Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Category: Issue 11


Jennifer’s Christmas got off to a late start. She didn’t even begin thinking about what she wanted until almost Thanksgiving and by then it was a challenge to come up with more items than last year. Last Christmas she had thirty six boxes to open on Christmas morning, this year she was going for forty. More stuff than any of her friends. She already had everything any nine year old could possibly want—more toys than she could ever play with and more clothes than she could ever wear.

What Jennifer liked most about Christmas was seeing all the boxes stacked up under the tree with her name on them. She loved tearing off the wrapping paper, pulling out the tissue and making a small mountain of trash on the living room floor. The actual contents of those boxes was irrelevant. Jennifer already had everything she needed but apparently not everything she could want.

After making her list, Jennifer gave it to her parents. Her parents, thinking that the items on the list would make their daughter happy, Went off to find them and buy them..

A couple of weeks before christmas, Jennifer could sense the house filling up with stuff waiting to be wrapped. On Christmas eve, she hung three large stockings from the mantle and went to bed early. She had no wrapping of her own to do as the thought of giving a present never crossed her mind.

On Christmas morning Jennifer tip-toed downstairs and delighted in what she saw. Her stockings were bulging and there were so many packages under the tree that the overflow had to be stacked along the wall like fire wood. The first thing she did was look in the stockings. They were stretched long from the weight of what they held, threatening to tear off their hooks.  She dumped out the first stocking and stared disbelieving at a pile of coal on the hearth. The next stocking held beach sand and the third a brick. How strange Jennifer thought. A little joke from her parents perhaps.

“Whatever,” she said to herself and turned her eyes to the stacks of gift wrapped boxes under the tree. There was no denying them. She put a box in her lap and opened the little card. It read,”to Jennifer from Santa.” The box felt satisfyingly heavy and produced a satisfying rattle when shaken. She pulled the ribbon, tore off the wrapping, and opened the box revealing a photograph in metal frame. It was a photograph of a black child, a girl of nine or so her skin drawn tight over her bones, eyes staring vacantly into the camera. Her face was spotted with flies she hadn’t the will or the strength to brush away.

All of the boxes contained similar photographs of sad eyed hungry children. Some photos showed their swollen bellies but mostly they were faces of children her age. Many of the children had black skin but there were white and yellow faces as well. The children looked sad and defeated and their eyes spoke silently of hunger and want.

One after another the photographs mounted by her side until the last box was in her hand. This box contained a photograph as well but, unlike the others, this was a photo of her, Jennifer. It showed a happy, healthy little girl surrounded by a heap of useless presents. Any one of which would have been a miracle to any of the children in the photos. Jennifer stared at the picture of herself for a long time and began to cry.

Posted by tobiash on 07/23 at 11:58 PM | Permalink
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