A Christmas 'Present'


Linda Delaney




Three heads huddled in serious conference in the center of the room. Blonde and Redhead deferred to the dark, curly head as the three nodded to one another. After a great deal of hushed discussion, the owner of the dark, curly hair looked up. Sparkling green eyes met amused hazel ones that sat at the other end of the room. "Daddy, is it ok if we use that great big box that Santa sent those toys from the crew to us in?"

Lee Crane smiled at his son. "I think that you can use it, Robert. Santa doesn't take boxes back."

The little boy looked at his father in wonder. "He doesn't? Then where does he get all his boxes?"

Lee looked at the other adults in the room, and then back at his son. "I think that there's an elf in charge of boxes at the North Pole. At least that's what your Uncle Chip told me once."

Chip Morton exploded with laughter, and then had to try very hard to control it. Still sputtering, he looked at his Godson, and with a half smile on his face, said to Robert, "That's right! There's the chief elf in charge of boxes, " he leaned forward and said to Robert conspiratorially, "And you know what, your Dad doesn't even know his, but he looks just like Chief Sharkey!"

Robert stepped away form his Godfather with a look of awe. "An elf that looks like the Chief...Wow!!"

All of the adults had a difficult time controlling their laughter as an image of Francis Sharkey with pointed ears, a cap with bells and wearing tights and a green and red smock made all of them come close to losing their control.

Robert had the other two little ones stand up in front of him. He put his hands behind his back and walked back and forth in front of them, and then he stopped, "I am the Admiral."

Harriman Nelson snorted in mirth, and his wife laughed aloud.

"Alex," he said to the four year old daughter of Chip and Matty Morton, "You are the 'Zecative Officer." he bent over to talk to Sean Nelson, as the stocky two year old fidgeted in his place. "Seany, you are the Captain of our boat."

The two-year old brightened. "I tell you what to do?"

Robert gently patted him on the shoulder, "Yes, Seany, sometimes. And sometimes I will....Now come on, let's get into the boat!" The three children pulled the box into the center of the room, in front of the large Christmas tree. Robert quickly climbed into the box. Alex Morton followed, with all the dignity and aplomb of a four-year old girl. Sean Nelson scrambled into the box, and promptly fell. He screwed up his face, and started to cry. Robert bent down and gently helped the toddler to his feet. "Don't cry, Seany...it's ok... besides, Captains don't cry." he looked at Lee as he said it. "C'mon, we're gonna sail to lots of places..." He patted Sean on his head and then continued with his dream. He swung his arms wide, "And we're gonna do 'stific 'speriments, fight monsters, and beat the bad guys, and then we're gonna come home and we're gonna bring your Daddy a big monster to study, and find a baby brother for Alex, and get my daddy and me a new mommy... Then it'll be a 'sessful mission!!" He turned to Alex, "Ok, Alex, 'Zecative Officer, take the boat down! Mr. Captain Sean, lets; go!" The two younger children moved around the box pretending to make the boat go, and Robert stood in the middle watching them.

The adults smiled benevolently at the three at play, after all they were only imitating the lives of their parents! After a little while, Sean Nelson sat in the corner of the box, put his thumb in his mouth and fell asleep. Alex Morton climbed out of the box and onto the couch in between Chip and Matty Morton.

She patted Matty Morton's bulging stomach, and looked up at her mother, a question on her face."It is a baby brother, isn't it?"

Matty put an arm around the little girl and brushed a strand of hair from her face, "Well, we'll have to wait and see, sweetheart. We won't know until the baby gets here! I know that you want to know now, but you'll have to be patient."

Alex snuggled in closer to her mother and closed her eyes.

Harriman Nelson rose from the couch and went over to Sean. He crouched down and picked up the little boy, cradling him gently in his arms. He placed a kiss on Sean's forehead and turned to Lee."I think we'd better be going now…" he said softly. "Our little 'captain' has had a big and busy day!"His wife stood next to him, brushing the red curls of her sleeping son softly.

She kissed Lee on the cheek, "Thank you, Lee. It was a beautiful day. We had a very special Christmas... Especially Sean!"

Crane shook Nelson's hand, and kissed his wife on the cheek. "I'm glad that you had a good day! Merry Christmas!"He held the door for the couple and turned as Chip Morton was helping Matty up from the couch.

Patting her stomach, she said to Lee, "Thank goodness, it won't be long now! Sometimes I feel like I need a derrick to get up and down!"

The three adults laughed and Alex sleepily leaned against her father's leg.

"Lee, we'll be leaving, too... " She looked at her daughter, "It's been a long and exciting day, especially for the little ones. " I have to admit that I'm feeling tired, too! Junior here hasn't let me sleep much lately!"

