One of the most special things about the holidays for people all over the world is having some quality family time.
Especially as kids grow older and life events like going to school and starting new careers take them far away from their parents, the holiday season can be a time of sweet reunions.
For one family in Greensboro, North Carolina, however, this Christmas was set up to be not as cheery.
Lachlan Riddleberger left his family in September 2018 to serve with the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California.
When he got there, he asked if he was able to come home for Christmas, but delivered the news to his parents that the request had been denied.
His mother, Jodi, told Liftable, a brand of The Western Journal, that it was going to be the first Christmas that the entire family would not be together.
The one tradition that is particularly special to the Riddleberger family is getting a family photo with Santa.
Jodi said, “As my kids got older, if they didn’t want to go, I would say, ‘You want Santa to come visit you? Well, then you need to go visit Santa.'”
Even though Jodi knew the family tradition would not be able to continue in the same way with Lachlan across the country, she made him promise that he would still go get his picture taken with Santa in California.
“I told him that was the only Christmas present I wanted from him,” she told Liftable.
He promised but had a big surprise up his sleeve.
His request to go home for Christmas had actually been approved almost immediately so he would be able to take his picture, just not in California.
Lachlan recruited his older brother, Addison, to come to pick him up from the airport the night before so that he could surprise his mother and sister, Brodi, just before they took what was supposed to be a Lachlan-less Santa photo.
In the video that captured the sweet moment you can hear Jodi wondering why Addison is late, but as soon as she saw her younger son in his dress blues she, along with Brodi, melted into a puddle of happy tears.
Their marine was home just in time to take a picture with Santa.
“This went from the worst Christmas — because it was the first one we wouldn’t all be together — to the best Christmas,” Jodi told Liftable. “Because Lachlan was home and we would get to celebrate the holiday together.”
“We are simply enjoying being together this week – of course, there’s food, friends, church, gifts, music — but Lachlan’s home — and now everything that we are doing is extra special — because we are all together.”
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