"Well it can't be as bad as going to my "quaker" grandmother's house," Ben replied with disgust.
I shook my head. "I don't know about that. It is not just one Aunt, but three!" I held up my fingers for emphasis.
Ben cocked his head at me. "Do they speak in "thees" and "thous" and everything-ist?"
I laughed. "I didn't even know people still talked like that."
"Well, my grandmother still does," Ben shrugged.
"My aunts don't talk that way..." I started.
Ben looked up from his book. "Then it ain't that bad bro."
I stared at the wall opposite me, chewing the end of my pencil in thought.
"Guess what their names are," I finally broke the silence a moment later.
Ben look up confused. "Whose names?"
"My aunts!" I gave him an exasperated look.
"We are still talking about that?"
I playfully glared at him.
"Okay, okay," Ben put his hands up in the air in surrender. "What are their names?"
"Faith, Hope, Love."
"What?!" Ben's eyebrows shot up.
"Their names are Faith, Hope, Love," I responded, pretending not to notice his surprise.
"You gotta be joking?! I didn't know people still had names like that," he shook his head.
I just laughed.
Ben then realized what he said and joined in the laughter. Then he stopped and leaned forward over the table we were sitting at.
"Okay, so it may not be the best place to spend Christmas, but gee Nate! It's Christmas!" he paused and cocked his head. (He always cocked his head like that when trying to prove a point.) "
"Come on...give me one example of why Christmas couldn't be the happiest holiday of the year?"
"Um, let me think. There is Scrooge, the Grinch..." I tried to act seriously.
"Nate! Really?" Ben sighed and shook his head. He leaned closer and lowered his voice. "You know that we celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas time. That, in and of itself, should cause us all great joy, even if there were no presents, Christmas trees, light, and the best place to spend Christmas."
I finally gave in. "I know. I should be grateful we even get to go somewhere for Christmas."
Ben smiled at me and gave me an awkward pat on the back.
"Now that's the spirit!" a small bell chime met our ears. Ben looked at his phone.
"Must be mom texting saying that she is here." He began packing up his books and placing them in his backpack. I followed suit.
"I still wish we were going to California," I mumbled.
Ben pretended not to hear.
At the entrance of the library, we prepared to split.
"Well, hey bro! Have a great time and text me if you want to," Ben held out his hand and I shook it.
"You too!" Ben began to head to the car. "Have fun with your Quaker grandmother!"
Ben rolled his eyes and waved.
"By the way, did I tell you that we nicknamed them the three French hens?" I called out to him.
Ben just shook his head. "Merry Christmas Nate!"
I laughed and waved. "Merry Christmas Ben!"
I stood at the airport baggage claim with my family the next day. My family consisted of my younger sister, Annie, and my brother Jake, and of course my mom and dad. We had just finished fishing for our bags and were waiting for the aunts.
"Philip, dear brother!" a shrill voice met our ears.
I slowly turned around to see three women wearing a bright assortment of colors rushing toward us.
Jake tapped my arm and I looked down at him. "They really do look like hens, with their purses and hats and the way they are coming at us like that."
I smirked. "They sure do!"
"Why hello there Faith!" My mom opened her arms to greet the aunt wearing nearly everything blue.
"Hope and Love! It is so good to see you again!" Dad gave hugs to his sisters.
More hugs were given to Annie and Jake. Thankfully, the aunts only shook hands with me, all the while exclaiming on how much I had grown, what a handsome young man I was becoming and other such nonsense. Sixteen-year-old guys are just not really into stuff like that. Though, I admit that I liked the handsome part.
"Do y'all have all your bags?" Aunt Hope asked calmly.
"Yes, I believe so," was my dad's reply.
"Then let's be off, dearies!" Aunt Love clasped her hands together in glee.
The aunts led us outside the airport and in the direction of the parking lot. The air smelled fresh and fishy. I hadn't realized we were so close to the ocean.
"We had to bring two vehicles to fit everybody," Aunt Faith was saying. She stopped before a gray minivan, while Aunt Hope turned toward a really old blue Chevy truck.
"Pick whichever vehicle to ride in," she called over her shoulder.
I liked Aunt Hope already. She wore a green jacket with a cream-colored shirt, jean pants, and cowgirl boots. On her head, she wore a cream-colored cowgirl hat with a green ribbon tied around it. Dad always said that she had always been a horse lover. In fact, she had moved to Texas when she was eighteen and lived there until she recently moved here. Why she now lived on Rhode Island, I don't know. Anyway, I liked her calmer personality.
Most of the family stopped in front of the van so I decided that I would rather ride with her. Not only was she nice, but the Chevy truck was irresistible. Plus, I would only have to ride with one aunt and not two.
Aunt Hope gave me a smile when she saw I was following her. "Just toss your bag in the back and hop in. We'll make sure they get all settled before takin' off."
I nodded and threw my duffle bag into the back. Some of dad and Jake's luggage was also placed in the truck before we set off.
"So, are ya excited for Christmas?" Aunt Hope glanced at me, while she guided the truck to the freeway.
