dating three months, but you wanted to make it special. You wanted to make it so special that you set up the whole mistletoe thing for me.”
Dani shook her head. She took a long sip of wine, then smiled at Paul. “Well, it would have been special, if I hadn’t fallen asleep.”
“It was still special.”
Paul set his wine glass down and took his wife’s left foot in his hands. He moved his fingers back and forth, massaging the arch of her foot where he knew she got the most sore.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I know. I want to.”
Dani finished the wine in her wineglass and set it aside. She laid her head back against the arm of the couch and sighed. “Can you get the heel?”
Paul moved his hands down to her heel, massaging along the edges.
“Yeah. That’s perfect.”
He massaged her left foot for a few minutes, then set it down and switched to her right. Dani closed her eyes and tried to relax. She gave Paul directions on areas she wanted him to massage more.
When he was finished, Dani sighed and stretched. She settled back in and smiled at him. “You know, this Christmas Eve is pretty special too.”
“Because I’m spending it with you.”
He smiled at her. “You’re such a sap.”
“But that’s why you love me.”
It was true. In all the years they’d been together, he never once doubted how much she loved him.
“Come on,” he said, standing up from the couch. He headed towards the stairs, then turned back to look at her. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Yeah. It’s in the bedroom.”
He nodded, with a grin. “Meet me under the mistletoe.”
Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash.