I didn’t want to be at grandpa’s house surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who all wanted to know if I’d dreamed my gift dream yet. I didn’t need to be reminded that I was the only twelve-year-old girl in my class that didn’t have their gift.
I tried to escape grandpa’s over-crowded sitting room, but as I headed to the back porch my Aunt Helen cut in front of me.
“Lora, you’ve gotten taller since the last time I saw you. Looking like such a little lady now.” She moved her hands when she talked and I thought she was going to drop the pie she was holding. “I bet you’re having fun learning about your gift aren’t you?”
She didn’t even ask if I knew what my gift was. I guess it was so uncommon to not have your gift by this age that no one thought it possible.
“I don’t–” My aunt didn’t let me finish my humiliating confession.
“I bet you are an artist like your mother.” She nodded her head and the tower of hair she had piled on her head jiggled. “You have her curly hair and dimpled smile—you’re the image of her when she was your age—you must have her gift.”
I didn’t say anything. Maybe she would keep talking and I wouldn’t have to admit that I hadn’t had my dream yet. That hope didn’t last long. My annoying eleven-year-old cousin butted it.
“She doesn’t have a gift,” Edward said stuffing one side of a roll in his mouth. His round cheeks made him look like a squirrel with too many acorns stuffed in its mouth.
“Of course she does,” my aunt insisted.
“No she doesn’t. Ask her.”
They both looked at me, and I wished that I still believed that covering my face made the rest of me disappear like I did when I was two.
“It should come soon,” I told her, even though I had no idea when I would have my dream.
Aunt Helen took in a breath and pulled her head back, making her hair wobble. “You haven’t had your dream yet?”
Did she have to say it so loud?
“You are twelve aren’t you? Or did I get you mixed up with Leah. She’s twelve and you’re eleven?”
Before I could answer, know-it-all Edward did for me. “She is twelve, but she still doesn’t have a gift.” He stuffed the other end of the roll in his mouth. It wasn’t time to eat yet. He must have snuck it out of the kitchen when no one was looking.
“So I was right,” Aunt Helen said. “ Leah is eleven.”
“Leah is fourteen, Aunt Helen.” Edward rolled his eyes.
“Oh dear, you are all getting so big. Growing up so fast.”
“Except for Lora,” Edward said.
I could’ve taken the pie from Aunt Helen and shoved it in his face.
“Don’t tease poor Lora. She can’t help that her gift hasn’t come in the normal time.”
If Aunt Helen was trying to make me feel better, it wasn’t working. I was relieved when Uncle John called for everyone’s attention.
Edward zipped off to get to the front of the group so he could see what was going on.
“Oh my. I better get this pie to the kitchen or I’m going to miss all the excitement,” Aunt Helen said as she plowed through the crowed sitting room.
I was finally left alone. I almost dashed out to the back porch, but decided to stay to hear whatever the big announcement was.
Uncle John stood near the mantel with his arm around his daughter.
“Clara has some exciting news to share with you.” He looked down at her. “Why don’t you tell them?”
Clara smiled shyly at everyone. “Last night, I got my gift.”
The room erupted in “congratulations Clara” and “No way, that’s so great,” and other statements of surprise and happiness, but all I could do was stare. Clara was only ten. How could she have had her dream already?
She beamed at the praise. My stomach twisted.
“What was it like?” asked one of the younger girls.
“Don’t leave us wondering,” Aunt Helen piped in, back from the kitchen. “Tell us your dream.”
Clara glanced at her father and he nodded at her. “I was standing in a field of grass, behind me, flowers sprang up and filled the path I’d walked. Then the whole field started growing flowers, and vegetables, and fruit. And a cherry tree grew right over my head.” She shrugged. “When I woke up, I knew that my gift was growing things.”
“A practical and beautiful gift,” Aunt said nodding her head in approval. Her hair was going to wobble right off her head.
Of course Clara would get such a perfect gift. Everything she did was perfect. Even her strait blonde hair, that unlike mine, stayed neat after it was brushed instead of tangling in a mass of curls the moment the brush was set down.
“How did you get your gift already?” Edward asked. “Even Lora doesn’t have her gift yet, and she’s way older.”
The adults laughed at Edward like what he said was cute and looked at me. My face burned. I wished I’d put that pie in Edward’s face.
“Everyone get’s their gift at different times,” Grandpa said, standing beside the fireplace.
Maybe some of us never get our gifts. I would be thirteen soon. Who ever heard of a thirteen year old without a gift?
