You can fit only one address on a picture postcard.
|All Words: 1322
"What's the matter?"
Pamela was standing there, totally still. Her mother's question grew shriller, more worried. "Who was at the door? What has happened to you?"
Pamela turned slowly. "Mamma," she whispered.
"Pamela, darling ... ?"
"Postman. I had to sign for this. And he gave ..."
She held both out. The big package, and, with a hand that shook slightly, the picture postcard.
"Ah, that'll be your Uncle Jim's gift to your Pa. He said to keep it under the tree, with the kids' stuff. And he wants to watch your Pa open it when they're here on Christmas Day. Says he wants to go back a few decades, watching your Pa go all happy over a gift ... what's the matter with you, Pamela? Shut the door and come in."
"Mamma." Pamela pointed at the postcard.
Her mother looked at the picture on it. Slowly, a frown creased her brows. She put Uncle Jim's package on the table and held the postcard in both hands. She held it closer, till her nose was touching the thin card-paper.
"That place ... apartment houses ... those trees ... the rows of parked cars ... it's ..."
"I thought it was, but I was too young when we left the place, to really recognise it," Pamela said.
Her mother turned the postcard over.
"I'm dreaming of a White Christmas ..."
"That handwriting ..."
"I know! I've seen old letters!" Pamela was excited now. "And Dad has just one home-movie, and they're all singing it. They're singing White Christmas!"
The two women stared at each other for a few seconds. Then, the older one shivered a bit. "Close the door, Pamela, the breeze is cold," she said.
Her daughter obeyed. Together, they walked to the kitchen, the mother holding the postcard. They sat at the kitchen table, pulled their now-lukewarm cups of cocoa toward them, and, sipping, examined the card more carefully.
"It's his handwriting, all right. And that's the same place. My goodness, some of those branches are familiar! And even the snowflakes make the same pattern!"
"What does this mean, Mamma?"
Again, they looked at each other.
Could it be -- could it really be -- that not just two, but three long-lost brothers were going to be re-united this Christmas? How would the youngest of them, Pamela's father, react? The fight had been bitter, all those years ago.
"I was just four years old," Pamela whispered. "And now I'm forty-four, but I remember all the shouting ..."
"Property fights are a bad thing. Split up families, they do," her mother said.
Pamela remembered. She used to play with her cousins, they lived in apartments in the same apartment house. The one on the picture postcard. Then their Dads had fought, each of them had sold his respective apartment, all the families had moved out.
Uncle Jim's son, Roderick, had 'pinged' on Facebook suddenly. They had been best friends, after all, what with him being just a year older and her childhood hero. Those two families were now back in touch, the sisters-in-law immediately exchanging Christmas recipes.
The plan had been hatched. They'd surprise the two younger brothers with a Christmas re-union. The oldest brother ...
"How did he know our address?" Pamela asked, looking at the postcard again. "And - 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, Like the ones I used to know ...' does that mean he wants to be with his brothers again, like he used to be?"
"You're sure they're not on Facebook?" her mother asked.
"Roderick and I looked, Mamma. Couldn't find any of them on any social media."
"There's no return address, either. Well, you can only fit one address on a picture postcard."
"Mamma -- could it be the picture itself is the return address? Could he be back in the apartment house?"
"No, child, those structures have been replaced long ago. I guess that's why they're on a postcard now."
"I'll call Roderick."
"Put the call on speakerphone, I want to be in on this conversation."
Within seconds, both families were excitedly on speakerphone. Could it really mean that Uncle Roger was going to be joining them for Christmas?
"My goodness, Roger, Jim and Sebastian under one roof again!" Pamela's aunt Betsy was almost beside herself, yelling into the phone. "They haven't seen each others' sons-and-daughters-in-law, or grand-kids! I don't even know exactly what number we're looking at now, Marie."
Pamela's Mom tried logic. "Let's see. I'm guessing each of Roger's kids has a spouse and a couple of kids ... so that makes it ..."
Pamela's warning came just in time. The key was turning in the lock. Her Dad was home. The phone blinked off, and the two did their best to look innocent.
Fortunately, Pa was too full of his victory at the pool table, to notice the covert glances his wife and daughter were exchanging. He gave them a moment-by-moment account of his match against his arch rival, finishing with, " ... and I showed that KJ that this old man still has it in him ... now how about a bite of something to eat, winning is hungry work."
Marie and Pamela had been expecting the doorbell to ring, and there was a bit of a pile-up as those who knew each other exchanged hugs, and those who hadn't yet met their in-laws or second cousins watched the spectacle of the reunion.
Pamela's father came to investigate the source of the noise, and found himself nose-to-nose with his second eldest brother. "I'll be a baboon's backside," he said, by way of a Christmas greeting. It transpired that this was the way the two had greeted each other in their teen years.
"I got you a present," Jim replied.
"What is it, yesterday's newspaper?"
"Nah, it can't be yesterday's newspaper, I sent it to Marie a week ago to put under your tree. I thought you'd have a bigger tree than that."
"Ain't nothing wrong with my tree, don't you go looking up your nose at it. That your gift? What is it, old bread crumbs?"
"Open it and find out, if you can figure out how to untie a ribbon and undo some tape."
The sisters-in-law entered the hall, followed by the cousins and second-cousins. "Haven't changed a bit, have you?" the two women chorused. "You meet after forty years, and all you can do is ..."
"Who is it this time? Santa Claus?" It was the brothers' turn to chorus.
It was, indeed, Santa Claus.
Santa Claus and his family.
At eighty-four, Roger still had an upright stance and sprightly walk. He carried his sack of gifts with aplomb. "You two munchkins," he addressed his eighty and seventy-seven year old brothers. "You two munchkins, see, I still get to wear the Santa suit in the family."
He turned to the youngest children present. "Don't know who I am, do you? I'm your grand-daddy's Santa Claus, that's who. And I got something for each of you."
Pamela and Marie tried to sneak into the kitchen, but half-a-dozen people insisted on helping, and so, over getting drinks, setting the table and doing the last-minute heating up of food, information was exchanged.
It had been a typo that did it.
Pamela had made a typo emailing Roderick once, and had keyed in her Uncle Roger's email id purely by coincidence. It had come as a re: re: re: re: re; reply, so that Uncle Roger had seen the whole, detailed correspondence that passed between the two.
"I've never seen Dad cry, but he did, when he read those mails," his eldest daughter confessed. "Got us to look for you. Those mails had enough information in them, we found you real quick. Then he made this plan."
"You stalked us?" Roger asked his eldest cousin, in mock surprise. "I ought to report you!"
"Yup. Why don't you? Report me to Santa, he'll put me on the naughty list!"
Their laughter mingled with the HO HO HO HO now issuing from the next room.