Sam showed up on Christmas Day. He was late, still in his khaki’s and work embroidered shirt. Mom was overjoyed. She burned the eggnog on the stove.
“Merry Christmas, Mom.” He carried a bag of presents beneath his arm, but mom’s hug made him drop it on the floor. After the hug, Sam bent over and picked it up again.
S.M. tapped me on the knee, indicating I should make room for my brother. Mom’s house was already crowded with friends and family in folding chairs, on the floor, and on every available couch and chair. We had already eaten an early dinner at this point. Mom was making eggnog and dad was about to help her get out all the pies and cakes.
Sam put his presents under the tree while mom rescued the burned eggnog. We had already opened presents earlier, and I knew the presents he bought were beyond what he could afford. Eva said as much in an email to me. He was two payments behind on his truck. But I wasn’t supposed to know this.
“Sis, I changed my mind.” Sam whispered. “I actually lied. I didn’t ask to work. I just wanted the day to myself.”
“This is not a conversation I want to have right now.” I spoke from the side of my mouth while keeping a smile on my face. He came in his work clothes to look the part, too. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other stories he told to me.
S.M. looked at me and Sam. “Not now.” He said quietly.
Dad sliced the pies on the island. His eyes darted from Sam’s face to mine, and back to Sam. Unlike Mom, dad knew the score. He couldn’t express his true feelings about his son. Sam was not the boy they raised anymore. Mom defended Sam, but we all missed Eva. Eva was vibrant, but mom and dad also have a different reason for missing her, and that’s because she was Mormon, like him. They saw in her Sam’s “salvation.”
Sam was no longer Mormon and he does not know Christ. I keep hoping that Sam and I could one day talk comfortably about Jesus. I want him to understand that Jesus loves him, and that Sam didn’t have to do anything to earn that love. I want him to know that Christianity is different than Mormonism, not another denomination.
Sam handed out the presents to everyone from his bag as mom encouraged everyone in a joyful voice to get some dessert.
S.M. rubbed his belly. “I can’t eat another thing.”
My sister, Jenny, smiled at us as she took my niece and nephew by the hand and lead them to the table to eat. Mom opened her present first, and oos and ahhs over the necklace. It’s gold. Sam’s face had a smile stretched from ear to ear. I opened mine and it was that salt and pepper shaker that I wanted so much from the antique store. That’s why Sam is such a good brother. He pays attention to other people’s needs at the expense of his own.
Ava’s kids have their tablets or have invaded the dessert table. She has five kids. Her husband is Jack who was not here today. He had to work–for real. I have lost, for a moment, my Christmas spirit. S.M. tried to tell me to enjoy this time, but how can I celebrate the birth of Christ when the people I am celebrating with don’t believe in the same Christ (or at all)?
S.M. and Jenny’s husband, Darryl, talk about their jobs. My two sisters gathered around me and they talk about their church and visiting the temple. The temple, in a Mormon’s eyes, is a Christian’s Jerusalem. I know what they are doing as that is what we do have in common–evangelism. Christians try to evangelize them and they try to evangelize us.
The hour grew late, and S.M. tapped me on the knee. I felt sleepy and am glad that S.M. will be driving me home tonight. I like sleeping in my own bed, in my mountains, surrounded by a community of believers.
Please, Lord, I pray, let them question their own religion and get to know it better.