By TERESA ATKERSON

Family Editor

It’s being called a success.

The Friends of the Library of McAlester have completed their first holiday short story writing contest. Marilyn Murray, one of the coordinators, said they were pleased with how well the contest turned out.

The group is also pleased with the quality of the entries. “We were hoping for some good stories,” Murray said during the group’s monthly meeting. “And we got some.”

There were 18 entries in the contest, which Murray said was a good turnout considering this was the first time the Friends had tried such a contest.

The contest was divided into three categories — sixth to eighth grades, ninth to 12 grades and adult.

Murray got the idea from a similar contest held in Fayetteville, N.C., where she and her husband used to live. Also helping to coordinate were Ann Ivester and Teddie Graham.

Murray approached school teachers in Pittsburg County earlier in the year to see if they wished to participate. The contest was completely voluntary, she said, although some of the teachers chose to give extra credit to students who decided to enter.

The winners were announced during the Friends’ monthly meeting. Each received a certificate and a $50 gift card from Wal-Mart Supercenter.

They also read their stories to the group.

The winners were Caitlynne Nelms, sixth grade, Parker Intermediate Center; Chelsea Smith, 10th grade, McAlester High School; and Tammy Hinton, adult, from Canadian. Each winner took a different approach to their holiday story.

Nelms, whose teacher is Sherry Davis, told about a trip to Grandma’s house in “Christmas Is In Our Hearts.” The trip started well, had some bad turns and taught her about the true meaning of Christmas.

Smith’s protagonist also learns a lesson about the holiday season from a stranger in an untitled story. Her teacher is Tim Hatridge.

Hinton tells how her family celebrates Christmas in “The Gift of Laughter.”

The story had many in the room nodding their heads as they agreed with what happened. Hinton said she is a beginning writer. “I started writing about a year ago. We lived in Oklahoma City and I took a course there.”

Once she and her husband moved to Canadian, she joined the McSherry Writers. “They are wonderful,” she said, “very nurturing.”

Other entrants included JoHanna Stove, Caitlyn Owens, Makenzie Wein, Caleb Nelms, Adam Boyd, Glenn Bennett, Kimberly Helmer, Kaitlin Elise Sizemore, Trey Davis, Ify Odunukwe, Marguerite Lackey, Dolores Pollard, Christine Collard and Carlene Samuels.



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The winning entries:



Christmas Is in Our Hearts

By Caitlynne Nelms

Sixth grade, Parker Intermediate Center

Sherry Davis, teacher

It was Dec. 22, just three days before Christmas. I was excited because we were going to Grandma Winter’s for the holidays. It had been two years since I had been able to visit Grandma’s. We couldn’t wait to see the family.

Grandma didn’t live alone. Uncle David and his daughter, Tonya, and Grandpa lived there too. Their house was really old but it always felt warm even when it was cold outside.

Her house always seemed to smell like cookies all the time. I guess she baked cookies every time she knew we were coming. I loved to visit her and Grandpa and the rest of the family.

We had the holiday planned. We were going to go ice skating, go Christmas caroling, make Christmas cookies for Santa and finally open up all the many gifts that were under Grandma’s tree. We were going to have the best Christmas ever.

On Dec. 22, we loaded up the car with every present from our house. There were lots and lots of presents. There was a whole lot of presents for my sister and me. This wasn’t counting what Grandma and Grandpa were buying for us or Uncle David. And Santa would bring his presents down the chimney at Grandma’s house.

The car was packed to the top. Dad could hardly see over all those presents. I didn’t care. I just couldn’t wait until Christmas Eve.

Grandma lived in Florida. We were going to have so much fun. We lived in Oklahoma so we were looking forward to spending time in some warm weather. In Oklahoma, it’s cold and then it gets warm so we never know what to wear. But in Florida we thought it would be warm.

We went through Arkansas and Tennessee and everything was going just great until we came to Nashville. It began to snow. Mom was so scared for us to drive but Dad said we would be just fine. We had an SUV anyway. Mom was still so scared. She was praying and griping at Dad the whole next two hours. It seemed like we were turtles moving really slow. Finally, after two hours of this driving slow, Dad said we needed to pull over in Mobile and stay all night.

Dad really wanted to get further but he just could not drive in the snow any longer.

