Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kate Miller 14: Existential Moments

What do you do when life is a meaningless expanse of nothing? ....make Hallmark cards, of course! 

14. Existential Moments (Feb. 2013)
Some days, like this one, Kate felt like an overtired three-year-old. The least provocation might push her over the edge to tears. But unlike a three-year-old, she noted with satisfaction, I can at least know my own state of being. All the same, she couldn’t always control the bent of her thoughts. When she was this tired, life was a meaningless expanse of meaningless consuming and meaningless producing. You take some, you give some, then you die. And here she was, having, moments before, just claimed that teaching music to her piano students was a worthwhile effort because it was meaningful. But as soon as the words came out of her mouth, she doubted them. She turned to Mister, always conveniently nearby when life crises were out of control.
“Do you think my life is meaningful?” she asked bluntly.
            “Do I think it’s meaningful?!” he reiterated in mock outrage. “Of course I do.”
            “But you’re my husband. You’re probably biased.”
            “You bet I am. And your life is one of the most meaningful things in my life.”
            “What if I’m just a blip on a screen somewhere?”
            “You’re not a blip. You’re meaningful, remember. You’d at least be a splotch.”
            She looked at him skeptically. “I bet we’re just both blips.”
            Mister hugged her and laughed at her persistence. “Then at least we’re cute, happy blips.”
            “Hmm.” She thought about this for a while, and then smiled up at him. “I would be your blip,” she said coquettishly.
            Mister chuckled. “It could be a new Valentines Day card. ‘Will you be my blip?’”
            Kate no longer felt depressed and was enjoying herself thoroughly. “Hey! We could kick off the new ‘existential’ department at Hallmark. How about this one, ‘The day we met was like any other day I meet someone new. I can’t explain why I remember it…’”
            She was on a roll, but Mister stopped her by stuffing a toothbrush in her mouth. “Time to go to bed,” he said decisively.
            She brushed her teeth and slowly changed into her pajamas. Since it was a cold winter night, she put on her favorite black fuzzy pants, a t-shirt, and then a brown college hoodie-sweatshirt on top. The hoodie never went outside because it was embarrassed to have been made with a hood but without a front pocket. She surveyed her bedtime self in the mirror. Well! she thought with satisfaction, one glorious thing about nothing really mattering is that I can wear black and brown if I want to when I’m going to bed and have a clean fashion conscience. She snuggled under the covers and didn’t even approach her fashion conscience about wearing her work-out clothes to bed.
            Mister came to bed and coughed. Kate coughed. Mister looked at her, as if she were just mocking him. But then Kate really coughed, and lunged across him to snatch his water.
            “I think you’re giving me your cold,” she said accusingly.
            “I can’t even imagine what you’re talking about.” He picked up an economics book and began to read, pretending total absorption.
            “I know you know what I’m talking about,” she said persistently.
            “Well,” she sighed as she picked up her book, “I guess that’s what comes from being your blip.”
            Mister put his book down and laughed his wonderful full, round laugh. He leaned over and kissed Kate. “Your life is fun,” he said.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kate Miller 13: Mister's Birthday

A birthday is a special day... at least it should be... or ought to be... or I want it to be... but is it really? 

