American Contemporary Christmas

The air was thick with tension as the Thompson family gathered around the dining table for what would become their last meal together before their lives changed. The aroma of roast chicken and freshly baked bread filled the room, but the delicious scent couldn't mask the unease that hung in the air.

Theodore Thompson, a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair, carved the chicken with precision, trying to keep up the appearance of normalcy. His wife, Sarah, set the table with their best china, her hands trembling slightly as she placed the delicate plates in their usual spots.

Their two children, Aliyah and Danny, exchanged nervous glances. Aliyah, a third-year college student with dreams of becoming a photographer, fidgeted with her silverware. Danny, a college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, stared at his plate, lost in thought.

As the family settled into their seats, Theodore cleared his throat, breaking the heavy silence. "Well, let’s dive in," he said, attempting a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

Nobody responded immediately. Eventually, the silence shifted to utensils clinking as everyone filled their plates. Everyone at the table had their secrets to reveal and decided the best time to do was over Christmas dinner. 

“We have news,” Theo spoke once they were done making a prayer. There is no reason to beat around the bushes. “We have to sell the house.” His words caused all the heads to turn to him. Silence cast the house once again. 

The Thompsons had lived in their old Victorian house for as long as Aliyah and Danny could remember. It was the place where they had celebrated birthdays, weathered storms, and forged memories that would last a lifetime. But now they were being forced to sell the house and move to a smaller, more affordable place.

“What happened Dad?” Danny asked. 

“My business partner screwed me over and we don’t have money to afford the house anymore.” Theo held his wife’s hand knowing she would not be able to hold back her tears any longer. 

After a long silence of glares across the room, Aaliyah spoke. “Since we’re on the topic of sharing news, I have one. I’m moving to London with Michael.” 

“And why in the world would you be doing that?” Her mom asked, clutching tighter of her husband’s hand.

“There’s a great photography program that I applied for and with the baby, it’s..” before Aaliyah could finish her explanation her mother interrupted her. 

“Baby? What baby?” Sarah asked.

“That was the other thing…I’m pregnant,” she brought out an ultrasound picture.

“Congratulations,” Danny hugged her. Despite knowing that their parents were upset with this, he was happy for his sister. She had always wanted to have children and Michael was the best guy for her. He is already a great boyfriend to Aaliyah and he would be a great father to their child.

After interrogating their daughter about her details, her brother decided that it was best to reveal his secret and take the stress off his sister.

“Ally isn’t the only one that’s moving away,” he interrupted.

“And where are you going now?” Their father asked. 

“I got accepted into Stanford for a Master’s program,” he took out his acceptance packet from his bag. 

“Oh my God, Congratulations,” Aaliyah practically jumped out of her chair to hug her brother. “That’s amazing.”

Within a couple of minutes, emotions had gone from nervousness to hurt to excitement. 

“So that means that this is our last meal together in this house,” Ally started to tear up.

Sarah passed the mashed potatoes, determined to provide some sort of normalcy to the event. "Let's enjoy this meal together," she said, her voice quivering only slightly. "No talk of goodbyes or what's to come. Just a family dinner like any other."

The family nodded, and for a moment, the clinking of cutlery against plates replaced the heavy atmosphere with a more familiar cadence. They spoke of trivial things – Aliyah's projects and Danny's graduation. Yet, beneath the surface, the unspoken acknowledgment of the impending change lingered.

“You guys should get a puppy,” Aaliyah suggested. “We’re moving away and the two of you need someone other than each other.” 

“That’s a decision for later,” Sarah responded. She never liked the idea of having pets because they were too dirty. 

Dessert was served soon, a homemade coconut cream pie with a golden crust, one of the family favorites. 

Theodore finally broached the subject that hung over them like a dark cloud. “Maybe this change isn't all bad," he said, looking at his family. "We will all have a chance to start fresh, to build something new for ourselves. This is not the end, but a start to new beginnings."

Aliyah nodded, a small smile playing on her lips. "And there’s always FaceTime, holiday dinners. Not to mention you can’t miss the birth of your grandchild. I will need you guys. I won’t be able to do all this alone," her voice broke into cracks as she tried not to cry. “I’m not crying, it’s just the hormones,” she fanned her tears.

Soon enough, the air seemed to lighten as the family shared stories of their favorite memories in the house – the time they camped out in the backyard, the laughter that echoed through the halls during holiday celebrations, and the countless family movie nights in the cozy living room.

As the evening drew to a close, the family sat back, content and grateful for the meal that had brought them together one last time in that familiar dining room. The plates were nearly empty, and the warmth of the shared stories lingered in the air.

Theodore stood up and gathered the empty plates, his eyes reflecting a mixture of sadness and hope. "Let's clean up together," he said, glancing at each family member. 

The Thompsons found strength in each other and the love that had sustained them throughout the years. While this may be their last meal together in this home, there were many more to come in the future. As they washed dishes and put away leftovers, a sense of unity replaced the initial unease. Their lives may be changing, but the essence of family remains unbroken.

December 12, 2023 23:22

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Helen A Smith
10:48 Dec 18, 2023

This was a cozy kind of fireplace story that had a deeper message. Change is never easy, especially when it’s unwanted, but you showed the family were going to make it through because of their close ties and love for one another. I did feel a sense of loss about saying goodbye to a treasured home, but the change seemed to come at the right time.


Iman Ahmed
00:35 Dec 19, 2023

Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your feedback! Change can definitely be a challenge but with the support of family, you can make it through anything.


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Tahha Ahmed
23:57 Dec 24, 2023

Good job!


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Trudy Jas
04:50 Dec 21, 2023

Iman, it's lovely to see a sweet family story. Really, I mean that. But (and there always is a but, isn't there?) ... any story will be stronger when there is conflict, hopefully followeed by resolution. Call me a cynic, but no matter how much we love each other, when you upset my apple cart, I will speak up. All family members will. Just a thought. Having said all that at midnight, it's still a lovely story and well paced.


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Taimoor Akram
22:15 Dec 19, 2023

This story shows a great depiction of family and how change is necessary for growth.


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