So we stopped at the Holiday Inn Express, which was okay because they had an inside pool. My sister and I thought that would be fun. Dad said we would get up the next morning and go on to Grandma’s house.

He said he needed to get some sleep and he would be all right the next morning to drive if the snow was still coming down.

We got out at the hotel and we had to leave all our presents in the car. We only took in one suitcase. Dad told us he’d lock the car and everything would be just fine. So we went in and checked into our room. It was really nice.

My sister and I went swimming for an hour. Then we got ready for bed. Mom read us the Christmas story about when Jesus was born. And how he was the greatest gift we could ever ask for.

Mom said if we have the love of Jesus in our heart then we have the greatest gift of all times. So we all talked about the real meaning of Christmas and how we loved the holiday.

Dad told us that Christmas isn’t all about presents. It was giving to each other and showing love to each other. We had a great big family hug and we all said our prayers and went to lie down.

It seemed so quiet in our room. Then all of a sudden we heard something. I asked Dad about it and he said not to pay attention to it. We lay there and there was another noise like breaking glass. That time Dad jumped out of bed and ran over to the window and looked out. The noise was coming from in front of our door. It was someone breaking into our car. Dad ran to the door but they were already gone and so were all our presents. Now our car had no windows in it and it was snowing outside and we had no presents for Christmas.

I didn’t think things could get any worse. I was wrong because now we were stranded and we couldn’t even get to Grandma’s house. Dad went and called the police and they came out and looked at the car. But there was nothing they could do right then. So we went back to our room and began to feel sorry for ourselves.

What kind of Christmas would it be if we can’t get to Grandma’s where it smells like cookies and it’s warm there and we didn’t even have any presents anymore. All my sister and I wanted to do was to cry. So we did. We cried and cried and cried.

I guess we were acting like spoiled little brats. Mom said that we should be thankful that we were not in the car when the robbers came. She said they could have been mean to us.

Dad said we have a lot to be thankful for. A car can be replaced and so can all those presents but we cannot be replaced.

When we got ready for bed that night, Mom said we should be thankful we have a nice warm bed to sleep in and that there were a lot of people out there that didn’t have a place to lay their heads to go to sleep. My sister and I realized that we do need to be thankful. Before we all went to bed, we thanked God for giving us a place to sleep and for keeping us safe from the bad people.

We finally got a rental car the next day and we went on to Grandma’s house. Everything was great at her house. It smelled just like cookies. Uncle David and Tonya were there too. We didn’t bring any presents with us like we had planned but no one even really acted like they cared.

We were at Grandma’s and everyone was safe and we were just thankful that God had helped us through a bad time.

Christmas isn’t about all the presents that were in our car. It’s about love, giving and sharing. Christmas is in your heart.



An Untitled Christmas Story

By Chelsea Smith

10th Grade, McAlester High School

Tim Hatridge, teacher

Crisp air bit into Markie’s skin as she pulled open the front door of her house. Her face, she was sure, was already that startling splotchy red that the cold always brought. A small poof of white escaped her mouth, disappearing into the midday air. It was like she stood on the border of two worlds — her warm familiar house and the frigid vast unknown. Sure, unfriendly office buildings loomed over her into the gray sky but who was to know? After all, they were covered in sheets of white and may as well have been misshapen mountains. If Markie squinted just a little, the frozen-over streets — there had been a break in a water main — passed for perfect and undisturbed rivers. She breathed in. It was perfectly quiet to her ears and a sweet, sweet feeling of pure bliss and peace was slowly pouring over her. She was eased, a breath at a time, into her own little patch of heaven on earth. Maybe, for just one day of the year, everything would be all right.

She exhaled. She was trying for a smoke ring — the perfect kind that only her granddad seemed to manage — but settled for the ragged miniature cloud that escaped her chapped lips.

She grinned, leaning against the doorframe, lanky body shivering but relaxed. This was perfect. Everything was perfect. She was glad — she was due for some perfection.

“Markie!” yelled her mother, breaking Markie’s reverie.

“What?” snapped Markie, turning to face her approaching mother who was, predictably, wearing a stony glare.

This expression wasn’t kind to her weathered face although it seemed to be an ever-present fixture. It was as if each line on her face lived to be folded into the frown that was reserved for Markie.

“What?” repeated Markie, her face setting into a pout.

