Coming Home for Christmas

A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Faith was never a requirement for coming home for Christmas. 

Jacob’s mom had invited him home every year—even the year after he’d screamed at her for raising him Catholic and scarring him for life. 

The next year she’d asked the same as before, “Are you coming home, honey?” 

“I’m not going to midnight mass,” he’d replied, cutting to the chase. These were the days you had to pay for long distance calls. 

“Fr. Ruiz will be disappointed.” 

“Fr. Ruiz can bite me.” 

“Oh, Jacob, honey, don’t you know God is listening?” 

Fr. Ruiz actually wasn’t a half bad guy, not like some of his brethren who would later be revealed as monsters in holy frocks, but Jacob didn’t have the patience for his mother’s passive aggressiveness. Not when he was twenty-two. 

Things had softened between them over subsequent holidays. He’d returned to midnight mass a few times when the roads were icy, and he was worried about her driving alone. He’d even stood in line for Communion the year his mom had recovered from a heart attack. Faith has a way of finding you in moments of crisis. 

This was his first Christmas without her. The church was boarded up—Fr. Ruiz long dead too. There was no midnight mass to go to. There was no tree to place presents under in the living room—only boxes he was trying to fill with his mom’s stuff so he could sell her house and return to his on the West Coast. 

He’d sorted through her books, kitchen items, and clothing. Everything went into a box to give away. She had an extensive collection of rosaries, a couple of them Jacob had given her himself. With the rosaries, he found a stack of prayer lists written on yellow sheets ripped from a legal pads. They were all dated and written in his mother’s looping handwriting. Every list, his name was at the top. 

He thought of all those years where she’d shown faith and he hadn’t and wondered how things evened out. Had his mother’s intercessions kept him in God’s graces, and what would happen to him with her gone. Was she still praying for him in heaven? Should he pray for her? 

When he was a kid, they’d always ended their dinner prayer by saying, “And may the souls of the faithfully departed Rest In Peace. Amen.” 

Jacob took a rosary in each hand and said the full prayer. It was practically sacrilegious the way he was holding the rosaries. He should have been saying Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s. He didn’t care. God could think what He wanted to think. Jacob only hoped his mother was somewhere listening. 

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