13. Mister’s Birthday (Feb 2, 2013)
            Mister’s Birthday came up suddenly. Kate was going to make a double-layer lemon cake and planned a steak dinner at a restaurant. But what was a birthday with no gifts to open? Of course, Mister never seemed to care as much as Kate about birthdays, even his own. When the day arrived, Kate was pleased with herself. She had chosen a gift, and even if it didn’t arrive on the right day, it was perfect.
            “Happy Birthday, dearest!” she said as she jumped up and kissed him when he awoke.
            They ate breakfast together, and Kate laid out her plan for finishing the cake. She had to make the lemon curd filling and the frosting and then assemble it on the cake platter. But she needed to go to the store first. The morning was leisurely and at one point, she turned and asked Mister, “I think you’re gift might not come today. Would like to know what it is, or just wait until it comes to find out?”
            “I think I can wait till it comes. Then I won’t be sad if it doesn’t come,” he said with a grin.
            Well at least he’s confident that he will like it, she thought, and he will! I don’t know how he can stand to wait… Kate loved surprises. She just liked being surprised earlier than later.
the cake
            Kate made her grocery run. Actually, she made two grocery runs because she (as usual) hadn’t looked at the recipe before she dashed of to get her lemons and sugar. But as the cream cheese was absolutely essential for the icing, she was compelled to make one more foray into the cold for the good of Mister’s birthday. In due time, the cake was assembled and extremely tempting, but since it was time to leave for dinner, the cake was spared for another couple hours.
            The restaurant was packed, but Kate and Mister found a table in the seat-yourself bar area (its occupants presumably driven out by the cold wind from the door.) They ate and talked.     “I’m worried about how I’m going to react when our kids purposely push my buttons.”
            “Maybe you should think about how to hide your buttons.” Mister suggested dryly.
            After some discussion, Kate hit on the root of the issue, “What really bothers me,” she explained, “is when kids do something that they know is wrong...on purpose!”
            Mister just looked at her for a moment and then laughed. “Sooo,” he said, still chortling, “what you’re saying is that you don’t like it when children sin. I’ve got bad news for you…”
            Kate laughed heartily. “I guess so. But some sins are more annoying than others.”
            Eventually, they got around to the subject of Mister’s birthday present. Kate’s parents had left a message saying they wanted to talk to Mister about his birthday present. But Kate explained that there must have been a mistake. They were part of his gift—a group gift.  
            “How long has this group gift been in the works?” Mister said suspiciously. “You said earlier this week that you didn’t even have ideas for gifts.”
            “I didn’t. It came together a couple days ago.”
            “What happened? Did you get a sudden inspiration?”
            “Not so much. I sort of just made a sudden decision.” Oh dear, I’m giving it away.
            Mister paused a moment, understanding sparking in his eyes, but mixed with disbelief. “Did you get me a computer?!” he asked incredulously.
            Kate just laughed. She knew she had said too much.
            “Wow…That’s so exciting. But you said you weren’t going to!”
            A week ago, when Kate had asked what he wanted for his birthday, Mister had said, “a new computer.” What Kate had actually said was: “ha. ha. I don’t think so.” But a few days later, as she thought about it, she knew that he really needed a new computer, and the gift would be just deciding and ordering it for him—a gift he would certainly appreciate.
            That evening, as they drove home from Aunt and Uncle’s house with half of the cake left over, Kate turned to Mister. “Sorry to spoil your surprise. Do you wish you had waited to find out?”
            Mister grinned. It was obvious he was delighted, even giddy, if that was a word one could ever associate with calm, dignified Mister. “It’s been a great day,” he said. He reached over and squeezed her hand with a gentle, reassuring squeeze. “You’ve made it a wonderful birthday for me. Thank you.”
            Kate felt her eyes start to tear up. She sniffed. “Good,” she choked. Then she laughed as Mister looked over. “Hormones,” she explained. “I’m just so glad you had a good day.” 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kate Miller 12: The First Doctor Visit

Doctor's visits rank close to #1 on a list of worst things to do with my day, but I'm already learning that people sacrifice (both necessarily and willingly) a lot for their children... and sometimes it's not so bad! 

