"Merry Sherry Christmas!" shouted the twenty something man, wrapped up in tinsel. The red and green bulbs taped all over him were bobbing up and down wildly like fishing lures.
Sherry laughed. It had been the way her brothers greeted her throughout every Christmas season. And yet it never failed to make her laugh.
"Merry Christmas Tree!" she replied, unable to contain her joy. Maybe they should put the presents under Sean instead of the tree. He had more ornaments.
"Are we really going to let him go home looking like that?" asked Ted. He was the designated driver, and the only sibling who was completely sober. He was also the most serious of the three.
"It's funny! Mom and Dad have to see this."
Sean and Sherry weren't drunk. They never were interested in drinking very much. But each had accepted a couple of glasses of fine wine to celebrate their friends' first Christmas as a married couple. Perhaps that was why he had allowed his sister to decorate him.
The five young adults had grown up together. They had been so close it was hard to say which house any one of them had spent more time in. They even attended the same university. Now things were changing, but they had vowed that they would remain close.
"I thought we could just put the star on his head..." Sherry told her parents. They had very somber faces. Thinking maybe she had misjudged the situation, she looked at her feet. Suddenly they both laughed uncontrollably.
Dad spoke after he regained his composure. "I've invited Larry's parents and Michelle's mom over for Christmas dinner. I know you said Larry and Michelle have a date planned for that night, but do remind them that we would love to have them."
"I already told them, a few minutes ago."
"Good, Honey. I really hope they'll consider rescheduling their date, Christmas is for family."
"I hope so too, Dad."
But they didn't. Despite their absence, the three families came together as one. Although Larry and Michelle were absent, their very being was the reason for the three families coming together.
Next year, the annual Christmas party was even bigger. Sean had met a woman who he discovered he could spend every moment of his life with. Again, the five friends promised to remain close. But Sherry noted to herself with sadness that they had only been together a few times over the last year.
This time, it was a smaller dinner on Christmas day. Sean, always the life of the party, was with his new wife. Larry and Michelle were home celebrating baby Brower's first Christmas.
And so it went. In some ways the family became bigger and better. There were in-laws and grandchildren. And eventually everyone did realize that Christmas dinner needed to be attended by one and all.
The sad thing, at least in Sherry's opinion, was that it now felt more like a reunion. Close used to mean spending lazy days together, or going for a spontaneous adventure. Now it was a houseful of people a few times a year. Some of them she had only ever seen during holiday get togethers.
"I know we are still family. Nothing can sever those ties. It just feels more... Lonely. I wish things could be more like when we were growing up." Sherry confided to her father one evening after an especially big Halloween party, which had even brought Ted and Valerie back from France.
"So do I, Honey. But you know, change means we are still alive. You wouldn't want to just keep reliving the same thing over and over, would you? That isn't even really living."
"Of course not. I just wish... That we were all still together."
"I know what you mean. But we each have our own place in the world. It's our privilege and duty to find it. Unfortunately this can lead to some pretty far off places sometimes. But like you said, we are still a family. The ties that bind us together are stronger than time, distance, or even death."
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Image is from Canva using their gallery