Jim turned their rented SUV down onto the dirt road that led to the back half of Schrute farms and sighed. “It’s not too late, you know.”
In the passenger seat, Pam smiled softly. “It is too late, and you know it. Besides, it’ll be fun.”
“I love the guy, I truly do, but can’t we just have one night where we don’t have something on the agenda?”
“It’s Christmas, Jim, it’s busy no matter what.”
“Yeah, but we’re cramming so much into the week and a half we’re here--”
“Woah,” piped up Cece from the backseat. Her parents heard the telltale sound of a seatbelt unclicking and then her curly blonde head was between them, pointing out of the windshield at the distant glow of Christmas lights. “Is that it? Is that where we’re going?”
“Young lady, if you don’t sit down and put your seatbelt back on we’ll go straight back to Grandma’s house,” Pam said sternly. Cece slumped back into her seat and buckled back in, only to immediately throw the shoulder strap behind her head and strain in her seat to keep looking out ahead. They were inching down the road, slowly so as to not hit a hidden pothole or skid on a patch of ice, but the further they traveled the more twinkling lights became visible in the distance. “Yes, that’s where we’re going. You remember our friends Dwight and Angela?”
Cece nodded. “They sent me those weird dolls for my birthday, right?”
Jim snorted and Pam swatted at his arm, trying and failing to hide her own smile. “They’re called cornhusk dolls, and yes, they sent them to you. You can’t call them weird to their faces, though, okay? Just say thank you.”
“Yeah, thank you that they’re not made out of beet leaves or something,” Jim said, not quite under his breath.
“What’s a beet?” This came from Phil, the more quietly inquisitive of Jim and Pam’s two children. In fact, he was pretty exclusively only inquisitive, in that stage of childhood where the only sentences out of his mouth began with who? what? where? when? or why?
“Give us five minutes at this--” Jim took his hand off the wheel to gesture out the front, where some of the light displays were becoming less of a vague glow and more of a deliberate shape. Lighted trees and wire framed sculptures were lining the road, which Jim had to admit were kind of impressive. “--and you’ll find out, I’m sure. The Schrutes love beets.”
“Oh, my god,” Pam said, grabbing Jim’s arm. “We don’t even need five minutes, look.” She pointed out the window and sure enough, there was a beet formed out of Christmas lights, proudly twinkling next to a rustic wooden sign that said WELCOME TO SCHRUTE FARMS CHRISTMAS VILLAGE.
As they traveled further down the road, more and more lighted sculptures filled the snowy landscape surrounding them. Jim arrived at the end of a line of cars creeping down the lane at no more than five miles an hour. The lighted displays became more numerous and elaborate as they wound closer to the farm: an animated Santa waved from sleigh pulled by eight animated reindeer, a group of carolers in Victorian garb twinkled next to flashing snowflakes, and a massive nutcracker opened and closed his mouth among many others. It was actually quite a sight.
“Wow, they went all out.”
“You know Dwight. He’ll do anything to make Angela and the kids happy.”
“What are the odds he commissioned a custom made Belsnickel display?”
“What’s a Belsnickle?” asked Phil.
“Kind of like a meaner, dirtier Santa. He carries a stick and he’ll--”
“Jim, you’ll scare him. Don’t be impish.”
They traveled through snowmen and animals and a sprawling Nativity scene before finally pulling into a vast, crowded parking lot. After making sure the kids were securely bundled in their hats and puffy coats, they followed the other excited patrons to a large barn, double doors thrown open wide. Inside was warm and cozy, despite the doors on the other end being open too, and they joined the line of people waiting to pay admission to enter the rest of Schrute Farms Christmas Village. The sandwich board sign boasted a number of activities: crafts, petting zoo, living Nativity, horse drawn carriage rides, and more. Jim had to admit to himself that he was both impressed and glad that they took the time out of their busy holiday schedule to drive all the way out. The kids were already bouncing up and down with excitement and it was clear that they had about a thousand different places they wanted to go first.
