Eddie is Worried
Ben waited until Marie had gone downstairs to start the coffee. He got up and opened her jewelry box and started to look through the necklaces and bracelets
“What are you doing Dad?” a loud, groggy voice came from the doorway. It was his son Eddie, on his way to breakfast in his pajamas, his hair sticking up.
“Oh nothing, son. Go on downstairs.”
“Are you gonna sell Mom’s jewelry like in a prawn shop?” said Eddie. “I saw that in a movie.”
“Pawn shop, you mean,” said Ben, “and it’s nothing like that. I’ll tell you later.”
Ben and Marie were opposites in so many ways. Actually, almost in everything. Most of the time they enjoyed their differences and had elaborate discussion about their viewpoints. While dressing, over the breakfast table, much of their conversation was debate and expression of viewpoints. Their two children, Eddie and Sally (both in grammar school) were all ears and Eddie sometimes voiced his opinion too. At times, of course, Ben and Marie were a bit miffed with each other, and at other times they laughed at each other playfully. On a serious subject, Marie was known to keep a straight face and save her outburst of laughter until later when Ben was gone, in order to spare his feelings. In short, in spite of their opposite natures, Ben and Marie loved each other maturely, responsibly and passionately. Thus, their marriage was a constant stable reality in their lives and in the lives of their two children, whatever their differences were.
The traditional Holiday spirit prevailed in the small town of Leafwood, N.J. Christmas decorations lights were abundant and increasing every day on houses and buildings, including white and colored lights, nativity scenes (including the large one in the center of town near the train station and the ones on church lawns). Lights were strung crosswise on the main streets with shops so that the cars drove under them (something that Eddie and Sally enjoyed). And of course, a big Christmas tree with lights was erected in front of City Hall. Many businesses had Christmas decorations, frosted windows and even Christmas carols and music playing with speakers inside or outside the stores.
Eddie and Sally loved that some stores had cookies and cider or chocolates for the customers. (Eggnog was Sally’s favorite.) They had been to see Santa in the town center and it was now just a few days before Christmas, which fell on a Sunday this year.
On this Friday morning, the last day before vacation, the weather was quite cold. Ben helped the children get ready for school as they had so much to organize: the gifts for their teachers, the Secret Santa gifts for their classmates, and of course the usually dressing warmly ritual, which could take time, finding mittens, scarves and hats. Marie was occupied with baking cookies to be delivered to the class parties later in the morning. Normally Eddie and his sister would walk the half mile to school, but due to all the paraphernalia, Ben drove the children. Marie would be bringing them home after the parties which she would help supervise and she would carpool with her friend Amy.
Ben warmed up the station wagon. He had always loved his cars and did most mechanical repairs himself. His friends often asked his advice. He was good with his hands that that also made him a good dentist. Marie was the decorator with a flair, favoring bright contrasting colors and textures. One day she hoped to make a business of it.
After the Sally and Eddie had piled into the station wagon, Ben told the them, “I’ll be home a bit late tonight. I want to buy your Mother’s Christmas present after work. But that has to be a secret, all right?”
“OK!” said Sally with a grin and some excitement. She was honored to be entrusted with secrets, especially such a nice one.
“What are you going to get?” said Eddie, who was older and usually had important concerns to voice.
“I don’t know yet, and I want you to be surprised too,” said Ben.
“Make sure it is something that she likes not that you like!” Ben said loudly. “Not like that ladies tool set you got her last year. She never even used it.”
Sally looked concerned.
“Yeah, that was a big mistake,” Ben said quietly, but quickly reviving and declaring cheerfully, “Don’t worry it will be completely different this year!”
When they drove up to the curb, Eddie tumbled out. Sally kissed her father and descended delicately from the station wagon. And they were off.
What was he going to get for Marie? thought Ben. He would have loved to present her with a beautiful necklace but he didn’t feel confident in his choice of jewelry. He’d have to get help with that. He would call Marie’s friend Amy to help him choose.
When Ben got to his office, he called Amy.
“Amy, it’s Ben. Could you meet me at Bender’s Jewelers today to pick out a necklace for Marie?”
“Of course, Ben, how about 5:45? Jay will be home by then and I can step out.”
“Fantastic, thank you so much!”
It would be a sweet Christmas. They had put up their tree last Sunday and there would be time to relax Saturday before the big day, which would be a whirlwind after their little celebration in the morning, stopping to friend’s houses in the afternoon, and ending up having dinner with their parents and siblings at their own house.
At his dental practice, Ben was busy with patients and did not notice the weather until one of his patients arrived and mentioned how the snow had started and that it was expected to continue building throughout the day. He got some cancellations by elderly patients who did not want to be out in an icy storm. By 3pm there was a heavy build up and did not appear to be stopping.
The children were already at home, having had a half day before the vacation. Ben had good tires on his station wagon and he was not concerned as it was not a long commute. He decided to wrap up early and go home as well, which he did. He was home before 5pm and the radio warned of the danger of being out on the road with the icy conditions. When Amy called and said Jay wouldn’t let her go out and many stores were closing, Ben realized he would not be shopping on Friday night so that was that. He still had Saturday.
On Saturday, Leafwood woke to a world painted with a cold frosty sheen, and deep snow. The trees were glazed with ice and the vista was magical. But there were power outages on Main Street and the stores were closed.
Cozy and safe in their house, no one was in danger. But Ben had no gift, and of course Marie had completed all her shopping a month ago, so she was just enjoying the extra time in her pajamas, coffee mug in hand. Later she would start preparing for the next day’s dinner. Ben was going to have to go into Christmas with no gift for Marie.
Ben wrote a note to Marie and wrapped it up in a little box:
For your gift this year, please pick a beautiful necklace for yourself from Benders.
All my Love,
Christmas morning arrived and the snow had melted enough that there would be some visiting after all. Ben, Marie, Sally and Eddie gathered around their tree. The kids were excitedly opening Santa’s gifts and wrapping paper was everywhere. There was jubilant feeling in the air. Eventually the dither died down, and Ben handed Marie the little box.
Marie opened the box slowly and read the note. She sighed. Eddie and Sally watched. She looked at the children and she looked at Ben. A determined, serious look was on her face and she tightened her lips.
Eddie looked alarmed. He turned to his father and blurted out “You gave her a note for Christmas?”.
Sally opened her eyes wide, watching.
Marie’s mouth quivered a bit and then she giggled. And then she laughed. And then she broke out in a total giggle fest, and she couldn’t seem to stop herself.
Sally starting giggling and laughing too.
Eddie demanded in an urgent whine, “What’s so funny? Mom, what’s so funny?”
Marie approached Ben tripping slightly, fell into him and hugged him, tears of laughter falling.
Ben was somewhat confused, but happy to have his wife’s sweet embrace, and as he held her and kissed her head, he saw Sally and Eddie over her shoulder and the big grin on Eddie’s face.
“You did good Dad!”