12. The Doctor Part 1 (Jan, 2013)
            The morning of Kate’s first doctor’s appointment was very cold, and to most people, quite dreary. The sky was grey, the ground was wet, and the air was frigid, and Kate assented that the cumulative effect was less than ideal. But lovely little white flakes of snow drifted lazily down from the sky and scattered over the earth beneath. Kate loved watching the snow. Usually she would enjoy it more, but doctors made her tense and nervous. She was glad that her checkup was the first thing in the morning so she would be able to enjoy the rest of the day in peace.
            But it was not to be. Just as she was about to leave, the office called and said, because of the snow, could they reschedule her appointment for the afternoon? Inwardly, Kate was peeved. But audibly, she was calm and gracious (no small feat the first thing in the morning.) When she got off the phone, she grimaced at Mister who was hovering nearby. “They had to move the appointment to three o’clock because the office isn’t opening until ten,” she said. Mister scrunched his nose and said that he had a meeting he wanted to go to for his PhD program at the university right around that time.
            Kate frowned. “You don’t want to go with me?”
            “I do, but I don’t want to miss this either.”
            Kate decided on a direct approach. “This is important to me. Please come. I really want to have you there. Please?” She grinned and nuzzled against him, “Pleeeease?”
            Mister gave her a tolerant smile and promised that he would come.
            However, when the time came, Kate was worried that Mister was constantly wishing that he had made a different choice. There they were at the office, waiting in the foyer. Kate was filling out reams of paperwork (the receptionist said it was required with each new pregnancy! Outrageous, Kate thought) and Mister was reading his books for class and research. Finally they were called to the back room, for the first sonogram of the baby. The stenographer came in, introduced herself as Jenny, and requested that Kate undress from the waist down. Mister sat in a chair and looked uncomfortable. Would he really rather be at school right now? Kate wondered. But a lot of my friends said that it was their (and their husband’s) favorite appointment. I’d hate for him to be missing it…
            “Are you okay?” she said aloud.
            “Sure. I’m fine.” Mister said stiffly. “I just feel like I don’t really belong here.”
            Kate raised her eyebrow and pursed her lips. “You totally belong here. It’s normal and expected for the husbands to come. This is where you belong.” She gave him a grin, “Own it.”
            When the stenographer came back and began the sonogram, all tension and awkwardness fell away in the wonder of actually seeing their baby. It was so tiny. (About a week smaller than expected, Jenny said.) But there it was, with its wee arms and legs and enormous head, wiggling around all on its own. Kate looked at Mister to share her amazement. He was leaning forward, looking at the screen, drinking in the magic.
            “Ready for the heartbeat?” asked Jenny.
            Were they ever! Kate just bit her lip and nodded eagerly.
            It took a moment, but the heartbeat came through loud and strong, 177 beats per minute. Kate shook her head. Life is a mystery, she thought. In marriage, two people become one, and in pregnancy, one person becomes two. How bizarre…but totally, wonderfully awesome.
            Kate and Mister walked to the car holding hands. It was a long appointment, but a good one. “That sonogram was incredible.” Kate said.
            “Yes it was.” Mister echoed emphatically.
            “Are you glad you came?”
            He smiled and nodded in his calm, deliberate way. “Definitely.”
            She sighed and grinned. “I’m so glad I didn’t just imagine it. I really have a baby!!” 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kate Miller 11: Words

Words are great. Sometimes they mean nothing. Sometimes they mean everything. Often they make you laugh...

11. Words (Jan 2013)
            Sometimes Kate could get a little peeved about words. She would tell herself that on the ‘grand scheme of things’ one little word’s pronunciation or another’s stretching of meaning was not really going to make a difference in the “grand scheme of things.” But then she would go back to her age-old argument: “When people use the same words for different meanings, language has ceased to function!”
            Of course, Mister often teased her about it, mispronouncing or misusing words on purpose. How irksome. And then there were the times when they were both convinced on their own particular definition.
            Just a few nights ago, in fact, Kate had returned home and after a hearty (and much needed) dinner, she collapsed on the couch with a grin, “I’m pretty beat after two long days of teaching and carousing around town!” she said.
            Mister looked at her in mock surprise and skepticism, “Were you kissing people?”
            “Kissing? Goodness, no! Whatever made you say that?”
            “Well, you said carousing…
            “Oh,” she laughed, “carousing doesn’t mean kissing. When I think of carousing, I think of cats prowling around town, getting into mischief and having a jolly time.”
            Mister’s eyebrows went up. “Cats?” he said scornfully.
            Out came their red Webster’s New World Dictionary: Third College Edition. (Handy on a nearby bookcase for just such a desperate occasion.)
            They browsed for “carouse” and found the definition.
                        “Carouse: to drink much alcohol, having a noisy merry time…”
            Kate sighed. That was more of a draw than she had hoped. Usually, she had clearly won. She thought with satisfaction of their debate about the pronunciation of “poinsettia.” But she wasn’t going to let him get away that easily….and of course, Mister was looking at her with the same half mocking expression that she wore on her own face.
            “See there,” he said, shutting the book. “Not a word about cats.”
            “Cats were just what I think of, you goof! I wasn’t saying they were part of the definition. And just where was all that kissing that you were talking about?”
            He refused to confront this headlong attack and just shrugged, “you’re over there talking about cats, and well….” he gestured vaguely at the book, as if he was starting to worry about his wife’s sanity.
            Kate scrunched her nose, giggled and playfully pinched him. “You know that’s not what I meant. But you clearly had kissing in your definition.”
            Neither of them pointed out that they had both left out the drinking of alcohol from their definitions, which had been the primary thrust in the dictionary.
            Later that evening, Mister was sitting in bed looking at his hand. Methodically, he picked up one finger and tapped it on the table, then the next, then the next… Kate looked over his shoulder quizzically. Either he was concentrating on improving his finger coordination or he was a million miles away. “What are you doing?” she asked?
            “Just tapping,” he said, nonchalantly.
            Kate waited for more, but Mister said nothing else. After a moment, she burst into laughter. “Cuz?” she chortled, the humor of the situation intensified by the late hour. She recited their brief conversation, “‘Just tapping….why?....CUZ!’” she laughed and laughed. “What kind of word…what kind of answer is that?”
            Mister just grinned, not being able to account for his own power to make Kate laugh. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kate Miller 10: Back Home

