The Wonderful, Wonderful Christmas!


K. Corris-Seale

Christmas was supposed to be a family holiday, spent with loved ones.  But sometimes, it just didn’t work out that way.  Seaview was in port, so the crew all got to go home, or where ever they wanted to be.  The Admiral always hosted a Christmas dinner for those who had no where else to go, and Lee was usually there.  But every once in a while, when she wasn’t traveling, his sister Edith would want to spend Christmas with her brother, and they usually went back to their old family home in Boston to celebrate.  They still had family members there they liked to touch base with.  And this year was one of those times.  Of course Lee was invited, but when she was around, he just didn’t want to be with Harry.   Edith paid too much attention to Lee, and Harry spent too much time trying to keep her away from him.  It caused mild irritation between them, and made Lee uncomfortable.

If Chip was going home to his parents’ farm in Kansas, Lee usually went with him.  He was like a second son to the Mortons, and they were the closest thing to family Lee had ever had.  But this year Chip was spending Christmas with his girlfriend at her parents’ home.  It was the first time he was meeting her family.  To Lee, this was a sure sign things were getting serious between the two, knowing Chip as well as he did.  He knew he was welcome to go to the Mortons himself, but it just wasn’t the same without Chip.  And he felt it probably make them miss Chip even more.

Lee really didn’t mind being alone.  Given up at birth, his childhood was spent in an orphanage, so he wasn’t use to family gatherings anyway.  Oh, there was always a tree and decorations, a special meal and donated gifts that could be given to anyone, nothing special from a child’s own Christmas list for Santa, not that any of the orphans believed in Santa.  One thing that you grew up with as an orphan were the true, hard realities of life.  There were no fantasies or fairy tales to believe in.  It was funny, it wasn’t until he became and adult that he realized, intellectually but not longingly, how many things he had missed out on in his childhood.  But you can’t really miss something you’ve never had.

But he had the basics he needed to survive. Shelter, food, medical attention when needed, education in the public school system.  And there were always people he could go to if he needed someone to talk to, or had any problems he needed help with.  At the time, he mistakenly thought they really cared, and maybe they did to a certain extent, but it wasn’t the same as having parents that loved you.  Oh, well, water under the bridge.  It was a long time ago.  As far as he was concerned, he had turned out ok.  As Harry had once said, Lee was a self-made man, and he’d done an incredible job doing it.

He didn’t know what religion he was meant to be, but with Chip and the Admiral both being Catholics, it kind of rubbed off on him.  He had always believed in God anyway, it just felt right.  He went early to Midnight Mass, he enjoyed hearing the choir sing and that usually started earlier.  He looked around at all the families.  I hope someday I have one.  It was beginning to look like Chip was headed down the aisle soon, maybe he would be next.  When the basket came around, he dropped his envelope containing a generous donation in, and he slipped a hundred-dollar bill into the poor box on the way out.  While he was careful with it, money meant very little to him.  Underneath it all, he was a simple man who lived a simple life.  I have everything I need. 

He didn’t feel like going home, but there was nothing open on Christmas Eve.   He drove around for a while, looking at all the beautifully decorated homes and businesses, then decided to call it a night.

He slept in on Christmas day, and then went to IHOP for a delicious breakfast.  Afterwards, he walked around the center of Santa Barbara, sitting down for a while to admire the breathtaking town tree with all its different colored decorations, sparkles and lights.  The silver star on top was some kind of special light that actually sent beams out, looking truly celestial and holy.

He was startled from his thoughts when he heard a noise to the right of him, and saw a young woman had stumbled and fallen to the ground.  He quickly went over to help her up.

‘Oh, my goodness, I was looking at the tree instead of where I was going!  Thank you, thank you so much!  How clumsy of me!”

Seeing she was a bit shaken, Lee talked her into sitting down for a minute to catch her breath.  She was a real beauty, and just his type, looked close to his age.   Dark hair, bright eyes, a warm friendly smile.  Nice figure, too!  And I don’t see a ring on her left hand. 

‘It is a beautiful tree, I’ve been sitting here admiring it.  I can’t imagine how much time it had to take to do all that decorating!”

