Ginger prayed that there might still be something left on Christmas Eve that would be waiting there just for Megan, as she walked in to the Salvation Army Store with her small bonus. It wasn't much, but she hoped to find something that would make this Christmas special for her daughter. The disappointment in her eyes when she had told her that they would not be able to go to their favorite tree farm and cut a fresh tree forced Ginger to remind herself that God promised to meet their needs, not necessarily their wants. The peace she had experienced in her fellowship with God since quitting the club and taking the job at Bob's Diner was worth never having another live tree, but it was impossible to communicate that to a six-year-old.
Her eye was caught at once by an exquisite red velvet dress that appeared to be about Megan's size. Checking the size tag, her heart skipped a beat. Perfect! Then she looked at the price tag. Something must be wrong with it. She examined it closely for any stains or tears, finding only that the hem needed stitching. I can take care of that. Knowing that Megan's shoes still fit, Ginger moved on to the small section of toys.
Her hand immediately gravitated to a beautiful princess doll, not a Disney Princess or a Barbie in a princess-like gown, but a simple, classic princess. Megan would love styling the long golden ringlets. Ginger scrutinized the doll from head to toe. The sapphire gown and matching satin slippers were pristine. I can't imagine why any girl would cast you away! Adding the cost of the doll to that of the dress, Ginger figured she might find one more thing, but hadn't spotted the one item she had hoped to find. She headed for the front counter.
"Do you have any artificial trees--even a tiny one?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we sold the last one yesterday."
"I'm not surprised. I'm certainly shopping at the last minute." Ginger turned, swallowed hard, and went to peruse the remaining decorations. None of them suited her. It wasn't decorations they lacked, anyway. They had strung the strings of lights around the windows, and set up the manger scene. Between school and Brownies Megan had added even more. I know a tree doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas, but I still love the tradition, and so does Megan. Again she found herself studying the scant selection of toys.
Stooping, she spotted a box on the bottom shelf, pulled it out, and opened it to see if it was complete, which it was. Slowly, a plan formulated in her mind. Adding it to her total, there would be just enough of her bonus left for wrapping paper and ribbon.
At home, Ginger retrieved the dress from the trunk, leaving the other items for later, and headed for the door, smiling at the pine cone wreath Megan had made in Brownies.
"Mommy! You're home early!" Megan's arms encircled Ginger's waist. Spotting the dress, her eyes grew wide. "Is that for me?"
"It's beautiful, Mommy! Can I put it on right now?"
"As soon as I pay Jennifer so she can get home to her family, and sew the hem," Ginger chuckled.
Hem repaired, Megan twirled before her mother's full-length mirror. "Thank you, Mommy!"
"I'm glad you like it, Megan. You look like a little princess. ... We'd better get going if we want a seat at the candlelight service."
"Mommy, can I have a candle this year?"
"Okay, but we'll hold it together."
"It looks like the sky full of stars," Megan whispered as they stood, holding their candles together, to sing "Silent Night."
Afterwards, they drove around their neighborhood to enjoy the varied light displays, returning home to their lights framing the front windows. When Ginger turned on the lamp from which Megan had hung a dozen paper snowflakes, their lacy silhouettes were cast on walls and furniture.
"Time for my princess to get pajamas on and hang up her new dress."
Ginger noted Megan's wistful glance at the spot in the living room where their tree had always stood, but she headed for her room without comment.
After tucking Megan in, Ginger set to work.
Momentarily transfixed, Megan gazed not at the single brightly-wrapped package, but at the miniature tree decked out in lights, balls, snowmen, and topped with a star. "That's so cool! A Lite Brite Christmas tree!"
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