Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)
TITLE: One Giant Step
By Verna Cole Mitchell
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The knowledge that her heart’s desire was about to be fulfilled had kept her awake. Jenna had been hinting for several months, more than hinting--declaring, that what she wanted most in the world was a dainty feminine watch with a stretchy band . Her mom had even told her that this was not a present beyond the family’s less than ample means. She picked up a small box wrapped in sparkly paper and imagined that it was hers, though it had no name on it.
With her brown eyes half closed, Jenna traveled on wheels of memory to five years earlier, when she had wanted a bicycle for Christmas. Although Dad had told her that times were hard and money was short, she had still hoped. Then when Christmas morning had come, and there was no bicycle, her sunny nature had departed to leave behind a sullen pout.
She had been so unhappy that she’d tossed aside the new Bible story book, in spite of how much she loved to read. As for her new doll, she and her big brother had ripped off its arms and legs and head to use the firm rubber body as a football. An unfortunate misplaced kick had landed their makeshift football in the sewer.
She had barely tasted the feast her mother and grandmother had worked so hard to prepare, even though some of her favorite things were on the table, especially her mom’s chocolate cream pie. Her grandmother, usually her staunch ally, had said, “Young lady, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. I never got such nice presents when I was a little girl.”
Then in the afternoon, when she had seen her parents standing at the living room window, she walked over to see what they were watching. Standing beside them, she saw a man jump out of a pickup truck and lift a beautiful blue bicycle out and roll it up to the porch. Her excitement had been overshadowed by the shame she felt from her bad behavior.
Jenna’s reverie was interrupted when her mom and dad came into the tree-lit room, along with an excited chorus of chatter from her siblings. She waited quietly while the younger ones opened presents. Then her dad handed her the little package she’d already seen and smiled his sweet smile. “I hope you’ll like it,” he said.
With trembling hands she tore open the wrappings and found a little box. Not even glancing at the writing on the box, she lifted the lid and prepared to gush over her present. She was stunned when she saw the big round face of a Mickey Mouse watch. Jenna felt like a grapefruit had lodged in her throat, and she couldn’t swallow. She knew her beloved dad had done the shopping, and she thought he had understood that she was a young woman now. She had an image of herself, walking into her class at school with a child’s watch on her wrist. .
As she recalled the way she’d acted when she hadn’t received the bicycle that long-ago Christmas morning, she determined that the tears filling her eyes would not spill over, and though he had disappointed her, she would not hurt her dad’s feelings. With her head bowed and eyes downcast, she dutifully thanked her parents for the gift.
Laying another present in her lap, Dad said, “Jenna, it looks like I got the packages mixed up. That watch must be for your little sister; this one is yours. With not quite the same enthusiasm as previously, she unwrapped the package and again found a little box. When she opened it, there was a heart-shaped, dainty feminine watch with a stretchy band. Then she could let the tears fall, pretending they were happy tears. While she hoped the fun-loving Dad, who had always been her hero, would never know the depth of the disappointment she had suffered, she felt like she had taken a giant step into womanhood.
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