It can be hard to leave weeks of fun and go back to "real" life, but there are always beautiful things that brighten the transition.

10. Back Home (Jan 7, 2013)

          About a week and a half before Kate took her pregnancy test, she had gotten in a car accident. She
was surprised to later find out that one of her best friends, Louise, had also gotten in a car crash shortly
before finding out that she was pregnant with their first! The crash itself was minor, but the front end was
pretty damaged. Kate was infinitely thankful that the engine was fine and that she was able to drive it
home, though from all appearances, it certainly looked pretty smashed! Over the next few days, she had
checked into the local autobody shops and asked about rates and checked the internet for customer
reviews. She decided to try out one Auto Body of Vienna. It was a little farther away than she wanted, but it had really excellent reviews.
           It was hard to find. And when she did find it, she wasn’t sure she would stay. The shop was down
a back way, and was very small and a little shabby. But inside, there was a friendly staff of mechanics and
painters, and they were eager to do what they could to help Kate. Sometimes it’s handy to look at least
eight years younger than I am, she thought. She knitted while she waited, and delighted in the supposition
that she was a social abnormality. One of the owners had done the evaluation, and went over the car with
her, taking time to explain and make alternate suggestions. Kate was very pleased and impressed with his
thoughtfulness. But when she looked over the proposed bill with Mister, her toes positively curled. Mister
flipped through the sheets to seek out what was absolutely necessary.
         “If we don’t have them repaint,” he said eventually, “it would cut the bill almost in half.”
         “Wow! That would make it much more manageable. Let me call them back and see if they can do
that, and if there’s anything else that could be reasonably cut out.”
          The owner was happy to keep costs down by cutting out the paint job, and would try to find all the
second-hand parts he could from his contacts. “It’s an uncommon car,” he said, “and some of the parts are
surprisingly cheap. And if you decide that you can pay in cash, I’ll knock off another two-hundred
dollars. So—about $2700. And we’ll certainly store it for free while you’re on your trip.” Kate was sold.
She dropped the car off a couple days later.
          While Kate and Mister were visiting the Millers in Colorado, Kate got a call from the auto shop.
         “We’ve finished your car,” he yelled over a loud clanging, “you can come pick it up anytime!”
         “That’s great,” Kate yelled back, “But we’re still out of town. We’ll be back on the 7 th.”
         “No problem! By the way, our boys painted your hood white because they couldn’t stand seeing it
black! They were working on a different white car, and had some paint leftover! It’s a different white, but
it’s better than black! No charge of course…I hope you like it!”
          Kate laughed, “That’s great! I’ll love it. Shall we bring the cash when we pick it up?”
          “Sure!” he yelled. “I think about $2600 should be good.”
          Kate smiled as she hung up. What a sweet business. She hadn’t been looking forward to having a
black hood on a white car. And he just knocked another hundred off the price!
          After getting up at 3AM, Kate and Mister were drooping when they arrived back in D.C. Aunt
picked them up and took them straight to the auto shop. The owner showed them the car; it looked good,
even though the hood was a bright snow white, in contrast with the pearl white of the car body.
         “You folks went to Hillsdale College?” he asked, admiring their sweatshirts.
         “Yes,” they both smiled, “that’s where we met.”
         “Great school, great, great school.” He mused. “Trying to get my youngest to go there.”
         When Kate jumped into Aunt’s warm car as Paul went inside to pay, Aunt handed her a foiled
covered pan and a bag of frozen beans.
         “Here’s your dinner,” she said matter-of-factly.
         Kate was so tired already, and so hungry, and she knew that there was absolutely nothing in the
fridge. Aunt certainly had moments of being angelically thoughtful.
Driving home in their restored car, Kate asked almost as an afterthought, “How much did he
charge you for the car?”
         Kate grinned. “An extra hundred off!” Then she laughed, “I call that the ‘Hillsdale discount’. A
good car and dinner to eat and home,” she sighed contendly, “We’re so blessed. So, so, very blessed.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kate Miller 9: Skiing

