The Castaway Hotel: Next Generation Book 1

Chapter 23 - Here Comes Santa Claus

This was going to be a holiday of mixed emotions for me. Jake left for Oklahoma on Thursday night, since he was going to spend Christmas with Nick and Shannon at the Lawrences. I couldn’t go with him, since my family was all coming here, but I didn’t want to deprive him of spending time with his son either. It’s going to be strange that he isn’t going to be around to enjoy the holiday with me, but I know we’ll each survive.

Thursday night, many of the boys joined me to watch ‘A Christmas Carol,’ starring Alastair Sim. It was originally titled “Scrooge,’ when it was made in 1951, and although it is one of the older versions, it is also the one that I’ve always considered the best. I also like George C. Scott’s portrayal of Scrooge, but still tend to let the earlier version top my list. Anyway, it was nearly 11:00 by the time the movie finished, so we rushed off to bed. Tomorrow the others will be arriving and there will be a lot for each of us to do.

The boys began arriving at the house on Christmas Eve Day, with the first of them showing up about an hour before lunch. Beginning with the arrival of those living closest to us, Little Ricky and Andrew got here first, as they returned from college, and then Ricky, Sammy and Graham were the next to pull in. Ricky had stopped and picked the other pair up in York again, since they thought it would be best to carpool. We had just sat down to grab a snack and chat when Ricky made an unexpected announcement.

“The drive really tired me out,” he proclaimed, “but then again I stayed out late and partied last night so that might also have something to do with how I’m feeling.”

Ricky flashed me a devilish grin and gave me a wink after saying this. Almost immediately, this made me begin to wonder if his facial gestures were meant to indicate that his evening out might have also included a romantic encounter.

“I’m gong to go upstairs and take a nap. I hope you don’t mind,” he stated next.

“No, not at all,” I replied. “Sleep as long as you need to, because I want you fully alert tonight, for our Christmas Eve celebration.” Ricky nodded and then headed up the stairs.

I went back and spent more time with the rest of the family, as the others continued strolling in. I was happy to see each of them as they arrived and we gathered in the family room, where we talked about what they’d been up to since we’d last seen them.

I was surprised when Mark pulled in, because I knew he would be staying with his mother. Not only that, but it was kind of early in the workday for him to be here already.

“I wouldn’t have figured you’d be here this early,” I told him.

“I actually took off early, because I told them I had a business meeting with one of our clients,” Mark announced.

“So you told a fib to leave early?” I asked.

“Not at all. I am meeting with some of our clients,” he confirmed. “I’m here to talk to Danny and Brandon about Elliot’s accounts.”

That explained several things. He was here to have them sign the paperwork for the various things he had done with Elliot’s newfound wealth. While he was doing that, Amy stayed in the family room to chat with us, so her boyfriend and the others could take care of business.

“I really hate to bother you with this over the holidays,” Mark began, as he addressed Danny and Brandon, “but I really didn’t want to mail this information. I felt it would be better to handle this in person.”

“It’s not a bother,” Danny assured him. “We’re just grateful you’re taking care of this for us.”

“Exactly,” Brandon added. “I’m not sure we’d have trusted anyone else with this amount of money.”

“And I want to thank you too, Uncle Mark,” Elliot told him. “It means a lot to me knowing you’re watching out for my investments like this.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Mark assured him, “and you’re quite a lucky young man. I know you’d rather still have your father, but since that isn’t possible, he did leave you very well off. All in all, you have a little more than nine million dollars in the various investments and I hope to make a little more for you, by the time you start needing to dip into it.”

“Wow! There’s that much?” Brandon exclaimed. “I know you said there were millions, but I didn’t expect that many millions.”

“Yes, that’s what you have,” Mark confirmed. “Your father must have played a very key roll with his firm, if this indicates the kind of money he made.”

“Yeah, he was pretty smart,” Elliot reflected.

