From the minute he got into the car, Blake felt nothing but peace. Ian was focused on traffic and didn’t say much as they went down the road. Blake was quiet too. He was daydreaming about what his new house would be like. More importantly, he’s dreaming about his room. Blake hasn’t felt this safe and secure in a long time. He actually ended up taking a quick five minute nap in the car on the way home.
When the car came to a stop, Blake woke up to the most wonderful thing he’s seen since arriving here in Tylerville. A large two story house with a big fenced-in yard sits in front of him. There are several large trees on the property. He can even see a pool and a basketball hoop. Ian gets out of the car and walks up the sidewalk to the front porch. Blake waits a second before he gets out. Ian is already up on the porch. When Blake joins Ian on the porch, Ian looks at him and asks, “Are you ready?”
Blake smiles and says, “I’m more than ready.”
As soon as the front door is open, Blake walks in and looks around a little nervously. He wants to get in and check things out. When his dad walks in and closes the door, Blake looks at him and asks, “Can I?”
Ian knows what he wants and just waves him on. Blake takes off to look over his new home. The house offered many opportunities to explore and hopefully find that one place where he can go to think. He walks upstairs. There is one room that just feels right. He walks into the room and sits on the floor next to the bed. In his mind, he can see this room as his own, but can his dads be okay with him having it? All he can do is wish and hope. Leaving the room, he returns to the living room. Along the way, he discovers the upstairs bathroom. Back on the main floor, he enters the kitchen. Like all teenagers, Blake heads straight for the refrigerator. He doesn’t take anything out; he just looks over the contents. As he does, he glances out the nearby window.
The backyard looks like it be could be fun. There’s a pool, which will be nice once summer comes. His dads have also installed a small volleyball net. Blake’s eyes have landed on something else. In the back corner of the yard, there’s a small garden get-away. During the summer, one might be able to sit back there and forget about the rest of the world. Voices from the living room bring him back to reality.
He wanders back to the living room and finds Trace standing there with bags of food.
“Fish and chips sound good?” Trace asks, looking at his son.
“Anything sounds good right now.” He inhales the smell of the fish and the fries. It’s been awhile since he had food like this. Following Trace into the dining room, he sits down in one of the chairs.
Trace looks at him and says, “Go wash your hands!” In usual teenage manner, Blake groaned big time. When he came back, Ian and Trace already had the table set. Blake sat down and folded his hands and said a prayer. The guys were not raised in religious homes and grace over the meal never happened unless it was a big family gathering. After Blake said his prayer, Ian looked at him and asked, “So did you find your future room?”
Blake smiled at Ian and replied, “You mean the one that only has a bed?”
Trace and Ian smiled.
“Eat, because after we’re done, all of us are going shopping.”
Blake finished eating and went up to the bathroom to wash his hands again.
Everyone else finished eating and Trace went out to get the pickup out of the garage. They had to get a blanket, sheets, and pillow, a bookshelf, and a computer table. They piled into the pickup and headed out. The guys live ten minutes away from the highway and five minutes away from the stores via the highway. The first store that they are going to is an office supply store.
“We need to get a desk, a computer desk, and a chair,” Ian said to Trace and Blake.
“Go find the two desks that you want,” Ian said, turning the search over to their son. After his run-in with Mark, Blake is a little bit nervous about being away from his dads. His time on the streets has taught him to always stay sharp because you never know when you might come across the wrong person at the wrong time. He’s also learned to hate crowds. Ian figured that the teen would run ahead and find the one he wanted. Eventually, Blake did find the computer desk he wanted. It’s glass with a slide-out keyboard tray, and a shelf for the CPU. Hopefully, it’s what he really wants. The other desk that he picked is wooden. It could hold another computer, but hopefully, this desk will be used for homework or other writing. They also picked up a computer chair. They paid for the items and then loaded the objects into the back of the pickup and closed the cab up. Then it hit Trace and Ian that as long as they were here, they might as well pick up a computer and a printer. Blake spent about an hour looking over all the systems. He picked out the computer he wanted and then Ian talked him into an all-in-one printer.
“Before we go home we need to stop here.”
“Ummm… This is a toy store. Why are we here?” Blake asked, hoping that this wasn’t going to be waste of time.
“You’ll see,” Ian replied with a smile. Trace just chuckled, because he and Ian knew the reason behind this stop. The guys figure that by having Blake along, he can pick out what he wants. The store is packed and filled with a ton of crazy shoppers.
“Blake, we want to get you a game system for Christmas, but we have no idea what kind of system you might have had back home or what system you might want, so we thought we’d just bring you with us.”
“Really? You guys are actually buying me a game system?”
Trace thought that his question seemed a bit odd.