Was asking for a ski trip for Christmas a good idea when I hadn't been skiing for...uhm... 7 years? 

9. Skiing (Jan, 2013)

            Months before Christmas, Kate had hinted to Mom and Dad Miller that she would be happy for all her presents to be lumped into one family skiing trip. Kate had her own generous supply under the tree Christmas morning. Even so, the day after the New Year, they piled into several cars and drove North to the mountains. It was cold and snowy, and Jack instantly brought in firewood from outside and started a roaring fire. Everything was so cozy, Kate almost had second thoughts. It had been seven years (or thereabouts) since she had been downhill skiing. What if she was wimpy and had to stop after a couple hours? Too late now, she shrugged.
trying to not be a catastrophe
            The next day, Jack, Mister, and Kate got up leisurely and decided to do a half day at Copper Mountain. There were boots and skis in their condo and Jack and Kate, at least, found equipment to suit them. Kate got ready to go. First, long underwear, then jeans, then snowpants, then sweatshirt, wind breaker, and ski vest. Moving was so awkward it wasn’t worth trying to get through the narrow bathroom door to see the unflattering effect. In the car, she narrated her future in her head in a TV announcer’s voice, Marshmellow-like, a young woman rolls down the hill, causing an avalanche and several other crashes. The first major catastrophe of this Christmas skiing season... Then she reawakened to her surroundings (the Copper parking lot) and thought with grim satisfaction that she could probably avoid being a major catastrophe.
at the top
beautiful sunny day!
            Kate, Mister, and Jack picked a lesser used lift and discussed which hills they wanted to try. Everything was fine. But as they started skiing, Kate realized with horror that her boots weren’t fitting properly. They forced her legs into such an awkward angle that she had to stop every few seconds to rest. Urrrrrgh. I can’t ski like this for the rest of the day! The boys waited for her and pointed her to one of the lodges. They would do another run and then return for her. Ski boots are never comfortable, but she adjusted them for her legs to be more flexible. After that, the whole day was splendidly fun. She refrained from being wimpy and mostly kept up with the boys, even on the black diamonds. (Though she flatly refused to do double blacks.) The only black mark was a treacherous little green hill (named “Easy Going” or some such nonsense). Some parts were fluffy snow and others parts were hard ice! How was a girl to keep her balance when going from one to the other? Kate sighed as she picked herself up and dusted off the snow. Who falls on green hills after zooming down blacks? Me…that’s who.
            By the end of the day, they were all exhausted, sore, and happy. There’s nothing like the feeling of flying down a mountain, Kate thought on multiple occasions. And Mister had been impressed with her performance, so falling or no, she was pleased to surpass his expectations.
"Jack" at Vale