A boy of about sixteen or so was manning the cash register and did a double take when Jim handed over his debit card. “Halpert?” he said excitedly, “As in Jim Halpert? From Dunder Mifflin?” Jim and Pam gave each other a sidelong glance. The documentary had been off the air long enough for the amount of times they were recognized in public to drop significantly, but it still happened on occasion. Moreso in Scranton, so they shouldn’t have been surprised. Although, teenage boys hadn’t been the target demographic of the show, so they hadn’t been expecting the young man at the counter to get so worked up.
“Yes, Jim Halpert from Dunder Mifflin. And this is Pam,” Jim replied, as Pam gave a small wave. “I’d love to chat with you, but we’re here with our children--”
“Yes, yes, Peepa and Fillmore, I’ve heard all about them.” He waved his hand dismissively. “My uncle told me to increase the admission price if you came through the line.”
“Wait.” Pam held up one gloved hand, confusion clear on her face. “What?”
“Your uncle? I didn’t even know that Dwight had siblings,” Jim mused.
“Did he just call me Peepa?” Cece said at the same time Phil asked, “who’s Fillmore?”
“Your total comes to an even one hundred. We take cash, check, or gold coin.” The kid at the register held out his hand expectantly, completely nonplussed by the chaos he’d caused.
Pam laughed, not in a oh-that’s-funny way but more of a are-you-hearing-this? way and repeated herself. “Wait. What?”
A familiar guffaw rang through the air as Dwight Schrute himself rounded the corner of a barn stall, where he’d apparently been listening in. “You should have seen the looks on your faces!” He laughed again, clearly delighted with himself, and walked up to the young man behind the counter to clap him on the shoulder. “Excellent job, Cammy. As adept at pranks as you are at taking money.”
Jim felt his mouth stretch into a smile in spite of himself. “All right,” he admitted. “You got me good with that one.” He reached across the counter and grasped Dwight’s hand in a hearty handshake. “It’s good to see you, man.”
“It really is,” Pam agreed as Dwight rounded the counter to give her a hug.
After the kids were reintroduced to Dwight and Dwight’s nephew was reassured that the Halperts did not, in fact, have to pay double admission (or any admission at all, as a matter of fact), they were ushered through the second set of barn doors and onto the farm proper. The sight drew all four Halperts up short and Dwight stood by proudly, basking in their admiration. Schrute Farms had been transformed into a Christmas Village fit for a snowglobe or a Department 56 display, and it was breathtaking.
“Dwight!” Pam exclaimed, a hand pressed to her heart. “This is amazing. It really looks magical.”
“I know,” he agreed. “Angela planned the whole thing and the boys and I have been busy since October getting it all together.”
“Where is Angela?” Pam asked. Distance and time had done wonders for their friendship--Angela preferred communicating the old fashioned way, letters sent through the postal service, which made it hard to be quite as snarky as she could be in person--and Pam was looking forward to seeing her.
“We can go see her first,” Dwight said, leading the way down a path between two outbuildings completely covered in Christmas lights. Inside one, they caught a glimpse of Mose seated at an easel, hard at work doing…something. Whatever it was, it was a popular attraction: an impressive line had formed and several people were standing behind Mose, watching and smiling as he concentrated on whatever art he was making on the easel. Jim made a mental note to ask Dwight about it later. Surely it wasn’t anything to do with Mose’s scarecrow girlfriend, but one could never tell.
Dwight took them down a meandering path decorated with even more lights and finally stopped in front of a smaller version of the giant barn they had crossed through to enter the farm. This one had the doors closed and Dwight gestured to them. “She’s in here. This whole thing is her pet project, really, but this is the thing that she’s been the most excited about.” He pushed open the doors just as Jim and Pam clocked the sign that read “Living Nativity” affixed above the entryway.
Jim leaned down to whisper in Pam’s ear. “What are the odds that she’s playing Mary?”
Pam hid a giggle behind one of her gloved hands. “Same as the odds that she has all those little Schrute boys dutifully filling in as everyone else.”
As it turns out, though, they were both wrong.
Because the Living Nativity was comprised entirely of cats.
“Oh, my god,” Pam gasped. Jim was utterly speechless, as were the kids. They all took in the spectacle before them: seven cats, each with hats tied to their heads, doing cat things inside a small enclosure. One of them, the one with a tiny pipe cleaner halo hovering above him, was asleep on a bed of hay inside a manger. The rest were dozing or bathing or rolling around, and at the far end of the room stood Angela, looking down on all of them as proudly as a mother looks down on her children. She looked up when she heard Pam speak and a wide smile broke out on her face.