Her mother rocked back a little on her stocky frame, pulling air into her lungs. It was obvious to Markie that she was in for a lecture. For what, she wasn’t sure.

Moodiness, surliness, frowning, impoliteness or messiness, perhaps? The list went on and on and her mother never seemed to tire of adding to it.

“Why are you letting the cold in? Your brother is already sneezing. It’s that time of year and you know the heater is broken! We have enough trouble around here as it is!” She drew in a hissy breath, her pale face red from indignation and the exertion of her tirade.

“I can’t believe you! You should be helping out, not sweeping that nasty snow into the house and,” she added, after gesturing vehemently at the snow-dusted rug that proclaimed “Home Sweet Home,” “can you even begin to imagine what your father would say? If he were here...” She drew in a ragged breath and continued ranting. Markie didn’t hear her though. She was already down the steps, slamming the door in her mother’s face and trudging down the street.

Markie sighed. She hadn’t expected her mother to come after her but she checked over her shoulder every now and then. She was alone in the world. In fact, if not for her boot prints on the ground behind her, she may have doubted her own existence.

“Don’t cry,” she whispered into the air. “It’s Christmas Eve. You’re not allowed to cry. You’re not.”

It was Christmas Eve. On the other side of town, the mall was sure to be bustling with last minute shopping and the twinkle and glitter of what we think of as Christmas. Maybe there would be a fat man dressed up as Santa Claus with a line of little kids who were hoping for one last chance at a wish. If Markie hadn’t been terrified of being childish, she would have lined up with the glowing children and asked Santa for a few things herself. She couldn’t be childish though — she wouldn’t be! She was 15, an adult. She needed to act like one. She acknowledged, in some small and distant part of her mind, that shirking her responsibilities at home wasn’t exactly an adult thing to do.

“She was asking for it, bringing up Dad like that. Who does she think she is, that she can talk about him. It’s all her fault!” Markie said decisively into the chill air. She jerked her chin in a nod at her own astuteness, decided herself to be right and ventured on further down the street.

She pondered the emptiness of the white world. Cars parked, frozen it seemed, in front of parking meters at office buildings. She highly doubted the police would charge the owners for time spent over the limit. The streets were slick with ice in this part of the town. Over that was a layer of deceptively soft snow. It wasn’t snowing now, although gobs of snow fell down here and there from awnings and windowsills to fall beside Markie as she made her way to nowhere.

She had a five in her pocket and she smoothed her numb fingers over the crisp note again and again. It was reassuring in a way. It reminded her of her dad’s billfold and the many times she had stolen it from him. She used to pick out the crumpled wads of money and straighten them all out for him, meticulously folding them until they fit perfectly. The next day, they would be just as chaotic as ever. Markie sometimes wondered if her dad meant it as a joke and messed up the bills for fun. It was likely, considering the kind of person he was.

He always smiled and laughed, his face twisting into grins as easily as his wife’s twisted into grimaces. Markie sighed. The seemingly good, carefree days of her life were gone. Making things perfect wasn’t as easy as folding a few dollars into a beat-up leather billfold anymore.

Markie turned a comer and another and another. The roads transformed into endless complicated turns and loops that she didn’t care to remember. It seemed like forever ago that the reassuring wooden door had slammed behind her. Her legs were numb - from fatigue, cold, or a mixture of the two, she couldn’t be sure. It was darker now and the world was less still. There were whoops of laughter here and there. Somewhere over in a shadowed alley, Markie could hear crying. “Misery loves company,” she muttered as she walked towards the sound. She wasn’t usually like this — so daring, so brazen — but she knew no fear as she wandered into the alley’s mouth. Huddled against a trashcan was a shaking lump of cloth. The trashcan rattled a bit as the strange form sniffled and sobbed by its side. Maybe it was the unearthliness of the moment — the waning light reflecting off the glorious snow and the feeling of total numbness that made Markie wonder if she was really alive, not just in a dream — that made Markie step forward. Maybe it was the same otherworldly power that made her capable of speaking to it, this mysterious form. Whatever it was, it lent her enough power to remain unperturbed as the small bruised face of a woman turned to her. The power, the steely calm, allowed her to hold the small woman in her arms, to comfort the shuddering figure with a bear hug — just like the ones dad used to give when a knee was scraped or a tooth hurt when it came out — and those little words that mean nothing.

The woman stopped crying eventually and explained the cause of her misery to Markie.

