Christmas Joy
by Judith Freudenthal

Nick and Natalie were soundly asleep when a sandy blonde bundle of energy ran into their room and jumped onto the bed and bounced a couple of times.

"Daddy. Mommy. Get up!" Alyson said as she shook her parents. "I wanna see what Santa left me."

Nick and Nat awoke, a little groggy.

"What time is it?" Nat asked.

"Nick looked over at the clock. "Seven am. It's later than last year."

"Mommy. Daddy," Their four year old daughter pleaded.

"Okay," Nick said, grinning. "Let us go to the bathroom and we'll be right there. Don't open anything until we get there. Okay."

"Okay," Alyson reluctantly said. She scampered off the bed and out the door.

A few minutes later the two adults found their daughter seated in front of the tree staring at the mound of gifts around the base of the tree.

"It looks like someone was a very good girl," Nick teased.

Natalie sat down on the couch while Nick passed out the presents. She wondered who enjoyed Christmas more, Nick or Alyson. She loved the childish glee that emanated from him as he handed his loved ones their presents, not to mention the even greater happiness as he tore into his gifts, curious to see what they'd bought him.

"Alyson, give this one to your mom," Nick said as he handed her a festively wrapped present.

Their sandy haired youngster scampered over to mom, handed her the gift and then returned to find a new one in her spot. She quickly tore off the wrapping paper, squealing with delight as she saw the doll inside.

Before long Nick had passed out all the presents, with a little help from Alyson. Nick and Natalie sat on the couch, his arm around her, her head resting on his shoulder and watched their daughter open her gifts.

Natalie remembered how last year and the one before he had helped her open her gifts, not to mention helping her put together a few of her toys. They had looked like two children having a great time together.

Natalie smiled at the memories, enjoying every day with her husband and daughter.

Alyson looked over at her parents after unwrapping and examining all her presents. "Aren't you gonna open your gifts?"

"Yes, honey. We were watching you." Natalie picked up the gift from her little girl and unwrapped it. When she pulled the lid off the box and pushed aside the tissue paper, she was touched by what she saw. She ran her fingers over the plaster mold with her baby's handprint immortalized in it, along with her name and the date. "I love it, sweetie. When did you do this?"

"Me and Daddy did it last week while you were working."

"Thank you guys." Natalie kissed Nick on the cheek.

Nick was happier than he could remember, outside of the night of their wedding or Alyson's birth. He knew that Alyson was probably being spoiled, but as long as love went with it, she would be okay.

"Daddy, what did you get mommy?"

"She'll have to open her present to find out," Nick said.

Natalie opened her present, surprised to find a framed portrait of the three of them. The frame was made from a rich red-orange cherry wood. "It's wonderful. I don't remember this picture."

"I had a friend of mine take it, without your knowledge. I wanted it to be completely candid. I'm glad you like it." Nick knew that Natalie didn't care about material things and wanted to get her something special.

"Daddy, it's your turn."

Nick opened his gift from his wife and saw that once again they thought alike. She had a recent picture of the three of them blown up and framed.

"You two gave each other the same thing. Why?"

"Because we believe that our family is the most important thing to us."

The end

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