Rebecca huffed as she watched the block of 'DELAYED' signs at every airport in all of Wisconsin on the news. This was apparently one of the worst storms the state had seen in a very long time, and none of the airports were willing to take the risk. She flopped on the couch and picked up the remote on the table in front of her before slumping into the pleather and dejectedly switching through the channels on the tv, before realizing that they all displayed an emergency weather forecast. There goes that reprieve, she thought blandly. She sat up and looked around her impressively sized studio loft at the top of a 10 floor building. There was a wall to ceiling window that overlooked beautiful rolling hills and the small towns that spiraled down them. Towards the base, there was a decently sized town, dotted with huge evergreens, pines, and church tops, all of which carried thick layers of snow. Only the upper tips of crosses and trees too weak to carry the snow were bare. A heavy wind blew angrily against the side of the apartment. Rebecca was happy for her central air, which silently hummed out warmth.
I guess all of the interesting bars and restaurants will be closing up early, she mused, sitting up just enough to reach her phone that was on the other end of the brown well used leather couch. She retreated back to her position and began scrolling through her contacts. One of her friends had to have a truck big enough to cut through all this snow, and she set out texting a few of them to see if anyone would want to spend the holiday with her. It bore fruitless results. Most of her friends had gone out of town to stay with family days ago, and those that hadn't refused to take the risk of driving upwards through the sheet of snow. She scoffed as one of her friends even texted her, 'hows about u come down here? were having smores an hot chocolate :)' She replied with 'if only uber had snow mobiles, hahaha. ill have hot chocolate like u guys tho- yum'. Well, that exhausts my list, she thought, standing up and stretching before making her way over to her very modern kitchen, which had hanging pots and pans that played with the light from the bulb that was slightly above it, a sleek silver stove, and granite counter tops, which she was proud of (but would never admit to anyone- it was a secret goal of hers from childhood to have the wet sandy brown colored counters in her kitchen).
She started gathering up the ingredients, recollecting the last time she'd stayed at home for the holidays. She usually made it a point to pick a different unbearably hot place to go to, saving up sick time throughout the year so she could take the entire month of December and the first week of January or so, unless she had to use sick time throughout the year. This year it was going to be simple- a cruise that would take her to the different islands of Hawaii. She considered Australia, since it was somewhere that she did plan to go to in her life, but after seeing a random video of a kangaroo standing outside someones' screen doors, she decided to hold off on that dream for a little longer. Rebecca had started at her job in cybersecurity 5 years ago, soon after she moved to Wisconsin for a change of pace from her native south Florida. Her and her family got along, for the most part, but they were much rowdier, louder people than she was…..she remembered being young and finding the quietest places to hang out at, usually to no avail. She bore no ill will towards them for it, and made sure to call her parents and a few aunts and uncles on occasion…..but for the most part she stayed out of their affairs. Even then, she remembered those first holidays as a kid, the last time she decorated a tree with her parents.
As she stirred the chocolate chunks into the slowly warming milk, she tried to remember a time where she was excited for Christmas.. I really haven't ever been big on holidays, huh, she thought. I wonder why? Different memories slowly made their way to the forefront of her mind. Arguments, burnt turkeys, flying ham. Rebecca frowned. Maybe they weren't as good as I remembered, she smirked as she reached for the sugar. Which wouldn't necessarily be a surprise, as people do have a tendency to remember things wrong, especially as they get older. As far as Rebecca was concerned, her family was overall decent. They spent holidays together (briefly), they called each other for birthdays (calls that usually ended in shouting matches and ruined days), and even just to catch up with each other (in barely concealed stick measuring contests). Her brow furrowed as she scooped the sugar into the pot. Oh they argued a lot more than I remembered, she realized, drawing a dry chuckle from her lips. I guess I just rationalized it? I was pretty young, too…… She lowered the flame as she took a mug from the cabinet to the left of her head and popped it in the microwave for 15 seconds. The hot chocolate was about to be done. What about the marshmallows? She giggled. Guess I'll just use a lighter to roast em! As the microwave went off she went in search of a lighter, finding one in a slightly unexpected drawer. Probably one of her friends hid it there to mess with her, she chuckled slightly. She stuck 3 huge marshmallows on a skewer and moved the lighter back and forth underneath them, making sure to only let each side get light brown, and not burnt. Not that she would've minded.
She made her cup of hot chocolate, adding a small scoop of mint hot chocolate to it, something she saw in some yootube reel. As she made her way back to the couch, Rebecca started thinking about childhood holidays again. The more she pondered, the more she started realizing how not normal their holidays were. She thought back to the thanksgiving when she was five, her now deceased mother and estranged grandmother getting into a very physical, very aggressive fight. The poor turkey on the counter jerking back and forth as the two women rolled across the counter. She snorted at that part. She remembered her and her parents leaving, mother fuming about how they would never try to have an extended family holiday again….and they really didn't. She remembered picking out her own gifts from garbage bags full of donated toys, children screeching and tearing and clawing at each other trying to get to the best gifts. She shuddered at that one. Kids are animals, she thought grimly. Rebecca sipped at her hot chocolate, more memories coming back to her. She thought back to the last time her parents wanted to put a Christmas tree up, remembered her confusion as her mother raged and seethed at the audacity of the little girl to wake up early and put up the Christmas tree, decorating it, but unable to put the star up because, even on a chair, she was still too small to reach the top. Gotta give myself credit for my determination, she smirked.
