The Greatest Gift

It never snowed in Highland, so the closest the Morgendorffers could come to a white Christmas was watching the Weather Channel. Five-year-old Daria opened up her bedroom curtain and sighed. At least the skies are grey and it is below 50. Her four-year-old sister Quinn had woken her up a few minutes earlier and was trying to drag her older sister down the stairs to see if Santa had come. Daria resisted at first, but even she got sucked into Quinn's holiday madness. Daria followed Quinn as she bounded down the stairs. Much to Daria's surprise, Helen and Jake were already waiting for them in the living room. Daria inspected her parents closely, noticing their bloodshot eyes and multiple yawns while Quinn ran around the Christmas tree.

"Santa came Daria! Santa came! Look at all the presents - he must have gotten my list!"

Daria turned and stared at the gifts that were overflowing from under the tree. Daria could tell what several of the presents were without opening them. Oh look, some more clothes and toys just what I always wanted. Helen assigned Daria to the role of gift passer. Daria grabbed the first box and handed it over to Quinn. The wrapping paper massacre had officially begun. Paper flew everywhere as Daria and Quinn stacked their gifts into separate piles. Thirty minutes later, the destruction of the living room was over. Daria smirked as she looked at the skirts, dolls, and coloring books that dominated her pile. Big surprise there - I wonder how long it takes a Barbie to melt? After they helped pick up all of the paper from the floor, Daria and Quinn carried their presents into their rooms. After they unloaded their gifts, they went back downstairs for breakfast.

Entering the kitchen, Daria was surprised when her mother came walking towards her with a package. Helen handed Quinn one as well. Daria looked carefully at the brown paper and read the name of the sender. From: Amy Barksdale Daria carefully removed the paper around the box it contained. Opening the small box, Daria eyes enlarged as she saw what was inside. It was an old, hardbound copy of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. Daria ran her hand slowly down its spine and held it as though it fine china. While Daria owned several books, they were mainly Dr. Seuss or just a few pages in length. This was Daria's first grown up book - no pictures, pages with more than five sentences an actual novel. Forgetting all about breakfast, Daria left the kitchen and returned to her room.

A couple of hours later, Helen knocked on her oldest daughter's door. Opening it, she found Daria sitting on her bed, using her knees as a book holder reading away. Looking at the sandwich and chips on the plate, Daria used a dollar bill from her Monopoly game as a bookmark and quickly ate her lunch. No sooner had Helen turned around to leave, Daria was already finished with her lunch and was back reading. Daria continued until the sun began to set and she had to get ready for bed. Before going to sleep, she asked her mother to call her aunt so that she could thank her. Helen brought the cordless phone into Daria's room and dialed that number.

"Hello - "

"Hi, Aunt Amy?"

"Hey Daria - how's my favorite niece?"

"I'm great. I got your Christmas present. Thank you."

"You're welcome. That was the copy I was given when I was five by my favorite aunt. So, take good care of it - because one day you will want to do the same."

"I will. I love you."

"I love you too. Goodnight Daria."

Daria hung up the phone and handed it back to her mother. Clutching the book in her hands like it was a teddy bear, Daria fell asleep. That night she dreamt of a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains.

Twenty-Five Years Later

"Come on Stacy ... it's time to open up presents," Cleo said pulling at her sister.

"Okay." Stacy White and her sister went downstairs where their entire family was downstairs waiting for them, including her aunt Daria who had stopped her book signing tour to be with them for Christmas.

As the kids tore into their presents, visions of Christmases past ran through the older generations' heads. After finishing up the last of the unwrapping, Stacy brought her games and clothes in her room. A few minutes later, there was a knock on her bedroom door. She opened it to find Daria holding a small box in her hands. Daria gently placed the gift in the child's hands as though she had handed her a rare treasure.

"This was given to me when I was five by my aunt. May it inspire you as it did me." Daria walked out of the room and wiped a tear from her face.


Whatever holiday you may celebrate during this time of the year, I hope you have a great one.