“Honey,” Jessica Talbert called. “Get a move on, will ya? It’s 6:30 and you know Mike and Lara always arrive early.”
“I’ll be down soon,” her partner of 28 years called back. “I want to soak just a few more minutes.”
Jess mumbled something about waiting until the last minute but knew it would be best for Sharon to soak as long as possible so she simply shouted, “Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll come help you.” As an added thought she called out, “Don’t even think about trying to get out by yourself.”
Taking the silence as consent she returned to her task of laying out the large spread that should just about feed the horde that would soon arrive for their annual Christmas Eve feast. Her movements between the refrigerator and the island countertop wouldn’t be called fast by any means but it bore an efficiency cultivated from years of practice. As she lined the island countertop with desserts and beverage choices, she was reminded of all the time her two children, Mike and Sarah, had spent sitting at the huge island laboring over homework as Jess cooked a hot meal for their supper.
When Sharon had joined the family, it had been an adjustment for them all, but the smart, funny brat had quickly won over the kids. Of course it had been really helpful that Sharon made the world’s best brownies and played Nintendo with a savagery to match any 10 year old. A smile played across her features as she placed the large pan containing the chocolate confections in a place of honor next to the festive Christmas display. This year, Sharon had placed a little chocolate Kiss in what she estimated to be the center of each brownie. The still warm chocolate would boast a molten center which guaranteed they would be completely gone before anyone touched the more traditional Pumpkin Pie.
She kept an eye on the clock and was happy to be 5 minutes ahead of schedule as she finally pulled the last of the food from the fridge and looked at her handiwork. The red tablecloth was perfectly in place and the gold wreath making up the table’s centerpiece would be perfect when the two candles were lit. She turned and noted with satisfaction that the garland along the wide opening between rooms framed the Christmas tree perfectly making it look like a Christmas card. Yes….she thought to herself. Everything is perfect.
She went into the living area and picked up a stray magazine beside Sharon’s chair. She was slipping it into the magazine rack when the doorbell rang. Her breath caught with excitement as she knew their wonderful night was poised to begin.
She walked to the door and opened it wide. “Come in, come in. Come out of the cold,” she called as three tornadoes flew into her arms.
“Grandma, Grandma. We saw Rudolf’s nose on the way over.”
“Yeah, it was really high but we could see it for a long time.”
“Until the trees got in our way.” The youngest grandson glared at his father. “Dad wouldn’t stop to let us see where he was going.” His frown went unnoticed as his Dad had already moved to the tree and was placing the numerous packages underneath.
“Let’s go find Dad’s butt ugly ornaments he made as a kid,” Seth, the oldest grandson suggested. His Dad promptly turned and popped him on the back of the head. “Watch your language…and they weren’t butt ugly.” This time it was Jess who smacked his arm. “You watch YOUR language young man.”
This delighted the boys who laughed as they moved out of swatting range and began searching for the ancient cardboard creations that only a Mother could love.
Now it was the grownups’ time for hugs. “Mom. You look particularly gorgeous tonight,” Mike added a wolf whistle to his comment.
His wife, Lara, was quick to agree. “I love your dress. It makes your silver hair sparkle.”
Mike shrugged out of his coat before helping Lara remove hers. “And why are you so dressed up tonight? Anything going on I should know about?” His raised brow was an exact replica of her own.
Jess was saved from answering by Lara jumping to her defense. “Leave your mother alone, Mike,” she scolded and playfully swatted the seat of his jeans as he reached in the entry closet to put away the coats. “It’s Christmas.”
Mike grinned and winked at Jess. “You’ve taught her your bad habits.”
Jess snorted. “Hmm….It seems to me she’s just–” A sudden ring from the other side of the house caught her attention. “You go on and get something to drink. I’ll just go help Sharon finish getting ready.”
She smiled at Lara’s offer of help but shook her head. She may be getting older but she could still handle her brat. The bell rang once more before she got to the bathroom door. With a perfunctory knock she entered without invitation. The only reason the door had been shut in the first place was due to their company.
