Molly’s brother Eddie slept later than anyone that Christmas. By the time his sleep-tousled sixteen year old self came downstairs, the rest of the Sanders family was deep into their coffee and Christmas Kringle. They unpacked their stockings and opened a their gifts while the morning stretched out, stopping for bacon and eggs halfway through.
“When’s your boyyyyyyyfriend coming over, Moll?” Eddie sing-songed, wearing his new ski jacket and a pair of mustard-yellow and brown striped hand knit socks with his sweats and Thornton High football jersey.
“Shut up, Eddie.” Molly tossed a ball of wrapping paper at her brother.
“Language,” Mrs. Sanders said idly, flipping through the cookbook Eddie had given her. Eddie and Molly rolled their eyes.
Her dad got up and rustled under the tree, producing a wrapped package the size of a department store shirt box and handing it to Molly. “Since your brother unwrapped his ski jacket and knows what he’s getting for his big gift, it’s your turn.”
The box was light and a gentle shake revealed nothing. Molly unwrapped it carefully. Everything about this Christmas felt strange and magical. Inside, she peeled back folded tissue to reveal a plane ticket and a sheaf of museum pamphlets from European cities.
“Daddy? Mom?” She looked back and forth between her parents in disbelief. She’d never dreamed they’d give her the means to travel.
Her mom looked up. “You’ve worked so hard, honey, and we knew this was what you wanted most. Granny and Grampa Simon chipped in, too, and we got a good deal on the tickets from Simon’s son who’s a travel agent in Boston.”
Molly barely heard her mother. She was looking at the round trip tickets to Paris, nine weeks apart. She was leaving on January 14th. “I’m leaving in three weeks?”
“We knew you were torn about working for one more summer at the camp.” Her dad beamed. “Now you can do both.”
Her mother leaned forward. “There’s a check in there, too. Belated graduation gift from all your aunts and uncles on both sides.”
Her gratitude clogged her throat. It was too much. It was too soon. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her parents faces crumpled.
“What is it, Moll?” Her father’s voice was thick with concern.
Eddie lobbed the ball of wrapping paper at the kitchen wastebasket, sinking it. “She’s just worried her new boyfriend’s going to find someone prettier while she’s gone.”
“Shut up, Eddie!” Her voice cracked on a sob, but the whole scene was cut short by the doorbell.
Molly salvaged as much of her dignity as possible and headed for the front door, where Walt stood, holding what looked like a record. and a small box wrapped in shiny red paper.
“Merry Christmas, Molly,” he said.
Molly promptly burst into tears.