Ian answered, “Yup, we were planning on it… unless you don’t want one.” Blake did want a game system, but he still couldn’t believe that they were just going to buy one for him. His parents required him to pay for half of the cost of his last game system.
After looking through the systems, Blake ended up picking up the game system that he had back in Idaho. They paid for the game system and then left for their final stop. Their final stop was going to be the department store. The guys told him to pick out a television and an entertainment center. Blake was ashamed of himself for feeling a bit slighted, but he had a game system, a television, and an entertainment center, but he didn’t have any games. Blake’s emotions must have shown through, because Trace whispered into Ian’s ears, “I think we should get him a couple games.” Ian agreed.
“Blake, follow me.” Trace and Blake made their way to the back to the electronics section. “You can get three games for right now.”
Blake had never been spoiled like this; he almost didn’t believe his ears. Were they really allowing him to get all this stuff? It almost seemed like a dream. When the shopping was done, Blake felt like a thief.
* * *
On the way home, Trace’s phone went off and he passed it to Ian.
“Trace’s phone, Ian speaking. How can I help you?”
“Ian, this is Mom, what are you doing for Christmas?”
It was Trace’s mom. She knew this Christmas would be different with a new person in the family. But Ian didn’t have a clue as to what was going on for Christmas this year.
“Hold on, Mom, let me ask,” Ian said to his mother in law. “Trace, your mom wants to know what we’re doing for Christmas.” He really wasn’t asking Blake, but he knew that Blake’s input would be just as valuable.
“Why don’t we go to one of our parents’ homes on Christmas Eve and another one on Christmas Day? Let the folks figure it out. Is that cool?”
Ian didn’t exactly like Trace’s idea, but he’s wasn’t worth arguing with him either.
“Sounds good to me,” he said to Trace.
“Mom, Trace says that…” But Trace interrupted.
“On second thought, let’s just keep it the same.”
Once Trace had a chance to think things through a little bit more, he had changed his mind. Ian just wished that he would decide.
“Mom, Trace thinks it’s best that we just keep things the way they are.”
“So, I’ll see everyone on Christmas Eve then… say around 4:00 pm?”
“Yeah… see you and the whole gang at 4:00.”
Blake is actually starting to get excited. He loves Christmas and this Christmas is going to be special. He can’t wait. Still, his heart is in Idaho.
* * *
Back home in Idaho, Christmas is filled with traditions that go back to who knows when. There is the church Christmas party that serves as the official starter of the Christmas season. Christmas music is played from December 1st to December 31st. The tree was artificial. Christmas Eve was spent listening to Dad read the Bible while Mom started cooking her world famous mince meat pie and apple pie. On Christmas morning, the presents would be under the tree going from left to right from oldest to youngest. Breakfast was a family favorite, a type of casserole; a layer of breakfast sausage, a layer of peaches, and cornbread. Christmas brunch was at his mom’s parents’ house, while dinner was at his dad’s parents’ house. This year everything is fresh and new.
* * *
Ian and Trace are caught up in creating traditions mostly for Blake’s sake. Being a cop, Trace has done the “Shop with a Cop” program every year since joining the force. It’s become a tradition for him. Ian started a family tradition of baking cookies with Trace to pass out to the neighbors. This year Ian talked Blake into helping him pass out all 15 dozen homemade gingersnap cookies. As they were finishing, Blake stopped for a second and looked at his dad.
“Dad, there is an Angel Tree at City Center Shelter, can we take an angel?”
Ian thought for a second and then said “Sure!” When the last of the cookies were passed out, Ian and Blake returned home. Ian wrote a note explaining to Trace where they were going. Once the note was finished they left for the shelter.
The outside of the shelter looked lifeless. As they buzzed in, it hit Ian that maybe they need something else to do for Christmas. Helping out with the Angel Tree just might be that thing. Blake explained to the security guard why they were at the shelter and he directed them to the dining room. A large 8 foot real pine tree stood all lit up in the room. Mr. Hansen just happened to walk in and saw Ian and Blake standing near the tree.
“Sorry guys, the last angel was taken off around 3:00 pm, but if you guys want to do something worthwhile, I have an address where angels are desperately needed.”
Mr. Hansen handed Ian a card with the address of the place on it. Ian looked at the name of the organization. He had heard of this place before, but had never once considered visiting it. Ian showed the card to Blake who smiled and pulled on Ian’s arm.
“Let’s go!” he said, as he continued to pull on Ian’s arm. The parent and son duo made a bee-line for this special center.
This building was richly decorated. Blake had never made it this far east, but he had received a bag of toiletries from here once. He heard many of the teens talking about the staff here and the programs it offered. A young lady came out to see if she could help the two lost people now standing in her foyer.
