With one of her favorite holiday magazines beside her, should she need inspiration, Ambulancia sniggered and snorted at the photo of an impossibly lavish cracker, saying in her poshest voice, "Oh, Ree, did we include the Faberge eggs in the crackers this year? I may have forgotten them. We'll need to start over." Her sister answered, "Yep. Forgot them. I guess they'll wait for next year." Snigger, snort, heh heh. "A witty motto, plastic charm and, my favorite, the paper hat, will have to do. I love when we all have on our hats. Nobody thinks they're too silly to wear. We know the best sports, don't we?"
|NOT the sisters' Christmas cracker.|
"I feel a bit selfish," he told Ellington and Henri, who had joined them, "having the company of you guys while your parents have to be off in the Black Hole of Calcutta or some dismal place without you at Christmas. Lucky us, I wouldn't trade." His genuine kindness, his enthusiasm for having the fellows to balance all the female influences on every matter, always made the brothers feel they were as good as at home.
Turning off the lighted decorations, Mrs. Charpentier rounded up all the siblings, each carrying a small, paper-handled bag of presents to be dropped off. The first year their father asked if they needed a ride to their friends' houses, the girls clapped with delight. They also jumped, just a bit, and may have let out a shriek. Christmas was so much fun.
With the mysterious packages, some of which were exceedingly lumpy, patterned paper wrapped around the contents like a second skin, exchanged, following rather extended chats on front porches and some familiarly shrill exclamations, all were back in the car. It was officially Christmas eve, the sun had set and lighted trees filled front windows on every block. Following their tradition, they stopped to get hamburgers to eat en route while they rode through the evening, visiting their favorite neighborhoods, the ice cream family's mansion lit up brighter than a Hollywood premier, the towering deodar trees beneath which all cars drove with headlights off.
"I remember the first time I was able to fall asleep on Christmas eve," Mrs. Charpentier said. "I was so disappointed when I woke up. I felt as though I'd lost Christmas, I'd lost the child I had been. But I was wrong. She's still here," she laughed. "You girls and your father helped rescue her from having to be too grown up." She blew kisses toward them all. "Thank you," she said.
"Being able to fall asleep when it's Christmas," Sireena said, "I can't even imagine. How awful that must have been for you." Her mother nodded.
As they wound their way home, the children examined the presents they'd been given and thought of what they would do before going to bed as late as possible. One thing they loved to do and not just on Christmas eve was lie on the floor under the tree in the darkened room and look up through the branches at the lights and they way they were reflected by ornaments and tinsel. It seemed like a wishing place, a fairy place of pine scent and candles. There would be carols playing softly and everyone knew, not just believed but knew, that the best things were entirely possible.