McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 324: Stockings By The Chimney
Last year, when Tim relieved Abby of her Christmas decorating gear, and valiantly went out into the snowy cold to apply said gear to the house, he did not realize he was setting up a pattern for future Christmasses.
But he was.
And thus, this year, in somewhat less cold and no snow, he's once again out there, with a ladder and lights, bedecking the house, grumbling about it the whole way through.
It is one thing to grab the lights and prevent your pregnant wife from getting up on a ladder.
It's something else all-together when she just pouts at you about how cold it is and how nice the house looked last year and how good you are with that sort of thing.
But he's out there, doing it, because…
Because it's Abby and she's already got everything in the world she wants, and he's not exactly swimming in Christmas present ideas, and the house all lit up makes her happy, so he's doing it.
When he got in, he found out that ultra-rich, ultra-dark, ultra-yummy hot chocolate waiting for him was also part of the tradition.
And this year, he noticed something else, stockings hung by the chimney with care.
Three of them.
So, once he got his cold weather gear off, and warmed his hands up on the hot chocolate, he sat down behind Kelly, picking her up and cuddling her against his chest.
"Looks like Mama's getting ready for Santa to visit."
Abby, who had been putting the lights on the tree, turned and smiled at him. "Oh yes. Kelly's first Christmas, can't not have stockings for that."
He stood up. There are three of them, one is white with silver snowflakes on it, one is green with darker green holly, and one is blue with white snowmen.
"Whose is whose?"
"You get to pick."
"What do you think Kelly, should I have green or blue? I think Mama gets white." Kelly reached out and grabbed the snowman. "Green one's mine. I think she likes blue."
One of the things about being in possession of a small baby is that it's really difficult to not go overboard with the cute.
Tim had never thought he was a particularly cute person, (Tony and Jimmy both thought that given how Halloween went, this was an utterly hilarious self-assessment.) but as the Christmas season rolled around, and being in possession of an almost six-month-old daughter, he's noticed that he has a very difficult time going to Target for supplies and not coming out with some sort of painfully cute little thing to put her in.
Unfortunately this problem is not alleviated by sending Abby in, because she's even worse at it than he is.
Kelly already has winter gear. She doesn't need a furry little bear suit. Not at all.
Fortunately, in that she is six months old, and has no idea how overboard her parents are going, Kelly is willing to tolerate being stuffed into a variety of painfully cute little outfits.
And her Pop has shots of all of them on his phone, and a few of the really good ones on the wall behind his desk. And it might be possible that he's… maybe... made some Christmas tree ornaments… that sort of have her pictures, in her painfully cute little bear suit, in them, hanging on his tree. First grandbaby, he's allowed to go a bit bonkers, too. (It's also possible that very similar ornaments will be given to the rest of the family as Christmas presents.)
"Okay, so I understand how I got wrangled into doing this to my house, but why am I decorating yours?" Tim asks Jimmy as he hands him another string of lights.
"Because Breena's about to pop, and when she told Abby she didn't have the energy to do any decorating she bundled you and Kelly into the car and over you came."
"Yeah, sounds about right."
"And next thing I knew they were staring at both of us, and you volunteered to do the outside." Jimmy leans a bit further over, and Tim steadies the ladder while he tacks up another few feet of lights.
"That's not how I remember it."
"Breena's on the sofa with Molly and Kelly, Abby's putting up the tree, they both keep looking at us, and then you say, 'I guess we should go do the outside.' That doesn't sound like volunteering to you?"
"Yeah it does. I remember you saying it."
Jimmy snorts. "Just keep telling yourself that."
"At least it's not so god-awful cold this year."
"That's true." High thirties isn't comfortable, but it's not bad either. "And just think, in fifteen or so years we'll say, 'Kids, go decorate the house!'"
"And they'll complain, whine, and flip us off because house decorating is something old people do, and they want to be out with their buddies."
Jimmy laughs at that, places one more tack, and says, "Okay, roofline and windows are done. Wrap some lights on the porch railing, stick the wreath on the door, and we're done."
Jimmy descends the ladder, and Tim hands him another string of lights, and between the two of them, getting the porch wrapped up went pretty fast.
"So, I thought you really liked this stuff. Last few years you've helped Abby decorate the lab," Tim says as they're stepping back to look at the finished house, noticing that there are still two full boxes of outside decorations.
Jimmy looks at his house, as if he could see through the wall to where Breena is. "It's different this time. I know it. I really, really do know it. But she's starting to have contractions, you know that one an hour, two the next hour, nothing for three hours just getting revved up thing?"
Tim nods. "Yeah, I remember that."
"So, it's different. She's full term. Anna's fine. She's healthy. They did an extra just-checking scan last week, and she's perfect. Everything is going to be fine." He's as much convincing himself as telling Tim. "But, sometime in the next few weeks, we're going back to that hospital," Jimmy half-smiles, then takes his glasses off and wipes his eyes, and clears his throat, "and we're going to do the whole labor thing all over again, and... just... lots of memories."
"And our OB said this would be part of it. That it's normal. And it's part of both grieving and moving on. And that we have to work on anchoring ourselves in the present, so we don't get lost in the past. But, yeah, kind of nervous, distracted, sad, and scared, which sort of cuts into my Jolly-Old-Elf-Christmas-Spirit."
"Yeah." Tim doesn't tell him it's going to be fine. He didn't find 'it's going to be fine' even remotely comforting when they were dealing with the previa. He thought for a moment. "You remember telling me, not long after you lost Jon, that you needed all the happy you could get?"
"Yeah." He nods.
"That still true?"
"Okay. Then I'll scrounge up some Jolly-Old-Elf for both of us. C'mon, we've got a whole box of lights here, let's go do the trees."