I'm so excited to be writing J&A again! Enjoy, and merry christmas :)
"Now, doesn't this room just scream 'Christmas'?"
"Yes, it does. Quite loudly," Joan said with a chuckle, looking at her husband, who was admiring his handiwork. She switched McKenzie from one hip to the other and shook her head with a smile.
"Ye of little faith," he said to her with a playful wag of his finer. He raised one of his magnificent eyebrows. "This is Mac's first Christmas, we are going all out."
Joan surveyed the living room, dining room, and foyer - there were strands of tinsel hung along the walls decorated with small golden balls, a Poinsettia centerpiece on the dining room table, and clusters of mistletoe in each doorway. The tree sat in the corner of the living room, so tall that the star on top almost touched the ceiling. Arthur had put lights on the tree and set up a train around the base, but the ornaments were missing.
"It's beautiful, Arthur. But the tree looks a little bare…"
Mac giggled at the perfect time, and Arthur grinned, taking his son from Joan's arms. He placed a kissed on Mac's cheek and looked into his tiny blue eyes.
"I was thinking that you and Mommy and I would do the ornaments together," he said to the toddler. "What do you think?"
Joan chuckled and Mac just gazed at his daddy with a lopsided grin. Arthur looked at Mac, then Joan.
"I think that's a yes!"
Arthur set Mac down in his playpen and squeezed Joan's hand before moving the boxes of ornaments from the floor to the coffee table.
"Do you remember our first Christmas together?," she asked him, bending over the boxes and rummaging through them. He nodded, putting one hand on the small of her back.
"You had three broken ribs and our tree almost died before Christmas Day," he recalled, a twinkle in his eye.
"Hey, it lasted until the 27th!," Joan said indignantly. She pulled out an ornament from the bottom of the box and grinned, holding it out to Arthur.
He took it from her and a warm smile spread across his face. It was a wooden snowflake, about the size of his palm, covered with intricate and colorful designs, some faded.
"Our first ornament. The only one on that sad little tree besides generic red balls and some god awful macaroni object my mother gave me when I moved into my first apartment. She insisted that my first homemade ornament had to be on every tree I got."
Joan laughed. "Yeah, I bet that one is in here somewhere…"
Arthur shook his head. "That thing is horrible." He glanced at the snowflake again. "Remind me, sweetheart, where did you get this?"
"Morocco," she said, tracing the patterns with her finger. "I saw it at a little stand by the side of the road when I was waiting for my handler to call and give me my escape route."
"That's right! I remember you knocking on my door, and I opened it to find you still covered in dust and with those broken ribs. You thrust the little paper bag into my hands –"
"And I said, 'Merry Christmas! I almost died for this'," Joan recalled, smiling at the memory.
"I pulled you into my arms and kissed your filthy hair and told you that you were my best Christmas gift," Arthur said. "That was Christmas Eve day, almost fifteen years ago."
She nodded. "Time flies. I was so worried that I wasn't going to be home in time for the holidays. We'd only been together for a few months, officially, and I was terrified I would ruin it."
Arthur took her hand and pulled her up to stand beside him.
"You could never ruin something so magical. I almost asked you to marry me, right then and there," he said to her, stroking her hair. "I was so crazy about you."
She grinned and kissed his lips softly. Together, they choose the perfect spot for their snowflake and hung it, taking a moment to stare at it nestled in the branches.
Mac gurgled, and Joan bent over the playpen, reaching inside and tickling him. He laughed his adorable baby laugh, and her heart melted.
"Gosh, what a sound," Arthur murmured, coming up behind her. She nodded.
"I can't believe that it's his first Christmas already. In a year or two, he'll be making his own macaroni ornaments," Joan said softly. Arthur sighed.
"He's growing up so fast."
Joan turned to Arthur and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Shh, don't remind me."
Arthur chuckled and kissed the tip of her nose. "Sorry darling."
She stood and walked back over to the ornaments, digging through both boxes for a moment before beaming ear to ear.
"Ha! I found it!"
She bounced over to the tree and Arthur groaned. When she stepped back, he saw his macaroni tree, sloppily covered in green glitter paint and red beads.
"Oh no," he moaned, putting his face in his hands. Joan laughed and clapped, giving off the perfect imitation of her son when they played peek-a-boo.
"Aww, honey, come on. It's classic," she said, trying to contain her giggles. He wrapped his arms around her waist and looked at the tree.
"Oh well," he said wistfully. "I guess we'll have to display my poor attempt at crafts until Mac can make his own."
"Oh no, this ornament will be on any tree in this house, as long as we live. I promise," Joan said, turning and pressing a kiss to her husband's cheek. "Now, let's finish decorating this tree so I can put Mac down for his nap and do some Christmas shopping."
Arthur smiled playfully. "Oh? Where might you be going on your shopping trip?"
"Not telling," Joan teased, wiggling out of his grip and shifting her attention to the boxes of ornaments.
Arthur and Joan hung trinket after trinket on the tree, reminiscing about each one. A cheerful Santa Claus from Joan's childhood, a blue orb with the US Navy insignia, a hamburger that Arthur had received as a White Elephant gift, a purple ceramic puzzle piece from Joan's brief artsy stint in college. There was a golden retriever ornament that Joan had bought because it reminded her of the dog she had in high school, and a nutcracker from the first time they went to see the ballet together in Manhattan.
When all the ornaments were up, Joan picked up Mac and held him to her chest, rocking him back and forth.
"Sweetheart, maybe we should put on a Christmas lullaby to help him fall asleep," Arthur said, moving to the stereo. He clicked a few buttons and a soft indie tune flowed from the speakers.
Joan started swaying to the music, gently rocking Mac with her and humming along. Arthur joined them, singing to Mac softly.
"I'll dance with you, I'll laugh with you, 'til it's Christmas in the room."
Joan handed Mac to Arthur and let him sing the rest of the song to their son before lowering him back into the playpen. She placed a tiny kiss on Mac's forehead, and then one of Arthur's cheek.
"Merry Christmas," she whispered, gazing into her husband's eyes.
"Merry Christmas, my love."