Christmas with Melissa

Christmas with Melissa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas

Christmas with Melissa

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I hopped off the bus and ran all the way home. It was officially Christmas vacation. Opening the door, a wave of warm air and smells of pine, oranges, and cinnamon enveloped me. I smiled, removing my coat and bag — Christmas was just about here!

As I tugged at my heavy boots, I heard an excited voice. “You’re home! Come play with me!” Melissa, my baby sister by three years, knelt on the living room floor, surrounded by an army of Barbies. She looked at me eagerly, her little fingers wrapped around a half-clothed Barbie, waiting for my response.

I was going to be in high school in just a couple years. Too old, I felt, for Barbies and other childish things. I hesitated, trying to think of an excuse that wouldn’t make her cry or whine to our mom, when a sudden sinister thought came to my mind. “I’ll play with you,” I said, “if you let me play with the red car.” The red car was a toy convertible for the Barbies and it was the crown jewel of Melissa’s expansive toy collection.

Melissa quickly grabbed the car. “No!” she shrieked. She never let anyone else play with the convertible. Ever.

“Well,” I said, pleased with my cleverness, “guess I can’t play today.”

As I started walking to my room, Melissa called out to me, “Have you got my Christmas present yet?”

“Not yet, but I will,” I said.

“I’ve got what I’m giving you,” said Melissa. She smiled and added, “It’s going to be the best present ever!”

“I’m sure it will,” I said flatly. I still remembered the handful of pennies and old lollipop she’d wrapped and given me the year before.

The days leading up to Christmas went by in a flash. The whole family spent Christmas morning “oohing” and “ahhing” over the gifts exchanged. I had bought Melissa a ceramic figurine of a cat at the local dollar store. When she opened it, I was pleased that she liked it. All of us kids were wearing the flannel pajamas we’d opened Christmas Eve and I could smell the Christmas ham baking. I leaned back into the couch and sighed. It had been a good holiday.

“We need a dump truck for all of this wrapping paper,” Dad joked, sweeping up big armfuls of colorful scraps.

“Wait, Daddy!” said Melissa. “There’s one more.” She wriggled underneath the Christmas tree, to the very back of the stump, where she had hidden one last gift. It was about the size of a shoebox and it was clear she had wrapped it herself. It had at least four layers of paper, was sagging in spots, and pieces of tape were coming loose. With glowing eyes and a smile she tried to resist, she handed the haphazard package to me. “For you,” she said, with more excitement than she had shown all morning.

Curious, I peeled back the paper. Stunned by the contents, I stammered, “Lissa, I can’t . . . this is . . .”

“What is it?” asked Mom.

I pulled back the rest of the paper to reveal the gift to the rest of the family — one red Barbie convertible — Melissa’s car. I couldn’t speak. I looked back and forth between the gift she’d given me and the cheap figurine I’d given her. Melissa loved that car more than all her other toys. Why was she giving it to me?

Realizing Melissa was giving her favorite toy away, Mom spoke up, “Honey, you don’t really have to give her your car. I’ll take you shopping for something else later.”

Melissa’s face squared, “No, Mom. I want her to have it.”

I pushed through the confusion I was feeling to say, “Lissa, really, you don’t have to. This is nice of you, but you should keep it.”

Fiddling with the edge of her pajamas, she whispered, “I loved that car . . . but I want you to have it.” Then she bounced up and gave me a quick hug.

And there it was. In that moment I knew. Melissa wasn’t giving me a toy; she was giving me her heart — even if it came in the form of a little red plastic car. Christmas wasn’t about parties or presents or getting things. Christmas was about love. And I would never be too old for that.

~Amanda Yardley Luzzader

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