From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Owed to Joy

Man is the merriest, the most joyous of all the species of creation.

Joseph Addison

The year my youngest daughter, Shelly, was four, she received an unusual Christmas present from “Santa.”

She was the perfect age for Christmas, able to understand the true meaning of the season, but still completely enchanted by the magic of it. Her innocent joyfulness was compelling and contagious and a great gift to parents, reminding us of what Christmas should represent no matter how old we are.

The most highly prized gift Shelly received on that Christmas Eve was a giant bubble-maker, a simple device of plastic and cloth the inventor promised would create huge billowing bubbles, larger than a wide-eyed four-year-old girl. Both Shelly and I were excited about trying it out, but it was dark outside so we’d have to wait until the next day.

That night, after all the gifts had been opened, I read the instruction booklet while Shelly played with some of her other new toys. The inventor of the bubble-maker had tried all types of soaps for formulating bubbles and found Joy dishwashing detergent created the best giant bubbles. I’d have to get some.

The next morning I was awakened very early by small stirrings in the house. Shelly was up. I knew in my sleepy mind that Christmas Day would be held back no longer, so I arose and made my way toward the kitchen to start the coffee. In the hallway I met my daughter, already wide awake, the bubble-maker clutched in her chubby little hand, the magic of Christmas morning embraced in her four-year-old heart. Her eyes were shining with excitement. She asked, “Daddy, can we make bubbles now?”

I sighed heavily. I rubbed my eyes. I looked toward the window, where the sky was only beginning to lighten with the dawn. I looked toward the kitchen, where the coffeepot had yet to start dripping its aromatic reward for early-rising Christmas dads.

“Shelly,” I said, my voice almost pleading and perhaps a little annoyed, “it’s too early. I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”

Her smile fell away. Immediately, I felt a father’s remorse for bursting her bright Christmas bubble with what she must have seen as my own selfish problem, and my heart broke a little.

But I was a grown-up. I could fix this. In a flash of adult inspiration, I shifted the responsibility. Recalling the inventor’s recommendation of a particular brand of bubble-making detergent—which I knew we did not have in the house—I laid the blame squarely on him, pointing out gently, “Besides, you have to have Joy.”

I watched her eyes light back up. “Oh, Daddy,” she beamed. “Oh, Daddy, I do.

I broke records getting to the store, and in no time at all we were out on the front lawn creating gigantic, billowing, gossamer orbs—each one conjured of purest Joy and sent forth shimmering in the Christmas sun.

Ted A. Thompson

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