I shrugged. "Kinda."
She looked at me strangely and then said, "I see. Well, don't you worry about thinking it is going to be boring, because there are lots of things to do on the farm, especially at Christmas time." She winked at me.
"I just hope it will be a good Christmas!" I commented.
"Ah, don't worry! It will probably be the best you ever had!" and she grinned!
I didn't say anything else and neither did she. I looked out the window. We were slowly moving further away from civilization and every now and then I caught glimpses of the ocean.
Half an hour later, I fell asleep.
When I woke up an hour later, it was significantly darker. The stars twinkled brightly above and all was quiet save for some country hymns playing softly from the radio. I rubbed my sore neck and checked my phone. No signal. Well, I should've expected that, seeing how we were driving along some coast in the middle of nowhere.
"I was wonderin' when you were planning on waking up," Aunt Hope broke the silence, nearly making me jump.
"It was kind of a long day," I said lamely.
She just laughed. "Well, I can imagine! It is mighty draining traveling, even if you are only sitting for hours on end."
I watched her face to see if she was teasing me, but she wasn't laughing anymore, so I guessed she really meant was she said.
"Anyway, you woke up just in time to see one of my favorite places at night." She leaned forward as she said this and squinted into the dark.
"And what would that be?" I asked curiously.
"There!" she pointed.
Suddenly, looming before us was a large lighthouse. The beams of light flashed steadily around in circles, while a low horn blew every few minutes. The lighthouse was decorated with white Christmas lights and a wreath was hanging on the door.
"Wow!" was all I could say.
She grinned. "I know! Isn't it amazing?"
"Yeah, so why do you like it so much? I know that is kind of a silly question, but I really want to know." I faced her again after we had passed the lighthouse.
"There are many reasons, but beside the fact that it is just beautiful to behold at night, it reminds me of my name and what Jesus means to me." She reached for her thermal mug, took a sip and continued. "You know, before I was saved I was like a lost ship in the dark. Then Jesus was like the lighthouse, shining His true light so I could find my way to Him. If I hadn't seen or drew near to the light, I would still be a lost ship today."
I pondered what she said for a minute. "That's good. I really like that analogy!"
"Thanks!" she seemed pleased.
I was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Does Aunt Faith and Aunt Love have favorite places too?"
"You bet they do! Faith's favorite place is the large evergreen tree in the town square. For her, the evergreen tree represents faithfulness, specifically the faithfulness of God. It is her reminder that God is always with her, faithfully, every day. And Love likes the picture perfect white church in town. The cross outside usually is decorated with red and white Christmas lights during the month of December. To her, that reminds her of the selfless love of Christ, who came to save us. His blood shed for us makes our sins as white as snow." Aunt Hope ended thoughtfully.
Boy, did she have good analogies or really, all of the aunts did!
"That's super cool," I remarked. I suddenly felt really ashamed. Aunt Hope must have seen my face.
"Why the long face all of sudden?"
"Well," I rubbed my fingers on my jeans. "I've been really selfish lately. You see, I didn't want to come up here for Christmas..." I trailed off.
"Because staying with three French hens isn't very cool, is it?" she cocked her head, reminding me of Ben.
I suddenly laughed. "How did you know that nickname?"
"Oh come on!" She playfully swatted my arm. "I know everything! Anyway, continue with what you were saying."
"Yeah, I guess you are right. Plus, I really wanted to go to California and go wakeboarding for Christmas." I sighed.
Aunt Hope started to giggle. "I know we three aunts can be feathery hens sometimes, but I think you will find there is more to us than meets the eye! Besides, I don't think wakeboarding will be half as much fun as the fun snow activities we have planned for y'all!" She made her voice sound mysterious. "Besides, you may be able to wakeboard if you want to!"
I gave her a yeah-right look. "Oh really?"
"We have one of them fancy Nintendo game things called a Wii," she teased me.
I laughed! "Well, I guess that works!" I stopped laughing. "You know, I want to have a favorite place too, something that will remind me to be less selfish. Got any ideas for me?"
"Well, Nate... let me think here. About the same place as mine, but a different object, or rather, person?"
"What do you mean?" I was puzzled.
"A light keeper. The lightkeeper of a lighthouse has to make sure the light is always burning brightly every night, even if he is tired or just wants to do his own thing. Only God is the One who can give us the strength to be selfless and that is a gift." She paused as if done but then suddenly burst, "I can even tie that into your name! Your name means "gift of God." God will give you the gift His faith, hope, and love as well as strength to forever be a selfless lightkeeper."
"Whoa! Now, that was pretty epic! Thanks!" I was thoroughly grinning now.
"My pleasure! Oh look," she again pointed out the window. We were pulling into a tree-lined driveway. I could hear a dog barking and suddenly saw movement on the porch. A man came out the front door and started waving.
"We're here! And that my boy, is my fiance', the lightkeeper's son from Texas," she quickly turned off the truck and jumped out.
I sat there for a moment smiling. This might not be that bad of a Christmas after all.