From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Christmas for Opal and Sean

If you want happiness, provide it to others.

Frank Tyger

“Okay, everyone, you can take your Christmas ornaments home today,” Mr. Anthony said and passed around the ceramic figures we had made in art class. He handed a snowman to Jeremy and gave me the angel I made. I noticed Opal didn’t get anything.

I asked, “Where’s your ornament, Opal?”

Opal shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t make one. Who cares about a stupid ornament, anyway? We’re not even getting a tree this year.” She lowered her head so that her blonde hair covered her face. “My mom’s cancer is back.”

I didn’t really know what cancer was, but I knew it was way worse than having the flu or chicken pox. The bell rang, and Opal ran out of class before I had a chance to say anything else.

All the way home, I thought of Opal and her little brother. Sean was always hanging around the store where my mom worked. At the end of the day, Mom would let him have all the donuts that didn’t get sold. One time when I was in a bad mood, I said to Mom, “Why don’t you bring those donuts home to me? I never get anything!”

“Yes, you do, Tiffany,” Mom said. “You have more than you need of everything, and those donuts make Sean very happy. Why not let him have them?” I knew she was right. Once I saw Sean running home with a paper sack bulging with day-old donuts. He was grinning like he had a bag full of money instead of maple bars.

When I got home, I noticed something different about my house. My nose twitched as I tried to figure out what that good smell was. It reminded me of the time we went camping, and I collected pine cones. The sticky sap from the pine cones made my hands smell the same way. I ran to the living room and there it was—the biggest Christmas tree we’d ever had.

Mom said, “Surprise!” She was in the middle of the room, surrounded by boxes. Each box had CHRISTMAS STUFF written on the side.

“I thought we weren’t getting our tree until next weekend,” I said.

“That’s why it’s a surprise, silly.” Mom opened a box. Inside were red glass balls, sparkling like jewels. Plastic gingerbread people peeked out from under a pile of silver tinsel and glittering garland. Strands of gold beads spilled over the side of the box, like necklaces in a pirate’s treasure chest.

Mom put the lights on the tree, but she left the rest of the decorating up to me. I rummaged through the boxes, chewing on my bottom lip like I always do when I can’t make up my mind. Should I use the silver garland or the gold beads? The star I made in kindergarten, the puppy wearing a Santa Claus hat— every ornament was a favorite. Then there was my angel; I had to find a spot on the tree for her, too.

When I finished, every branch was loaded with decorations, and there was still a whole box of ornaments left.

Mom said, “Wow, is there a Christmas tree under all that? We have enough ornaments left over to decorate a second tree!”

That’s when I remembered Opal and Sean. I was so excited about decorating our tree that I had almost forgotten about my friends missing out on Christmas. “Mom, we have to get another Christmas tree right away!” I shouted so loud that she almost dropped her glass of eggnog.

“Why? What’s wrong with the one we have?” Mom looked confused.

“No, it’s not for us. It’s for Opal and Sean.” I explained about Opal and Sean’s mom being too sick for Christmas. It seemed like Mom didn’t think my idea was so great because she was quiet for a long time. Then she said, “Well, get your coat. The tree lot closes in half an hour.”

I rang the bell at Opal and Sean’s house. Sean opened the door, nibbling on an apple fritter. He looked at the box marked CHRISTMAS STUFF in my arms, and then at the tree leaning against the porch rail. Sean’s eyes got as round as ping-pong balls, and his eyebrows crawled up high on his forehead. Opal came to the door and said, “Tiffany! What are you doing here?”

“Hi, Opal,” I said. “We didn’t have room on our tree for all of these ornaments, and I know you didn’t get a tree yet, so . . . ”

“Way cool!” Sean said, jumping up and down. Opal smiled really big and helped Mom carry the tree inside. I was hardly through the door before Sean started opening the box. “Hey, Opal, look at this!” he said, digging through the decorations. “Here’s a choo-choo train! And it lights up!”

A weak voice called from the other room. “Who’s here, Opal?”

“Mom, it’s Tiffany and her mother. They brought a Christmas tree,” Opal shouted. My mom went to talk to Opal and Sean’s mom.

“Thank you, Tiffany,” Opal said.

“You’re welcome,” I said. “Oh, and here’s one more ornament for your tree.” I gave Opal the angel I made in class, and she hung it on the side of the tree that faced the window.

When Mom came back, her eyes were shining, like they did when she watched a sad movie on TV.

“We’d better go,”Mom said. “Merry Christmas, kids.”

As we walked home, I said, “We made Opal and Sean happy, didn’t we, Mom?”

“Very happy,” Mom agreed.

The fog was swirling around us, frizzing my hair and chilling my cheeks. Fog has a way of covering up all sounds, and I was glad to be walking with my mother in the silent night. Suddenly, I thought of something, and I just had to say it out loud. “Hey, Mom, I think I know why you give the donuts to Sean.”

“Why?” Mom asked.

“Because when you make someone happy, it makes you feel happy, too!”

Tiffany O’Neill

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