Tree shaped napkins and a fancy cookie forest set in a wintry scene adorn your table to greet your guests. With mixed greens and woodland spirit, your home couldn’t be filled more with the sights and smells of that perfect Christmas table. Guests “Aah” and “ooh” over the winterland welcome they receive as they enter your home and hear the sounds of sleigh bells jingling at the door knob announcing their entrance and, right before their very eyes, your boring dining room has become a merry and bright festive delight! With White lights tucked into a fragrant evergreen table runner, light bounces off the glass and accents the ribbon wrapped around the stackable paper packages that double as name plates. The food is unrivaled in appearance and taste and your Christmas table is a hit, right through the holidays! “Ahh, sweet success!” Suddenly, the loud buzzing of the door bell wakes you and, as you stumble toward the door, you stub your toe on the dog’s bone!
“It must be four in the morning,” you think. Who could be at the door at this hour?” It’s Christmas Eve morning and the buzzer keeps ringing. You open the door to find a stranger carrying a child, matted and dirty beyond recognition. Without saying a word, you rush t hem into your hall and as you are trying to make sense out of what the man is mumbling, you tell him there’s no need for apologies, he can bath and put clean clothes on himself and the child…you’ll fix them something to eat. He sees that your table is set for Christmas guests and tries to object, but you’ll hear none of it!
“This one will be great!” You think to yourself. Being in one bad relationship after another and always the prodigal daughter, you still hold the family record for bringing home the most surprises in a year! (Bad boyfriends, that is) Most recently, at the family reunion in the spring you brought home the winner! He was an investment banker’s son who was dashing and madly in love with you. Within a year an a half, he took your whole life’s savings and left you standing in the rain on your parent’s doorstep, suitcases packed. This was last September and now, with a strange man in your house hours before guests are to arrive, the attacks will be brutal! “How could you so soon?” your Aunt Betty will start and it’s all down hill from there!
With the grace and generosity of your parents, you are now living alone again in your “paid for” condominium desperate to rebuild your life. This small fact didn’t dawn on you as you let the stranger into your home, but as the cobwebs clear from your mind, you realize that in less than ten hours, your entire family will arrive hungry and expectant to partake of your carefully prepared and agonized over Christmas table!
Looking at your Christmas table, you wonder about the man and small child. Just as the man carries the sleeping child back into your hallway, the man clean shaven and hair combed back out of both their faces, you gasp in horror as you realize who this man is!
You wake up and rub your eyes! Scrambling out of bed you rush into the dining room! Wintry lights still adorn the table you cried over last night trying to get everything perfect, the cookie forest is still standing, the evergreen runner hasn’t moved and everything is ready like it was last night. You look out your window trying to get your wits about you and see an old man pushing his cart in the dark, a cardboard box inside with just a few items, from what you can tell. You stand at your window and watch as this man, dirty and unshaven walks alone in the cold, hungry and expectant. Who will be at your Christmas table this year?