Nick’s dad heard the doorbell. He moved his favorite Christmas tree ornament, a figure of a New England Patriots football player, from behind the tree to a prominent place near the top, by the angel. Nick’s dad knew as soon as Nick’s mom, Anna, saw it, she would take it down and put it behind the tree. It was game they played every year. It was two in the afternoon. It was his his wife, Anna’s brother, Tony. Nick’s dad opened the door, put his arms out wide and said, “buon Natale, Tony, the Italian greeting for merry Christmas.
Tony laughed and said, “Buon Natale, Tony.” The two men were best friends and liked to joke around with their golfing buddies by both answering to the name Tony whenever anyone used the name, Tony. Their friends decided to call Nick’s dad Tony 1 because he was a year older and two inches taller than Anna’s brother Tony who became Tony 2.
Nick’s dad took Tony’s coat, and hung it in the hallway closet.
Tony 2 said, “I’m heading for the kitchen. I want to sneak a couple of meatballs, don’t tell Anna.”
Tony 1 laughed. Nick will be home around 5. Morelli is closing at 4 for Christmas Eve. It usually takes Nick an hour to clean up. He’s only got one more week with that job, then I want him to quit and concentrate on his studies and running the 800 meters this spring.”
“Nick really wants to go to college out of state. How do you and Anna feel about that? Asked Tony 2.
“We talked about it. We both want him to stay home. But we understand it’s his life and if the right opportunity comes, we want him to take it. It’s hard on him because he needs a full scholarship. That’s everything, tuition, room and board, books. I don’t think it’s in the cards for him,” said Tony 1.
“You never know. You know what I always say, never quit. You keep trying and trying. Maybe God’s going to smile on him this Christmas,” said Tony 2.
“I wish,” said Tony 1.
The next voice was Anna’s. “You come in the house and you don’t wish me merry Christmas first thing. I’m going to hide the meatballs. Buon Natale, Tony,” laughed Anna. She and Tony met each other halfway and hugged.
Anna stepped back and held onto Tony’s arms, “I know what you need,” she said.
Tony 1 answered, “I need two meatballs with extra sauce, some Italian bread, and a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I don’t much care about the drink as long as I have one.
“You’ll never change,” laughed Anna. She turned to head to the kitchen, stopped and then paused and turned back toward Tony 2. I didn’t ask if you had a girlfriend. Seeing anyone?”
Nick’s dad rolled his eyes, he knew Anna’s games and she was playing matchmaker.
“Nobody special. I like taking care of myself,” said Tony 2.
“You need a good woman in your life. Keep your eyes open, you never know when she’ll walk through the door,” said Anna who turned and walked into the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Said Tony 2.
“You know your sister, Tony. She’s always worried about you. Let’s watch some football, the Pats game starts in fifteen minutes,” said Tony 1.
The friends sat down in the living room. Tony 1 turned on the TV. He muted the sound. Anna was playing Christmas carols in the kitchen and had the sound turned up. She knew every word of every song and sang along with each song. At the moment she was singing White Christmas.
“If I could meet a woman like Anna, I might think about getting married. I don’t think they make them like here anymore,” said Tony 2.
The friends watched the game. At quarter to five, Nick walked in. He announced, “I’m home.”
“Hey, Nick, come over here and give your Uncle Tony a hug,” said Tony 2, setting his beer down and standing up. The uncle and his nephew hugged each and kissed each other on the cheek.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle,” said Nick.
“What’s with this merry Christmas. You got to say, buon Natale. I’m only kidding,” laughed Tony 2.
Nick looked at his dad and said, “Tino told me to go home at 4:30. He’s really a great guy, dad. I know I didn’t want to work there at first. But, I’m thinking of working there for the rest of the school year. I’ll have to give up running track.”
“I don’t want you to do that. You’re an exceptional runner. You never know, you may have a breakthrough season and get the scholarship you deserve,” said his dad.
“You really mean that, dad? You don’t need the money? I can concentrate on running?” Asked Nick.
“You helped out when we were in trouble. I’ll be working next week. You know what your Uncle Tony says, right?”
Nick grinned, “He and Johnny always said the same thing, never quit.”
“That’s right, Nick. You keep giving it your best. You do and you never know what can happen. I seen it happen before,” said Tony 2.
“Thanks. I’m going to shower and change, excuse me,” said Nick.
“What’s his rush?” Asked Tony 2.
“He’s got a new girl, Mary Genovese. She and her mother Louise are joining us at six for the evening.”
“I was like that once,” said Tony 2.
“You never know, you might be like that again,” said Anna bringing in a tray of food for the two men to enjoy.
Tomorrow – The conclusion of the Christmas story.