Jon gazed out the car window, trying to see his new house through the falling snow.
“We’re here,” Dad said, stopping in front of a white house.
Inside, Jon looked around glumly. “I can’t believe we had to move a week before Christmas. Tonight we should be having friends over for our Christmas cookie party!”
“We’ll have a family party this year,” Mom said. “You and Amy help Dad get the living room in holiday shape—I marked the box of Christmas decorations to be put there. I’ll start in the kitchen.”
The movers had put the right things in each room, so in no time the living room furniture was in place. Even the drapes were hung.
Soon four red stockings hung on the fireplace, and the nativity scene was on the mantel, just as it had been every Christmas that Jon could remember.
Mom, stirring a bowl of cookie dough, came from the kitchen to watch him and Amy fasten big red and green bows where the holly chain was caught into loops on the staircase banister. Dad was straightening the tree in its stand.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” Mom sang. She watched as Dad strung tiny red and green lights on the tree, then flipped the switch on. The lights twinkled like red and green fireflies. He stretched to put the star on top.
“It’s tilting left,” Amy said.
“It’s tilting right,” Jon said.
“Make up your minds,” Dad chuckled.
“It’s perfect!” Mom declared.
Jon gazed around the room, “You’d never know that behind every closed door are mountains of unopened boxes.”
“We’ll start on those tomorrow,” Mom said, “but tonight we’ll have our party.” She went back to the kitchen.
Jon anxiously waited for the gingerbread men cookies to be baked. They’d put them into plastic bags, tie the bags with red and green ribbons, and hang them on the tree. It had always been one of his favorite parts of Christmas. … It wouldn’t be the same this year, though, without friends.
Amy went to help Mom, while Dad and Jon hung a big Christmas wreath on the door.
Soon the smell of hot gingerbread cookies set Jon’s mouth to watering. Dad’s nose started to quiver, so they followed the smell to the kitchen.
Dad plopped down on a stool. “Mmmm! Let’s bag the cookies.”
Mom smiled and disappeared into the pantry.
“Oh, no!” she cried. She came back to the kitchen looking stricken. “No plastic bags!”
A Christmas tree without gingerbread men in plastic bags to catch the colors of blinking lights? It was unthinkable!
“We can get some from the store,” Jon said.
Dad shook his head. “The stores here close early.”
Mom looked at Jon. “You’ll just have to go next door and ask if we can borrow some!”
“Ah, Mom, I can’t do that. I’ve never even met the people.”
“It’s a good way to make friends.” Mom handed Jon his coat and shooed him out the door.
The snow had stopped, and night was settling in. Jon wondered where the time had gone.
He went next door and knocked. “Hi, I’m Jon, the new boy in the white house,” he said to the girl who came to the door. “We need to borrow some small plastic bags.”
“Hi, my name’s Teresa,” she said. “Plastic sandwich bags? We don’t have any. Maybe Reggie has some.” She turned to her mother who had come up to welcome Jon. “May I take Jon to Reggie’s house?”
“Si (yes).” Teresa’s mom asked Jon, “Is it OK if Rosita and Manuel go with you?”
“Sure,” Jon said. “May they come home with me afterward for a cookie party?” He smiled at Teresa’s brother and sister as all three, at their mother’s nod, scrambled to get their wraps on.
At Reggie’s house, a pretty African-American woman answered the door. She smiled as Teresa explained what they wanted.
“Reggie,” she called, “please bring the new box of sandwich bags from the cupboard.”
Reggie grinned shyly at Jon. “Hi. Did you just move into the white house?”
“Yes. And we need the bags to put gingerbread cookies in. Do you want to come help?”
“You bet! OK, Mom?”
“Of course. Have a good time. It’s nice to meet you, Jon.”
This is more like it! Jon thought. It feels a lot more like Christmas now.
On the way back to his house, the children met a freckle-faced, red-haired boy. His name was Jim, and he was Reggie’s friend, so Jon invited him to come along. “I think our phone’s working, so you can call home and make sure it’s OK.”
Jon had just opened his front door, when someone called to Teresa.
“It’s Reiko, my friend from Japan,” Teresa said. “May she come too? Her family just moved here. They don’t know about Christmas, so the missionaries are teaching her family about Jesus Christ.”
“Missionaries?” Jon asked. “Mormon missionaries?”
“Sure,” said Teresa. “We’re all Mormons, except Reiko.”
Wow! All right! Jon exulted to himself. Mormons are the same, no matter where you live! Christmas is going to be Christmas after all! Aloud, he said, “You bet she can come—the more the merrier.” Teresa motioned for Reiko to join them, then introduced her to Jon and explained about the party.
Mom and Dad looked startled when seven kids paraded into the house.
Before Jon could close the door, another young face peered in.
“Aleki!” cried Jim. “He’s visiting from Samoa. Is it all right if he comes too?”
“Hurray—friends for our Christmas cookie party!” Amy whooped.
Soon everyone had been introduced, and Mom happily began to stir up more cookie dough. “Jim and Reiko, you’d better call now to let your parents know where you are. Aleki too.”
Laughing and chattering, the kids washed their hands, then started stuffing cookies into plastic bags.
Dad laughed. “Watch it—you’re eating more than you’re bagging!” He played a tape of Christmas carols, and everybody sang along. Soon all the bags were filled.
“Why don’t you kids hang the cookies on the tree,” Dad said. “Mom and I will sit on the couch and supervise.”
“Look at all those young arms,” Mom observed quietly to Dad. “See how they work together. Dark brown, lighter brown, golden brown, creamy ivory, and white. Red and green aren’t the true Christmas colors. The true colors of Christmas are the beautiful colors of the children all over the world.”