written by: Phyllis Souza
I’m ten-years-old and it’s not easy waiting for my mother to take a bath before I can tiptoe into her bedroom to search in her closet. I want to know what I’m getting for Christmas.
At seven o’clock on Christmas morning, I get out of bed, sit on the floor, and slide into slipper socks. I jump up, rush into the living room, and plug in the tree lights. Red, green, and blue. I gaze at shiny ornaments through long strands of silver tinsel. Sooo… pretty.
Dropping to my knees, I shake, then rearrange presents under the tree. I know what’s in most— I’m sad that there’s none from my father.
There’s yelping coming from the back porch, Trina, a miniature pitcher puppy, wants out. She sleeps on a throw rug with a bunch of rags on top. Once she was stuck in the short sleeve of one of my old blouses. That was funny.
“I’m coming.” I get up and go through the kitchen. I notice that the oleomargarine I mashed last night is still in a Christmas butter dish on the table.
The small yellow room is cheery, with a strawberry stamped curtain covering the doorless area under the sink.
“Trina,” I call as I open the back door. The smell of dog poop and pee makes me hold my breath.
I carry Trina back to the living room.
Here comes my mother, wearing a green shirt, her favorite color. She says it goes with her red hair.
My hair is like my father’s, black and curly. But my eyes aren’t. His eyes are brown, and mine are blue.
“Would you like to open your presents?” My mother smiles.
“Yes!” I jump up and down, clapping my hands.
Pretending to be surprised, I pull bows on boxes wrapped in colorful paper: Jacks, color books, a kaleidoscope, and a paddle ball. There’s more: underpants, different colors for every day of the week, a sweater, pajamas, and slippers.
And, there’s a blue rubber ball with a bell in it for Trina.
My mother walks out of the room and comes back. “Here’s one’s you don’t know about.”
How did she know I was in her closet? I take the package, rip the paper, and open the box— a doll. It’s wearing a long green dress and has red hair. “Mama. It looks like you.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful.” But why didn’t I get a present from daddy?”
“You don’t need a present from him.”
“I do too.”
Trina is sniffing around on the floor. “I better take the puppy outside.”
Next to the pine tree in the back yard, there’s a bicycle. A bow and note on the handlebars. I put Trina down and read the message, Merry Christmas. Daddy loves you.
“Mama hurry,” I yell. “Look what Daddy gave me.”
She comes out of the house and pushes me aside, “I told him not to buy you a bike. You’re giving it back.”
“I promise I won’t fall and break my neck.” I cry, “Let me keep it. Please. I always wanted a bicycle.”
My mother is fuming.
Maybe it’s because my cousin got hit by a car while he was riding a bike, that I can’t have one. Or maybe it’s because I’m her only child and she doesn’t what me to get hurt.
Later, I’m watching my mom pick up Christmas paper off the floor. She puts my presents in a neat pile. Wiping a tear away from her face, she says, “If you don’t leave the block, you can keep the bike.”
I cross my heart.
Trina is wagging her tail.
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