“Can I help you?”
She recognized Blake from his photo. The school and Citywide bounce information back and forth to this center and vice versa.
“Mr. Hansen sent us over here,” Ian said.
“Well, I do have some beds available, but not very many, and I usually do not take adults, but it is cold outside.”
She hadn’t even noticed the way that Ian and Blake were dressed. All she could see were two people who appeared to need her help.
“No… we… we aren’t looking for a bed. We were hoping for an angel off your Angel Tree,” Blake said, hoping for some way to lighten the season for someone.
“Oh, I’m sorry, but we don’t have an angel tree here, but I do have something you could do for me.”
Ian could see the light in her eyes. Blake was excited to help out, no matter what the task might be.
“My driver never showed up tonight, and I could use some help passing out presents, blankets, and hot cocoa.”
It was hard to miss Blake’s enthusiasm. It would be hard for anyone to turn this kid down.
“Dad, can we?”
Like I said, it would be hard for anyone to turn Blake down, and, naturally, Ian couldn’t turn his son down.
“Sure, Blake, let’s go!”
With the help of her two new volunteers, she loaded up the organization’s van and the group set out to make someone’s night.
On the way, the lady riding with Blake and Ian introduced herself as Pam Graff. She told them that she had started this center after spending time on the streets in New York City. Her will to survive and to overcome propelled her off the streets. With a lot of help from other people, and God, she made it to where she is today. First thing she did when she arrived here in Indiana was to set about starting this center. Now every night, she goes searching for her kids and any new teens who might wander into the city.
For some time, they drove around with Pam keeping an eye out on the streets, buildings, and parks for signs of life. Ian thought that this might be a big waste of time until Pam saw a group of teens gathered around a small fire. She had Ian pull over and stop. The kids must know the van because they approached it once it came to a halt. Any other people might have felt intimidated by the group of rough looking teens, but not Pam or Blake. In fact, Blake followed Pam’s lead and set about gathering packages and blankets, while Ian served the hot cocoa. They passed out eight packages in that first stop. Altogether, the trio passed out twenty-one packages. At the end of the night Ian and Blake felt more than satisfied with what they had done.
The trio stopped back at the center. Ian and Blake got out of the van. Pam came around and gave each of them a hug.
“Thanks so much for helping me out tonight!”
She was surprised that two strangers would give up a night to just drive around like that.
“You’re welcome, Miss Graff,” Blake said, as he gave her a hug. Ian walked up to her and stretched out his hand to shake.
“I just wanted to say thank you for a great night,” Ian said, as Pam and he broke their handshake. Blake was quiet while he and Ian walked to the car. He actually knew one of the kids; in fact, it was that kid who helped Blake find City Center Shelter his first week in Indiana. Now finally, he was able to help him out and to repay the debt. He felt like he had repaid some of the kindness shown to him while he was on the streets. He also knows that he wants to do that more often. A smile came across his face and he looked over at Ian and said, “Thanks Ian.”
Ian returned the smile and said “You’re welcome.” Ian looked at his watch as they drove away. It was hard for him to believe, but four hours had passed while they were out with Pam.
“You know what? We really need to do that again,” Ian said, hoping that Blake would want to do it again, too.
Blake was shocked. “Really?” Personally, Blake could do this at least once a week if not more.
“Yeah don’t be so surprised, I enjoyed being out there tonight.”
The young man could tell that his adopted father was telling the truth, but he wanted to confirm it.
“So we can do this again?”
“Sure and maybe next time Trace will join us.”
Blake was floored by Ian’s reply.
Meanwhile back at home, Trace is enjoying some quiet. He was nibbling at some fruit salad when Ian and son entered the house. Trace looked at Ian and Blake and asked, “So why did you go to City Center?”
“Blake wanted to participate in their Angel Tree, but by the time we got there all the angels were claimed. Mr. Hansen sent us to homeless shelter for teens and we helped the director pass out packages to the kids out on the streets.”
Trace felt kind of left out, but there was no way of getting out of work. Ian kind of bumped Trace just a little bit.
“So… ummm… Blake and I were wondering if you would like to join us next week when we go back to help out.”
Trace’s face lit up. “Yeah, I’d love to!”
Neither Ian nor Blake could believe that Trace wanted to go out with them next week.
Blake had gotten tired and excused himself after hugging Ian and Trace goodnight. After getting ready for bed, he wrapped the blankets around him and it really sank in at that point, that he was finally home.
Meanwhile, Ian and Trace were left alone in the dining room. The guys gave each other a gentle kiss, and then retired for the night.
* * *
Let me know what you think of the story by emailing me at Hnstskr4@aol.com