“My youngest died this morning. Abe said it was my fault,” her hand strayed unconsciously to a bruise by her eye, “and that I could’ve done better if I had tried harder. I’m sure he’s right.” She jutted her chin out defiantly, as if Markie had questioned Abe’s opinion.

“Then I started crying — I shouldn’t have. The children started crying and yelling and all hell was raised. I couldn’t take it — you understand that don’t you?” She pleaded, before giving Markie a once-over.

“Well, maybe you will one day. You’re too young now. You’ll understand though, when the time comes. You can’t bear to have your loved ones hurt. Sometimes it all just becomes too overwhelming. Only a mother, a wife,” her hand jerked but stayed down by her side, as if the woman was fighting the urge to touch another mark on her frail frame, “can understand this fully. You’ll know it one day though. You will.” She nodded firmly at Markie and bid her good day. Markie wondered how this woman could go back to a house where she was beaten. She had to love Abe, or maybe just the children, to return. Now one of her children was gone.’ She couldn’t stop the woman from going home. Her family needed her, in a weird way. She didn’t even know this lady. Two unlikely paths had crossed and the magic and calm that Markie had felt was gone. She was her old self again, uncertain and unsure. She couldn’t offer this woman any more help. The sun was lower, the snow still radiant, and she needed to make her own way home. Her troubles were nothing compared to this woman’s.

“I’m sorry,” Markie managed. She tucked her hands into her coat pockets, ready to leave. Her hand brushed the money. She looked at the woman who also seemed to be sensing the pull of life — for she too seemed ready to go — and her worn jacket and patchy shoes and shaking body.

“Here. I’m sorry that I don’t have more to offer,” said Markie, extending the crisp, smooth money to the woman. The woman took it. Markie ran off into the snowy world, not waiting for thanks. She was almost embarrassed by her gesture for some reason. She could feel a warm flush in her cheeks. No, maybe she was just content. She was never content so she threw back her head and laughed at the idea. She looked back over a shoulder, still laughing, and waved her arm wildly at the small woman. “Take care!” she yelled, voice cracking in the sudden wind that had blown out of nowhere. She was on her way home.

Markie tried to remember exactly how to get home. Some people were sitting coolly inside coffee shops that she passed, sipping their lattes and hot chocolates, their arms wrapped around each other. They were radiant with Christmas cheer. Mistletoe was strung up in doorways and the roads were still frozen. Some daring children had swept away the snow on the road and were sliding and giggling. This made Markie smile and she slid across the ice on the seat of her pants, waving at the children as she glided past them. No one seemed to care if she was acting immature. A middle-aged man hurled a snowball at a friend, laughing uproariously. Three girls staggered out of a festive bar, a rosy glow over their cheeks. They didn’t care what people thought. Why should she?

Amazingly, she finally found her way back to her street. She lay down on the road in front of an office building and made a snow angel. She wasn’t sure why she did this but she knew she would have lain there forever, in the glittering diamonds of snow, if not for the chill that started at the tip of her toes and took only seconds to make her hair bristle. Melted snow was slipping into her boots and seeping into her clothing. She was cold! Why she hadn’t realized the extremity of her coldness before this, she couldn’t quite be sure. However, she pulled herself up and hopped carefully away from her snow angel, so as not to ruin it. She walked down to her house and knocked carefully on the door.

Later, Markie would think back on this as some grand realization. Finally, she had come to empathize with her mother. Perhaps it was the beaten woman who was still capable of love who had made her realize it. Yes, that was more than likely it. She hadn’t been the only one to lose her father. She wasn’t the only one who felt like crying all the time — she heard her mother crying at night. Adults were allowed to cry, she realized now. And she knew her mother was a good person, if a bit strict and stubborn after all, wasn’t that where Markie got her stubbornness from? Maybe, even a bit more than the beaten woman, her own mother helped her to come to the grand realization. Maybe it was when she threw open the door, the toddler on her hip sneezing into the night air, and said, “I’m sorry,” that Markie realized how petty she had been. Of course, it had been understandable. She had had a right to mourn in her own way. Markie nodded. She had been right. Maybe though, just maybe, she had been a little bit wrong. Although shrugging and saying, “Jeez, it’s not a big deal,” may have not been the best way to show her love when her crying mother wrapped her in her arms and gave her a big hug, sneezing toddler and all, it was a start. Starts are good, right? When Markie woke up the next morning and went downstairs to join her mother and baby brother at the Christmas tree, she started to cry — it is okay to cry — because there, at the spot where Markie’s dad used to sit to open up his presents and laugh and smile no matter what, was a picture of him — her dad. Her mom was tearing up, hands brushing at her eyes. Markie’s mom handed her the first present to open, a small soft feeling one wrapped in green paper with a red bow. “Thanks, mom,” said Markie as she peeled off the wrapping paper, throwing it to her giggling brother.

