It was the very first day in December, and although there was a light blanket of snow covering the grass and fields, the sidewalks were bare and dry. The air was nippy, and anyone outside could see his own cloud of warmth dispel the chill when he spoke.
Down the large staircase, warm within the Johnson house, hurried Cindy. She was pulling on the red and blue striped stocking cap Grandmother had given her. As Cindy reached the landing, Mom greeted her from the kitchen doorway.
“Hi, Mom,” Cindy said. “Can I go out and make a snowman before breakfast?”
“You certainly may,” Mom said.
“Call me when Dad comes down for breakfast, OK, Mom?” With that, Cindy grabbed her blue parka from behind the door, put it on, pulled on her mittens, and disappeared out the door.
Cindy huffed and puffed as she pushed the fat middle section of the snowman up onto the bottom mound. As she stepped back, she saw a small boy standing near the hedge that divided her yard from the neighboring field. “Hello,” Cindy called, waving to him.
The boy threw a snowball that landed by the half-built snowman. Cindy noticed that he made his snowball with bare hands that were very red and that his jacket needed a few patches. He wasn’t wearing boots or any kind of hat.
“Come on over,” Cindy called out.
When the boy only threw another snowball, Cindy decided that she should reply. She tossed a snowball, and it hit the boy’s leg. He turned and ran away.
Cindy went back to her snowman and began to form its head. When she mounted the ball atop the others, she said, “Well, hello there, Mr. Snowman. I’ll be right back.”
Soon she brought a scarf and a hat and placed them on the snowman. Cindy could see the little boy peeking over the hedge again. She pretended not to notice him as she walked slowly around to the backyard, looking for rocks to use for the snowman’s nose, eyes, and mouth. When she returned with the stones, she saw a large red button pressed into the center of the snowman’s face. It made a splendid nose.
“Oh!” Cindy exclaimed loudly. “You already have a nose. If I give you a mouth, will you tell me where you got it?” She pushed in some small stones in a crooked row across the snowman’s face, forming a mouth. “Now are you going to talk to me?” she asked as she stuck in two larger stones for his eyes.
When she stood back to admire her finished product, a snowball flew over her head and hit the snowman’s hat, knocking it down over one eye. Cindy turned suddenly and ran after the boy. She chased him around the corner and down the block, until he ducked out of sight.
Cindy returned home to eat breakfast.
“Cindy, the snowman looks terrific,” Mother said, looking through the kitchen window.
“Yes, you did a great job on him,” Dad agreed. “By the way,” he added, “today’s the first day of December. That means that the Christmas season is upon us. Have you finished your Christmas wish list?”
“No, not yet,” Cindy replied as she picked up her glass of juice. “Dad, do you go home teaching to that family that just moved in on Second North?”
“Yes. The Smith’s moved here from Idaho, and they have a boy a year or so younger than you. Why? Have you met them?”
“Not really, but I think I’ve seen the boy. Are they very poor?”
“Well, their father was supposed to work for the college, but his job fell through. He hasn’t found any work yet.”
“That’s too bad,” Mom commented, “especially with the holiday season just about here.”
Thursday afternoon Cindy took the long way home from school. She walked slowly along Second North. There was a small house with large trees in front of it and a broken-down fence around the yard. When she came to a gap in the fence, she saw a small snowman with a large red button nose looking back at her. It had a crooked pebble smile, just like her snowman. The little boy was playing alone on the porch.
“Hello,” Cindy called out, but the boy turned and slipped quickly into the house.
Puzzled, Cindy walked slowly on down the street. When she was almost home, a snowball flew past her head. She spun around but couldn’t see anyone. She walked a little farther, and when a snowball hit her in the back, she kept walking. A third snowball whizzed past her arm. Cindy ducked out of sight when she reached the hedge, then watched the boy peer around cautiously as he came her way. Just before he reached the hedge, he stopped, stood still for a moment, then turned and started back. Cindy sprang from behind the hedge and grabbed his sleeve. The boy tried to run, but she had a firm grip on his jacket. He looked up at her, and his bottom lip quivered.