“You made it!” She waved from across the room and the four Halperts waved back simultaneously, too dumbstruck to do anything else. “What do you think so far? Where all have you been?”
“This is the first thing they’ve seen, monkey. We wanted to say hi to you before we did anything else.”
Angela pressed a hand over her heart. “Well, isn’t that the sweetest? Especially considering that you consider yourself a dog person, Pam. And since you don’t go to church that often.”
Ah, there it was: the sass. Pam had actually kind of missed it. She skipped over the church comment--they went most Sundays, but they didn’t go three times a week like Angela did. “I didn’t realize that it was a cat nativity. I thought it would be you and the boys.”
Angela waved her hand. “The boys are busy with other tasks, and besides, we don’t have enough of them to play everybody. Not yet, anyway,” she said as she smoothed a hand down her rounded belly. “Plus, as sweet and well behaved as our boys are, cats are far more innocent than any human. I can’t think of a better animal to play the baby Jesus.”
Pam found it hard to argue with that logic, so she just nodded and smiled. They stood there for a few moments, chatting and taking in the cats, until Angela had to break up a fight between the three wise men (one of them didn’t seem to realize that the crowns they were wearing weren’t toys, but instead important costume pieces meant to distinguish each cat from the other, and kept pulling them off of his fellow wise men’s heads) and Dwight ushered them out of the building.
“Well, that was really…something,” Jim said, once he was sure they were completely out of Angela’s earshot.
“It was weird,” said Cece.
“Cece,” Pam interjected before Cece could get any further. “Where would you like to go next?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. What all is there to do?”
Dwight smiled down at her, clearly delight that she asked that question. “Come on, little Peepa, and I’ll show you.” He took off down the path again, either not hearing or not listening as Cece ran after him yelling, wanting to know why everyone was calling her such a gross and weird name. Phil, not one to be left out, took off running as fast as his little kid legs would carry him, hurrying to catch up.
Pam and Jim strolled along behind them, trusting Dwight to not endanger their children too much before they made it to wherever Dwight was leading them, and enjoying a moment of relative quiet together. “Still glad we came?” Jim asked, a teasing lilt to his voice.
“Are you kidding me? That cat nativity alone is worth the price of plane tickets out here.”
Jim laughed and shook his head. “I shouldn’t have been surprised, and yet.”
“Tell me about it. But at least she has a hobby?”
“No, Pam. No. No justifying it.”
They made it to the same building they’d passed earlier, the one with Mose at his easel. The crowd had actually dissipated some and they joined Dwight and the kids at the end of the small line. “Onkel Dwight said Mose is going to draw pictures of us!” exclaimed Phil in his tiny voice, clearly excited.
“Pictures? Oh, you mean like caricatures?” asked Pam. “I didn’t know Mose was a caricature artist. That’s actually pretty neat.”
Dwight nodded. “Yes, he’s always been very talented. You could probably learn a few things from him, Pam.” Pam, who had become an accomplished muralist and even had a few gallery showings under her belt since moving to Austin, couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes so hard it hurt. Dwight didn’t notice; he was still lauding Mose’s talents. “His dad, my Onkel Jurgen, wouldn’t let him practice his art very often when we were growing up, so he was very pleased that I asked him to draw for the visitors to the Christmas Village.”
Mose finished with the cartoon he had been drawing for the family in front of them and waved them away. When he saw Jim, Pam, and the kids step up for their turn, his entire face lit up. He didn’t speak, but instead motioned for Cece and Phil to step closer and began drawing, obviously overjoyed to see them. It was all actually kind of wholesome and cute, Pam thought.
“He’s not, like, drawing my kids as scarecrows or anything, is he?” Jim asked. Pam hadn’t thought of that…maybe it wasn’t quite as wholesome as she’d thought at first. She hadn’t forgotten how weird things had ended up the last time she’d seen Mose, at Dwight and Angela’s wedding. There’d been a tearful fight and then a very intense making-up between Mose and his paramour, all of it public and almost none of it entirely appropriate. In fact, it had bordered on completely inappropriate until Zeke, Mose’s brother, had stepped in and physically carried Mose away.