            The next day was a half day at Vale. SO much better, Kate wrote in her journal that night. The snow was deep and even, and there was this one black diamond (Uzo or something like) that I kept going down while Mister did moguls. Ugh! I tried the moguls once, and was furious for him bringing me down there. I hadn’t the foggiest of how to go about them. I had to walk back up. But the rest was fabulous, and the last run was the best one. Probably a good fifteen minutes of skiing from one hill to the next all the way down the mountain! Beautiful sunny day, gorgeous views. It’s the BEST Christmas gift. I was especially glad I brought my shoes though… I tucked them into the front of my snowpants, and didn’t even notice them! I put them on whenever I took a break at a lodge, and at the bottom to walk to the car. Sometimes, I must admit, I’m brilliant.
            That evening they went out to dinner. The three skiers were too tired for much conversation, but Jack commented (was that familial pride in his voice?) that he didn’t think many pregnant ladies went skiing. Kate smiled. She hadn’t even thought about it. Obviously it had been fine, but surely she should have given some thought to baby safety. So much for brilliance. Like a shooting star, I flash in…and out. 

Marshmellow happiness

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kate Miller 8: The Best Medicine

There's nothing like a day with an old friend...

8. The Best Medicine
            Emma was one of Kate’s best friends from college. During the two years that they had overlapped, they did everything together. One summer, they had spent a month together after finals were over: one week in their college town, a week at her home in Wisconsin, a week with a family from church, and a week at her little apartment. Though Kate was glad that her brother, Vance, was getting married at the end of the month, she was almost sorry when it came and she and Emma had to part. Emma was in Kate and Mister’s wedding—a wonderful time, though not nearly long enough, and now it had been over three years since they had seen each other! And this very morning, Emma was driving down from Denver to spend the day with Kate.
            Kate fluttered through breakfast and put on a cute outfit and checked her camera. What would it be like? Would Emma be different? Would they be able to get over the barrier of different circumstances? In spite of her concerns, Kate jumped with excitement when the prancing dog barked. She ran outside to greet Emma. They hugged and laughed and ran inside to escape the snowy cold. Kate felt a wave of relief wash over her. How silly she was to worry! Emma was just the same as always, and nothing would ever change their friendship.
            Emma said hello to Mister in the atrium. “That’s a mighty beard!” she exclaimed.
            Mister laughed and gave her a hug. “Thanks. Where are you two going?” he asked.
            “I think we’ll go to the mall for a while, and maybe find a coffee shop,” Kate replied.
            As they were driving over to the mall, Emma gave a rough summary of her state of being, and then flashed Kate a quick smile and said, “What’s new with you?”
            “Well,” Kate said, flashing the smile back and adding a laugh, “the most recent and most exciting news is that I’m pregnant!”
            Emma gasped and exclaimed, “Hurray! Oh Kate, I’m so excited for you…”
            The two friends talked and talked, and the afternoon wore on, but neither noticed. Time had stopped for perfect reunion of loving friendship. They looked at shoes together and talked of babies and different stages of life. They walked down the mall and discussed family and sibling differences and how to disagree lovingly with someone. Back at the shoe store, Emma bought Kate a pair of shoes for a Christmas present and they shared ideas of travel and recreation. At a coffee shop, they caught up on teaching piano, caring for students, jobs, and dreams for the future, and plans for moving.
            The last three years had painted different lives for the two friends, but they spoke as if they knew and understood all that had happened. Sipping her coffee, Emma exclaimed, “It’s just amazing how good friends can pick up right where they leave off, as if no time has gone by.”
            “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the trick is that you don’t pick up where you leave off,” Kate mused. “I think being good friends means that the time apart matters, but not for your friendship. You can just pick up with where you are now. Of course it’s impossible to try to catch up on all of three years in a single afternoon, but if you can just talk about where you are now, and going forward, I think the important changes over the years come out automatically.”
            Emma smiled. “Yes, I think that is it. I’m glad we have it. And we’ll always have it.”
looking at pictures from her cruise
            Their last few hours together, they shared pictures from their recent trips, Emma from a Mediterranean cruise she and her husband had taken a couple months before, and Kate, her favorite pictures from their summer trips to Alaska and Colorado. For two people that love pictures and photography, Kate thought, this is the best way to really understand something special about them. Then she looked ironically at her camera, whose batteries had been so carefully checked, and which had not been used at all.
            “I know it doesn’t capture the day,” she said as she grabbed it and set it on timer, “but at least it can capture a moment.”
            Emma and Kate snuggled next to each other and smiled. And the flash and click captured a moment of a peaceful and blissful friendship that they both knew would remain, even after they parted.
Good friends are the best medicine, Kate thought as she hugged Emma goodbye.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kate Miller 7: Christmas Eve

