“Alright!” Mom calls. “Everyone to the tree to open Christmas gifts!!”
It’s Christmas Day and we’ve just finished lunch. Snow falls peacefully outside our cozy, kitchen windows and our quiet house has tucked us safely in beneath its protective walls. My older sister and I are in the kitchen. Hope is stirring up some hot chocolate and I, powered by the delicious smell, am finishing the dishes.
“Ok Mom!” I answer while placing the last plate in the dishwasher. Who would ignore a call to the Christmas tree? Hope hands me my hot chocolate and grabs her own. Following Mom, we head towards the living room. Walking past the now clean table we turned and go around the stairway and step into the living room.
Two big windows set in the walls and let us watch as blankets of snow sweep into our yard. In the far back corner of the living room a glistening, evergreen tree is decorated in Christmas glory. A pile of glittering gifts nestles beneath it, inviting us in. Dad, who has just returned from outside, comes in behind Hope and I.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” He calls and sounds nothing like Santa which makes us giggle. “Jena, you’re the youngest so here’s your first gift.” He pushes a deep blue box with a sparkling bow gently toward me. “Go ahead and open it.”
With a grin I grab the blue ribbon and pull at it. Suddenly something inside the box moves making it bump a little on the floor. I look up at Mom, confused. What could be moving inside? Carefully, I take off the ribbon and lift the bright, blue top. A miniature howl escapes from the thing inside as I lift the lid. Peering in I gasp!
“Oh Mom! Dad! It’s a puppy!”
A tiny terrier peers up at me. He lets out another howl before returning to excited wiggles as he stares at me with big, blue eyes. He’s a West Highland Terrier, a fluffy, white dog, and is totally adorable!
“Oh it’s so cute!” I pick him up excitedly and cuddled him against my face. The puppy licks my nose and barks again. Dad grins.
“We thought you’d like him!”
“Yes! I love him!! He’s the cutest puppy ever!!”
Three years ago my grandparent’s terrier, Juniper, died. I miss him terribly but we all know it was best for him to go. After all he was 15 years old. And the last three years of his life he was going partially blind which led to him being house trained and kept in the house. Still he was a cheery, little dog and things aren’t the same without him!
“He’s just adorable!” I cry, ruffling the baby dog’s white-tan fur.
“He’s related to Juniper.” Dad tells me. “We went to the place where Grandpa bought him. We showed them Juniper’s family tree and asked if they still had some of his relatives. This puppy is Juniper’s great nephew. Juniper’s niece, his sister’s pup, had this puppy.”
“Awe!” I purr. Mom and Hope giggle and I look at them. “What?”
“You guys and your animals! Do you really need family trees?” Mom chortles.
I just giggle. “Yes! It’s kinda fun and if this guy acts like ‘Juny’ we’ll know where he gets it!”
“I want him to be like Juniper.” Hope announces. “Juniper was so sweet and fun. I like dogs like him.”
“Well, I hope he is a little mischievous.” I decide. “I like a slightly crazy dog.”
“Well, you may get your wish.” Dad notes. “Starting now.” We turn to find the little terrier pulling with all his puppy strength at a ribbon on one of Mom’s gifts. Behind him one ribbon is already partly shredded and he’s quickly working on the second one!
“Hey Buster!” I pick him up. “Those aren’t your gifts!” He growls savagely at me for taking him from his prey and I laugh. “Careful pipsqueak.” I warn. Dad chuckles and hands me a little, blue collar. The puppy’s red bow has already fallen of. Dad clips on the leash with it’s tiny clasp and grins.
“Be careful walking him! One yank from this thing and your puppy will be flying!”
“Dad.” I giggle. “Thank you sososososo much!!!”
Mom beams and hugs me close. “We love you, Jena.”
“Yes, we do!” Dad tells me as he pulls me away from Mom and into his own hug. “We love you a ton!!”
“I love you both!!” I beam then turn to the dog who’s watching us with anticipation. “And you, little Westie,” I state. “I love you already!!”
A Christmas Surprise.
Later that afternoon the sun shines bright and slightly warm. But the air and ground are still frozen and the snow, answering my prayers for a white Christmas, sparkles in pearly perfection. Due to Christmas tradition Hope and I have to go throw snowballs at each other on Christmas afternoon.