Everyone was back to congratulating Clara, and I started for the back porch like I should have before all this “good news” was shared. I squeezed though my aunts and uncles and just made it to the kitchen door when Grandpa said, “Before we eat, I have a game for the children.”
I stopped. A game would be more fun than sulking on the porch. At least I wouldn’t have to think about my lack of a gift.
“I have hidden twelve gifts, one for each grandchild, in parts of the house.” Some of the younger kids squealed and jumped. “Once you find a present, it is yours. You can’t keep looking once you’ve found one.”
“Can we open it and decide if we want it?” Edward asked.
“Once you find a present, it is yours,” he repeated, giving Edward a look before continuing. “There aren’t any in the yard, but they could be in any part of the house. You’ll know you found one because they are each tied with a red ribbon.”
Grandpa had all the little kids go first. They scrambled off giggling and squealing. Next he had the nine and ten year olds go. By now, some of the kids from the first group were coming back, holding up their prizes proudly: a handful of candy, or chocolates, or a spinning top.
“They’re going to get all the good stuff,” Edward whined beside me. I couldn’t help but agree with him. We were the only two left. Grandpa let Edward go. I thought he would let me go right after, but he didn’t. Maybe he forgot I was playing. I looked up at Grandpa. “Can I go now?”
“Just a little longer.”
I shifted my weight from foot to foot as I watched more kids come in with their presents. If I didn’t start looking soon, all of them would be gone except one. Probably the smallest one that no one wanted.
I looked back at Grandpa.
“Alright, your turn.” He winked at me.
I took off, not bothering to search the sitting room. I was sure that all the presents in there were gone by now. I looked through the kitchen: opened cabinets and drawers, looked under the table and chairs. There wasn’t a single present.
I ran to the bedrooms, but even after looking under the beds and in the closets, there was nothing. Maybe there was a gift still hiding in the sitting room.
I went back to the sitting room, which was emptying out as people went to the kitchen to began eating.
I slipped around one of my aunts who was complaining that Grandpa should have waited until after we’d eaten to give the children candy, and slid past some of my cousins comparing gifts.
I looked under the rocking chair, around the fireplace, and behind curtains, but there wasn’t a single thing with a red ribbon around it.
“You aren’t very lucky with gifts are you,” Edward said, seeing I was still without a present. I made a face at him, but he didn’t see. He was showing someone the large chocolate bar he’d found.
I looked through the whole house again, but still couldn’t find a present. By now, everyone was in the kitchen, dining and laughing, but I didn’t feel like eating.
I slumped into a rocking chair in the sitting room and listened to the chatter in the next room. Not only was I the only twelve-year-old that didn’t have a gift, but I was the only one of my cousins that was too stupid to find their present.
Edward was right. I wasn’t lucky with gifts.
I glanced around the room, trying to think of a place I hadn’t looked. I’d searched the whole house. Maybe there wasn’t another present anywhere. Maybe Grandpa counted wrong and forgot to get me a present.
I guess I better get used to being without a gift, since it didn’t look like I’d be having my gift dream any time soon.
I put my feet up into the chair and hugged my knees. My throat was hot and tight and I thought I might cry, but someone came beside the chair.
“You’ve given up already?” It was Grandpa.
“Are you sure you hid enough gifts?”
I rested my chin on my knees. “I’ve looked everywhere and there isn’t one.”
“Are you sure you looked everywhere?”
“I’ve looked in every room in the entire house.” I let out a frustrated sign. “And you said they weren’t in the yard…” I realized there was a part of the house I didn’t look. “Wait a minute,” I said, jumping out of the chair. I ran though the kitchen, dodging between people standing up to get seconds.
I flung the back door open and stepped out on the back porch. I didn’t even have to look for it. Sitting in the rocking chair, was a huge basket with a red ribbon tied to the handle. It was filled with candies, chocolates, and little toys.
I grinned and took the basket into the kitchen so everyone could see that I didn’t have such bad luck with gifts.
“Not fair,” Edward said, dropping a spoonful of pudding halfway to his mouth. “She got a bigger present than anyone.”
Grandpa, leaned on the doorway between the sitting room and the kitchen. “But she had to look the hardest for hers. Sometimes, the best gifts come after the longest wait.”
I smiled, wider than Clara did at her announcement. It didn’t matter that my gift dream took longer to come than anyone else’s. When it did come, it would be the greatest gift dream there was. Because the best gifts come after the longest wait.