The curtains were closed, the room dark, when she hit the switch that sent multi colored lights playing across the ceiling, from the now lit Christmas tree. For a brief moment, she forgot where she was, memories of past festive times flashing through her mind as she watched the colors swirl around the tree, reflecting on the assorted decorations spread across the green branches, highlighted by the star which shone brightly from the top of the tree.
Sadly she turned off the lights sending the room once more into darkness, before she opened up the curtains allowing the bright Florida sunlight to stream once more into the room. The tree lost its sparkle; it's artificial green branches showing what it was… just an imitation, a sham, just like Christmas was in the sunny southern state.
It had seemed a good idea at the time; their children had long flown the nest, moving away from their old family home, retiring to the Florida sunshine, the end of snow clearing and cold winters.
It had been fun to start with, fitting into a community of people their own age, not worrying about heating bills their daughter and her family had even stopped with them one summer, the grandchildren sharing the joys of Disney with them. That had all changed when her husband, had suddenly had a heart attack and died, leaving here alone.
Christmas had always been a special time for the two of them, and she'd tried to keep the magic of the season alive as her love for her husband she still held dear in her heart. But it just wasn't the same.
Bright sunshine flooded the room, the temperature outside was already beginning to move towards the 80's.
This was not Christmas! Christmas was meant to be a time of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost snipping at your nose. Not walking around in shorts with the air-conditioning blasting.
She looked once more at the tree, the ornaments, colored balls and items that hung from the branches, did not hide the imitation of the tree.
A little like her Christmas, just an imitation of what had gone before.
This year there would be just a few presents under the tree, nobody to share the moment, no grandchildren to fill the air with their laughter. This year she would be alone.
Without really thinking she got through the rest of the day, preparing her solitary Christmas lunch, hanging the odd garland across the room, and adding a few late cards to those already adorning the book shelves. Pictures of snow scenes on one card made her stop and read the words printed inside.
"At this special time, may you be safe and warm, your season filled with warmth, happiness and laughter"
Warmth she certainly had though a few clouds had started to fill the normally blue sky and the temperature for once had dropped a little.
That night she went to sleep in her lonely bed, just for fun hanging a socking on the end of the bed, just to try and keep the festive moment alive.
She woke with a shudder, it had turned cold, the stocking lay empty still where she had left it.
"Come on, it's Christmas" she said to herself. "This will not do, get up and show some Christmas spirit."
After a shower she put on a special dress she'd bought for the day, though unless she went to church, nobody would see it. She slowly headed down the stairs, the room was still dark, the sunlight as yet unable to penetrate the dark curtains.
Switching the tree lights on once again filled the room with magical lights, the star shining brightly, multicolor images reflecting in the glittering balls that hung from the tree. This was how Christmas should be.
Not wanting to break the spell she left the curtains closed, made a cup of tea, and sat down to open the few gifts lying underneath the now sparkling tree.
Reluctantly she turned off the lights and opened the curtains, this time though not bright light poured in to dazzle her eyes, instead it was dark, heavy black clouds covering the sun, and… It couldn't be.
As she looked out the window small white flecks, blown by the strong wind that had sprung up seemingly from nowhere danced before her eyes, which were now pricked with tears.
It couldn't be, not in Florida, not on today of all days.
The flicks of white danced tantalizing before her eyes; whisked across her vision like a troop of whirling ballet dances.
She rushed to get her coat, she wanted to feel the snow on her face, the taste of flakes on her tongue, and she wanted to be part of this special Christmas dream.
Rushing outside, the flecks of white surrounded her; she closed her eyes and opened her mouth waiting for the first snow drop to melt in her mouth. Instead of the joy of ice cold water, it made her cough, tickling her throat. She jurked open her eyes, realizing it was not snow, the dancing white flecks, were nothing but tufts of cotton blown from a nearby field.
Sadly she turned away, the sunlight finally penetrating the diminishing clouds, sunbeams playing on the front door of the house.
"And so this is Christmas" she softly sang to herself her as she opened the door and slowly, sadly, started to take off her coat… well it almost had been.
A car pulling up outside the house made her stop and look back out the half closed door. There, pressed against the car window were two small faces she knew so well. Before she could open her mouth to say anything she found herself being hugged by a pair of angel faced children.
"Surprise, surprise Grandma"
The smiling face of her daughter and her husband, unloading a vast horde of packages out of the car, matched those of the grandchildren held close in her arms, and this was only surpassed by the smile on her own face, when a few minutes later a second car pulled up outside and her son and his family joined the now celebrating throng that filled her living room. Even the tree now looked real she thought, the teardrops in her eyes reflecting the sparkling lights.
"And so this is Christmas… no matter where are how, this was Christmas, and she was with her family.