There, in Markie’s hand lay her dad’s old billfold, leather and brown and beat-up as ever. Her mother laughed a bit, hiccupping on more tears and murmured, “I know how you always loved that old thing. Merry Christmas, dear,” as she smoothed back Markie’s hair.

Markie managed a smile, warm tears running down her cheeks as she looked up at the sparkly, Christmassy star at the top of their plastic tree — Dad had always hated the thought of killing trees for a celebration that was just one day a year. “Merry Christmas.”



The gift of Laughter

By Tammy Hinto

Canadian

The light on the oven goes out signaling time to put in the lasagna, homemade of course. It starts with my special sauce that simmers for hours with just the right blend of garlic and spices. Four kinds of cheese are layered between the noodles and sauce in my largest ceramic pan.

“Wow, this pan must weigh twenty pounds this year. If the family keeps growing I’m going to have to go to two pans or wear my industrial strength back brace to put it in the oven,”

No comment is forthcoming from my mate who’s stationed in front of the television oblivious to everything that doesn’t wear purple and gold. Basically I’m talking to myself: which is not unusual in football season. The Vikings are lined up to score another touchdown so their number one fan calls out plays to the quarterback from his recliner in the next room. Tonight’s our special night. The one we look forward to all year long. My three stepsons and their families will all be at the house for our annual Christmas celebration. Mike and Sandy will arrive first with their daughter, Hannah. Ron and Paula follow with Kyle and Kayla in tow. John, Kim, and the three girls, Ashley, Amber, and Abbey, always arrive last, somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour late. Outside is fresh snow, courtesy of the jet stream’s meandering down into Iowa. This dip allows frigid Canadian air to swoop in with below zero temperatures. Icicles that hang from the trees in the yard give the impression that Mother Nature trimmed them for the holidays. The pungent smell of wood burning in fireplaces fills the evening air. Road crews had been out early to plow the roads so they are passable. My husband shoveled the steps up to the house several times during the day, and then applied a layer of salt to keep ice from forming. “I hope there’s no black ice on the interstate overpasses,” I yelled from the kitchen.

Still no reply from in front of the TV.

Inside the house has been decorated with the traditional trappings of the holidays. A fragrant Douglas fir spreads out its limbs and welcomes the strings of multi-colored lights and ornaments. The ornaments are a combination of sentimental mementos made by my kids throughout their younger years, souvenirs picked up on our travels, and purchases made from the many talented artisans in the area. The cherub-faced angel Herb and my daughter purchased our first Christmas together has taken its place at the top. The manger is placed on the floor at the center of the tree and lit with a white light. A

reminder of what we are really celebrating. Stockings with each child’s name are filled with trinkets and adorn the antique oak cabinet. Presents occupy the corner of the living room waiting to be opened by giggling children. Christmas carols play softly in the background. My day started early in the kitchen baking sweets. First out of the oven, the traditional pumpkin pie requested by my husband. Some of the grandkids wanted apple, so apple pie rests on the cooling rack on the counter. A nice mixed green salad, relish tray, and toasted garlic bread round out our meal. It’s a non-traditional menu, but the kids remarked several years earlier they look forward to having something besides turkey and dressing. I looked at the clock for about the tenth time. Hmm, the kids will be coming soon.

“Honey, at half-time will you please go out with the broom and knock snow off the wreath and throw some more salt on the walk?” No answer.

I walked to the front of the house to get Coach Herb’s attention. “Honey, at halftime will you please go out with the broom and knock snow off the wreath and throw some more salt on the walk?” “Sure. It’s getting close to the time the kids will get here. Anything else you need done?”

“No, it’s all pretty well organized.”

