The night before Christmas had always been filled with wonder for my sister Phyllis and me. We spent hours guessing what surprises would await us in the morning. There were always two Christmas surprises that were the same—one for me and one for Phyllis.
“Ellie, do you remember how excited we were the year we found the baby dolls sitting in twin high chairs?” Phyllis asked. We were sitting in the bedroom we shared, too excited to sleep.
“Yours was wearing the blue outfit, mine was in pink,” I said.
“And wasn’t it fun the year we got those matching doll beds?” she asked.
What would our surprises be this year? Roller skates? Play dishes? Fancy dresses? We giggled with excitement.
“Listen!” Phyllis suddenly exclaimed. “I hear Dad’s car pulling into the driveway!”
We dashed to the window, pressed our faces against the cold glass, and peeked out into the darkness of Christmas Eve. From our second-story window we looked down onto the driveway and saw something in the back of Dad’s car. Something pink.
“Is it something for us?” Phyllis whispered.
“Well, something pink wouldn’t be for any of our brothers!” I said. We covered our mouths, trying to quiet our laughter.
“Then the something in the car has to be for us!” Phyllis said. “Our two somethings!”
We scurried back to bed and snuggled beneath our blankets, wrapped in warmth and anticipation. We scarcely slept all night.
When morning finally arrived, Phyllis and I, our three brothers, and our older sister lined up to go into the living room. When Mother gave the signal, we rushed in, then stood dazzled by the glowing tree. It sparkled with its colored lights, shimmering icicles, our homemade paper chains, and loved ornaments.
Phyllis and I stood entranced, ready to burst with excitement. At the same time, our eyes fell on the Something Pink. It was a dresser, about four feet high. We gazed at the piece of furniture, with its mirror and still smelling of pine and fresh paint. We loved it!
Then, slowly, our awe turned to puzzlement. We whispered to each other, “Where’s the other dresser? Which one of us is this for?”
Mother took us aside and gently told us, “Girls, there were two—one for each of you. But last night your father thought of a widow and her family. They don’t have much, and she has two daughters. Your father wondered what kind of Christmas they would have. He took the other dresser to their home last night. This one is for you girls to share.” * * *
That Christmas was long ago. Phyllis and I shared and loved that pink dresser through childhood until each of us married. The dresser went from holding mittens and pretty rocks to holding dance programs and our marriage announcements.
Now, with daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters of our own, our Christmas surprise has been lovingly moved from one home to another and shared by many girls. Mothers have told their daughters the story of the pink dresser, and they have told their daughters.
If our little, worn pink treasure could speak, it might say that many girls have grown closer together because of a present two sisters shared, and a present they never received.
Illustration by Brad Teare / photograph (right) by Lisa Badger