Mommy was up early the next morning, working in the kitchen. She put a big pan of something in the oven and said, “Gobble, gobble.”
Bruce stood by me, watching her, and he licked his lips. “That’s turkey,” he whispered. “It’s good stuff.”
Daddy came down soon, carrying Jake’s crutches. Hmmm, strange. I tipped my head and looked at Daddy. He set the crutches down and walked into the kitchen. He didn’t look like his foot hurt.
Daddy pulled a big pan out of the cabinet. “Make some room for the real cook.”
“Right.” Mommy grinned and poked Daddy in the chest.
I heard Ruthie laughing with Jake then, so I turned back to look at the stairs. They both sat on the steps, bumping down them one by one. Jake had his hurt foot stretched out so it wouldn’t bang. That looked like fun. I wanted to run and bounce down with them, but I saw Mama in the door to the hallway then, shaking her head.
“We have pancakes for breakfast on Christmas,” Ruthie told Jake. “Daddy makes them.”
“I remember Dad making pancakes on Christmas when I was little.” Jake bumped down the last step and sat on the floor.
“Millie, Merry, Merry Christmas.” Ruthie ran and scooped me up. “Your first Christmas is always best.” She kissed me and squeezed me tight.
“Meow.” I wiggled in her arms.
“Do you remember your first Christmas, bug?” Jake asked.
Ruthie stuck out her tongue at him and went into the kitchen. Daddy came and handed Jake his crutches, then helped him get up. I jumped down and ran around the kitchen. Everything smelled so yummy.
The people always thanked their God for the food before they ate. This morning Daddy said, “Ruthie, do you want to thank God for the day? And tell Jesus happy birthday.”
“Yes,” Ruthie said, looking serious and clearing her throat. “Jesus, happy birthday, and thank you for this food. Thank you for Christmas, and for loving us, and we love you too. Amen. Oh, and thank you so much for Millie. I like having her here this Christmas.” She rubbed me under the table with her foot.
“Amen,” everybody said.
I poked my head out from under the table and looked around the room. I’d still never seen Jesus anywhere, but they always talked to him and God.
After breakfast, they cleaned everything off the table, then we all went into the living room, Mama and Bruce and me too.
“Jake, will you read the Christmas story from Luke?” Daddy asked, handing Jake one of the big books called a Bible.
“Sure.” Jake turned pages in the book. Good. I curled up by his feet. I liked to listen when they read stories.
The story was nice, about a baby being born, shepherds, and angels singing. ”Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2: 14)
Jake had a soft reading voice. I almost fell asleep.
But then Ruthie jumped up, clapped, and said, “Now I’ll hand out presents. I can read all the names.”
The room filled with excitement. Ruthie passed out the pretty-wrapped packages from under the big tree, and everybody tore the paper and ribbons off and threw them on the floor. Bruce and I chased the paper and ribbons around, growling and chewing on them. Back when I was little, Bruce taught me how to growl, and he said I was good at it. Mama sat and chewed on one of the curly bows and purred at me and Bruce.
“Millie, this present is for you and your mama and Bruce,” Ruthie said. “Do you want me to help you open it?”
Oh, nice. This was a cute package, and Bruce and I went after the paper and ribbon as soon as Ruthie tore it off. But then she pulled out a little sack filled with jingly stuff and threw it on the floor.
Whoa. Bruce and I tore the sack open, and a bunch of jingly balls fell out and rolled all over. These were for us? Wow. Even Mama chased them with us. All the family laughed and threw the balls in every direction. I bounced and pounced and growled. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t catch them all. What fun this was—the whole family and Mama and Bruce and me, playing together.
Ruthie jumped up on Jake’s lap, holding a little baby doll toy. “Thank you, Jake. She’s so pretty.”
Jake kissed her on top of the head. “You’re welcome. Didn’t I do a good job keeping it hidden?”
She stuck out her lip at him. “Hmmm. Do you like the book I got for you? Mommy helped me pick it out.”
“I do.” Jake smiled. “I love books about motorcycles. You and Mommy are smart.”
Daddy sat down next to Jake and laid his arm around Jake’s shoulders. “Merry Christmas, Son.”
“Merry Christmas, Dad.” Jake picked up one of the collar things to lead people by. “Thanks for all the presents, especially this new tie.”
“You’re welcome.” Daddy grinned at him. “I’m happy to have you here with us, Jake.”
“Me, too,” Jake said in a soft voice, and smiled.
“Okay, time to clean up all this mess,” Mommy said.
Oh, I needed to hurry. I jumped up and started chasing the paper and ribbons around before the people got them all picked up.