The tradition was started by Dad. One year when Hope and I were innocently playing, he pelted us with snowballs and started the wildest fight in history. That is until the next year when it got wilder! And soon it became tradition. Once the gifts are done, Hope and I head to the door with Mom and Dad close behind. We all start pulling on scarves and wraps while Westie stands at my heels and begs me to take him out!
“Westie.” I pat his head. “You need to stay in here. You’ll probably freeze.” He whimpers at me and I practically melt.
“You know what?” Mom tells me. “He could come out if you keep a close eye on him. I don’t think he’d freeze but he might venture of if we don’t watch him.”
“Won’t he sink right through the snow?” I worry.
“He could be light enough to practically float on top.” Dad informs me.
So out we go with Westie right behind. Almost immediately Dad and Hope charge forward and start attacking each other with the cold, fluffy snow. Mom bursts in behind them but I wait to see what Westie will do.
He trots around a bit and as Dad predicted doesn’t sink. Keeping him in the corner of my eye, I grab up a huge snow ball and hurl it at Dad. It shatters on his shoulder and he hollers in surprise. Turning for me with his newly packed weapon he throws it with perfect aim! I squeal as the wet snow sprays around me, drenching my hat. I shake it off and dash into the midst of the action. Through snow and laughing I charge until Hope trips me and pours a handful of snow on my head.
Seeing Westie in the corner of my eye I know he’s ok. So I turn my attention from him and grab Hope’s ankle to pull her down beside me. Then I push snow in her face, giggling as she sputters. Suddenly a blast of white blurs our vision as Mom and Dad pile snow on the two of us! I yell and Hope squeals. Our parents laughter sounds above us as we struggle to climb out. But moments later we’re chasing them! Swiping up freezing snow and throwing it with all or might we hit our wanted targets. After several minutes we all just collapse into the snow. We’re out of breath from running and laughing so much!
All at once I perk my head up. “Where’s Westie?”
“Oh.” Dad looks around. In the suddenly silent yard I don’t see or hear anything.
“I don’t see him.” Dad states.
“He’s white.” Mom announces. “So he might blend into the snow if he’s not moving.” We watch for several long moments but finally Hope groans.
“I don’t think he’s in the yard!”
“Let’s look for him.” Dad suggests “I’ll head to the ocean shore. Hope, you go around the house. Sadi,” He says to Mom. “look around the yard. Jena, look towards the trees. Surely he’s not far.” We all nod and stand. I head slowly toward the trees east of our house, looking around, gently whistling, and calling, “Westie!”
I keep a close check on the ground so to not run him over in case I miss seeing him. Suddenly, I spot something. Footprints. Or stick marks in the snow. I walk closer and inspect them. Yes, they’re footprints. I look up to see a long line of barely noticeable imprints. Carefully, I begin to follow them. I can just imagine Westie’s little feet pattering along here. The trail is barely indented as would fit his baby weight.
I struggle forward, moving as quickly as I can through the deep snow and after the line of dog tracks. After six or so minutes I come in sight of Grandpa’s house. When the trail disappears into their cedar trees, I charge forward. Breaking thought the line of greenery I hear something. Stopping quickly, I listen. It’s Grandpa’s voice. And Grandma’s. Maybe they’ve seen him! Moving much faster in the lighter snow around their house, I dash forward. I run around the corner and stop short.
Grandpa and Grandma are in the yard talking but hearing me they both turn around. There, in Grandpa’s hands, is Westie!! But I’ve barely noticed that when I look up to see Grandma. She is grinning from ear to ear. And excitement shines in her eyes. She looks like I felt when I opened Westie.
“Look what we found!!” Grandpa cheers. “He just showed up and we’re trying to figure out where he’s from.”
“Is he yours?” Grandma wonders. For some reason I can’t answer. Maybe I’m just too excited to see him.
“If he’s not we have no idea how he got here.” Grandpa coos. “Poor little thing all alone in the snow.”
“He’s so cute.” Grandma beams at Westie. Grandpa grins at Grandma and chuckles when Westie licks his hand.
“If his looking for a home he knew where to go!” Grandma tells me.
“He certainly did.” I agree. I walk over to them. Westie looks at me and pants contentedly. Then he looks up at Grandpa and gives a playful bark. Grandma giggles and tickles the little dog.
“You’re hungry aren’t you tiny thing.” The look in her eyes is terribly happy. And it’s the look she always looked at Juniper with. Her eyes look like deep pools of memory mixed with joy. And looking at Westie I almost gasp when I see his eyes are doing the same thing. He’s looking at Grandma just like she looked at him. And all at once an idea shoots through my head.
