"Are you finished packing your suitcase, Liv?" Mom yelled up the stairs. "Almost," answered her daughter as she stared unhappily at the empty suitcase open on her bed. She was thinking about how she didn't want to go to Aunt Fran's for Christmas. Olivia didn't like their family traditions thrown to the side, as if they didn't matter. Each Christmas had always been filled with rich family traditions. Until this year!Her Grandma Dade's nativity set, with the beautiful stable her grandma's Uncle Ray had painted, was always tucked under the center bottom branches of the fresh cut Christmas tree. The statues of Mary, Joseph and the little baby Jesus were always surrounded by angels, animals, shepherds and kings. Her sister Kyla even painted a ceramic camel for one of the kings that perfectly matched the antique statues.
Liv would spend hours on the floor, on her stomach, staring into the crèche. She liked to imagine what each person was thinking, while the tiny baby slept in the manger. Was Mary relieved her baby was healthy with ten little fingers and toes all lovingly cleaned, counted and kissed before she wrapped him in the swaddling clothes? Was Joseph overwhelmed with the shepherds and kings paying homage to the baby? Were the Shepherds intimidated by the Kings? Did they see the angels? Were the angels singing and dancing for joy at the long awaited event?
Then she frowned as she thought about the shiny gold star made for the top of a tree. A tree she should have found with Kyla and her mom and dad. Every year they trudged through the tree farm looking for just the right one for her dad to cut down. Then they would wait for the hay wagon to stop to give them a ride back to the barn. Inside there was always a roaring fire in the little pot belly stove. Hot chocolate and homemade cookies, made by the owner of the tree farm, were offered to the customers free of charge. Liv loved sitting by the fire munching a cutout sugar cookie in between sips of the rich chocolaty hot drink.
Olivia did not like change. It was two days until Christmas and surely some other family had purchased the tree that should have been her first choice. Everything else connected to the holiday was still wrapped in newspaper, tucked away in the basement, under the stairs.
Every year when they finished decorating the tree, Olivia and Kyla took turns with their cherished traditions. One would put the star on top of the tree and then would read the story of the first Christmas from Grandma Dade's bible. The other sister would nestle Jesus between Mary and Joseph during the reading. This year it was Liv's turn to read and she had worked since Thanksgiving memorizing the passages from the second chapter of Luke. She had planned the surprise as a Christmas gift for her parents. Now that was ruined. No stable, no tree, no bible verses needed!
Her mom yelled again, this time in her no nonsense tone of voice, "Olivia Maureen, we have five minutes before we need to be on our way to the airport!" She demanded, "Get down here, now!" Liv yelled, "Coming!" as she ran to her dresser. She opened the top drawer, grabbed a ton of underwear and socks. Then she opened the bottom drawer to gather all her shorts, two pair of jeans, several tank tops and t-shirts. Next, she went to the closet and pulled a sweatshirt, a sweater and a few sun dresses off the hangers. Olivia threw everything in the suitcase and almost closed it when she remembered she needed shoes! She ran back to the closet and found her sandals, flip flops and a pair of tennis shoes. She had to sit on the suitcase to line the edges together, so she could zip it closed.
Christmas in Arizona was not her idea of an ideal Christmas. As she walked down the hall she wished she could just skip Christmas this year. It was as if a light bulb went off in her head! That's it, she thought, that's exactly what she would do, just not have Christmas this year! She would go with her family, but they couldn't make her enjoy this stupid Arizona Christmas. She would ignore anything to do with it!Liv didn't know that sometimes Christmas comes on its own terms, in its own time, whether you want it or not!