Chip bent down and lifted Alex into his arms, "C'mon, Princess, time to go home!" He shook Crane's hand warmly and put his other arm around his wife...."Thanks Lee ... great day!...great dinner!....See you at 1000 tomorrow...meeting with the research staff! And Merry Christmas!"

Alex looked over her father's shoulder, and waved sleepily at Lee and Robert. "Bye Uncle Lee...bye RC…Merry Christmas!"

Lee smiled at his Godchild, and said, softly "Merry Christmas, Alex." He closed the front door after the Morton's and turned and looked down at his son.. Robert was holding firmly to his father's hand."Did you have a good day, son?" the little boy didn't answer, but he pulled his father into the living room and pushed him into the big easy chair by the garland covered fireplace.

"Yes, Daddy - now, " he said with all the imperiousness of a six year old. "...sit there for a minute.”

“Oh, yes, Admiral Crane!" Lee laughed. Robert went around the room, shutting off lights, until all the lights were out, save the tree lights. He went to the tape deck, and made that the music was still playing, and then returned to his father and climbed into Lee's lap.

Lee looked closely at his son. Robert had his mother's green eyes, and Cathy's smile and laugh. His hair was closer to Lee's in color, but tho' the elder Crane's hair was curly, his son's hair was a riot of curls that only a very short haircut would control, and Lee was not yet ready for that event! Father wrapped his arms around his son, and the two sat in silence staring at the tree. Then Robert reached up and pulled his father's chin so that Lee was looking down into his son's face."Daddy...?"

"Yes, Robert..."

"Tell me again about my Mommy.”

Lee felt a lump form in his throat, at the very thought of Cathy Connors Crane on this Christmas. He cleared his throat, and tried to regain his composure. He held the little boy closer.

Robert continued, " 'cause I have to know, if we get a new one...I want her to be special like you said my Mommy was...Daddy, what is love? In church they say Jesus loved us so much he was born on Christmas. You say that you love me, and that you loved my Mommy... could you love another Mommy? "

"Let me answer your questions one at a time, Robert. First, about your Mommy..." There was a catch to his voice that his son was too young to understand, "...Your Mommy was a very special lady , and I loved her very much. I still do. And I miss her too. You only knew her a short while, but she loved you with every bit of love that she could. She was pretty, and very smart, and very, very excited about the holidays with you. She even made you ornaments for the tree."

"I know!" He jumped up and went over to the tree, and very carefully took two ornaments off the tree, and returned to his father's lap. Lee gently fingered the ornaments and remembered how Cathy had worked so very diligently to make each ornament into something special. The ornament was a baby on the back of a dolphin, with a spray of waves on either side. The baby had his hands raised and was laughing happily. On the spray on either side of the ornament, carefully printed were the words "R.C.'s First Christmas." The second ornament was similar, except that the boy was now older, and a bit bigger and the spray said "R.C.'s Second Christmas"

Lee remembered teasing Cathy about the theme of the ornament…….

She had completed the second one, and showed it to him..."Look, Lee...this is for Robert's Second Christmas!" She showed him the ornament, and he laughed and kissed her on the forehead. "It's beautiful, honey. But don't you think it'll be a bit embarrassing for him when he's 18 and you have him riding, in the 'buff' on a dolphin?"

She swung at him , playfully. "Oh, You!!! I'm going to make him one every year, for Christmas! Just think about what a gift that will be when he has a family of his own!" Lee bent over her and kissed her warmly. "He doesn't know what a lucky little boy he is! But he'll learn…he'll learn!"

A single tear slid down Lee's cheek at the memory. Cathy didn't have another Christmas with them. He still missed her so much!

Robert was looking seriously and touched at the tear..."Daddy, why are you crying...It’s Christmas, you shouldn't cry!"

Lee wiped away the tear, cleared his throat, and said to the little boy, "I was just thinking about something that made me sad...now to answer your question about love. Love is very special, and there are different kinds of love...I love you in a different way than I loved your mommy. Chip and Matty love Alex like I love you and they love each other like Mommy and I loved each other. God loves all of us in a different way. Mary and Joseph loved the baby Jesus like I love you. And Jesus loves all of us so much that we celebrate His coming to us each year at Christmas!"

Robert nodded his head solemnly. "And do all people love everyone?"

"Most people love one another, Robert. In one way or another. Although some don't, at least on a day like today, they all try to."

Lee looked at his son, who was fighting sleep in order to talk to him. "I think," he said, "That it's time for Admiral Crane to go to bed!"

Robert smiled sleepily at his father. "I think so too, Daddy." Father and son walked to the stairs together, and Robert grabbed his father around the knees, and hugged him. "I love you Daddy! Very, very much!!!"

"I love you, Robert!" Lee lifted his son and hugged him, and carried him up the stairs. "Merry Christmas!"








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