True to their word, on December 21, all the guys flew into Kentucky to spend Christmas with Dad, his family, and me. I was literally bouncing out of my chair with excitement at the prospect of spending the holidays with my new family. I knew it wasn’t going to be the same without Mom, but everyone was trying their hardest to make it perfect for me, going as far as to follow as many of the traditions Mom and I had as possible, despite their own family traditions.
We had to split everyone up between the Richardson home and the Littrell home, since there were so many people. Dad, Kristin, Grandma Ann, Uncle Tim, Tracy (Uncle Tim’s wife), Will and Olivia (Uncle Tim’s children), Uncle Jerald, Alex, Denise (Alex’s mom), Tony (Alex’s step-dad and Denise’s husband), and myself were all crammed into the Richardson home. Brian, Brian’s parents, Leighanne, Baylee, Nick and his four siblings, BJ, Aaron, Angel, and Leslie, stayed at the Littrell home. Harold, Brian’s older brother, spent the holidays with his girlfriend’s family. Howie, his parents, and his siblings ended up staying at a hotel, but they spent the majority of their time going between both houses, only returning to the hotel to sleep.
Shortly after everyone had arrived in Kentucky, we went on a Holiday grocery shopping trip, picking out food we normally wouldn’t eat except for special occasions. Then, the next day, all of the guys came with me to cut down our own Christmas tree at a tree farm. It was quite entertaining watching the guys fight over who actually got to chop down the tree. On the 23rd, we spent all day and most of the night watching all the Christmas movie classics like “Miracle on 34th Street,” “White Christmas,” “The Santa Clause,” and “Love Actually.” On Christmas Eve, we had food spread out in a buffet style all day long for everyone to snack on before the big Christmas dinner that night. Then, after dinner, we drove around looking at all the Christmas lights people had put up.
Everyone dragged their feet in the door when we finally pulled up to the house around 11:30. “Goodnight, Jas. Merry Christmas,” Dad said, giving me a hug and a smile before heading to his room for the night. Everyone else followed suit until it was just me and Alex remaining.
Without saying a word, we made our way to the media room so that we could have some time alone. Alex spread out across the couch, pulling me down with him. He pulled my hair back, kissing the back of my neck gently in a sign of affection. I turned to him, briefly, giving him a loving smile.
We just sat there, enjoying each other’s company for the next half-hour. At 11:55, I got up, pulling Alex up with me. He gave me a questioning look and was about to ask me what I was doing when I help my finger to my lips in a shushing motion. We walked outside, onto the deck, and sat down on the steps so that we could see the stars.
“When I was little, my mom used to tell me that the North Star is what Santa uses to guide him around the world. So, every year, we’d go outside at midnight on Christmas morning and make a wish on the North Star. There was only one rule. We weren’t allowed to make a wish that benefited us or the opposite of whatever we wished for would happen. It always had to be a wish for someone else,” I explained, smiling at the memory of the first time my mom and I had made a wish on the star.
I felt Alex scoot closer as he wrapped his arm around me, pulling me into him. I counted down, silently, until it was midnight. At midnight, I found the North Star and closed my eyes, making my wish. ‘I wish that Dad would find the happiness he’s always been searching for. There’s a lingering sadness in his eyes that I wish would disappear. Please grant my wish this year.’
When I finished making my wish, I looked over at Alex, who was just opening his eyes. He smiled at me before leaning in and giving me a deep kiss. “Merry Christmas, baby,” he said when we pulled away.
“Merry Christmas,” I responded back.
Just when I was starting to fall asleep, Alex started moving around trying to get something out of his pocket. “There’s one more tradition you forgot,” he smiled, handing me a wrapped rectangular box. “You can’t go to sleep until you open your one present tonight.” I raised my hand, resting my palm against his cheek letting him know how touched I was that he remembered.
I unwrapped the present, opening the lid on the box. I let out a gasp of surprise when I saw what was inside the box. “How did you get these?” I asked, picking up two slips of paper out of the box.
“Well, when Kevin wasn’t able to get them, I started calling in favors until I found someone who could help me,” he explained.
He had gotten me tickets to see the Nutcracker Ballet, which was showing at the Kentucky Opera House until the end of December, the day after Christmas. When I was little, my mom started taking me to see the Nutcracker Ballet every year. When Kevin found out, he had tried to get tickets, but he had been unable to. How Alex had managed to get the tickets, I may never know, but I was content with the fact that I was going.
“Thank you, Alex. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to me,” I cried, tears falling down my cheeks at the fact that he had tried so hard to get me these tickets because he knew they would make me happy. It was obvious how much he loved me.
“The look on your face tells me all I need to know,” he smiled.
That night, I went to bed with a huge smile on my face and a feeling that this Christmas still had a lot of promise for being one of the best Christmases I had ever experienced.
“WAKE UP!” I heard just before I felt a huge lump land on top of me.
“Ughhhh!” I groaned, looking into the shining blue orbs that can only be a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.
“Hey Baylee!” I greeted, hugging him tightly and ruffling his hair, causing him to squeal and squirm out of my grasp.
I finally noticed Brian standing in the doorway when I saw Baylee run and hide behind his legs. “Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes,” he smiled.
“Thanks for the wake-up, but what are you doing here?” I laughed. “Merry Christmas, by the way.”
“Merry Christmas, Jas. We’re going to open presents here, since most of us don’t really have a lot to open anyway. Howie, Nick and their families all left the majority of their presents at home to open when they return. Now hurry up, you’re holding everyone else up,” he responded, walking down the hall with Baylee in tow.
