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  • The Parliament House

HEARTHSIDE STORIES: Take My Arms That I Might Reach You, by Wren Handman

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.


The house has been transformed into a winter wonderland. There’s frost sprayed on the window panes, stars and snowflakes glittering on strings from curtain to curtain. Lights

twinkle in every room, in every color of the rainbow. Tinsel and holly hang from corners or chandeliers, and snowflakes have been pressed onto door frames and lintels. It smells like

fresh cinnamon, like apples, like a Lifetime movie come to life. We came home last week to shortbread cookies in the shape of bells, a gingerbread house already decorated. There was

even fruitcake soaked in rum that Dad offered us and quickly took back after I choked on my first bite.

Christmas movies run like silent memories in the living room, an empty theatre playing for no one. Dad wants it to be perfect, to make this holiday something joyful and bright.

But there’s a hole on the mantlepiece.

There’s my stocking, worn around the edges from the years I took it with me everywhere I went, for the full two weeks leading up to Christmas. There’s Eric’s—two years

younger than me and determined to forge his own path, he kept his pristine. His name is badly embroidered, so the C bumps into the white cuff and gets lost in the fluff. And beside’s Dad’s, still dusty despite the best efforts of the staff. It was probably stuck in a box somewhere, untouched since we moved out ten years ago. Has he even celebrated

Christmas without us? Did he miss us every year, when he sent a card full of cash and well wishes like it could fill his empty seat at the table?

Now here we are, back in his house for the first time since we moved away, celebrating Christmas like nothing has changed. There are the same decorations on the tree, the same small presents under it. An angel that sings carols when you tap her nose. A pair of slippers beside the roaring fire. Three stockings on the mantlepiece...but it’s the wrong three. It doesn’t fit. Mom is missing.

There’s no crazy rainbow stocking beside mine, with ugly silver tinsel on the cuff and a patch in the toe where Eric ripped it one year. There’s no off-key Christmas carols in the

kitchen, making me want to hide in my room and stick a pillow over my ears. There’s no clatter of paintbrushes from her studio, no eggnog that smells suspiciously like Bailey’s, no

warm arms around my shoulders. No Mom.