“And then they probably had to go home and decorate their own trees!”  She laughed, and it was like beautiful music.

They hit it off right away, and talked for a long time.  Her name was Susan, she lived in Santa Barbara, and was a sixth-grade teacher.  Susan loved her job and her students, but was weary and worried about the strain all the teachers were under, between the pandemic and the constant threat of school violence. “Between the masks and the security guards, you have to think twice before you even walk to the Faculty Lounge for lunch!  We really needed this Christmas break.”

It wasn’t until she said that, that Lee realized how very lucky he was to have the ‘job’ he had.  No crewman got on board without being tested that morning, but no one had to wear a mask once they left port.  But because COVID was a global threat, the crew were all confined to the boat when they made port, they couldn’t take a chance of someone bringing it back to the rest of the crew. 

The only exception was the command crew, and Cookie.  He used every opportunity to get the crew fresh vegetables and fruit.  But he was always very careful.   

And with his job, the kind of violence he had to worry about was certainly on a different level than hers.

It was getting late, but Lee didn’t want to end things.  He took a chance, he usually wasn’t this forward, at least not this soon.

“If you have nothing planned for the rest of the day, would you care to join me for a nice Christmas dinner?  Wherever you want.”  He held his breath and said a quick silent prayer.

“I--I’d love too!  Thank you!  That would be wonderful!  And I have nothing planned, I have no family nearby, and it just isn’t a good time for travel or gatherings.”

Lee let out his breath.  “Ok, name the restaurant, but I don’t know what is open today where we can eat outside.  Maybe we can just drive around until we find something you like, unless you have a particular favorite we can try first. Or maybe we can just walk around town and see if we find something.”

“Id love to walk around town and look at all the decorations, I’m sure we’ll find something!”

“Ok, sounds good, let’s go.” Lee stood up, and turned and offered her his hand to help her up.

“Everything all right, no broken bones?”

She laughed.  There was that music again.  “Nope, I’m fine, and I still don’t know what I tripped over!”

Lee rolled his eyes upward.  Lord, if this is your divine intervention, thank you.

They didn’t walk for too long before a mouthwatering aroma got their attention.  It was Chanticlair’s Beef House, a high-class restaurant that had outdoor seating, and there was no wait.  And oh, how beautifully it was decorated!  He’d certainly had heard of the place, but had never eaten there.

After they were seated, Lee asked the waiter jokingly what smelled so good.  He stated it was probably the Christmas Day special, Beef Wellington.  “And sir, it comes with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, a carrot and beet dish, and salad. “

“Wow.  I’ll definitely have that, with all the trimmings.  Susan?”

“That sound good to me, too!   I’ll have the same.”

‘May I recommend a good wine to go with that, Sir?”

Lee looked at Susan, he didn’t know if she was a wine drinker.

She smiled.  “Absolutely!”

‘Bring us a bottle of your best red wine then, please.” 

Susan excused herself to find the Ladies Room.  The second she le

ft, Lee’s cell phone went off.  A chill went right through him.  Oh no, please, not now, not when everything is going so perfectly.  What if this is ONI, or a sudden emergency at the Institute?  I’m the only one around if it is!  Damn it, I have to answer it!  He looked but didn’t recognize the caller ID number.


“Merry Christmas Lee!  How is your day?”

Whew, only the Admiral.  “Merry Christmas to you too, Sir.  Where are you calling from, I don’t recognize the caller ID?”

“Oh, I had to get a new number for the house phone here.  Now you have it.  We’re just about to go out for dinner.  There’s a new seafood place that just opened up, it looks inviting.  What are you doing?”

“I’m sitting down about to have dinner at Chanticlair’s Beef House. The Christmas special is Beef Wellington”

Chanticlair’s?  I can barely afford to eat there!  That’s truly a Christmas treat for you Lee, I’m glad you’re doing something nice for yourself for the Holiday.”

“Well, I’m not exactly alone, Sir.”

“That’s even better news!  I hated to think of you all alone on Christmas Day!  Is it one of the crew?”