After that holiday, the family never did a Christmas tree again. Not that she was inconvenienced by it; all of the donation places stopped supplying the poorer neighborhoods, so she didn't get too many gifts after that. Hell, she snorted, she never even got a chance to believe in the tooth fairy! Young Rebecca would eagerly run up to her parents, letting them know her teeth had fallen out. Her friends told her that if they knew, she would wake up to money under her pillow, but with every tooth, she would eagerly look under her pillow, never to the sight of a single penny. She sighed and turned on her couch, taking a moment from her reveries to look around her apartment. Rebecca was 27 and on her way to becoming the lead salesperson for a well known cybersecurity company that provided protection to companies all across the globe. She remembers her beginnings at the company, a reclusive crouched coder plugging away on a laptop like everyone else in the room. It was a stroke of luck that she was even noticed- going over some code late one night for a company to make sure the malware protections were working properly, when she noticed a flaw that would have erased all of the companies' data, effectively taking the whole thing down. She showed it to her boss, who was so grateful that he had her begin training to quickly rise through the ranks.
She bought this apartment when she was 22, after living in a tiny room in an apartment she shared with a very cranky old man. He made sure to point out every speck of dust or garbage he saw, regardless of if it was hers or not. She got it with her first paycheck, after she got a very generous raise for sealing a deal with a company her boss had wanted to work with for years. The floors were a bright, cherry oak brown, with rustic red bricks creating the living room, before transiting to smooth, cream colored walls. The master bedroom was big enough to fit three of her rooms into it, and when she saw the bathroom that had more than 6 paces of space (beautiful tiles that were still white, not a dirty gold from years of….man mess). "I'll take it,' she said happily, following the realtor back to her office to sign the remaining papers and pay the necessary fees to be able to move in as soon as possible.. She felt a slight twinge as the old man shuffled around the house, quietly but still sounding annoyed as he muttered under his breath. She told him she would check on him sometimes, to which he waved off with his hand and a "Yeah, sure kid." Rebecca did make sure to call him at least once or twice a month, silently chuckling as he ranted about the loud new neighbors, leaking pipes, and his general discontent with life. She called until he died, 3 years after she moved out. She considered going to the funeral….but didn't want to intrude on the families' mourning.
Once she was fully settled in, around Christmas, she noticed two things: how obnoxiously freezing the entire state was, and the fact that every single store, church, school, bar and house was absolutely smothered in Christmas lights. She made her way through the new neighborhood, introducing herself to the townsfolk and picking up errant bits and pieces as she did so. When she got back into the sanctuary of her apartment, she slid down to the floor, swearing that after this year she would make sure to save sick and holiday days, leaving more than enough time for her to take a trip for the entire month of December, and then some. She couldn't escape all of the cheer, however, as people began putting up their Christmas lights almost as soon as the Thanksgiving turkeys were pulled out the oven. Rebecca began to research various warm places around the world (bonus points if they didn't celebrate Christmas). She'd gone to a good few places, thankful for having a job that gave her so much freedom. If my mom could see me now…..she thought wistfully. Her mother had died of a heart attack months before she bought her apartment. They didn't always have the best relationship but it worked.
Rebecca pondered all of these facts as she put down her empty mug (the hot chocolate was delicious) and made her way over to the big window: past holiday fiascoes, the lack of Christmas trees……she decided that she wouldn't let old ruined holidays and rambunctious people ruin the spirit of Christmas for her anymore. "Screw it," she thought aloud, "I'm gonna buy my own tree and lights!" she grabbed her phone, excitedly going on DorDash……only to discover that the larger majority of stores were closed. Probably because of the snow, she thought dejectedly. Well, now what? She looked outside her window again. The snow was still falling, much lighter than it was at first. The town was almost a blanket of white, with only the tallest tips unburdened by snow. Christmas lights twinkled stubbornly, as if making sure Santa would be able to find the town. She went online, putting on Christmas carols and playing it on her tv. She found a large sketchbook and a box of big markers (never know when you're gonna wanna doodle! she rationalized in the store), and set to drawing a Christmas tree, using other pages to draw the decorating balls and an angel, before going to find scissors and glue. When her art project was complete, she looked at it. Satisfied with the results, she proceeded to make a stand for her tree. She went on her laptop and found a picture of a display in an airport, filled with the same 'DELAYED' signs that she'd seen earlier in the day on the tv. She printed it and cut it to make it smaller than the tree, before taking a picture of her masterpiece and adding the caption:
"Even if they weren't good as a kid, you are allowed to have bright and happy holidays as an adult. Give your inner child the love and light that no one else could. This storm is the best gift i could have gotten!"
And Rebecca proceeded, for every year afterwards, to throw Christmas parties, even if people had to bring their own food. She did, however, still travel to warmer places, but it was no longer an escape from the holiday cheer, but a conscious choice to enjoy her life and the energies of the planet and the people that inhabit it with her better than she had before.
And that's the story.