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Paid in Full

Story ID:6596
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Writers Conference:My Favorite Holiday Story
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2010
Person:Christmas
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Paid in Full

Paid in Full

Ginny and I drove to the storage shed. I smiled the whole way. We were going to
get our Christmas tree and decorations. For the first time in two years, we’d have our
own tree up for Christmas.

I opened the lock, slid the door up, and looked over the sea of boxes. “I know
we stacked them all together.” I said to Ginny.

Ginny pointed to the right. “I think they’re against that wall.”

I worked my way around several boxes and a credenza covered with a blanket.
There was the box with the tree. Stacked on top and on each side were the boxes of
ornaments. We piled it all in our daughter’s van and took it home.

It took four hours of work to assemble the tree. The next day I spent another six
hours to decorate it. Ginny leaves me alone. This is my labor of love. As I decorated, our
cat, who hardly plays, ran around the room like and excited child. Perhaps she sensed a
bit of normalcy in her new home.

I finished the tree, put the boxes away, vacuumed the room, and sat down to enjoy
my memories. Thirty minutes later, the two younger boys came home from school. They
came to my room. I heard them catch their breath as they came to a stop. They stared in
awe of my beautiful creation.

They came closer and admired my ornaments. It had been years since they last
saw it. They were quite small then. The youngest is six. He's my Benny. "Poppa, why did
you put this one here? Is this the littlest one? I think I see the biggest one." He had thirty minutes of questions. The Other, Josh, was quiet as he looked at every ornament I have.
I showed them the special memory ones: my old Santa Clause, the brass bell, the little
wooden ones, and the one with my son’s name on it.

The oldest boy was busy and came to see the tree later. He was in trouble because
of his report card and didn't show much excitement.

They left the room. A little later, little Elizabeth got up from her nap. I heard
her coming through the kitchen She turned the corner to our room. There it was again,
that same catching of breath. She came around the sofa and stood in front of the tree
Her little eyes twinkled with reflected lights. She walked around the base of the tree,
marveling at the pretty ornaments.

She came back to the room an hour later. "Poppa, your tree is different."

"Yes it is." I said. Her parent’s tree is smaller and sparsely decorated in the
fashion of most couples starting out. "But, do you like it, Elizabeth."

"I do!" she said and placed her left hand on her hip and her right index finger to
her lip in concentration. "I think there is something missing."

I looked at the tree. What could a three-year-old see missing on my masterpiece?
"Really? What's missing, Elizabeth? I thought I had everything on there."

She turned, pointed at me and said, "Ha! Ha! Poppa! I got you!"

She's three? You could have fooled me.

Later, I sat there picturing her pointing
at me and saying, "Ha! Ha! I got you,
Poppa!" and laughed.

The two days of work were worth it. The smile of a child – paid in full.

Michael T. Smith