Over the next several minutes, Mark had them sign all the necessary paperwork and he explained everything he had done with the money. He also told them he’d provide them with quarterly reports on how the investments were doing and advised them to call any time they had a question or to let him know if Elliot needed any of the money. He had set a small amount up in a savings account and a little more in short term certificates of deposit, in case they needed to get their hands on the money quickly. Other than that, he’d tried to maximize the returns Elliot would make on his investments. He worked hard to come up with a bold, but balanced, portfolio that would protect Elliot’s nest egg in the event of another drop in the market.

Once Mark finished this detailed explanation, the three of them thanked him again and then they rejoined the rest of us. Mark stayed for a little while longer, before Amy and he left to go to his mother’s place. I knew we’d see them again later tonight and on Christmas day, so we bid them a pleasant drive, as we sent them on their way. They didn’t have that far to go, so it really wasn’t a big deal.

Some time later, we were still sitting in the family room and enjoying each other’s company, when I heard a scream. At first, I couldn’t make out who it was or what the person was shouting about, but it definitely sounded as if someone was in distress. I rushed out into the foyer, to see if I could pinpoint where all the noise was coming from.

“Will someone come here and help me,” I heard the voice shout again. “I need help. Pleeeeeeze.”

It was Ricky and he was calling out from upstairs. I rushed up the steps and entered the room he was staying in. I looked at him concerned, because I wasn’t sure what the problem was, but when I spotted the reason he had called for help, I burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny,” he screamed, “and I want to know which bastard did this to me.”

While Ricky had been sleeping, someone had entered his bedroom and used a bunch of very large safety pins to immobilize him. Not only did they pin all of his clothes to the bedding, but they also made certain he was connected to the mattress as well, so he was unable to get up without assistance. I believe he was unwilling to struggle too hard to break free, for fear he would rip his clothing and do damage to the mattress. Slowly, I began unfastening the safety pins and released him from his predicament. There must have been at least sixty or more connecting him to the bed.

A few of the others had followed me upstairs, to see what all the ruckus was about, and when they saw Ricky’s dilemma, they started to razz him.

“Looks like Ricky’s grown attached to his bed,” one of them teased.

“That’s one way to get out of doing anything to help,” someone else offered.

I was too busy trying to unfasten him to look about or try to determine whom the speakers were.

“This isn’t funny!” Ricky screamed. “Someone is going to pay for this.”

I thought it ironic that our biggest prankster felt he would have to get even with the person who had pulled this prank on him. This was especially true, knowing Ricky hated it when the others tried to get even with him after one of his pranks.

It took us about fifteen minutes to get him completely unhooked. Once I had his shirt unfettered, he was able to sit up and help me free his pants.

“It’s a good thing these aren’t my good work clothes,” he shouted, “or else someone would be paying for the damages.”

“Calm down, Ricky,” I urged. “You can’t complain about this, since you get so much enjoyment out of doing things like this to everyone else.”

He flashed me a dirty look, followed by an unamused glare.

“Don’t go sticking up for whoever did this,” he challenged, annoyed. “And I never ruin anyone’s clothing when I do things.”

“And no one ruined anything of yours,” I countered. “Those little pin holes are hardly noticeable.”

Ricky shot me another disgusted look and then went downstairs to begin his investigation into who had pulled this prank. I could tell he was determined to discover who the instigator was.

My older children and grandchildren began to arrive around 4:00, with the last of them pulling in about an hour and a half later. Fortunately for them, they had missed Ricky’s little outburst, although the others were eager to fill them in about what had happened. We also made sure everyone got to meet Elliot and he understood whom each one was. I felt sorry for him, because the poor kid had to learn and match another bunch of names to a new set of faces.

The O’Haras showed up just before the last of my older children’s families did and Elliot, Brandon and Danny greeted them warmly as they entered. Brenda was extremely excited about seeing Elliot again and gave him a tremendous hug and affectionate kiss on the cheek. I could tell this meant a great deal to Elliot and he hugged her warmly in return. Once they had broken their embrace, she turned her attention to Danny and Brandon, while Elliot greeted Patrick. It was obvious a connection had already formed between them, which I think they all needed and would benefit from.

