Glenmoor Farm glowed in the dark. At least, at Christmas it did. The farmhouse rose from the snow-covered ground into the night sky illuminated in twinkle lights. Inside, each sitting room overflowed with greenery and tinsel. The fir tree in the family parlor stood tall and proud and covered in red garlands and silver bows, surrounded by boxes of every size wrapped in delicate gold and white paper.
“I wonder what it’ll be like next year.”
Tara and Sammy sat scrunched together on the couch in the family room, sipping store-bought eggnog out of matching crystal goblets. The twins had spent every Christmas of their entire lives in this house, unwrapping gifts and smiling for pictures in this room.
“Is it our fault?” Sammy stared straight ahead.
“Every kid goes to college,” Tara answered.
“Yeah, but they never mentioned selling this place until we left,” Sammy replied.
“They probably didn’t want to worry us,” Tara reasoned.
“200 years. Our family’s owned this house for 200 years.”
“Minus two,” Tara said. “Remember they sold it and bought it back after the Civil War.”
“The shame of it!” Sammy giggled. They’d both heard the story growing up, of how their great-something grandfather had gambled away the farm and how his son had fought tooth and nail and pocket book to get it back. Now the fight was over, forever. “You really don’t think it’s because of us?”
“I don’t think it matters why.”
“I guess you’re right,” Sammy said, and shook her head. “I just can’t believe it.”
“I kind of feel like that’s adulthood.”
Tara and Sammy had gone away to college in late August, and they’d returned for their first break in October to the news of an imminent sale to one of the area’s major housing developers.
“It feels empty without you two,” their mother had told them.
“This was always our retirement plan,” their father had added.
Talking about it that October night, the twins knew they should have expected the news.
“There’re developers everywhere,” Tara had said. “They’ve been breathing down our necks for years to get at this land.”
“Suburbia calls,” Sammy had replied. “And we must answer.”
Now, home for their winter break, the twins had made plans to pack up their room starting tomorrow, the day after Christmas. They’d set the table knowing it would be the last time. They’d cooked oatmeal for breakfast in the brick kitchen fireplace knowing that they’d never see it again after this last holiday. And now, outside, they could hear family arriving on Glenmoor’s circular cobblestone driveway, the last any of them would pull up to the old big house with car loads of gifts and casserole dishes.
“Samantha,” their mother called from the foyer. “Sammy! I need you to park Art’s car.”
“Can’t park his own car,” Tara whispered, as they made their way to the front room. “Runs a bank, and can’t park his own car.”
“Everyone’s got their own talents,” Sammy said. “I am excellent behind the wheel.”
“You are not,” Tara said. “She just doesn’t want you near the custard.”
“Mean,” Sammy whined. And then smiled at her sister. “See you on the other side.”
“Well, this will be a memorable Christmas.” Sammy leaned on her cheek on her sister’s shoulder.
“If you mean because I curdled the custard, I will thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.” Tara gave the top of her sister’s head a playful smack.
“You did, though.”
“Yeah, and you dented Uncle Art’s car.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
The remains of Christmas dinner lay in shambles on the dining room table, surrounded by dirty china and half-finished glasses of wine and water. From their hiding place at the top of the chestnut wood staircase, Tara and Sammy could hear the muffled, jumbled conversation of their family.
“Do you think the developer will keep the house?” Sammy sat up.
“It’s historic, right?”
“Do you think that’ll matter, though?”
“I don’t know,” Tara answered. “I don’t know what any of this will look like a year from now.”
The twins looked out of the showcase window in front of the stairs, out onto the meadows and pastures, and the barns and sheds that dotted the rolling property. They thought of the ponds and the corn fields, and the little forest of sycamores and ash trees they’d played hide and seek in as children.
“I guess they’ll definitely chop down the woods,” Tara said.
“I was thinking about that, too,” said Sammy. “And how they’ll flatten everything.”
The opening chords of “Oh, Christmas Tree” drifted up the stairs. The twins heard singing, mostly off key, and their father laughing, probably at their mother trying to plunk something recognizable out on the keys of the old church upright piano they’d inherited from some spinster great aunt who never left Glenmoor.
“Now we don’t have a choice,” said Sammy.
“Were you thinking of Aunt Alice?”
“Of course I was.”
“I was, too. How many greats is she?”
“I don’t know,” Sammy said. “Lots.”
“We should go down,” Tara said, and stood. “They’ll be opening presents soon.” She reached out a hand to her sister, and pulled Sammy up.
Sammy sighed. “Another teddy bear from Aunt Virginia.”
“We have an enviable collection,” Tara said.
“Lead on, MacDuff,” said Sammy.
“You know that’s a misquote, right?” Tara straightened her rumpled sweater as they both descended the stairs.
As the night wore on, the twins opened presents, sang carols, gave hugs, and benefitted from their cousin Leo’s sneaky plan to spike the cranberry punch. After everyone had gone and the house lay silent and dark, they crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to think of what came next. Neither of them slept, and at just after 4:00 a.m., Tara broke the silence.
“Most people can park a car,” she said.
“Mom always told me I’m the special one,” Sammy replied.
“You’re certainly special, all right.”
“Glenmoor is special,” Sammy said. “Glenmoor’s probably more special than all of us.”
“Now why’d you have to go and bring it up,” Tara replied. “I was just about asleep.”
“I don’t know,” Sammy answered. “I just can’t get it out of my head. It’ll all be gone this time next year.”
Tara sat up against her headboard and pushed the covers off her pajama-clad legs. “Well, now I’m awake.”
“Sorry,” Sammy said. “I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.”
“It’s almost morning, anyway. Let’s go out for a walk,” Tara suggested.
“In the dark?”
“It’s not like we’re going to get lost.”
“Good point,” Sammy said. “Okay, I’m in.”
Both girls jumped out of bed, and bundled up in winter coats and gloves and waterproof boots. Out the door and straight ahead, they walked. They walked the whole property before the sun came up, and they met the dawn sitting in the garden, huddled together on a cold, black wrought iron bench.
Glenmoor Farm came alive with the light. Morning sunshine gleamed off the handmade single-pane windows, and bright red cardinals darted in and out of the scrubby, fallow bushes and brush. The snow in the fields and on the trees glistened, pink and golden, an expanse of glittering, white magic on the quiet landscape.
The twins looked ahead, each lost in the same thought.
“I wonder what it will be like next year,” Tara said.
“Different,” said Sammy. “Just, different.”