Luther was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Cole and his family. He bought stockings to hang on the fireplace mantle and filled the little ones’ stockings with all sorts of goodies. There was a special prize tucked away inside. He had picked out a bracelet just for them. It was going to be such a special Christmas, he thought.
The next week, braving the chilly air, old man Barnes and Rufus stopped by as Luther was hauling the tree to the curb. “Did you have a good Christmas, book man? How were Cole and the family?”
Luther, again trying to hide his disappointment, said “well, they couldn’t make it. The weather turned bad up there and they were afraid they would get stranded somewhere but Cole said they would try to make it down after the first of the year. They sent me a nice card with a picture of them on it.” Luther got misty eyed when he said “ah, you should see those little ones. They’re the spitting image of their grandma.”
Old man Barnes, trying to hide his own disappointment, said “I’m sure they’ll make it down soon. Where are you off to now? After getting some more books?”
Luther smiled and said “I thought I might run into some good sales seeing as how it’s after the holidays. You never know what I might find.”
Cole and his family didn’t make it down after the new year as hoped so Luther continued to busy himself making shelves for his treasured books. Old man Barnes had once asked Luther who his favorite author was. Luther smiled and said “why that would be like asking somebody who their favorite child was. To me, they’re all my favorite.”
Christmas rolled around again, and again Luther was anticipating a visit from Cole and his family. This year, Cole had promised that “come Hell or high water,” they would make it down.
Luther once again visited the tree farm and once again, picked out the most beautiful tree he could find. He brought the lights and ornaments down from the attic and sang to himself as he decorated the tree. Luther was getting some age on him and it was getting harder and harder to lift heavy things like Christmas trees but oh, the joy of finally getting to see his family made his efforts worth it.
While hanging lights on the outside of the house, the children in the neighborhood, bundled up like ticks about to burst, walked or rode by on their bicycles and yelled “Merry Christmas, book man.” Luther loved to see them having fun and would sometimes watch as they struggled to build a snowman out of powdery snow. Unable to get it to stick together, it lent itself to making perfect snow angels. Luther remembered Cole making snowmen and always obliged when he asked for help. It was a memory that he would never forget.
Christmas came and went, and again, Cole and his family weren’t able to make it down. One of the girls had gotten sick and they didn’t want to travel with a sick child. But Cole promised Luther that they would make it down as soon as she got better.
As Luther was hauling the tree out to the curb, old man Barnes and Rufus were walking by. Rufus walked up to Luther and when Luther bent down to rub his head, he started licking his hand. It was as if he could sense the sadness in Luther. Old man Barnes didn’t ask how his Christmas was or how the visit with Cole and the family went. He could tell that once again, they had disappointed Luther.
To be continued_________________