I returned to the kitchen to set up the buffet line. The counter that separates the dining room from the living room is arranged with the china, napkins, and flatware. Strong arms encircle my waist and a warm kiss is planted on the back of my neck. “You know I love you even more for all you do to make this night special.” “I know. I love having all the kids together, too.” “I’ll go do the walks.”

Fifteen minutes later, as predicted, Mike, Sandy, and Hannah arrive. Boots are shed at the front door and placed on the vinyl tray to dry. Heavy woolen coats are thrown on the bed. Gifts are placed near the tree. “Boy, it smells good in here. I see we are having our favorite, lasagna.” Another ten minutes pass.

“Clang, Clang.” Ron, Paula, and kids ring the small captain’s bell we use for a doorbell. Outer wear are handed over to add a second layer to the stack. “I can tell your neighbor is using that wood I brought over in his fireplace tonight. Apple wood has such a great smell.”

John’s family arrives only forty minutes late this year. Once more, coats, hats, mittens, and boots are shed. The shoe tray at the front door now overflows with melting slush, and the bed resembles an old Indian mound. The first thing on everyone’s mind is a quick “hello” and “let’s eat.” Out comes the lasagna to cool In goes the garlic bread to brown. Salad and relish dishes make their way to the counter. Ice tea and milk are poured. Soft drinks are made available. We’re ready.

Everyone makes a circle and holds hands as Grandpa Herb says the blessing.

“Heavenly Father, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the birth of Your Son. Bless our family. . . “

Kids are served first. They take their seats at the dining room table with instructions to let the lasagna cool or the cheese will bum their little mouths. Ashley is asked to put back some of the pile of black olives on her plate until others have a chance to get at least one. Abbey doesn’t want dressing on her salad. Hannah wants regular bread and not garlic toast. Kyle wants more on his plate — more lasagna, more bread, more of everything, as if he is afraid it will all be gone before he gets seconds. The adults now have an opportunity to fill their plates and find a place to sit where they can balance their food without spilling on the new carpet. Ron and John pile on the food and still go back to refill their plates. “I used to be able to eat like that when I was your age,” their dad remarks with a chuckle. “It’ll catch up to you when you pass forty,” he continues as he pats his full belly. The main course is completed and the dishes are rinsed and stacked by the sink. Kids color in books with themes chosen especially for them. Barbie and the Power Rangers are the favorites this year. Kyle’s outnumbered by his sister and four girl cousins, but holds his own. Their conversation centers on the best parts of the new Disney movie.

In the living room the adults are trying to out do each other. “I almost beat Dad this year at Hudson. If I had sunk that last putt on eighteen he would have been mine.”

“Paula, what are you getting Ron for Christmas this year?” Mike inquires.

“You know I’m not going to tell you,” she replies with a big grin.

“Well, from where I’m sitting, I would suggest membership in the Hair Club for Men.”

This prompts additional jabs from the other males and Ron’s reply, “How far does a hairline have to recede, Mike, before it’s no longer a receding hairline and it’s called being bald?”

One quip is followed by another. Laughter follows. It’s the invisible bond that brings harmony to the family. All earlier preparation is done in anticipation of this moment. It fills my heart with love and warms my soul. How many years of this are left for us before each son will want to move on and make family traditions of their own?

Time to open presents. The youngest grandchild puts on the Santa hat to help Grandpa distribute gifts. Bows are unceremoniously yanked from the box. Paper is torn off in shreds. Boxes are ripped open to free the toy inside. Ten-year-old Amber gets a Bop It and is very patient as the adults take turns playing with her new toy even before she has a chance to enjoy it. Kyle gets a snow board, which will get a lot of use on the slope behind their house. Abbey sticks her Barbie horse under her arm so no one else can touch it. Clothes and board games round out the last of the grandkids’ gifts. We receive loving holiday cards containing gift certificates to our favorite restaurants from the kids. Thank yous are exchanged. Boxes are stacked in groups to be loaded in the cars and paper is stuffed into a large green garbage bag. “What’s for dessert?”

Pies are cut. Coffee is made. Milk glasses refilled.

Chimes from the clock signal nine — the evening soon ends. Coats are retrieved from the pile on the bed. Snow boots and shoes disappear from the tray. Hugs and kisses exchanged.

“See you soon. Thanks again for the.. . Happy holidays!” The house is quiet again.

It’s only been a short three hours, but memories have been made that will last a lifetime.

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