This story was written around Christmas time in 1999. The theme of the week was "Traditions". This story is slightly out of order in terms of when it was written but I wanted to post one that I liked. This one was a platinum honorable mention that week, essentially 4th place I guess.
Private Jim Lynch cringed as yet another round of artillery whistled overhead and landed nearby. After advancing swiftly from the beaches at Normandy, Christmas Day of 1944 found his unit pinned down somewhere in the Ardennes region of Northern France, Southeast Belgium, and Northern Luxembourg somewhere near the Meuse River.
"Hell of a way to spend Christmas isn't it Private" Sergeant Jerry Rowland said looking at Lynch as he huddled with his squad. The weather was cold, windy and snowing. A bitter gloomy day had turned into a cold depressing night.
"Sure is Sarge" Jim answered. "Do you think we're really surrounded?" The worry was evident in his voice and was echoed on the faces of most of the rest of the men.
"Well it looks that way but it won't last long," Sergeant Rowland confidently told his men hoping to reassure them. "There's bound to be a break out soon."
"Its hard to even believe it is Christmas" Jim said. "Cold as hell, dark as pitch and the damn Germans throwing artillery at us just to keep us awake probably. I remember how I used to try to get out of spending Christmas with all my relatives. I'd do anything to be with them now."
"I can picture them now, my dad in the living room puffing on his pipe the younger kids running around." Jim went on. "The house would be almost stiflingly warm even though it's cold out because the oven and stove have been on all day with Mom and my Grandmother cooking since before dawn. They would be sitting down to dinner about now. A ham and a turkey and all the fixings, oh man I can taste it now."
Three explosions in quick succession nearby stopped Jim's musings. The silence after the explosions was almost deafening but at least, Jim thought, it was better than hearing the screams of wounded men.
"Knock it off Lynch" somebody said, "We all have family at home warm and comfortable while we freeze our butts off here. I for one don't even want to think about it. I'll just be happy to be alive next Christmas."
There was silence for a while and then Sergeant Rowland spoke up quietly "Well not all of us have family home waiting for us. I can't remember ever having a Christmas like that. My dad left when I was little and my mom never scraped by enough to do anything like that for us. We were lucky to have food and be able to get the house even sort of warm. My fondest memories of Christmas I guess are of Christmases in the NCO club where it was warm and we did have decent chow and the company of the only close family I've ever known. Bitch all you want but most of you guys will live to see next Christmas and I bet you'll be spending it back home as the hero come home and they'll make a big deal out of you and all. You're lucky to have it and I'll be back in the NCO club and lucky to be there too. This damn war is going to make a lot of people have a new respect for the traditions they took for granted, now shut the hell up and try to get some sleep"
"I just don't know if I belong here," Sergeant Jerry Rowland said.
"Nonsense," replied the gray haired lady on the other side of the table. "Jim's letters all along told us all about you. We already feel like you're one of the family now stop arguing with me." The nods and smiles all up and down the table gave proof that everybody seemed to be in agreement with her.
"Yes Ma'am," He replied.
"This is a lot better place to spend Christmas than last year ain't it Sarge?" Jim asked with a smile. "or even better than spending it alone in the NCO club I hope.
"I have to give you that kid, and I want you all to know I appreciate it." Rowland said. Looking to the head of the table and Jim's father he said, "May I propose a toast sir?"
"Certainly," Jim's father answered with a smile.
"To friends, new friends and old, those that are with us and those who we left behind and to traditions both old and new."
The response was a murmur of "here here's" and a clinking of glasses as a group began caroling outside on the street of the house where inside it was warm cozy and full of family and friends, old and new.