This wasn't the first time we were to move suddenly. That didn't brother me. It seemed we moved all the time. My dad was in the military, and ever since I could remember, when they said go, we went.

But this time it was Christmas, not the middle of the summer, when the change wouldn't have mattered so much.

The movers were to come the 2nd of January, and when we got there, to that place on the map (that is all I had seen of it), I was to start in another new school.

I wrote my initials with my finger on the frosted window pane in front of me. Dad wouldn't like that. It would make a smear when the weather got warmer. Perhaps that why I did it. I wanted to hurt him. Why did he have to be in the military? Why couldn't he stay in one place like the fathers of my friends? I added some squiggly lines to the window for a bigger swear.

More than anything, I wanted to stay. If I had been younger and still believed in Santa Claus I would have made a wish that we could stay. I certainly wanted that more than any other present that Christmas.

The last day of school before vacation came quickly. While everyone else was having fun with the regular Christmas parties, I was busy making arrangements to have my grades tranferred to my new school and was saying good-bye to all my friends. Christmas was not turning out to be the joyous season it usually had been. The bright Christmas decorations and the laughter of my friends only reminded me of what I would be leaving behind.

That day when I got home, my mother was sitting at the kitchen table. As I got a snack from the refrigerator, she tried to console me about our latest move.

"I understand how you are feeling and I. . . ."

"You don't understand? Nobody does!" I blurted out. "If you understood you wouldn't make me go."

"Your father and I don't want to go anymore than you," she insisted, "but we must go. The only thing to do is to make the best of things. Let's not spoil the last Christmas we'll have here."

I knew she was right, but I didn't want to hear, and it didn't make things any better.

The next two days were worse. The closer it got to Christmas the more I dreaded leaving. Then it was Christmas Eve.

I had some last minute shopping to do that day. I went to the stores and joined the thousands of other last-minute shoppers. Happy faces, jubilant music, bright decorations. I wanted to get it all over with. I rushed through the rest of the shopping and as soon as I got home, went straight to my room.

I made the excuse that I had to wrap some presents, but I really just wanted to be alone. I couldn't even bear the radio and the sound of those Christmas carols, songs I had loved every other Christmas.

About 10 that evening the telephone rang. I didn't pay much attention to it, but then Mom called me.

"Michael! Michael! Come downstairs!"

The first thing I noticed when I got there was the grin on her face.

"We don't have to go!" she said. "We can stay! They found a job for Dad here!"

What! All I had asked for -- had wished for -- was happening!

Then, as I was about to give out a whoop, I suddenly stopped. I could have sworn, at that instant, I heard the clatter of hooves and a jingle of bells fading into the night.