But Dwight reassured them. “No, no. He wanted to do that, at first, but I convinced him that one should never mix love and business.”
Next to him, Jim grinned. “Well, it worked out for all of us, didn’t it?”
“Yes, but none of us are Mose.”
At the easel, Mose finished his drawing and handed it to Phil and Cece. The rest of them craned their necks to look at it, and all of the Halperts were pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually pretty good. Cece and Phil were front and center, their heads and features large and exaggerated in the way that caricatures typically are. They were building a snowman, complete with coal buttons and carrot nose, and Pam found herself smiling broadly at how cute it was.
All of it except for the lower left corner, where Mose had written “P Pa & Fil” in his very untidy scrawl.
Poor Cece was frustrated, understandably. “My. Name. Is. CECE. Why is everybody getting it so wrong?” She stamped her foot and alternated glaring at Dwight and Mose, her expression demanding an explanation.
“It’s actually all your dad’s fault, Cece,” began Dwight. “When you were still a tiny child, he told me your name was Peepa. I thought he was serious.”
“You did not,” Jim retorted. “By that time you didn’t take anything I said or did seriously.”
Dwight looked astonished. “Jim, you would joke about your children? You were such a devoted father, I thought your kids were the only thing you were ever serious about. Except for that one time at a Christmas party, when you had that picture--”
Pam cut Dwight off with a hand against his joke. “It’s just a silly nickname that came from a joke between your dad and Mr. Dwight back when we still lived here.”
Next to Pam, Phil piped up. “Onkel Dwight said we could call him onkel! That means uncle in German. He said it was because he’s your brother and I said that you only have one sister and that’s my Aunt Penny, but that my dad has two brothers and maybe Onkel Dwight can be dad’s brother instead.”
Dwight looked at Jim and Jim looked at Dwight and the two men gave each other a watery smile, both of them slightly choked up with emotion. “I think calling Mr. Dwight your onkel is very fitting. And lovely, Dwight, truly,” she said, looking over at her friend and getting a bit of a lump in her throat herself. The little moment of vulnerability and camaraderie between them was only heightened when Mose thrust another piece of paper at them, this one bearing a caricature of Jim, Pam, and Dwight.
They were scarecrows, which Jim and Pam initially weren't the biggest fans of, but when they saw the wide hats and swords they all were carrying, they realized that Mose had drawn them as The Three Musketeers. Pam felt herself getting ready to cry in earnest when she saw what Mose had written at the bottom: “J, P, & D-THE THREE AMIGOS.”
That earned a chuckle from Dwight. “He gets his foreign language trios mixed up sometimes,” he offered as an explanation.
“Don’t we all,” said Jim.
The line for caricature drawings had gotten long again, so Dwight ushered them away from Mose and back outside. “Now that all that touchy feely crap is out of the way, let’s go get our hands dirty.”
Get our hands dirty meant stopping by the section of the Christmas Village where several craft stations were set up. Phil darted off towards a table where other children were busy using stencils to paint their own Christmas cards. Cece found a table covered in glitter and set about getting it embedded in her hair and all of her clothes, ensuring that they’d be finding it for weeks after. Dwight ambled over to another table, this one much less popular than the rest, and it only took one glance to find out why.
“Making cornhusk dolls was one of my favorite way to relax when I was a child. I don’t understand why nobody wants to do it,” Dwight pondered. He picked up a few of the dried husks and began twisting them together almost absently. “Plus, they were some of my best friends.”
“Your siblings and cousins weren’t your best friends?” asked Pam, and she too began braiding together husks to make a doll of her own.
“They were. But nobody can keep a secret like a corn husk doll.” He worked deftly and soon had a completed doll in the palm of his hand, which his offered to Jim before getting to work on a second one. They chatted and crafted while the kids ran from table to table, collecting enough Christmas themed crafts to decorate their entire house. After a while, they finally reached the cornhusk doll table (Cece immediately recoiled when she realized what was happening), and deposited all of their new treasures on top of the family of dolls Pam had managed to make. Dwight disappeared for a moment and came back with a canvas bag that he held out to Phil, who happily packed each of his precious treasures inside with care.