“You rang, madam?” Jess smiled as she moved to the small fragile figure sitting in the tub.
“I heard Mike’s family. I thought I should be getting out now.” Sharon lifted her chin to receive a chaste kiss. “I’m pretty stiff from all the preparations.”
Jess knew the admission meant she was VERY stiff and sore. “Let’s begin drying you off and I’ll get your meds, ok?” She gently helped her partner stand in the tub and then assisted in the drying process. Sharon needed the help tonight and Jess was happy to assist. After all these years she still enjoyed touching her partner and wanted to take care of her. Sharon’s body wasn’t as firm as it once was and her blue eyes needed glasses to see very far but she was still beautiful in Jess’ eyes.
“The grab bars Mike installed are wonderful.” Sharon smiled at her Top. “I could do it myself if someone wasn’t so bossy.”
Jess didn’t mention this was the 100th time she had heard that same comment. Instead she answered as she had the other ninety-nine times. “I wouldn’t have to be so bossy if someone else wasn’t trying to do too much.” As they walked slowly to a chair she added. “Don’t take away my chances to see you naked. It’s one of the pleasures I still have.” Sharon’s smile was worth the smack on the arm Jess received.
When Sharon was seated, she moved to the medicine cabinet and came back with a cup of water and a couple of pills. “Here. Take both of these hon.” When Sharon started to protest, she raised a brow and repeated, “Both of them. You’ve sapped a lot of your strength and you’re already tired and sore.”
With a sigh, Sharon took the proffered pills. “Yes, ma’am.” She knew Jess was right and besides, wearing a robe made it way too easy for Jess to get to the bottom of any defiance.
Jess smiled at the term of respect. “At least you still know who’s in charge around here. Ouch–” She yelped as Sharon made her displeasure known by smacking her thigh. “You may be little but you’re mean.”
Sharon smiled in spite of herself and reached up for a kiss. “I love you Jess. Now, let’s get me ready for the big event, shall we?”
It took some time but Sharon finally was ready to receive company. However, she turned mutinous when Jessica brought out the hated chair. “Jess,” she growled. “I am NOT using that thing tonight. No way.” She crossed her arms stubbornly.
Jess tried to reason with her. “Now, Sharon,” she began. “There is nothing wrong with using a wheelchair. It’s nothing to be ashamed of…”
“No,” Sharon refused in a voice that would have resulted in a spanking not so long ago. “I’ll walk under my own steam.”
Their eyes locked in battle with neither backing down. Finally, Sharon said softly, “Please Jess.”
The soft words wrapped Jess around her little finger like no defiance ever could. She hugged the smaller woman and kissed her cheek. “Ok, little bit. But if you need help, I expect you to ask. Is that understood?”
Sharon nodded and kissed her. “Thank you. It’s important to me…especially tonight.”
Jess pulled back and offered an arm. “Then will milady give me the honor of accepting me as her escort for the night?”
Her good humor restored, Sharon smiled. “The honor is all mine.” They went to the door slowly to allow for the balance issues she had due to her aches and pains. Jess opened the door for her partner and proceeded to administer a smart spank to her skirt as she moved through the doorway.
“Ouch,” she squeaked and moved a hand to rub the sting.
“Just a reminder that I’m still the Top around here,” Jess’ low voice was for her ears only. “You may have me wrapped around your little finger, but you’re still my brat.” She kissed her temple tenderly.
Sharon snorted. “I believe lying is a spankable offense, oh toppy one.” She shook her head. “Wrapped around my little finger….”
Smiling, the two women made their way down the hall towards the laughter emanating from the kitchen area. The voices let them know more guests had arrived. Sure enough, the kitchen was full of family and dear friends they had found over the years, all wishing each other a Merry Christmas and getting reacquainted with those with whom they had lost touch.
When they entered the room, Mike’s boys once more descended on them in order to properly greet their other Grandma.
