Gloria sat in her old rocking chair, waiting patiently for her grandson to arrive. He'd called to tell her he wanted to visit about something important. A smile touched her wrinkled face. She knew she wasn't supposed to have favorites. But Jeff had always been hers. A caring and bright young man who confided in her about everything. From the funny escapades he got into to the more serious troubles worrying his mind. She appreciated his love and attention. Especially now as she saw less and less of her grandchildren.
A knock at the door brought her to her feet. She opened it with a smile as Jeff walked in and wrapped her in a tight hug. "Oh, Jeff, darling, it's so good to see you," she said. Gloria gave him a long look as he grinned back. Her boy wasn't so little anymore. A good six inches taller than she was with a lean, muscular build. He'd graduated college not too long ago.
"Good to see you too, Gran." He glanced around. "Why isn't your tree up yet?"
"When you said you were going to come over, I thought it would be nice for us to do that together. You know, when I was a little girl, the tree didn't go up until just before Christmas, and no one started decorating until Christmas Eve."
Jeff chuckled. "You were a far more patient generation."
"Practical, I think. Live trees don't stay that way for very long when you cut them early."
He smiled at her. "I suppose that's a good point. Now that I'm here, let's get this place ready for Christmas."
Gloria nodded. "A wonderful idea." She turned on the radio to play Christmas music while they worked. The station played a mix of classic songs with singers like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald, while also playing more contemporary pieces. The groups all had such interesting names. Smashing Pumpkins. Wham. And then a few artist names that at least made sense to her Harry Connick Jr was her favorite, reminding her so much of the music she grew up with.
Jeff brought the Christmas boxes in from her garage and together they put the artificial tree together. Gloria missed having a live tree. And she knew that if she insisted upon one, Jeff would take her to get one in a heartbeat. But she also knew that caring for them took work, and she wasn't quite up to that particular challenge anymore. She pulled out the ornaments, including ones made by her children and grandchildren. She found one made from Jeff's handprint. Her hand went to her heart. "You used to be so small," she said quietly.
He kissed her cheek. "I bet you used to be pretty small too."
She chuckled. "Well, yes. That is true. Though it's been a lot longer since I was small."
"Tell me about it anyway."
Gloria smiled. She often told Jeff stories of when she was young. He didn't mind hearing the same ones again and again. "Actually," she said, "my favorite Christmas was when I was grown. Your grandfather had just come home from the war. We were sweethearts before he left, you know. He had a hard time when he got back. Men saw things in that terrible fight that no one should have to see. But, he managed to find his joy again."
"I bet a certain pretty miss helped him out," Jeff said with a grin.
"I did my best. Anyway, that Christmas, he took me to the town Christmas party. There was music, dancing, so much joy. On the way home, we stopped at the park. It was a beautiful evening, not too terribly cold. He asked if I'd like to take a stroll. I figured he had something in mind, so I of course said yes. We walked for ages it seemed. Finally he said, 'Gloria, my life wouldn't be complete without you in it.' He got on one knee and opened up a ring box with the prettiest ring I ever saw. He proposed, and I said yes." She sighed. "That night was magical."
Jeff smiled. "I wonder how nervous he felt."
"Quite nervous, I'm sure," Gloria said. She raised an eyebrow, noticing how intently Jeff was focused on the tree. "Maybe as nervous as you're feeling right now."
He gave a soft laugh. "Never could hide anything from you, Gran."
"You've been going steady with Angie for quite some time now. I suppose you are ready to make things more permanent. Only natural."
"I can't yet though. I've been to dozens of jewelry stores and just haven't been able to find the right ring. I can't propose without one."
Gloria laughed. "Well, you could. But she might be disappointed." She reached to a chain around her neck. "Maybe I can help you out with that."
He grinned. "Are you going to take me to the jeweler's?"
"I'll do you one better." She motioned for him to follow her to the sofa. She took off the necklace which she had put her wedding and engagement rings on a few years after her beloved Louis had passed. "This ring, is the one your grandfather proposed to me with. It has brought me more joy over the last fifty years than anything else could."
Jeff admired the ring and shook his head. "Gran, I can't take this."
"I insist. Unless you think Angie wouldn't appreciate it. This can be a visual symbol of my legacy to you," Gloria said gently. "How we propose, where and when. All those things have changed over the years. The trappings have changed. But one thing remains constant. Love. The love we feel in our hearts for those most special to us. That is the same. And that is the legacy I pass to you." She wrapped his hand around the carved gold band with square cut diamonds. "Give Angie your love for Christmas. It's the best present you can give."
He cleared his throat. "Are you sure, Gran? I know how much you miss Pop."
"Never been more sure in my life."
Jeff hugged her close. "Alright, Gran. You win."
On Christmas morning, a knock came on Gloria's door. She smiled as she opened it, seeing Jeff and Angie standing on the front step. "Good morning, dears," she said, hugging them each in turn. "Merry Christmas."
"Gran, we have some news for you," Jeff said with a grin that stole the spotlight from the sun.
Angie held out her left hand, Gloria's diamond ring sparkling on her finger. "We're engaged!" she squealed.
"Oh my darlings, I'm so happy for you!" Gloria led them inside as she said, "Tell me all about the proposal. I want every detail."
As Angie described the stroll through the park, and Jeff's words, Gloria smiled. I hope you're seeing this in Heaven, Louis. Our grandson is quite like you.
The day continued with laughter and joy. Gloria counted her blessings and enjoyed every moment with her grandson and his fiance. Yes, things had certainly changed over the years. But one thing remained ever constant. Love.