They’ve gone now. They were here, but now they’re gone.
If you’re of my age, you probably have the same story. Those kids who used to sleep upstairs in the bedroom down the hall and filled your house with hockey sticks and basketballs, loud music and tearful stories, grew up and left. While you were looking away, time rushed in and everything changed.
You didn’t want them to go, but you educated them and filled their heads with dreams.
If you were lucky, it all happened for them right here, and they live only minutes or hours away. You are blessed.
She and I are just pilgrims who have come back by return mail to commingle with normal earthlings. Of course, we grew up on similar streets, but something happened. A wind, not unlike Dorothy Gale’s, swept us up and took us away to that magical planet where dreams are created.
After a long, bumpy ride we became part of the dream and basked in the colored light. But then again, after a few decades, something happened, and we came falling back to calmer streets.
Yes, we packed our clothes and dreams and came to live among you happy earthlings, but we couldn’t pack the kids. Both stayed and became successful adults in the far away City of Angels.
No problem. The internet happened. Texting and FaceTime appeared. And four or five times a day, it’s like we’re in the same room. Except at Christmas.
Christmas demands more than pictures on the phone and laptops. Christmas needs hugs. Christmas needs the touch of early morning flesh, the sweet smell of tousled hair. Christmas needs up front and personal reality.
So each year, sometimes in the summer or fall, but definitely at Christmas, they suffer the slings and arrows of commercial travel and come home, because, as the Roman philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus famously said, “Home is where the heart is.” Ain’t it just the truth?
And so once again this year, as the writers of scripture say, “It came to pass, and behold, it was wonderful.”
But now they’ve gone. Oh, I can tell they were here because of myriad clues.
There are my daughters’ gifts, and little changes they add to everything to make us more comfortable. The fridge is full of the strange food and veggies of their particular diets, six of everything. It’s just like they’re here. But they’re not.
This morning, the kitchen is quiet. I checked the bedrooms at the back of the house, as though I expected them to jump out of the closet shouting, “Surprise, surprise, we decided to stay.”
But they didn’t. They couldn’t. They were really here. It wasn’t a dream, though it sometimes seemed to be. They’ve gone back, because years and years ago when they were old enough to understand, we shared our dreams with them.
They tagged along to our auditions, watched us rehearse, listened to us run our lines at the table or walking them to school on Hollywood’s streets. They went to school with the daughters of Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson and John Lithgow.
They met our star friends and ate at the dinner table with them, heard their stories. Then something happened. They became the magical children of the City of Angels.
So this year, Christmas has happened again. It happened and now it’s over.
By the time you read this, the New Year, the new decade, will be about to explode across the universe. Bigger, scarier things may be about to happen.
I’m not a religious soul as is She who wastes her prayers on me, but with deepest respect for every word she utters, it behooves me to finish with this.
On a cold spring night sometime between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C., in a filthy manger in the scrubby village of Bethlehem in the Judean Mountains, some 37 miles from Tel Aviv, something happened. And because of that night, my children come home each year. I can live with that.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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