We were all pleasantly surprised when it started snowing a short time later. I was happy to see we might have a white Christmas, but I was also grateful it had waited to start until after everyone had arrived here safely first. Unfortunately, we still had to go out in this in a little while, because we would be eating our Christmas Eve dinner out. Just before 6:00, we loaded into the vehicles and drove down to the restaurant. We arrived without incident, but I was a little concerned about how the ride home was going to be. I hoped the road conditions weren’t too bad by the time we were ready to leave, but only time would tell.

We had both a wonderful time and a great meal at the restaurant, but I tried to prod everyone to move a little more quickly, so we would finish before too much more snow had fallen. There were still a couple of inches of snow on the ground as we departed the restaurant, and it was also starting to get a little slippery, but we all managed to make it safely to our place.

Once we were inside the house, I had everyone join us in the family room again. It was getting awfully crowded in there, primarily because the family was continually growing, but it was also due to the addition of the piano. No matter how tight the fit was, we all managed to squeeze in. I thought it was cute that Joshie, Lucas and Kylie sat under the piano this evening, as if it was their private box at the theater.

The piano also made me do some other things a little differently this year, because it took up much of the space I normally used to put up the tree. Instead of trying to squeeze it in here too, I set the tree up in the rec room, which is located at the back of the house. Unfortunately, this also meant it couldn’t be seen from the road, as had been the case in the past, but our options had been limited. I could have put it up in the living room, but we would need that space for the extra tables we used during the meal, so the tree got shoved to the back of the house this year.

We began the evening’s activities with Elliot playing Christmas carols, which the rest of us sang along to. Since my older children and grandchildren had never heard Elliot play, this came as a pleasant surprise to them. It also got Elliot a bit more attention from everyone, which I think he also enjoyed. If you ask me, Elliot is actually a closeted attention seeker. He enjoys others noticing his accomplishments, but he doesn’t want to go out of his way in order to attract this attention to himself.

Once we finished singing, I sat in my chair and began to read, ‘Twas’ the Night Before Christmas,’ which is another part of our family tradition. My grandchildren, Elliot and Jesse were gathered around me, as I began reading this enchanting poem to them. Just as I was finishing, and right on cue, Santa appeared at the picture window. His appearance excited Kylie, Lucas, Joshie and Megan, but I think Elliot also found it amusing as well. Even though Elliot is too old to still believe in Santa, I think he was curious as to how we’d set this up.

What had happened this time was that no one had noticed that Dustin did not come into the family room with us. Once we reached the house, he went and changed into our Santa outfit and then listened for me to begin reading. At that point, he snuck out the backdoor and walked around to where he could see into the family room. Then, he waited and watched for me to close the book, which was his signal to walk up beside the picture window and peer inside, so the little ones could see him.

The children squealed with delight when they saw Santa and then their parents began urging them to get to bed. The kids were told Santa couldn’t drop off their presents until they were sleeping, so without putting up a fuss, they did as they were asked. Before long, they were in their rooms and drifting off to asleep.

“That was pretty clever,” Elliot told me, once the little ones were gone.

“We do it every year,” I explained, “so they have an extra incentive to go to bed and not stay up.”

“Cool! I wish I’d had such a big family when I was little. This is fun,” he added, as he got up to walk away.

Once we felt the little ones were asleep, some of us began to put together the toys that needed assembling, as others wrapped the final few gifts. Then we began carrying everything into the rec room and arranging the items beneath and around the tree. Once again, the room was filled with gifts waiting to be opened in the morning. Then we all went to our bedrooms, knowing the little ones would probably be getting us up fairly early.

It actually wasn’t too bad this year. The kids didn’t start coming downstairs until shortly after 7:00. I had been up for about a half-hour by then and had already made a pot of coffee. When I saw my grandchildren running back to the rec room, so they could check things out, I jumped up and told them they had to wait. I said they wouldn’t be able to unwrap their gifts until I got everyone up, which wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear. Once I was sure they were going to comply with my request, I went around the house and knocked on bedroom doors. After I made sure everyone was up and moving, I came back downstairs to make certain the little ones weren’t trying to get a head start unwrapping their presents.

A few minutes later, I heard my daughter-in-law scream and some of the others begin to laugh. I went out to see what was up and they were all staring and pointing at Ricky.

“What?” he snapped, annoyed.

