Jaina’s eyes popped open, her red hair sprawled out around her head like a crown for a goddess. She sat up in her bed, leaning on the wall behind her. Her green eyes scanned the room for the clock, attempting to read the numbers. It gave off a faint blue glow, assisting the night light in its job of filling shadows of the night up with light. It read 5:42, but she decided to get up anyway, against her parent’s wishes.
She flung her blankets aside. Jaina put her bare toes on the carpeted floor, her white night gown falling down past her knees and gracefully flowing around her legs. She bent down, reaching under her bed and grabbed the red flash light she treasured so much. She carefully felt her way to the door, bare feet thumping on the cool carpet. She silently opened it, slipping out into the hallway. Jaina edged down the little passage way between the wall and the banister, where five brightly colored Christmas stocking hung on a garland covered in bright red and green lights. She froze, and reached out to touch her own. It was last in the row, a small black dog with a bright, festive collar poking out of the top. Jaina giggled quietly, and attempted to grab it. Then she pulled her had back.
“If you touch something, the magic will fade,” The words of her mother whispered out of Jania’s mouth. She didn’t really believe it, but it all looked so beautiful… and magical.
Jaina continued on, reaching the end of the hallway. She looked to her left, seeing the front door, the street lights shining through the cracks. She looked straight ahead, scanning the two pianos and a tiny Christmas tree covered in different colored lights. She spotted a glittering snowman head from where she stood from almost 10 feet away. Although she couldn’t see them she knew that, hidden in the tree, there where many other figures. Some made of plastic, others made of wood. She remembered back to the night before, when her parents had helped Jaina fulfill the task of placing the small characters on the tree. That little tree was her job to decorate, and… She turned her head to the right, her feet slowly following. ….the other one was her parent’s job to decorate. Jaina walked up to it, it’s gorgeous statue even more magnificent in the dark.
It stood, towering over her. The tip of the glowing yellow star missed the ceiling by only a few short inches, making Jaina feel like a baby kitten beside a full grown adult. It was alive with little white lights, shining on the green branches that reached out to her. Some of the branches had red or green glass balls clinging on them, making the tree look simple, yet beautiful. Jaina let her eyes go out of focus, the lights turning into little dots of white beside other fainter green and red dots. How long had she been waiting for Christmas? When had she and her mother put together the count down chain that now stood bare on the wall behind her? It had all seemed to crawl by so slowly. But now that she looked back, all she remembered was rushing through every week, hurriedly wrapping her gifts and not looking back. Maybe Christmas was meant to be taken slower, and to be enjoyed with family. Jaina now felt a sight bit guilty, and she promised herself that she would take Christmas day slower so that she wouldn’t miss a thing.
Jaina broke out of the trance, and turned her flash light on. She slowly led the beam over rows of presents, all wrapped in colorful paper and balancing small bows on top. Some had Santa’s face printed on them, while others were covered with ornaments like the ones on the tree. Jaina glanced behind the tree, finding an oddly shaped package wrapped in golden paper. She leaned over it, checking to see the name tag.
“To Jaina, from Kate,” Jaina read out loud. “I can’t wait until I get to open Kate’s gift! She always knows just what to get.” Kate was Jaina’s older sister. Kate looked a lot like Jaina, only with darker hair. She always gave Jaina the best gifts, and was one of the sweetest people Jaina had ever met.
Jaina spun around and looked back at the banister where the stockings hung, and then to the stairs descending beside it. Kate slept down those stairs.
Jaina turned off her flash light and hobbled over to the kitchen table. The wood flooring was cold beneath her bare feet, but she ignored it. Jaina looked at the table top, finding both the plate with Santa’s Cookies printed on it and the cup beside it empty.
“Santa’s always hungry,” Jaina said to herself, grinning. She walked back into the living room, and then lay down on the soft carpet. She would just sleep out here until her parents woke up. They wouldn’t mind. Jaina closed her eyes, the soft glow of the Christmas lights soothing her back to sleep like the glow of a small fire.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Jaina looked at the mess of paper and bows scattered around her, and the pile of gifts that sat in the corner of the room. The board game from her father, a new stuffed dog from her mom, the baby doll from her grandparents, and the giant stuffed bee from her uncle. In the center of the mess was her treasured gift from Kate. It stood on four legs, the polished wood glinting in the light. It was her very own wooden horse, carved and painted by Kate and her friends.
When she had torn the gold wrapping away, she had frozen and turned to Kate who had a large smile on her face. Jaina tore off the rest of the paper faster then even she could believe, and then turned and ran at Kate with all her might, knocking her down backwards on the brown carpet. Jania had hugged, kissed, and thanked Kate for the wonderful gift, and then gone over every little line of paint with her finger admiring the quality.
Jaina snapped back into the present, and started picking up the mess around her. As she did so, she thought back to earlier that morning. Jaina had promised herself that she would go slower. Had she done so? Yes. Jaina had slowly opened each gift (With the exception of Kate’s, of course.) and then, instead of rushing to the next package, had looked the gift over and thanked the person who had given it to her. (If they where in the room.) Then she had placed it with her other gifts before moving on.
Jaina felt very good with herself as she sat down to eat her breakfast of special Christmas tree shaped toast. But when she turned around and saw the Christmas tree in all it’s glory stripped presents, she felt a bit sad. She hadn’t believed her mother’s words about the magic fading just a few short hours ago. But now, as Jaina starred at the tree, she agreed.
“I have my gifts, but the magic is gone,” Then she looked around the table at the smiling faces of her family. “Well, not all of it…” She reached over underneath the table, and slipped her hand into Kate’s. Kate turned, surprised!
Jaina just smiled at her, and then said to herself, “The magic of family is mine forever.”