I felt like a genius! This year I had a no-fail system for my New Year’s resolutions. In the past, after floundering around with about fifty resolutions, I’d give up the whole list as hopeless. But I had finally realized that the secret was to limit my efforts. This year I had only three resolutions.
I listed them on my pale blue stationery with the cuddly Teddy bears in the corner. Number one was “Bring up semester spelling grade from D to A. This would require serious studying.
My second resolution was “Learn to make fancy cakes.” I’ve always wished that I could make one of those cakes that you cut into pieces and reassemble into a creative shape like a clown or a cat. I was determined to learn to do this.
For my third resolution, I wrote, “Don’t make nasty remarks to Barbara.” Barbara is my younger sister, and I often wonder how she really feels about me, because she’s always pestering me, seemingly on purpose! Well, I’d make every effort to be nice, no matter how annoying she was.
I could hardly wait to start. It was nine o’clock on the night of December 31, and I was ready.
“What are you doing?” asked a shrill voice.
I hadn’t heard Barbara come up behind me. I hastily shoved my paper out of sight and whirled around. “Get out of my room!” I snapped. She ran out giggling, and I sighed. Oh, well—it wasn’t New Year’s yet.
The next morning I clenched my teeth as I crawled out of bed, to prevent thoughtless words from erupting at Barbara before I had a chance to stop them.
While I stood in the kitchen, waiting for my toast to pop, she came up behind me and tickled me in the ribs. I opened my mouth to yell, then exhaled slowly and turned around. When I saw her grinning, freckled face, I almost lost it but caught myself in time. I forced a smile and said through tight lips, “You got me that time!”
You should have seen the expression on her face. She looked stricken as she left the kitchen, head hanging, feet dragging. She had clearly been hoping for an explosion. I have to admit that I enjoyed a certain amount of glee at her disappointment.
She stayed out of my way for the rest of the morning. That made it easier for me to tackle my cake project.
Mom has a book about making fancy cakes. I leafed through it and finally chose a cake that looked like a fairy-tale house. It required two rectangular cakes.
I followed the directions on the cake-mix boxes to bake the cakes. When I took them out of the oven, one was higher than the other. I could only hope that everything would fit together.
A diagram in the book showed how to cut the two rectangles to make the pieces for the house. I followed the directions, but the house wouldn’t stand up—the front kept falling. Finally, by using gobs of frosting as glue, I had my house assembled.
I stood back to survey my creation. It looked like a cake that had been cut apart and sloppily reassembled. It didn’t look like a house. On second thought, maybe it did—a house that had suffered major damage in an earthquake.
Barbara bounced in. “What’s that mess supposed to be?” She poked a finger at my cake.
I clenched my fists and gritted my teeth. “It does look like a mess, doesn’t it?” I managed to say half sincerely.
She looked at me as if I’d gone crazy, then avoided me the rest of the day.
I went to my room and pulled out all my spelling papers for the semester. I’m good at math, and after two hours of juggling test scores, I had to admit defeat. Even if I got perfect scores on all the remaining tests, it was a mathematical impossibility to raise my grade to an A this semester. The best I could hope for was a C.
I crawled into bed that night and thought about my resolutions. I had already struck out with my spelling A and my cake project, and I didn’t think I could go much longer without saying something very unpleasant to Barbara. It was still only January first, and I felt like a failure again.
Just as I was drifting off to sleep, Barbara popped into my room and said, “How come you’ve been acting so weird today?”
“Barbara!” I screamed. “You were supposed to be asleep hours ago! Go away and leave me alone!”
She looked both sad and relieved as she ran out of my room. I guess to her, things were back to normal.
I tossed and turned all night, dreaming about a spelling list of words related to baking. I couldn’t spell any of them. All through the dream, Barbara’s face grinned at me from the background. By morning I was exhausted.
I reconsidered my resolutions. Obviously even three were too many for me to handle. I decided to forget about the resolution to get an A in spelling for this semester. I would study hard and just do the best I could. I could still get a C.
I would postpone the cake project. During summer vacation I would enroll in a cake-decorating class.
As for my dealings with Barbara, I would never be perfect. I would just try to do better.
So much for my original three resolutions. But I decided to start today, January 2, with a new one. I would try to do one nice thing for Barbara every day. That was it—no more and no less. Maybe I could manage that much.
“Barbara,” I said when she got up, “how would you like for me to read to you?”
She looked astonished. Then she looked suspicious. Then she smiled.
We settled into the big chair in the family room with her favorite book. It was a good book. We both enjoyed it.