“Merry Christmas, Mom!” Tulie said, giving her mother a hug, a kiss on the cheek and handing her the envelope with the home-made card in it.
“But honey, aren't you rushing things a bit? It's still only Christmas Eve and we don't usually give each other our cards until breakfast in the morning.”
“This one's kind of special and there's a reason you have to have it now.”
They had finished supper and were sitting in the living room that was dark except for the glow from the fireplace and the colored lights on the tree. It was this time on Christmas Eve when Mom played carols on the old upright piano and they sang and sang until it was time to put the presents under the tree and go to bed.
Gran came in with a tray that held three mugs of eggnog and a plate of Christmas sugar cookies that Tulie had decorated herself. She gave Tulie a nod of encouragement and winked at her.
“Go on, Mom, open it!”
“Well, okay, if you insist.” Tulie's mother smiled and carefully tore the flap on the envelope made of red construction paper. As she slowly extracted the card, she puckered her lips and raised her eyebrows with delight. “Oh, I think you've outdone yourself with this card, Tulie!”
Tulie couldn't agree more. The card was shaped like a Christmas tree and Tulie had covered it with bright green feathers and beads she had bought at the Craft Mart.
As she opened the card, Mom's expression changed . She saw the fifty dollar bill and looked at her daughter with a puzzled frown. “I don't understand,” she said. “Why would you give me money? And where on earth did you get fifty dollars?”
“It's really your fifty dollars, Mom.”
“What do you mean, my fifty dollars?”
Gran piped in, “It's the money that Bob sent you and Tulie thinks you should have it to buy those snow tires you need so bad.”
Mom looked from Gran to Tulie, from Tulie to Gran. “But I spent that fifty dollars! I boughtÉ.” Then she stopped.
“Yes Mom, I know you bought me the doll in the blue dress. I'm sorry but I snooped in the closet under the stairs and I saw the box. Gran told me what you did and even though I wanted the doll so much, I realized I couldn't ever enjoy it knowing that you used your own Christmas money from Uncle Bob to buy it for me. So I sold it back to Mr. Herb this afternoon!”
Tulie could see that her Mom was going to cry. Gran was already wiping her own eyes with the corner of her apron.
Mom reached out, grabbed Tulie and enveloped her in a really big, bear hug. Holding Tulie close, she said, “I love you so much, my little Tulip. Merry Christmas, darling, Merry Christmas.” She let go of Tulie and reached in her pocket for a Kleenex. As she was blowing her nose, she said, “I'm surprised that Herb gave you back the money and didn't want to haggle.”
“Oh, he haggled all right,” said Tulie, nodding wisely. “But I had a great idea. I came home, got some of Gran's old cut-outs, made sure it was OK with her and I took them to sell to him. At first he only wanted to give me ten dollars for them. But I haggled. And he haggled. I think I must have got the hang of it and haggled better because he gave me twenty-five dollars. That's how I got the fifty!” she finished, flushed with pride.
“Well, I for one, think all this talk about money should stop,” said Gran. “Christmas isn't about money, after all. It's about the things that money can't buy. About families like ours, all together, that's what's really important.”
“More important than dolls in blue gowns. I know that now,” Tulie said. And when she said it, she was surprised that in her heart she really meant it too