Outside, two pillars of red and green framed a porch drenched in icicle lights as a lightly chilled wind blew dark clouds across an eclipsing moon.
Inside, the house was cheery and bright. A modest tree stood before the front window, decorated with angels and ornaments found over the years. Beneath the tree, a pile of presents steadily grew as each group of guests arrived. Stockings were hung on the wall with care, between shelves laden with books and holiday trinkets.
Ensconced in the big chair sat Walking Hyperbole, his hand unconsciously running through Adorable Nurse's hair as she sat on the floor in front of him. Hip Gamer gestured and talked animatedly from his place on the couch, a holiday drink in hand. Beside him lounged Rapier Wit, long, lanky legs splayed before him, while Gleeful Traveler sat also on the floor and leaned against Hip Gamer's legs. Curled in a large, leather office chair next to Rapier Wit, Literary Cat relaxed and watched the proceedings with a knowing gaze. Sher-bear nibbled a cookie made especially for her while she sat at the table, with the occasional laughing exchange with Literary Cat.
My Sam was perched on the keyboard chair, leaning his chin against the back of the chair, just behind Walking Hyperbole and Hip Gamer. I sat at the table with Literary Cat and Sherri, soaking in the joy of having my family in my home.
We sat and watched as images from the past five years flickered across the screen, while Christmas Carols intermixed with Fall Out Boy, Flogging Molly, Great Big Sea, Lily Allen, and Five Iron Frenzy in the background.
As a picture of Adorable Nurse playing amongst rocks and waves came on the screen, she said "I love that shot of me!"
"I really miss that shirt. Whatever happened to it?" Hip Gamer wondered as another picture from his college days appeared.
Walking Hyperbole sat up a little straighter, "I really have lost weight already. That makes me feel awesome!"
Another picture scrolled across the screen. "Whoa! Check out Sam's monstrous beard!" Hip Gamer said.
I piped in, "That was taken my senior year, so yes, we have proof that he and I did meet at school."
"That was your birthday party Rapier Wit, remember?" Sam added.
Rapier Wit beamed. "That's right! Does this mean I can officially take credit for your relationship now?"
Meanwhile a portrait of Sherri in Central Park came up.
"Thank you!" she said, only a trifle bashful.
On the television, Literary Cat and Rapier Wit posed at their wedding.
"And that's a picture of Literary Cat going 'I'm tired of taking pictured now," Adorable Nurse laughed.
"I'd been taking pictures all morning before we even got there! Yeah, I was tired of it," Literary Cat replied.
"There's a lot of pictures from weddings on there," I said. "Weddings are about the only time we take pictures when all of us are together."
Rapier Wit gave the couple next to him a sly grin, "Hear that Hip Gamer? It's up to you to have the next wedding so we can take pictures again."
At that point Hip Gamer decided it was time for all of us to open presents.
Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.