“No Sir, she’s a beautiful lady I just met today.  We’re just spending the day together.” 

“Well, I’m happy for you Lee, even if it is for only one day.  We’ll do dinner when I get back, after Edith has left.”

“Thank you, Sir, and please give Edith my best wishes.”  Please don’t ask me if I want to talk to her!  And now I see Susan coming back!

“Here she is now, I’ll give her the phone.”

“Hello Edith. Merry Christmas.  I understand you two are on your way out to dinner, to a new seafood restaurant in Boston?  Gotta be polite, she’s the Admiral’s sister!

He could do nothing but listen while she described the day and the festivities, and asked why he hadn’t joined them.

“Well Edith, someone has to mind the Institute.  Angie went home to her parents, and Chip is off with his girlfriend.”   He was sorry the minute he said it, she’d d want all the details about Chip’s new lady.   He looked at Susan and rolled his eyes, hoped he conveyed how annoyed he was getting. And here comes the waiter with our wine and bread.

Before she could start a new sentence, he cut her off.  “I’m sorry Edith, but our food just arrived.  Enjoy your dinner with Harry, and the rest of the day.  Goodbye.” Now I have to explain.

Before he could explain, the waiter offered him a glass with a mouthful of wine, to be tasted for his approval.  ‘Excellent, that will be fine.” 

The waiter poured their wine and left.  He made a toast to good company on a lovely Christmas Day, and asked her if the wine was to her liking.

“Absolutely.  And I always love a basket of hot breads.”

It was during their second glass, a few minutes before their food arrived, when she asked why that phone call had bothered him so much.

Feeling a bit more relaxed, he explained to her a little about his boss and his sister.  She seemed to find it amusing.  So far, he had only told her he was Navy reserve, working at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, nothing about being the captain of their submarine.

The food was outstanding.  And that included the desserts.  Lee wasn’t a big eater, and rarely had room for dessert, until he saw the offerings.  He finally settled on a slice of apricot cheesecake with brandied apricot sauce.  Susan had cherries jubilee that were brought flaming to the table.  They had finished off the wine.

Lee didn’t want the evening to end.  He looked at the bill, and was glad he had his credit card.  But the food was more than worth it.  So was the company.  He left a generous tip, and they walked back toward where they had met.

“Is your car nearby, may I walk you to it?”  I also want to your phone number!

“My car is home, I walked to town, I love to walk and I don’t live that far.”

‘Ok, may I drive you home?  It’s getting late, and it’s pretty dark out.”

She was quiet for a moment, and Lee worried this was the end.  Go home sailor!

‘Can I ask you something, Lee, and I know it’s none of my business.”

“Sure, go ahead, anything.”

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop when you were on the phone, but when you said Angie went home to her parents for the holiday, is that why you were alone for Christmas?”

Lee smiled.  “No, Angie Wood is the Deputy Director of the Institute.  She runs the Institute along with Admiral Nelson.   She’s so dedicated to her job, the Admiral, and the Institute, that she never leaves to go home to her family if the Admiral is away, unless I’m there to cover. We are colleagues and friends, but nothing more.  From the time I started working at the Institute, it was obvious she had a crush on the Admiral himself.  Unfortunately, it is obvious to everyone but him.”

She smiled and laughed a little.  “I’m sorry Lee, I should never have made that assumption, it’s none of my business.”

“No problem, but now It’s my turn.  Are you seeing anyone?”

“No, not anymore.  I’ve had a couple of decent boyfriends over the years.  But things just didn’t work out.  The last one just couldn’t take my dedication to my students and my job.  He was almost jealous of them.  I wasn’t about to quit my job for him, it means too much to me.”

That sounded to Lee like someone who might understand his dedication to Seaview, and being away at sea for months at a time.  Someone who had her own life and career to fill the time while he was gone.  Maybe there might be a future here. I’ll take this a step farther.

“Let’s sit down for a minute.  Gee, the tree looks even more beautiful now that it is darker out.  You know, that’s my problem with relationships, too.  Have you heard of the Institute’s submarine, Seaview?”

