It was Christmas Eve. I knew the kids were up, I could hear Karen and David Michael sneaking past, then Mom leading them back to bed. I was a little old to be excited for Santa, but I didn't usually go to bed at nine o'clock, so I was laying on my bed and watching TV. I heard a knock at the door.
I knew that knock. Timid, hesitant. Whichever one of them was on the other side of the door, the first question would be, “Charlie? Can I talk to you about something?”
“Come in.” I called, and I turned down the TV. The door opened part way, and Kristy stuck her head in.
“Charlie? Can I ask you something?”
It was part of my job. Part time therapist, part time chauffeur, part time coach, full time big brother. No day off for Christmas. “Sure. What's up?”
She sat down on the end of the bed and pulled her knees up to her chest. She was wearing a gray sweatshirt and a pair of green and white stripped pajama pants, and I could tell she'd been trying to go to sleep because her hair was down.
“What's tomorrow going to be like?”
I raised my eyebrows, “It's Christmas. We've celebrated Christmas before. The last time was about a year ago, in fact.”
She smiled a little, “I know that. But this is the first time we've had Christmas here.”
“Okay, so there are more people and a bigger tree, and better presents. But other then that, it's Christmas.”
“It's not the same.” She said, sighing. “I don't know what to do tomorrow.”
“After that. I usually go to see Mary Anne and see her presents, then bring her home to see mine, then we go to Claudia's to see her presents. That's what I do on Christmas. I can't really do that, so what will I do?”
Oh, it was this problem again. I really should make a list, the same problems come up over and over. Why did Dad leave is still the most popular. Then you've got your standard kid stuff, how do I talk to this girl/boy, kids are making fun of me, and Mom won't let me do something. The classic why don't we have any money got replaced by this one, everything is different and I don't know what to do.
It was the same as when Sam knocked on my door before Halloween because he wasn't sure if he'd get arrested for TPing the houses around here. We got used to day-to-day life, but even after half a year things still came up that that we knew how to do back on Bradford Court, but we didn't know quite how they worked here, with a new neighborhood and a new family.
I sat up and crossed my legs in front of me, “Alright, you got me. It is different, and I don't know how tomorrow is going to go. But there will be family, and presents, and a great dinner, and other then that we have to improvise. I know you like to study the playbook, Kristy. But for this one we make it up as we go along. All I can promise is, we'll have fun.”
“Easy for you to say. You're not likely to get stuck playing with Karen all morning.”
“You like playing with Karen.” I pointed out.
“I know, but it's Christmas. It's supposed to be special.”
“It's Christmas, it will be.”
She looked like she was about to argue again, but I think she realized that she'd gotten all the answers I had on this one. That usually happened, I only had so many, and the questions were ones with no right answers anyway.
But she smiled, and said, “You're right. I know.” She said goodnight, then headed back to her room. On her way I heard her shout “I see you there, Karen. Santa won't come unless you're asleep.”
Then there were footsteps from downstairs, and someone lead Karen back to her room.
The next morning, after presents were opened and trash was picked up and the commotion of kids who are way too excited had begun, I packed up my presents to take them to my room. Kristy and Sam were doing the same. I picked up the box I put my stuff in, and saw Kristy start to grab some gift bags she'd stuffed with her things.
“Leave those there. Go get dressed.” I said to her.
“Why?” She asked.
I took my box upstairs, and put on some jeans and a sweatshirt. I put on my jacket, and pulled out my shiny new walkman and a new tape. By the time I got back downstairs, Kristy was waiting.
“Let's load this stuff in the junk bucket.”
“Where are we going?”
“You've got an hour on Bradford Court. I want to be back before the game starts.” I said.
She stared at me for a moment, then she grinned, “You're kidding!”
“Clock's ticking. Move it or lose it.”
She grabbed her stuff and hurried out to the car. I stopped to fill Mom in on the plan. When I got out there Kristy already had the bags loaded in, and she threw her arms around me, “You are the best brother, ever!”
I hugged her, and smiled, “Thanks.”
Full time big brother, no day off for Christmas. But the pay is awesome.