“Grandma Sharon! We’ve missed you,” little David shouted as he hugged her ferociously.
“Grandma Sharon! Dad’s eating the brownies!” Wearing his own brown mustache from the warm fudgy dessert, Noah’s accusation caused a bout of laughter from his two Grandma’s as well as the rest of the crowd.
“Ya little tattletale,” Mike accused goodnaturedly. “See if I show you how to be a dessert ninja again.” He came over to kiss Sharon’s cheek and moved a chair so she could sit down. “Where is my darling sister Sarah?” he asked. “I’m starving and she’s late…as usual.” The grin he sported belied his words.
“Give her time, Michael,” commanded his Mother. “I asked her to pick up something for me on the way.”
Just then the Jingle bell mounted on the front door signaled another guest’s arrival. A moment later Sarah’s voice could be heard. “Mom…Momma. It’s beginning to snow outside. It’s making the Christmas lights outside sparkle like crazy.” A murmur of approval ran through the crowd. After all, what better time to snow than Christmas Eve?
“Hello, all,” Sarah’s greeting came as she walked into the kitchen holding her two-year old daughter. They were followed by Pastor Andrews, a longtime family friend.
“Gandma, Gandma,” the little one called as she wriggled to get down and run to them. Jess bent down to gather her up in her arms for a big hug and then set her on Sharon’s lap for more of the same. “Look what I made you,” she announced as she handed over a small bag she had squashed in her hand.
When they hesitated, Sarah added a command. “Go ahead and open it.”
Opening the bag, they found a rock and on the smooth surface it had the words, “Together forever” written in Sarah’s neat handwriting. “It’s from da creek,” little Jessie announced happily. “You know…da creek Grandma Sharon fell in when you met.”
Jess felt tears build up behind her eyes. She looked at Sarah for confirmation. “That’s right Mom,” she said with a smile. “Jessie and I went to the section of Bantam Creek where you two met. Jessie picked out the stone and I did the rest.”
“It’s called arps and craps,” the little girl announced solemnly. “Dat’s where you make things.”
As it dawned on the assembled group that ‘arps and craps’ is actually toddler dialect for ‘arts and crafts’ they roared with laughter, giving the elderly women time to wipe away their tears and share a kiss.
When the laughter died down, Jess looked down at Sharon. Receiving a nod of encouragement, she cleared her throat and began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming to celebrate Christmas with us tonight. This is a time when our family has always gathered to share memories and to pass on our sense of love and family to the next generation.” She paused to take a breath and felt Sharon’s hand squeeze hers in encouragement. “This year, we have another reason to come together. You see, this year,” her voice grew ragged with emotion but she continued on. “This year, our state will allow us to finally perform the ceremony that validates the love and commitment we have always had.” As many family members began to get an inkling, she nodded. “Yes. Sharon and I want to get married tonight with all of you as our witnesses. What better place to say our vows than with all those we love standing with us.”
Immediately a roar of applause and laughter and joy filled the air as Mike rushed forward to hug them both while trying to keep back the less than manly tears that kept overflowing. “It’s about damn time,” he whispered to them as Sharon reached up to wipe away the tears. “And you knew about it?” he demanded as he drew Sarah into a hug and pretended to squeeze too tight.
It took a little impromptu planning but the result was a simple yet dignified ceremony. The vows were said in front of the Christmas tree. Sarah and Mike stood beside them as the official witnesses and held the simple gold bands they exchanged. They repeated the traditional vows in voices thick with emotion as they were finally given the chance to speak the same words vowed throughout the centuries. Happy tears were shed when Sharon’s hand, gnarled with time and pain, reached to wipe away the tear that had run down her beloved’s face. For her part, Jess held an arm around Sharon’s waist throughout the service as she knew the amount of pain and effort it took for her to continue standing for so long.
They loved each other no more than they did all those years as domestic partners. However, it was their time to show the world and their God the commitment they had to each other. It was their time to shine….