“You have merch, now, huh?” Jim asked, pointing at the screenprinted bag. It boasted a much nicer version of the serial killer-y ‘Schrute Farms Beets’ logo that Dwight used to occasionally wear on casual days.
“We do. Come on, I’ll show you the gift shop.”
He led the way back out into the Christmas Village and towards a bustling little storefront manned by a woman that Dwight introduced as his sister Fannie. She gave them a warm smile and showed them all their best selling products, such as the Schrute Farms Beets t-shirts and bags (both Dwight’s original, scary design and the nice new one) and lots of literature about farming, hobby gardening, and animal husbandry. There were also seed packets and canned goods with the Schrute Farms logo on them, and Jim and Pam were incredibly impressed.
“Dwight!” Pam exclaimed as she flipped through a rack of heather gray t-shirts with the farm logo on the left breast. “This is amazing. I had no idea you were branching out this much.”
“He didn’t want to do any of it,” Fannie told them. “But we were insistent--our brother Jed and I, I mean--because we really thought we had something special here. And we were right. Especially once Angela had the idea for the Christmas village, which brings me to our seasonal fare.” Fannie swept her arm towards a wall of ceramic Christmas ornaments, each with a small blank space that would allow for personalization. There were little ceramic faces huddled around fireplaces, cute ceramic babies and pets and something that represented nearly every hobby, as well as several rows of beets.
Pam picked up a beet ornament and turned it over in her hand, marveling at it with genuine delight. “We have to get this,” she told Jim.
“Obviously,” he agreed.
They purchased a few other items--shirts for the kids, a jar of preserves as a gift for Pam’s grandmother--and left their ornament for Fannie to personalize. Back out in the village, Dwight led them to a stand selling traditional Dutch and German Christmas fare (as well as chicken strips, for which the kids were immensely grateful) and they shared a meal of roasted goose, which was actually delicious, and potato dumplings. Dwight left the table in the middle of it all and came back with three large styrofoam cups of mulled beet wine, which smelled heavenly. Pam declined, citing that she’d like at least one of them to stay sober for the drive back, so Jim hesitantly clicked his cup with Dwight’s in a cheers and took a sip.
“Holy shit,” he said, taking another drink. “This is amazing.”
“I’ve been telling you for years how good beets are. It’s not my fault you only just now are listening to me,” Dwight shrugged.
Jim finished his glass and started on Pam’s while they finished dinner, and as they were cleaning up they were met by Angela. “The cats have a very strict 7:30 bedtime,” she explained, and offered to take the kids to the petting zoo, since neither Cece or Phil had any interest in a horse drawn carriage ride, which was the next activity Dwight had mentioned.
“The three amigos it is, then,” Dwight said, and steered them towards the far end of the village after stopping to grab a third cup of mulled wine for Jim. They arrived at the end of a twisting line of families, patiently waiting for their turn at one of a handful of carriages, each driven by a Schrute cousin that looked identical to every other Schrute cousin that Pam or Jim had ever seen.
“Don’t worry about the line,” Dwight assured them. “We can use the family buggy. Wait here and I’ll come get you.” He trudged through the unshoveled snow towards a building they hadn’t even noticed, because it was the only building not completely covered in Christmas lights.
While they waited, Pam turned towards Jim and wrapped her arms around his waist, snuggling into warmth. He put his free arm around her and pulled her tighter, only to let go when he heard a crinkling sound come from inside her coat pocket. “What the hell was that?” he asked, slipping his hand into her pocket before she could answer. He pulled out the cornhusk dolls she’d made and laughed when he saw how many she’d managed to get done while they’d been standing at the table. “Hey, these look almost as good as Dwight’s do! Your talents never cease to amaze me. And you got them done so fast, I can’t believe you made five.”
“Yeah, I had to make one for each of us.”
It took Jim a minute--the mulled beet wine was strong and had already gone a little bit to his head--but soon enough it clicked. “Wait. Each of us? As in, our family?”
Pam nodded, her lower lip pulled between her teeth as she tried to contain her smile. “There’s a chance, anyway. It’s not for sure yet, but I made one just in case. I planned to save it until I knew, but you just had to be nosy.”
