My Sister’s Surprise


Christmas morning in our house came early. Who can stay asleep when there are such exciting things to look forward to? I was awake by 2:00 a.m. I knew I wasn’t allowed to wake up my parents then, so I lay in my bed and dreamed. I was eight years old, and my one Christmas wish was for a Molly doll, a doll with dark hair and glasses, which looked a lot like me. I had dreamed about the doll so much that by Christmas morning, I had no doubt I would receive it.

Slowly the minutes ticked by. At 6:00 a.m., just when I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer, my two younger brothers and I ran to wake up my parents. Then we stood at the top of the stairs and waited for my dad to say that he was ready with the video camera. My mom held my eight-month-old sister, Anna, in her arms.

My dad called up the stairs, “Okay, I’m ready,” and it was as if he had started a race. We all tumbled down the steps at a breakneck speed. I had my eyes trained on the place where I knew Molly would be sitting, but she wasn’t there. I stopped in my tracks and took in the whole family room in a single glance. No, she really wasn’t there. I was so disappointed I could have sat on the bottom step and just cried, but I didn’t. After all, it was Christmas morning. I found the present Santa had left me instead. It was very nice, and I played with it a lot, but I still longed to hold a Molly doll in my arms.

Fast forward nine years. I was 17. The doll-playing phase of my life had passed. It was October, and the whole family was gathered around the table for breakfast. Since that Christmas when I was 8, my family had added three more kids, with one more on the way.

“I need someone to clean out the flower beds,” my dad said amidst the general commotion made by seven kids and two parents. “You know, clean up the dead flowers and then plant tulips for next spring.” He was looking directly at my brother, leaving no doubt as to whom he intended that someone to be. “I’ll pay whoever will agree to do it.”

Ben did not seem fazed by the incentive of money, for he did not volunteer his services. Someone else did.

“I’ll do it,” Anna, who was now nine, said with determination.

Over the next several weeks, I vaguely noticed that Anna seemed to acquire a number of new jobs. I didn’t pay much attention. “She probably needs money for Christmas presents, or maybe she’s saving for something,” I thought.

One day she and I were cleaning the room we shared when she asked me a question.

“Amy, if you could have a doll, which one would it be?” she asked.

“Oh, I would still want Molly,” I said absently. I didn’t think too much about the question. She asked me questions like that all the time, and I knew she also wanted a Molly doll for Christmas this year.

Christmas morning came. I still got excited about what the day would hold, but I also liked my sleep. I could now see why my parents refused to let us get them up before 6:00 a.m.

When the time came, my little brothers and Anna were so excited they were practically dancing at the top of the stairs. At Dad’s command, we all ran down.

I took in the family room with a sweeping glance, and, wonder of wonders, Anna had received Molly! I was excited for her and surprised that I did not feel even the slightest twinge of jealousy. It didn’t bother me that she had received the doll I had once wanted so much. We shared the joy of her gift.

After an uneventful breakfast, we all wandered out to the living room to open more presents. Anna was jumping up and down and looked as though she were about to burst.

“I want Amy to open the present from me!” she exclaimed. She was so excited she could barely contain herself. I wondered what on earth it could be. “Maybe it’s something she made,” I thought.

From behind the Christmas tree, Anna pulled out a long, oblong box. I was confused.

“Is this from Anna?” I questioned. “Just from Anna?”

“It’s just from Anna,” Mom answered.

As I began to slowly remove the wrapping, I became even more confused. It was a doll box. Anna was enjoying every second of my confusion.

As I pulled off the lid, my breath caught in my throat. There, nestled snugly inside the box, was a Molly doll identical to Anna’s.

“Oh, my goodness,” I breathed. How could this be from Anna? I looked to my mom for an answer.

“Remember all of the work Anna did?” Mom questioned.

I did remember, and the tears ran down my cheeks. With sudden clarity I remembered all the jobs Anna had been doing that I had barely noticed. Even more than the gift, the impact of how much my sister loved me made me sob.

Anna ran up and threw her arms around me. I held her tight and continued to cry. Soon other family members were crying too. You could feel the love that was in the room. Gently, I lifted the doll out of the box. I had never dreamed that I would actually receive this doll—and from my nine-year-old sister, of all people! Anna’s smile was scattering sunshine all around the room. Everyone was smiling and grinning through their tears.

As I held my doll, I realized I would not have traded this moment for anything. If I had received the doll when I originally wanted it, I never could have shared this Christmas in this way with Anna. Isn’t it funny how things happen? Before, I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t get what I wanted. Now I had received an even more precious gift—my sister’s loving sacrifice for me.

I would think about all these things for years to come. But right now, two sisters were running off to play with their new dolls.

Extra! Extra!

For ideas on gifts that share the true spirit of Christmas, read the following articles in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org: “Homemade Christmas” (New Era, Dec. 2003), by Elder Gene R. Cook, “Idea List: Priceless Gifts” (New Era, Dec. 2002), and “Idea List: Gospel Gifts” (New Era, Dec. 2003).

[photos] Photography by Kenneth Linge

Amy L. Nielsen is a member of the BYU 50th Ward, Brigham Young University 12th Stake.