I got up, taking a quick shower and getting dressed in my red shirt and army-green pants as a show of Christmas spirit. As I walked into the room, I saw the kids anxiously waiting by the tree for the adults to finish their breakfast. It was obvious they were annoyed because they had to wait for everyone else before they could open presents.
While we were eating breakfast, I mentioned the fact that Alex had gotten the both of us tickets to see the Nutcracker Ballet the following night. Dad looked at Alex, asking the question with his eyes.
“I pulled in a few favors, called a couple of connections,” he answered, understanding Dad’s silent question. Then he turned to me, “I actually got the tickets for you and your dad. I figured that since it was a tradition you had with your mom, you might want to share it with your dad as well.”
I looked at him in a sense of awe. He had gotten me tickets so that I could share this experience, this tradition, with my father. “Thank you, Alex. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiled.
“Thank you, Alex, for giving me this chance,” Dad smiled at his friend and band mate.
“Anytime, bro,” he responded.
After breakfast, we started opening presents. I was amazed by how many presents I actually got… but what amazed me even more was what they were. Alex got me a new lap-top and some clothes that I had pointed out I wanted on our many shopping trips while we were on tour. He also promised me that there was another gift he would give me in private. I gave him his mother’s first engagement and wedding rings on a chain, which I had gotten from his father. I also had a private present for him as well. Dad got me a cross necklace my mom had given him when they were younger, a bunch of CDs and DVDs I had been wanting and a portable DVD player. The thing that touched me most, though, was the scrapbook he had made of all the letters my mom had sent him about me over the years with responses he had never sent on the opposite pages. I guess family must think alike because I also got him a scrapbook of pictures of me growing up, starting with my baby picture and ending with the most recent picture we had taken together. Brian got me a multimedia player with XM Radio, a new cell phone with iTunes, and a PDA. I got him a personalized Wildcats basketball jersey signed by all the players that were on the team in 1975, the year he was born. Howie got me a digital camera, which was a surprise to me since we weren’t really that close. I gave him a gag-gift of a how-to manual for basic computer functions. I also gave him a keychain of the initials TJ for his nickname, “Trump Jr.” Nick got me a bunch of computer games I had been talking about. In return, I gave him a bunch of video games he had been asking for. Kaci sent me some beautiful dresses and an amazing poem she wrote for me. I sent her a gag-gift of a pair of fuzzy dice for when she got her first car because we always used to joke about how tacky they were. I also gave her a scrapbook of pictures of us from the tour.
Kevin got the best present of the year, though, when Kristin told him she was pregnant. I saw his eyes light up like they never had before, and for the first time, I saw the sadness in his eyes start to shrink. It was then I realized what that sadness was. It was partially guilt, but mostly it was him wanting to experience what he had missed out on with me. He wanted to be a part of his baby’s life from the beginning, through every step. I guess my Christmas wish came true quite early this year.
When Alex and I were finally alone later that night, we exchanged our private gifts. Alex had gotten me a locket with a picture of my parents on one side and a picture of me and him on the other. I knew I couldn’t let anyone see the locket, but I also vowed to only take it off when absolutely necessary. I had given Alex a chain with two rings entwined. One of the rings was the first ring I had ever owned. The second ring was a copy of the first ring Alex had ever owned with the words, “My heart, My soul, My love,” engraved on the inside. The look in his eyes when he recognized the rings was priceless and would be with me forever. I know our relationship was still fairly new, but I felt like this was it. I felt like he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with, and just looking at him so overcome with emotion by my gift made me fall even more in love with him than I already was. Yeah… he was my future.
The rest of our break went by relatively uneventfully. The guys left on the 27th so that they could be home for New Year’s Eve. Dad, Kristin and I returned to L.A. on the 29th so that we could also be there for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Ryan Cabrera’s ex-girlfriend, Ashlee Simpson, was throwing a huge bash and had invited Alex to go. So, of course, Alex invited me. Dad let me go, but he made sure that Alex understood I was not allowed to have ANY alcohol. The truth was, I wasn’t going to drink anyway because I knew it would make Alex feel uncomfortable. He had to stay away from the alcohol, so I vowed to do the same.
“DAD! Alex is here to pick me up!” I yelled upstairs where he and Kristin were getting ready to go out themselves.
“I’ll be right there,” he yelled back.
Alex and I talked quietly, trying to distract ourselves from the fact that we hadn’t been able to see each other, let alone kiss, in five days.
“Alex, I mean it. She is to have NO alcohol… is that understood?” Dad lectured. It seemed that no matter how old the guys got, Dad always felt a sense of responsibility for them, like HE was their father… especially with Alex, since he didn’t have a father growing up.
“Kevin, man, I know,” Alex sighed. Dad looked like he was ready to comment on Alex’s carefree attitude, but Kristin came down and saved us.
“Kevin, dear, let them go. We have to get going ourselves, anyway,” she whispered in his ear, sliding her arm around his waist.
I shot Kristin a look of gratitude before kissing dad on the cheek and running out of the house before he could say another word.
When we arrived at Ashlee’s house, the party was already going full-swing. As soon as we were through the door, Alex was ambushed by people he knew, including Gwen Stefani and Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas. Of course, he introduced me to everyone as “Kevin’s daughter, Jasmine” since we didn’t want anyone to know we were dating, lest Kevin found out.
I had never really paid attention to how popular Alex really was. It seemed like he knew EVERYONE at the party, including Ashlee Simpson. She was really sweet, and I couldn’t understand why people always gave her such a hard time. She didn’t deserve it.
The whole night was spent bringing in the New Year in style. When the countdown began, Alex led me off to a deserted balcony so that we were alone. At midnight, he leaned down and kissed me, whispering “I love you,” just before his lips touched mine.
Inspiring Tunes: Gavin DeGraw - I Don't Want To Be