On Christmas morning, Henry awakens and immediately smells coffee brewing. Coming downstairs, he finds Emily and Darrek already awake and curled up on the couch together with their coffees. The Christmas tree is lit, and there are wrapped packages underneath of it. Henry’s stocking is stuffed full.
“Good morning, and happy Christmas!” Darrek smiles at him and winks. "Why don’t you go get some coffee and then you can join us and investigate your presents a bit?
Inside of his stocking, there are a bunch of various chocolate and candy treats, a really nice insulated travel coffee mug with the Hive Arcana logo, a pound of their house blend coffee, and gift cards to various stores including Game Stop, Barnes and Noble, Hot Topic, etc. There’s also a membership tag on a lanyard for the Bethel Park Community Center. “They have very nice facilities and programs,” Darrek says. “So I got us a family membership.”
Underneath the tree, Henry opens the following gifts:
An Xbox One, and a Wii U. Darrek grins. “Now you can play any game you bloody well want to.”
The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volumes I-III. They appear gently used. When Henry opens the cover, he immediately notices sentences have been underlined and recognizes his father’s handwriting in the margins. Turning to the front, his father’s name is carefully written on the inside cover. Henry can barely hold back tears. After his parents’ belonging were sold at the estate sale, he was sure he would never see any of his father’s books again.
Darrek says, “Some wisdom for you, from your dad.”
In a smaller box, a brass antique compass with a pocket chain attached. “That also belonged to your dad. Em took it to her jeweler, and they replaced the glass, cleaned it, and tightened everything up, so it’s in good working order.”
Several framed pictures of Henry and his parents. Darrek clears his throat. “You can put those up in your room, or we can hang them up down here, with our pictures…whichever you’d prefer.” One of them is from when Henry was a baby, with his mother. There’s also a picture of his parents from their wedding day. Without a word, Henry hangs the picture of his mother holding him over the mantle. He makes quiet plans to himself to get a nice frame for the picture of his parents’ wedding so that he can put it on his nightstand.
A copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, as originally written in Koine Greek. Darrek smiles. “Some more wisdom for you, this time from me. We can work through it together when we start your lessons.”
Henry smiles. “My dad hated Aurelius. He’d go on for hours about how depressing he was. How he was the equivalent of listening to a baby cry. My dad preferred Epicurus. Said he was more ‘authentic,’ whatever that means. I’m glad to see a dissenting perspective.” He hugs Darrek.
Darrek wraps his arms around Henry and chuckles. “Epicurean philosophy was a primary influence on Western culture and values…sort of the root of the idea of, ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Stoicism takes a very different lense on life. My best advice is to read and learn as much as you can, and decide what works and makes the most sense for you.” He ruffles Henry’s hair affectionately, then lets him go.
From Emily, a super soft, crocheted afghan in variegated yarn in all of Henry’s most favorite colors. It is large enough that it fits on his bed. She made it while she was hospitalized at WPIC. The stitch she used looks like tiny little stars.
A large, leather-covered 3 ring binder. Opening it, it is filled with a thick stack of plastic sheets with slots for index cards, which contain recipes, most of them written in his mother’s hand, although some of the ones towards the back are things Emily has made since Henry came to live with them. Henry recognizes so many of his favorite meals, including his mother’s lasagna recipe.
Emily says, “I also scanned them, so there’s an electronic backup.”
Finally, in a large, deep box, there are several pairs of swimming trunks, a rainbow tie-dyed bucket hat. a tee shirt with a white unicorn pooping glittery rainbows, tubes of sunblock and zinc oxide, a water bottle, sunglasses, sandals, an oversized super fluffy beach towel, and an envelope. Inside the envelope is an application for a passport, a money order made out for the processing costs, and several printed receipts from Darrek’s personal email account. Looking at them, Henry can see that Darrek booked a trip for the three of them to go to Mykonos, Greece that they had talked about later in the summer once Henry is done with school for the year.
“Everyone’s invited to come over later, sort of like an informal open house,” Darrek says after Henry finishes opening his gifts.
Emily goes into the kitchen and puts a tray of orange-spiced sweet rolls in the oven. As they bake, the smell of them fills the house. “That’s a Christmas tradition from my family,” Darrek remarks softly.
Henry goes to his room for a moment and comes back with two boxes. He hands one to Darrek and one to Emily. Darrek opens his to find a book of Michel Foucault’s essays on sexuality. Henry has a sly grin on his face as he says, “You’re looking after a 17-year-old boy. I figured this was the best way to make sure you’re prepped for the job. Also, it’s autographed.”
Darrek laughs. “I once was seventeen years old too, you realize.” He winks at Henry. “Thank you for the book, I enjoy Foucalt.”
Emily’s gift is an intricately woven and dyed tapestry. It’s an abstract style, but the colors and shapes seem to be constantly shifting and flowing. There is a faint aura of Essence about the cloth. “I didn’t know what else to get you, so I figured I’d talk to Doctor Armedt. It’s supposed to help you center yourself and focus on your Sight.”
Emily hugs Henry tightly and kisses the top of his head. “What a thoughtful and beautiful gift! I love it. Thank you, sweetheart.” She looks at Darrek. “I want to hang it up in our room.”
He nods. “Sure, love. We can go to Pier One this week and get a hanger for it.”
Her face brightens. “Ooo, I like that plan. We can shop their after-Christmas clearance.” She goes back into the kitchen and pulls the sweet rolls from the oven, puts them onto a plate, and brings them out to Darrek and Henry.
Later, after a light lunch, they work together to get the dinner spread prepared. There’s ham, turkey, roast beef, roasted potatoes, the sweet potato casserole Henry requested, vegetables, and yeast rolls with fresh butter. Emily brings out plates of homemade cookies and sweets and sets them on the coffee table.
For Yun-Xun: an overstuffed, comfy meditation cushion and a hand-thrown pottery tea set for tea ceremony for two. The pottery is a warm, red-brown earthenware and is flecked with shades of lavender and lapis lazuli.
For Hilda: a Zweihander with a leather rig so that she can wear it strapped on her back for maximum mobility. The handle of the sword is engraved in runes.