“Of course I have!  I’ve even seen her leaving her dock and going underwater!  She’s absolutely beautiful, and how exciting to have an incredible boat like that right here in Santa Barbara!  I‘ve heard of some of the amazing things that have come out of the Institute, some of the discoveries made there, and the research that is going on.  You’re very lucky to work there.  Have you ever had the chance to ride on Seaview?”

“Every time she goes out, I’m her Captain.”

She just looked at him, shocked.  “You mean, she’s your boat?”

“Well, not exactly.  She’s owned by Admiral Nelson.  But I have a lifelong contract to be her Captain.  And I consider myself to be a very lucky man.”

“But I have the same problem you mentioned.  Wonderful women who felt they couldn’t compete with Seaview.  I love my boat, and my career.  But I also know the difference between a machine and a woman.  But then there is also the problem with me being gone for months at a time.    I’ve seen how many loving, close relationships among my own crew couldn’t stand the strain of long separations.  One of my crewmen, Patterson, is the only one who has had a long successful marriage, with four kids.  But it works because he married a woman who was once a marine and understands about long term deployments.  But our missions aren’t usually for more than a couple of months at the most.  In fact, there are quite a few that are only around two weeks.  The longest one was where we sat under the polar ice cap for six months.”

“Six months!  How could you not go stir crazy?”

“Easy.  I brought along hockey sticks, nets, and skates of all sizes.  We had practices, games, and then tournaments whenever the weather would allow.  We had fun! Kept the men active and alert, including their Captain. And at night there are always card games, movies, and books to read.” 

“You know Lee, I have a million questions I would like to ask you, this is fascinating.  But it is getting late, and I guess the wine is getting to me.  Where are you parked?” 

“Nearby, I’m just on the next block.”  He stood up and helped her up, and they started walking to his car. It just felt so natural to take her hand, and she didn’t pull it away.  They got to his little red Cobra, and she admired it, said she had never ridden in one before.  It was too short a ride to her apartment. He pulled up in front, got out and opened her door.  They stood there looking at each other until Lee bent down and gave her a little kiss on the cheek, his hands around her waist.

“Susan, can I have your phone number, please, I would really like to see you again.”

“I feel the same way, Lee.  In fact, since I’m off all week, what are you doing tomorrow?”

“If the weather is nice, I was going to take my sailboat out.  Would you care to join me?”

“Wait, you have a sailboat and a submarine?”

“Yeah, well the sailboat is 100% my private property!  Are you interested in some sailing?  We can go to one of the Islands for dinner and be back by tomorrow night, or we can go down to Catalina Island and have dinner there, stay over, and come back the next day, if you don’t have any plans. It’s up to you.”

“Wow Lee, Catalina sounds fantastic.  This has turned out to be the best Christmas I have ever had.  Except for when I finally got my favorite Barbie doll.”

Lee laughed. “How about I pick you up right out front here tomorrow morning, but we need to get an early start.  Hey, I love IHOP, and they open early.  We could start the day out with a lovely breakfast first.”

 “Ok, and how long does it take to get to the marina after that?”

“Marina?   No, I keep The Lorelei in my boathouse outside my oceanside home.  Is picking you up at seven too early?”

 “You, you have a boathouse and oceanside home?  Wow.  Ok, seven it is.”

“That’s fine, but I still need your number, just in case there is a change in time or plans.  Here, just put it in my phone. I’ll call you before I come, in case you change your mind.”

She entered it and handed his phone back to him smiling, “Oh, I’m not going to change my mind, sailor!” 

She put her hands around his neck and pulled his head down, and kissed him right on the lips, giggling. “See you at seven!”

Lee watched as she bounded up the walkway and up the stairs, entering a code into the digital pad, he could hear the lock buzz as she pulled the door open.  Once inside, she turned and waved goodbye, then disappeared.

He got back in his car and drove home in a daze.  I can’t believe today!  She likes me!  She really likes me!   When he got home, he pulled in the driveway, got out of the car, then jumped up and clicked his heels!  What a wonderful, wonderful Christmas!

 The End

  Please let me know what you think!


Merry Christmas to all of you in the Seaview world and your families!   I truly hope you all have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas as well!