She couldn’t even pretend to keep admonishing him because Jim bent at the knees and lifted her up and against him to whirl her around in a hug as he laughed into the crook of her neck. Half of his mulled wine spilled onto the ground around them when he put her back on her feet, but he didn’t even notice. He was too busy leaning down to press his lips against hers in a searing kiss. She responded in kind, opening her mouth and tasting the spices on his lips as she swept her tongue against his, and when he made a little sound in the back of his throat she smiled against his mouth. His hands slipped beneath her jacket and found her waistband and she had to pull away, lest the family friendly Christmas village get a show that wasn’t strictly PG.
“Okay, handsy. Are you seriously drunk off of beet wine right now?” she teased.
Jim, his hair messy and his cheeks flushed, smiled his heart-stopping sideways smiles at her. “Maybe. Maybe I’m just happy, too.”
“Little bit of both?”
“More of one than the other,” he answered, leaning down to kiss her again, albeit a little more chastely this time. They stayed pressed together until Dwight pulled up alongside them in an ancient wooden buggy pulled by two equally ancient looking mules. Or were they donkeys? It didn’t matter what they were, they didn’t look capable of hauling three people and a buggy around a farm.
But Dwight looked excited and Jim was all but bouncing on his toes, so Pam gave in to the contagious atmosphere and decided to believe in Christmas miracles--maybe the donkeys would be able to cart them around if she believed in them enough--and climbed into the buggy. Thick and slightly scratchy woolen blankets were piled in the seat, so she tucked one around their legs and settled herself against Jim as Dwight flicked the reins and the buggy took off like a herd of turtles.
And it was actually lovely. Cold, but serene and beautiful. It was a clear night with a nearly full moon, and the reflection of the light on the snow was mesmerizing. Dwight circled the perimeter of the village before he turned down a side road that allowed another look at all the lighted wire sculptures they’d seen on the drive in. Pam was warm, snuggled under the blanket and into her husband's side, and lulled by the swaying of the buggy. She didn’t fight it when she felt her eyes drift closed, just rested her head on Jim’s shoulder and let herself drift off.
Jim gently woke her when the buggy made it back to its starting point. From there, they met up with Angela and the kids, who had been busy making sure that they’d given pets to every single animal at the petting zoo. They walked together to the next attraction, a family band made up of even more Schrute cousins, playing Christmas carols on old-timey instruments. Cece and the oldest Schrute boy, Philip, walked slightly ahead of Pam, and she listened in on their conversation.
“I swear! It’s top secret and only the best kids get to go. That’s why you’ve never heard of it.”
“But I wanna be a secret agent, too!”
“Fine, I’ll tell them you want to join. But you have to show them that you really mean it.”
Philip hopped up and down in excitement. “I will, I will! I’ll do whatever they want.”
Cece steaded him with a hand on his arm. “Okay, if you want to join, you have to go tell your dad to take you into town and to his work. Then, you have to get on the roof--”
“Alright, Cece, I think that’s enough,” Pam interjected.
“Mooom! I was just joking with him,” Cece pouted, upset at being interrupted. She stomped away and Pam made a mental note to talk to Jim about no longer regaling their children with stories about all the pranks he used to pull on Dwight.
At the bandstand, the kids danced and sang and played and Pam stood with Angela, watching as they reveled in the joy that only screaming the additions to “Rudolph the Red Nosed-Reindeer” could bring to a child. When they started a very enthusiastic dance battle to “Jingle Bells,” Pam turned back to Jim to make sure he was watching Phil do his signature move, which always reminded her of the time that Michael Scott took over the dance floor on that booze cruise.
And Jim was waching, but he was also writing something down in a tiny little notebook that she hadn’t seen before. As soon as he saw her looking, he quickly began stuffing it back in his pocket, but she was already on her way to him. “What do you have there?” she asked, amused at the way he was fumbling to get it out of sight.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, well, obviously now I have to know.” She held out her hand. “Come on, Halpert, out with it.”
Jim sighed. “It’s your Christmas gift! It’s not ready yet, I still need a few more days.”
That was intriguing. Her Christmas gift was a pocket-sized notebook with Jim’s scribbles in it? “Let me see! I’ve been so nice all year, I deserve a little peek.”