“So he’s not yours?” Grandpa states it as a question but Grandma thinks he said it as a fact.
“Well, I hope he’s no one else’s cause we need a new puppy.” She tells him.
“Actually.” I speak up looking once more at my fluffy, white present. “He is mine but . . . He’s not for me. He’s for you guys.”
“Jena!” Grandma exclaims. Her smile widens. “You got him for us?” Grandpa looks at me with question in his eyes.
And I beam. “I wasn’t going to bring him over this way . . . but he kinda got away.”
“Jena, that’s so sweet! How did you decide to get us a dog?”
“Mom and Dad helped.” I explain. “But,” I look at how perfectly Westie fits between the two of them. “well, I just knew he was what you needed this Christmas.”
Grandma grins and hugs me tight. ” You know us too well! Why, I didn’t even know I wanted another one until, well, this is just so sweet of you.” She steps back and her eyes are slightly wet as she looks at Westie. “Thank you so much!!”
“I’ve got his bed and food and several things at home” I tell them. “I’ll go grab them quick and bring them over here!”
“Ok.” Grandma nods.
“You hear that?” Grandpa wonders. His smile is as big as Grandma’s. “You get to stay with us!” He tickles Westie on the head and Westie grins. With a smile I turn and charge home. Inside I’m feeling sad but something better then the sadness is seeping through and I’m not quite sure what it is.
When I reach the house I find Mom, Dad, and Hope back in the yard.
“We were getting worried.” Mom calls.
“I found him!” I reply. “He’s with Grandpas.”
“Oh good.” Dad sighs.
“Dad.” I wonder, trying to think of the best way to tell him that I just gave my gift away. “I gave him to Grandpas.”
“Yeah. They’d found him and didn’t know whose he was and you should’ve seen Grandma’s face!! I told them it was my present for them. I’ll pay for him . . . I mean you guys don’t have too buy . . . “
“Jena.” Mom interrupts. “You’re sure you wanted to give him to them?”
I stop for a moment but nod. “Yes. Totally sure.”
“Then you can.” She smiles “We gave him to you so he’s totally yours and if you want to give him away you can.”
I nod. “It’s not because I don’t love him. It’s just . . . ” I think of Grandma’s eyes and Grandpa’s chuckles. There was just something . . .
“I think I know.” Dad nods as understanding fills his eyes. “You think Grandpa’s might love him more.”
I grin, realizing he just put my thoughts into words. “Yes, that’s what I think.” I nod.
A few moments later I find myself pulling a wagon with a puppy bed, food and water bowl, leash, and everything else a little dog could want. As I come around the corner I hear my grandparents laughing and when they come into view I see Westie jumping happily between them. Just like earlier with Hope and I. Grandma leans down and pets him. The sound of her voice make me think of me. Only it’s different. It’s the sound of knowing. Not only does she love this new dog she also remembers another dog she loved and that makes Westie better. He’s a memory of the old and hope of the new.
“We named him.” Grandma pipes up when she sees me. She picks up the little dog. “Pipsqueak.”
“Pipsqueak!” I griggle and the said dog barks. I beam at Grandpa and Grandma’s smiling faces. Yes. I’m completely sure I want to give him to them. They’re all perfect together. And besides, Pipsqueak is the perfect name for the newest addition to our home!!
“Honey,” Grandpa says, wrapping his arm around me. “He’s the best Christmas gift we’ve had in years. What can we do to thank you?”
I smile at my Grandpa and give him the answer he always gives me when I’m awed in all he and Grandma do for me.
“Just enjoy Pipsqueak.” I answer. “Besides it’s already enough to see you so happy. After all, some of the best Christmas gifts are the ones that you give.”
Grandma nods. “You’re right, Jena.” And right on cue Pipsqueak barks.
“Hey bud.” I pat his head and grin. “Merry Christmas.” I tell him. “And Merry Christmas to you two.” I tell my grandparents and pull them all into a hug.
Pipsqueak, perched on top barks as if he’s telling the world all that’s happened. And I just grin because at first I thought I was happy having Westie, that is Pipsqueak, all my own, but I just discovered that he’s much better shared! And not just Grandpa’s are blessed from their new dog, this Christmas surprise has shown me the true meaning of Christmas all over again!
Have a wonderful Christmas!!