Morning comes too soon. Before I know it, its Christmas and everyone is gathering around the tree. As everyone gets situated, I try to prepare myself to get much less presents than the rest. I spy a couple of presents with my name on it–more presents than I would have ever received at the foster home for sure. A smile floats to my face. It’s probably just clothes but unlike when I was five, clothes are a much appreciated gift.
“Shall I read?” Mr. Willow asks holding up a Bible. No one objects.
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
“And that,” Mr. Willow says with reverence, “is the true meaning of Christmas.”
Julie, the youngest Willow child, raises her hand. Mr. Willow looks at her, waiting for her answer.
“May we open presents now?” Julie asks. Mr. Willow laughs and gives permission to open the gifts.
All the kids make a mad dash for the tree but I linger behind. By the time I get to my first present, most of the group has already opened most of theirs.
“Let me get a picture,” Mrs. Willow says as I unwrap the flat package.
“A catalog?” I ask perplexed as I hold it up for the camera. My gift is a French furniture catalog. I flip through the pages wondering if possibly my gift was hidden inside. Nothing. Not what I had expected, but…whatever…?
I open my next gift. A bunch of pain swatches fall into my lap. I give an awkward laugh as I hold up the blue, purple, and pink swatches for the camera.
“No, open this one next,” Mrs. Willow says as I reach for Great-Aunt Birdie’s gift. I take the gift Mrs. Willow hands to me and tear it open.
Its another catalog, but this time its for lamps, sheets, comforters, and other bedroom things. I look oddly at the Willows wondering if its all a joke.
Mr.and Mrs. Willow give me a goofy grin and then hug me.
“We had a feeling you’d be pleased,” Mrs. Willow says.
“Um…,” I say startled.
“Pleased with a bunch of catalogs?” Lizzie asks. “I know taking Vera in for the holiday was last minute and all but they didn’t have any gifts for her age group at the store?”
“Lizzie, think,” Mr. Willow says. “You’re not getting the big picture.”
Well, neither am I.
“I also do not understand,” Jonathan says. “Why give Vera these ‘gifts’ unless…” A look of terror crosses Jonathan’s face.
“I thought you were kidding!” Jonathan shouts. “You’re seriously going to go through with it?”
“Go through with what? I am so confused here,” I say.
“All of these things,” Mr. Willow says pointing to the gifts scattered across the floor, “are things needed to plan a room.”
“But not just any room. A teenage girl’s room.”
Everyone laughs as realization comes to my face. I feel slightly embarrassed and stupid for not catching it before.
“We’ve decided to prolong your stay with us, Vera,” Mrs. Willow says. “You are staying with us permanently at least until next Christmas.”
“Welcome to the family, Vera Fleming,” Aunt Sicily says. “Get ready for a bumpy ride.”
Her words startle me. What did she mean by ‘bumpy’ ride?
I guess I was about to find out.