Like a lot of people, I came home to the Chicago area this holiday season to a house decorated with Christmas decor. There were lights outside our house wrapped around bushes and strung on the garland on the porch, a glowing snowman sat on the front lawn, a fun-filled Christmas tree stood in the living room and other little gems had been placed around the house, just like normal.
But there was a noticeable problem.
The five stockings that traditionally hung down my family's stairs by order of oldest to youngest were out of order. Instead of going Mom, Dad, Allison, Sam and Mike, they were rearranged. It now went Dad, Sam, Allison, Mike and Mom.
But there was a reason.
The first letters of the kids' names now spelled the one person missing from our holiday season: "Sam."
Sam isn't going to be home for the holidays this year. She will instead be spending the season in Afghanistan. Like thousands of other soldiers, she is going to be overseas serving our country.
Similar to many other families during the holiday season, my family has a host of traditions. Every Christmas Eve is spent at my Aunt Linnea's house down the street. Every Christmas morning, even at age 20, "Santa" sets gifts under the tree for my siblings and I to open. In the weeks after Christmas, my family continues to go to other family Christmas celebrations in the Chicago area and in St. Louis.
In a way, it's the Christmas season that never ends. But I love it. And so does Sam.
However, this year there is going to be one less pile of gifts under the tree. There aren't going to be arguments between my mother and sister over the fact that no, she can't wear that casual of an outfit to church on Christmas Eve. Sam's not going to get mad at me for waking her up much too early in the morning because I'm so excited (yes, even at age 20) to see what gifts are waiting for us under the tree. She's not going to be there to be a part of the Christmas Day grab bag or to mess around with our older cousins. She won't get to go to our family's celebrations after the holidays and she won't travel with us to St. Louis.
Since Sam and I aren't too close, unlike a lot of twins, I didn't think her being gone for the holiday season would affect me as much as it has this year. The house feels partially empty, and whether we are best friends or worst enemies, Sam and I have spent the last 20 Christmases together (not to mention time in the womb). I didn't know what I was missing until it was gone, spending the holidays thousands of miles and an ocean away from me.
To Sam, my soldier, I'll be missing you. Having you underneath our tree would be a good enough gift for me.
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