Too Many Christmases
Jessica’s face turned red – as red as the Jell-O. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
Daddy was busy and Jessica was bored. She opened the apartment door and peeked out. Across the hallway she heard furniture scraping, paper rattling and the sighs and mutters of their neighbour, Mrs. Grundy. Mrs. Grundy was sometimes grouchy and since she had decided to move she was always grouchy.
Jessica stepped cautiously into the hall. Mrs. Grundy was standing in the middle of her apartment surrounded by piles of belongings.
“Hello, Mrs. Grundy,” Jessica whispered.
“Oh! You startled me, Jess,” Mrs. Grundy growled, rubbing her forehead as if she had a bad headache. “What are you up to?”
“My daddy is making Christmas dinner,” Jessica sighed, shaking her head sadly at the thought. “He’s never cooked a turkey and he’s pretty confused.”
“Christmas dinner? Today? Christmas isn’t for a week. I have mountains of work to do before Christmas. I have to pack and be ready to move by then…what’s the rush?” Mrs. Grundy made a face like a bad smell and tossed a tattered lampshade onto a pile.
“This is my first Christmas. I get TWO Christmases, one with Daddy and one with Mommy.” Jessica wished Daddy had not moved into the apartment. Their big house was very lonely without him.
“Well, you’re lucky,” Mrs. Grundy snapped. “Not everyone gets two Christmases.”
“I know, but I don’t like it,” Jessica said. “I get two of everything now – two Valentine’s days, two Easters, two birthdays, two Thanksgivings. Having one was better. It was more special.” She wrinkled her nose at the double dose of holidays.
Mrs. Grundy wasn’t listening. She picked up an elephant statue, examined its broken leg and tossed it in a pile. “When you don’t want something anymore you get rid of it,” Mrs. Grundy muttered to herself.
This gave Jessica an idea.
“Where is this stuff going?” Jessica asked, pointing to the largest, messiest pile where the three-legged elephant lay.
“Down the garbage disposal at the end of the hallway,” Mrs. Grundy replied.
Jessica imagined throwing her extra Christmas down the apartment garbage disposal. Tree, turkey and gifts all slip-sliding down the shoot and crashing into the cold metal dumpster. “So much for that Christmas,” Jessica thought.
“What about this pile?” Jessica asked as Mrs. Grundy dragged a small bookcase towards her.
“Things for the moving sale. The advertisement was in the paper last weekend.”
Jessica thought about the advertisement she would put in the paper.
One Christmas with
all the trimmings
The third pile was a mish-mash of clothes, books and knick-knacks. Jessica knelt down and picked up a beautiful angel dressed in white lace with wings of real feathers.
“Take it. It’s a Christmas tree topper,” Mrs. Grundy said. “That’s the pile I’ll recycle.”
“Recycle?” Jessica asked, smoothing the angel’s ruffled feathers.
“Yes. Give away. They aren’t worth anything to me any more but someone else might want them. Some will go to the Re-use-it store, some to the Goodwill shop and some…”
Jessica’s eyes lit up.
She could recycle her extra Christmas. She could give it to people who needed it. She could give her Christmas to the homeless shelter down the street. Daddy had told her that families in need go there for food, clothing, and a warm bed at night. They certainly could use her extra Christmas.
Jessica jumped up and hugged Mrs. Grundy.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said.
“Oh, it’s just an ornament,” Mrs. Grundy said, smiling for the first time all day.
Jessica ran back to her apartment with the angel.
“Where were you, Jess?” her daddy asked.
“I was talking to Mrs. Grundy. She’s moving.” Without stopping for breath, Jessica showed Daddy the angel and explained her idea.
“Well,” said Daddy, giving Jessica’s ponytail a gentle tug, “I think that’s a fine, generous idea. Are you really sure that’s what you want to do with your Christmas?”
“Oh yes, Daddy! I’m sure!” Jessica said, jumping up and down.
All afternoon they packed boxes.
They packed a box of food with the turkey, a bag of potatoes, a tin of cranberry sauce and a fancy container of Christmas cookies. Jessica took candy canes from the Christmas tree and placed them neatly inside the box.
They packed a box of clothes – a snowsuit, pants, shirts and sweaters that were too small for Jessica. And a pile of things from Daddy’s closet.
Jessica filled the third box with toys she no longer played with: puzzles, books, four stuffed animals and two dolls. She set aside one wrapped gift from under the tree and packed the rest. When everything was ready they loaded up the car and hurried off to the shelter.
It was dinnertime. A long line of people waited for a plate of food. Babies cried and children raced around the tables and chairs. A volunteer explained where to put the boxes – the food in the kitchen, the clothes in a closet and the toys under a skinny Christmas tree decorated with paper ornaments.
The volunteer asked if they would like to help serve the meal. Jessica stood on a stool behind a tray of red Jell-O topped with whipped cream. She passed one to each person while Daddy ladled steaming soup into bowls.
Jessica was about to hand Jell-O to a woman and her baby when a little boy bumped into her. Jessica, in turn, bumped into the tray. The Jell-O flew off the counter and landed on the floor in a red and white sticky puddle of broken glass.
“Oh no!” Jessica shouted. Everyone stared at the mess. Jessica’s face turned red – as red as the Jell-O. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry, dear,” a volunteer said. “Accidents happen. We’ll clean this up and get more Jell-O from the kitchen.”
Daddy gave her a hug and wiped her tears. “You’re doing a fine job, Jess. Don’t let a little accident spoil this wonderful day.”
Jessica took a deep breath and tried to smile.
While the families were enjoying dinner, Jessica and Daddy said goodbye. The little boy, still with streaks of red Jell-O in his hair, waved as they slipped out the door.
Jessica and Daddy trudged down the apartment hallway. They were tired. It had been a long, busy day. A man and woman smiled and chatted as they carried a large table out of Mrs. Grundy’s apartment.
“Mrs. Grundy was happy to sell that table and those people were happy to buy it,” Jessica said when they were inside their apartment.
Daddy sat on the couch and lifted Jessica onto his lap.
“Just like you were happy to give away your Christmas and others were happy to receive it,” he told her. “Now, why don’t you open the present you kept for yourself?”
Jessica bounced off Daddy’s lap and began to unwrap her gift. Then she stopped.
“I’ll wait until I have my Christmas,” she said, “if that’s ok.”
“Of course, Jess. You save it.”
She snuggled up on the couch beside Daddy and they both gazed at Mrs. Grundy’s angel decoration that now topped the tree.
“This was the best Christmas I never had,” giggled Jessica. “Could we recycle Easter and Thanksgiving too?”