Jim raised an eyebrow. “Nice, huh? What if I asked you to get a little naughty?” He was clearly still feeling the effects of that beet wine and it was putting him in his typical tipsy-Jim mood: frisky.
Pam leaned forward, angling her head so that her lips were just barely brushing against his. “That can be arranged,” she whispered, just before giving him an innocent kiss that distracted him enough for her to tug the notebook out of his pocket. When she pulled away, smiling and pleased with herself, he nodded at her to go ahead and flip through it. She opened it to a random page and saw Jim’s handwriting:
Today I love you because when Cece came home from school crying about a mean girl, I saw once again how much of a safe and comfortable place you are for our children
Pam looked up at Jim, confused but touched, and he motioned for her to keep going. She flipped forward several pages and looked again.
Today I love you because you had your gallery show and I got to watch you do what you love all night long
She kept thumbing through the book, realization dawning on her. He had written in it for every day since the first of the year, each day a different reason for loving her.
Today I love you because it’s the first day of vacation at the beach and you look smoking hot in that swimsuit
Today I love you because you called me out on my crappy behavior, but in a nice way. I’m sorry.
Today I love you because you’re such a good friend to those around you. I love watching you care about other people.
Today I love you because you look cute as hell in your Halloween costume
She laughed at that last one, tears prickling the corner of her eyes. She flipped to the last page, the one he’d been writing when she caught him.
Today I love you because you still fall asleep on my shoulder and we might be having another kid and you look so good surrounded by Christmas lights
“That was more than a little peek,” Jim said softly, tugging the notebook out of her hands and putting it back in his pocket. “And it’s not ready yet, I still have four more days.”
Pam dabbed at her eyes with the back of her gloved hand and leaned into Jim, so immensely thankful for him and their family and the way that the magic of this amazing, weird, perfect little Schrute Farms Christmas Village had infused her with a sense of contentment that she could live inside of forever. “I can wait four more days to see the rest. But thank you, Jim,” she said into his chest, her arms sliding around his waist to hold him against her as tightly as she could. “Best gift ever.”
“Nah,” said Jim, his lips against the top of her head. “That fifth cornhusk doll has it beat for sure.”
They stayed like that for several more songs, watching Cece and Phil and all the blonde-headed Schrutes dance around, until the band took a break and it was time to head back home. Dwight and Angela walked them to the entrance to the parking lot. They exchanged hugs and back slaps and only the tiniest bit of Angela sass (“I remember the way you drive, Pam, so be careful going back”) before loading up their rental with the kids and their coats and all their tangible Schrute Farms Christmas Village memories.
“That was actually a great time,” Jim admitted as Pam backed out of their parking space.
“Yeah! Can we come again tomorrow?” asked Phil, his head against the carseat and about ten seconds away from completely passing out.
Pam smiled at her son in the rearview mirror. “We have lots of Christmas things to do with all your cousins tomorrow, but maybe we can make this a yearly tradition.”
“I’d like that,” said Jim, his head against the headrest in the same way that Phil was leaning on his carseat. It stopped Pam’s heart a little.
“Mom, wait. I think Onkel Dwight is yelling at us.” Cece pointed out her window and sure enough, Dwight was standing under the archway, waving his arms and yelling something intelligible.
Pam rolled down her window. “What?” she called across the parking lot.
Dwight cupped his hands around his mouth and called back. “I said, Merry Christmas to all! And to all, a good night!”
Written for the 2021 Secret Santa Gift Exchange! Merry Christmas!
Author's Chapter Notes:
Merry Christmas! I hope whoever submitted this recipe is happy and that you all have/had a happy holiday season. See you in the New Year!
Chapter End Notes:
The recipe was: "J, P, & D-the three amigos", post-finale reunion at Shrute farms, Dwight gets Jim drunk, Pam makes Jim a gift hinting at a third Halpert baby, Cece pranks Phillip Schrute, Pam falling asleep on Jim's shoulder, Jim continuing to be the best present giver
BigTuna is the author of 24 other stories.
This story is part of the series, Secret Santa Fic Exchange 2021. The previous story in the series is All I'm Asking For. The next story in the series is I'll Be Home.