“What are you supposed to be?” Elizabeth asked in return.

“What are you talking about?” Ricky challenged, growing irritated.

“Have you looked into a mirror this morning?” I asked next.

“No! Why?” he wanted to know.

“Just go do it,” I told him. “You’ll understand.”

Ricky went into the downstairs bathroom to do what I’d asked and then I heard him shout.

“Which one of you assholes did this,” he screamed.

While he had been sleeping, someone had snuck into his room and applied makeup to his face. When he came down this morning, he looked as if he was a member of the rock group, ‘KISS.’

“Who the fuck keeps doing these things to me?” he shouted. “Some son-of-a-bitch is definitely going to be sorry he decided to screw with me.”

“Ricky, please watch your language,” I advised him. “There are little ones around.”

Ricky wasn’t happy, but I was finding this highly amusing. I had no idea who was pulling these pranks, but I was a little concerned about how far Ricky might go to seek his revenge. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble and done a lot of planning to pull these two pranks off, but he was also very fortunate that Ricky was a sound sleeper.

As I thought about it, these pranks had taken a great deal of effort. First, the person doing this needed to round up a multitude of safety pins to fasten him to his bed, and now he had to dig up some of our left over makeup from Halloween to do what he did to Ricky’s face, even if he hadn’t done a very good job. The application of the makeup was kind of a rough, but we definitely got the idea of what he was trying to accomplish.

Ricky rushed off to clean the makeup off his face and the rest of us waited for him to return, before we began opening the presents. We made certain that everyone had one gift with his name on it before we allowed anyone to begin unwrapping. Once the okay was given, a flurry of excitement was unleashed and wrapping paper was being ripped off of packages and tossed in a multitude of directions.

It only took about forty-five minutes before all of the gifts had been unwrapped and then we began checking out what everyone else received. Elliot looked quite pleased and I thought he’d done quite well. Danny and Brandon had purchased him an iPod and a cell phone, along with some new clothes, and he got some games for the Wii – a sports package, from his grandparents, along with some more clothes.

“We hope you like the Wii games, dear,” Brenda told him. “We weren’t sure what types of things you were into, but you had said you used to play tennis and took kung fu. This has tennis, baseball, golf, bowling, boxing and Wii fitness training, so we thought you might find something you’d like.”

“I’m sure I will. The tennis and fitness program sounds like a lot of fun, but the boxing might also be good,” Elliot confirmed. “Thank you for getting this for me and thank you for the clothes too. They’re very nice.”

The O’Haras seemed very pleased with his response, but that wasn’t all of Elliot’s gifts though. His uncles had chipped in and purchased him some music CDs, which he could load on his iPod and then listen to them whenever he wanted. These CDs were by various artists and selected merely because the ones who had selected them liked the music and thought Elliot would enjoy them too. Elliot seemed pleased with the various selections and thanked them.

I had given him a couple of items from Jake and me, the first being a hardcover edition of ‘The Collected Works of William Shakespeare.’ This was one of the things Elliot had told me he was interested in, although he also added that he hoped it didn’t make him look like too much of a geek. I told him it didn’t and stated it merely highlighted his intelligence and intellectual curiosity. He seemed satisfied with my response.

In addition to that, I picked up the DVD set of the complete first season of ‘Rome,’ because he told me how much he liked history, especially ancient history. I thought he’d get a few hours of enjoyment out of watching the videos as well. I also bought him a very nice sweater, for those cold Pennsylvania days and nights.

“Wow. The stuff you got for Elliot was kind of lame,” Jesse told me, when he thought we were alone. “You usually pick out better gifts than that.”

“No they weren’t. They were great,” a voice behind us offered.

When we turned around, we discovered Elliot had overheard Jesse’s comment.

“I thought those gifts were great,” Elliot continued. “You know what a nerd I am and I love this kind of stuff.”

Jesse seemed surprised by Elliot’s response, but didn’t say anything more. I’m not sure if he mentioned this to Elliot again later, to see if he was just trying to be nice and spare my feelings. Regardless, I knew they were what Elliot wanted, because he was the one who had given me the idea, although he hadn’t specifically mentioned those exact items.