Written by Beth Meyer
Linda peered out her bedroom window and saw that overnight it had snowed. Her boring suburban neighborhood looked very pretty, covered in the sparkling white fluff. At least they would have a white Christmas, so that was nice.
Pulling on her robe and ignoring her slippers, Linda opened the bedroom door she shared with her two sisters. Both were younger than her, and both of them were annoying. She had hoped that now that she was officially a teenager, her parents would acknowledge her need for privacy and let her use the empty guest room as her room. But so far, Linda’s pleas for a room of her own had fallen on deaf ears.
The aroma of bacon and coffee floated up the stairs as Linda hurried down them towards the kitchen. There she found her mother hovering over their old gas stove, and her father buried behind the newspaper, skillfully reaching for his coffee cup without moving the newspaper aside. Breakfast was not Linda’s favorite meal of the day, so she refused her mother’s offer to fry an egg for her. Opting instead for cereal, Linda was pleasantly surprised when she found an unopened box of Frosted Flakes on the shelf. Usually, every cereal box was carelessly torn open by her two sisters, so to be able to carefully open the box and pour out the fresh, crispy flakes into her bowl was a treat.
Too soon, she heard her sisters running about upstairs and then running down the stairs. One ran to their mother, and one ran to their father. Both were greeted with a kiss on the head and a gentle swat on the bottom. Sandy, the youngest, protested loudly when she discovered Linda was eating the Frosted Flakes. She assumed that they had been bought for her and no one else. Mother promised she would buy another box very soon and told everyone to sit down at the table.
Linda noticed that everyone sat at the table most meals except for her mother. Instead, her mother was refilling glasses of milk or her father’s cup of coffee or cutting up items on someone’s plate or retrieving a napkin on the floor. Linda wondered when her mother did eat or if she ate at all.
The table chatter was about Christmas that was fast approaching. Her sisters had finished their letters to Santa and cross-examined their father for details about his trip to the official Santa mailbox down at the post office. They wanted assurances that he saw the letters fall into the mail slot. Beth, the middle sister, was sure that the Barbie Dream House she had requested would be under the tree because of the friendly letter she had written to Santa. After all, she took the time to ask about Mrs. Claus and the elves, which was polite.
Linda rolled her eyes and snorted. Her father shot her a glance but said nothing. Christmas had lost its magic when Linda learned the secret about Santa. She winced, remembering the disbelief she felt when her best friend Patty had told her one day at lunch. It was the only time she ever cried at school. Looking back, Linda felt stupid that she never picked up that her mother’s handwriting matched Santa’s. Duh!
The days before Christmas flew by. It helped that they were busy with school concerts, classroom parties, and long drives to look at Christmas lights. Linda noted the handful of presents under the tree, knowing that the gifts would double in quantity thanks to Santa on Christmas morning, wink, wink.
On Christmas Eve, her family always attended Midnight Mass. The family had a tradition of opening one present before they left for church.
Sandy and Beth circled the tree like a lion stalking its prey. They would choose a present, shake it and then put it down as they reached for a different one. Finally satisfied, they had to sit down until Linda had chosen her present to open. Linda didn’t care which one she opened and was about to pick up a large, square box when a small one underneath the box caught her eye.
The box was wrapped in silver paper with a bright blue bow. It was funny. It didn’t look like any of the other presents under the tree. Taking the gift, Linda went and sat down on her grandmother’s old rocking chair.
Starting with Sandy, the three girls took turns opening their gifts. Sandy was thrilled with the tea set she received and quickly invited everyone to a tea party. Beth was next and squealed with delight when she found a Midge doll to be best friends with Barbie. Hopefully, the expected Barbie Dream House will be large enough for everyone.
It was Linda’s turn. All eyes were on her. Carefully she removed the bow and slowly unwrapped the silver paper. Inside was a box with the name of a jeweler stamped on the lid. As she lifted up the lid, Beth complained that Linda was taking too much time and tried to snatch the box away. But Linda was faster and held onto the box. With her heart pounding, she opened the box.
A pair of silver snowflake earrings was nestled inside the box. They were for pierced ears. Linda was puzzled. Her ears weren’t pierced. She had begged to get them pierced and her father refused to give her permission. Was this a joke?
She looked up and her father and mother were smiling. Her father held out his arms and Linda ran to him. With tears in his eyes, he told Linda she could get her ears pierced after Christmas. Linda could not believe what she was hearing. She hugged her father tightly and covered his face with kisses. While she was in his embrace, he whispered in her ear that if she was old enough for pierced ears, maybe it was time she had a room of her own.
The moment passed when her sisters demanded that it was time for church because the sooner they went, the sooner they could get home and the sooner Santa would show up. Everyone laughed and they went outside to their dad’s big Pontiac. As her father opened the back door for Linda, she smiled up at him and whispered thank you to him. He tipped his hat and whispered back I love you.
Many years later, that Christmas gift was still the best one in Linda’s life.