“But mom, it’s the only thing I want,” I said.
“Kelsey, of all my kids you’ve got the most expensive taste. Why can’t you just be satisfied with simple things like your brothers and sister?” Mom asked.
We didn’t have a lot of money, or at least that’s what mom and dad wanted us to think, so mostly everything in our three bedroom house from clothes, to shoes, to books, and even dishes was used, or as they say in the car sales business “pre-owned.”
Mom worked as a R.N. and our dad, whom we seldom saw, was an over-the-road truck driver. He’d be home for a week or two out of every month and then he was off again. When he was gone, it left mom in charge of four kids under the age of sixteen, two noisy parakeets, a lazy Labrador retriever, and an undernourished gray-haired cat that often had to be coaxed out of its hiding place with the aid of a squeaky mouse toy.
I’m not sure how mom kept her sanity. At times, I’m not sure how I did either, but nevertheless I did. I was fifteen years old and the oldest of my siblings; seven year old identical twins Jamie and Jonathan and four year old Sadie. My main responsibility was to look after them in mom’s absence. Teeth had to be brushed. Hair had to be combed. Tears had to be dried. Homework had to be checked. And in some instances, bottoms had to be wiped.
I accepted my role without complaining. I had an unwritten job description unlike the average teenager’s. When mom had to work late, I was the one who fed and put the younger kids to bed. Mom never had to worry about any of us. I took care of everyone and everything, including myself. I didn’t ask for much, but when I did I felt like I deserved it.
In comparison to other teenagers, I had very few hobbies. I had no time for them. The one thing I did enjoy in my spare time, what few moments I had, was flipping through newspaper advertisements and the pages of jewelry catalogs. I fantasized about owning costume, semi-precious, and fine jewelry including rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Sometimes I imagined that I was wearing multiple items all at once. Eighteen carat gold and Marcasite were my favorite types. In reality, I had very few pieces of jewelry. I always wore a single pair of gold earring hoops and, once in awhile, a heart-shaped locket that had been given to me by my grandmother on my thirteenth birthday. Secretly, I craved more jewelry. Much more.
Dad had been home for the Thanksgiving holiday, which meant he would probably be on the road Christmas week. He could choose two major holidays a year to spend at home. This year he chose Thanksgiving and Easter. I always missed Dad when he was gone. Maybe it was because
when he was home, he conversed more with me than the other kids because I was the oldest and could make intelligent conversation. Or it could have been because I treasured his surprise gifts that came in both small and large packages.
It was Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the holiday season. Mom had taken the day off from work with the intention of buying gifts bright and early before the masses reached the stores. Jamie, Jonathan, and Sadie had already given their wish lists to mom. I, on the other hand, desired only one gift for Christmas which I had prayed for and requested months in advance. Mom’s response of “We’ll see.” left me less than hopeful.
Mom returned by mid afternoon with bags and bags of gifts. I wondered how she could have afforded to buy so many items when we recycled Christmas wrap. The weeks before the big day seemed to drag,
but finally Christmas came.
The little ones gleefully opened their gifts at sunrise. I waited, without anticipation, until mid morning. A small black box was the last gift under the tree. As I looked closer, I saw my name written on the gift tag. Slowly, I picked it up, and carefully removed the bow and wrapping. I lifted the box lid and inside there was an eighteen carat yellow gold cross embedded with tiny diamonds. Amazed, I tightly embraced mom. It was exactly what I had asked for months ago. God had answered a teenager’s prayer.
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