Cindy smiled at him. “My name is Cindy,” she said. “My dad is your home teacher. Do you want to come to my house for some cookies?” The boy nodded, and then he smiled too.
Cindy let go of his coat, and they went to her house together. Soon, full of cookies and milk, the boy was answering all of Cindy’s questions.
Later Cindy told Mom, “Jason’s five years old, and I gave him my last year’s galoshes.”
After she had made a friend of Jason, Cindy started walking the long way home from school every day. And Jason waited by the fence for her every day and walked partway home with her.
A few days before Christmas Cindy and Jason were playing together. “I’m going Christmas shopping with my mom this afternoon,” Cindy told her friend.
“Oh,” was all Jason said.
“What do you want for Christmas?” Cindy asked.
“I don’t know. It’s not completely Christmas this year,” Jason answered.
Cindy looked surprised. “But it’s nearly here. You’d better decide soon.”
“Oh, I guess I’ll ask for a new coat or maybe a truck, but Mom says that we won’t be having much Christmas this year. She’s sad that we can’t buy even a Christmas tree. Because it won’t be completely Christmas this year, I might not ask for anything at all.”
Later, when Cindy was shopping with her mother, she was drawn to a window display, where a train chugged past a pond and went through a tunnel. As she watched it, she remembered the look on Jason’s face when he’d talked about his mother and Christmas, and suddenly the toys and other things that she’d seen weren’t so important.
On the way home her mother asked her which things she had liked best. “I don’t know, Mom,” Cindy said slowly. “I saw toys and books and some neat T-shirts and a lot of things I liked, but what I want most is for it to be completely Christmas!”
Cindy tried to explain. “It doesn’t seem as happy this year, because Jason isn’t having a real Christmas—you know, with a tree and everything.”
“I see,” Mom said. “Well, Dad and I would still like you to make out your wish list. We’ll work out some way so that Jason has a nice Christmas too.” She gave Cindy a squeeze.
When Cindy went upstairs to her room that night, she took some notebook paper from her drawer and wrote:
Christmas Wish List
A Christmas tree for Jason
A new coat and mittens for Jason
A train for Jason.
She took the list downstairs and said, “Mom, here’s my list.”
Mom read her list and smiled. “Cindy,” she said. “Your dad will be home soon, and I’m sure the two of you can go pick out a tree for the Smith’s.”
On Christmas day Cindy was awake soon after daylight. She put on warm clothes and went quietly down the stairs. On the chair where she always hung her stocking were two big boxes, wrapped just alike. One had her name on it, and Jason’s name was on the other box! She quickly opened hers and discovered the same train set that she had seen in the store window. Cindy hurriedly put on her boots and coat and hat. When she picked up Jason’s box, she saw something fall. Reaching down, she picked up two pairs of new warm mittens. One had a tag that read “Cindy”; the other tag read “Jason.”
“All right!” Cindy exclaimed. Looking up she saw her mother and father smiling at her.
Dad said, “Brother Smith said they’d managed to get a new coat for Jason, so we got mittens to match it.”
Cindy gathered up Jason’s gifts and scampered outside. When she got to Jason’s house, she put the gaily wrapped box on the front porch, placed the new mittens on top of the box, rang the doorbell, then raced home.
“Merry Christmas!” Cindy shouted, giving Mom and Dad both a big bear hug. As Cindy again opened and peeked into the box that held her new train, she imagined Jason’s face as he peeked into his box.
After Cindy and her parents exchanged gifts, she sorted through the goodies in her Christmas stocking. Then she heard her mother call, “Come help me stuff the turkey, Cindy. We’re having company for dinner.”
“It’s a Christmas present for all of us,” Mother said. “The Smith’s are coming, and we’re celebrating Mr. Smith’s new job!”
“Hurray!” Cindy shouted. “Now it really is completely Christmas!”