I'll be Home for Christmas
Billy flipped the radio on in the living room where the family was gathered. It was Christmas Eve and everyone was there. Mom and Dad, Billy’s brother Tom, and his sisters, Patty and Julia. Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane had arrived earlier in the day with their children and even Uncle Joe had made it this year from California. Of course, Grandma and Grandpa were there. They were always there for Christmas.
“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me,” the voice on the radio sang. “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
“Dad, are you all right?” Uncle Joe leaned forward in his chair to place a hand on Grandpa’s arm.
Grandpa nodded, but his face wore a strange expression. When the song on the radio finished, he cleared his throat and said huskily, “That song brings back a Christmas I’ll never forget.”
The grandchildren eagerly gathered around on the floor while the adults drew their chairs nearer and the radio was turned down. Grandpa was going to tell a story.
Mike couldn’t quite keep back the groan which rose as he was carefully lifted from his bed onto a stretcher. “Where’m I going?” he mumbled, feeling almost too sick to care. He had never been much for boat rides.
“A real hospital, Corporal” the orderly replied. “Not a floating one either.” He said something to a soldier, and Mike’s stretcher was lifted gently.
Mike wanted to ask where the hospital was, but the motion of the stretcher combined with the sharp, intense pain made him black out, and he knew nothing until some time later.
The murmur of voices seemed to grow louder and then fade away as Mike slowly regained consciousness. The constant motion of the ship had changed and everything was blessedly still. “I wonder where I am,” he muttered, opening his eyes just a little to see a white ceiling and white walls. His eyes closed. “Everything is always white now.” Trying to shift his position on the bed, a sharp pain shot up his leg, and he gasped.
“Easy, there,” a pleasant voice said, and a gentle hand was placed on his shoulder. “Don’t try to move just yet,”
Mike forced his eyes open to see a young, dark haired nurse at his bedside. “Hello.”
The nurse’s quick smile brought two dimples into her cheeks. “Hello,” she replied. “I’m Polly Miller. How are you feeling today, Corporal?” Her fingers rested with a soft touch on his wrist.
There was no reply, for Mike’s eyes were roving over the large room. Every bed was full and many were unfamiliar faces. A large window caught his attention, and he stared out at the bright blue sky. “I say, where am I?”
“At the base hospital in Hawaii.”
“Hawaii?” he repeated, his voice puzzled as he stared at the nurse. His brows furrowed and he tried to concentrate. What was it that he had wished to do or see if he ever got transferred to the islands? Or was it someone he wanted to see? Wearily he turned his face towards the window and lifted a heavy hand to his aching head. Perhaps he could think tomorrow. It was too much trouble now, and he was tired.
The light from the window became blocked as someone wearing a white jacket stepped beside the bed. Mike’s eyes traveled upward slowly, pausing to notice the insignia of a major in the medical corp before reaching the man’s face. It was a kind face, but Mike was too weary to notice anything else. He heard a question being asked, and thought he might have mumbled a reply but wasn’t sure. Feeling only half awake, he felt a cool hand touching his aching head and heard another question, but sleep overcame him before he could answer.
When he next awoke, all was dim in the room, dim and quiet. His head didn’t ache as much as it had before, and he relaxed. “I wonder what day it is,” he mused, turning his head and looking for the window he had seen earlier. It was covered up. “Blackout, I reckon.” Mike gave a sigh. He wanted a drink but it was too much trouble to lift his head.
Soft footsteps halted beside his bed. “Would you like a drink?” a quiet voice asked.
Mike opened his eyes. It was a different nurse than he had seen earlier, but she was holding a glass of water. He reached out to take the glass, but his hand shook.
“Let me help you,” the nurse said, deftly slipping an arm under his head and holding the glass steady. “That’s it. Don’t drink too fast. Are you done?” She eased Mike’s head back onto the pillow and set the glass down. “Do you need anything else?”
“No, thank you,” Mike whispered. Perhaps tomorrow he would feel like asking more questions.
The babble of voices in the hospital ward was constant. All around the room men were talking about their families, what they would be doing this year for Christmas and how they wished they could be with them. Only a few were silent. Mike lay listening with eyes half closed. How he wished he was going to be home for Christmas. A new Christmas song had been played for the men earlier and some of the words still echoed in Mike’s head.
“I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
Restlessly he turned his head. He’d never been away from home for Christmas before. Even when he was in college, nothing could keep him from reaching home.
“I figured the war would be over before Christmas an’ I’d be back home,” the young man in the bed next to Mike, remarked.
Mike nodded. “I did too. It’s not going to be easy on my mom. Last year my older brother, George, was gone. I wonder if he’s home this year.”
“No, Air Force. I don’t know where he is. Haven’t heard from him in months.” He shifted in his bed and frowned as pain from his injured legs shot through him. “You’d think I could’ve broken my left arm instead of my right.” He glared at the arm encased in bandages and resting in a sling. “I can’t even write Mom, Dad and Sis! I guess I’ll have to dream about Christmas with the folks. There’s no way the doctors are going to let me leave.”
“Yeah, me either. But say, I heard some talk about a group comin’ to sing for us on Christmas.”
Mike grunted. “Yeah, they’ll sing for the men who can go listen to them. Me, I can’t even get out of bed.”
“Man, you’re blue today,” Dick remarked. “And tomorrow is Christmas Eve.”
There was no answer. Mike didn’t feel like replying. All he wanted was to see the familiar faces of his family; he wanted to go home! When he closed his eyes he could picture his mom standing before the stove taking a pan of cookies from the oven, her hair loose and with a dusting of flour in it and on her face. Mom always managed to get flour on herself when she was baking cookies. Dad would be bringing in logs for the fire and Sissy would be coming in from her job, her eyes sparkling and a merry laugh ready to bubble out. Perhaps George was there. If so, he and Dad would soon have a game of checkers going.
Quickly Mike opened his eyes. If he didn’t, he knew he’d start to cry and what would the others think of him then. Oh, just to see one familiar face from back home!
Part 2 will be up tomorrow.
Let me know if you like it so far.