When we decided to share our exciting news with the family! 

7. Christmas Eve
            Kate awoke early the morning after they arrived in Colorado. Blast jet lag, she thought. And then on second consideration, she also “blasted” insatiable hunger, early morning light, and cold ears. She turned over. Mister snored in her face. Goodness! I guess I’ll just get up, she thought. Out in the dining room Kate opened the sliding curtains to let the sunshine in and sat down in its direct rays as she drank her coffee, studied the Bible, and wrote in her journal. Even the usually prancing dog was asleep on its pillow.
early morning
            She wrote, Maybe early mornings aren’t SO bad. We’re in Colorado now, at the Miller parents’ house, and I’m the first one up. It’s a deliciously peaceful way to start Christmas Eve. I can’t BELIEVE it’s already Christmas Eve! We will have to tell them today about the baby. I know the longer we wait, the stranger it will be…and I felt so ill in the car yesterday, I almost couldn’t stand not having them know! I do hope they’re excited. It makes sense that they would be, but I don’t feel at all sure of it. No, I’m sure they will be. At least, for Mom and Dad Miller, I’m pretty confident. But I have no idea how excited Jack and Bettina will be.
            At breakfast, Mom Miller declared, “Now just so everyone knows, I only have one Christmas Eve gift this year, and it’s for your Father. And we all know what that is…”
            Someone else filled in the blank with a joyous shout, “Flannel pajamas!”
            Dad Miller winced.
            Kate and Mister did some last minute Christmas shopping and then went with the others to the church service. It was packed, loud, and Kate was hungry. Though the style of the service was not to her particular taste, she felt moved by the sermon, with her new knowledge adding layers of meaning to her love of the holiday. A savior is born as a baby, she thought tearfully.
            For dinner, the Millers dug into a large exotic gift basket from their Uncle Patrick. They stood around the kitchen moving with ease and comfort to stand or sit and sample all the different foods. Kate maneuvered to stand next to Mister at one end of the island, and he asked, “Shall we tell them?” She nodded. Now was as good a time as any.
            Mister raised his voice, “Well, Kate and I have an announcement. We’re expecting…” he said simply.
            “You’re kidding!” replied Dad Miller, among everyone else’s expressions of surprise and congratulation. Kate was glad that she had already learned that this was not a statement of doubt, but rather her father-in-law’s standard response of modest excitement and happiness.

the "flannel pajamas"
            After the usual questions about due date, health, and morning sickness, Mom Miller brought the threatened Christmas Eve package. “Well, after that, this is going to be anticlimactic,” she said, “You’ll have to put it on…” she reiterated for the tenth time.
 “I’m not putting them on,” Dad replied for the tenth time. But as he opened the box, he relaxed and said, “Oh wow! Thank you!”
For there was nary a scrap of flannel in the box. Instead, it was filled with a luxury assortment of Godiva truffles and special chocolate.
As they sat around, still talking and eating chocolate instead of crackers and artichoke dip, Jack (Mister’s youngest brother) shared his excitement about the baby.
“I’m going to be an uncle!” he exclaimed.
Kate looked at him in surprise. She had hoped for some positive reaction, but hadn’t expected this. He was clearly bouncing up and down inside.
“I mean,” he explained, “Do you know how long I’ve waited for this? Three years, I’ve had two married brothers, and now I’m finally going to be an uncle!”
Kate laughed out loud in her delight. Oh yes, they were all excited. She was sure of it.