A Christmas Secret

A Christmas Secret
By Susan Molthop

Copyright (c) 1998 by Susan Molthop


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"Let's bake Christmas cookies and decorate them with sprinkles." Nicole scooted sideways in Dad's big leather chair. She could almost taste those warm lemon cookies and see the red and green sprinkles on the buttery frosting.

"You can," said Todd. He was sprawled on the floor, staring at the ceiling.

"Sure," said Nicole. "I can do all the work, then you and Jason can eat all the cookies -- no deal!" The cookie picture disappeared, leaving Nicole in a bad mood. She hung her arm over the side and wiggled her fingers. A black paw reached out from under the chair and slapped at her hand. Nicole grabbed at it, but she was too slow. The paw was gone.

Suddenly, a black kitten scooted out from under the chair and ran over to Todd. The kitten arched his back and danced sideways. "Phtz," he said, then took off again.

"Avery's a dumb name for a cat," said Todd.

"It is not. We found him on Avery Parkway. Besides, I looked it up. It means 'Ruler of the Elves.' It's a perfect name."

Jason came in and flopped onto the couch. "Todd's right, it's dumb."

"You always take sides with Todd," said Nicole. She stretched way out to reach a piece of yarn and fell out of the chair - KATHUNK! Avery jumped straight up and the boys laughed.

Before Nicole could yell at them, Mom came in. She picked up one of the couch cushions and stuck her hand under it. She looked at each of the children, then leaned over the back of the couch.

"What are you looking for, Mom?" Nicole got on her hands and knees and peeked behind the chair.

Jason looked behind the television. Todd checked the planter. Whatever was lost, each of them wanted to find it first.

"I can't find my Christmas spirit," said Mom, "but if you kids had it, you wouldn't be in here fighting, so I must have left it somewhere else."

Jason stared at the floor. Todd gazed out the window. Nicole looked straight at Mom.

"There's nothing to do," said Jason.

"We're bored," said Todd.

"It's raining," said Nicole. She dug her bare toes into the thick carpet and let a whine creep into her voice. "We can't even go outside." Jason glared at her. She knew how much he hated whining -- Dad hated it, too. She frowned, remembering how grumpy Dad had been, lately.

"I have an idea," said Mom.

Todd grabbed his throat, crossed his eyes, and made a strangling noise. Jason wrinkled his nose.

Mom grinned and winked at them. "Never mind," she said, and turned to leave.


"What idea?"


Mom came back and sat on the edge of the couch. "Well," she said, "I just read something about laughing. It reminded me of a game we used to play on rainy days when I was a kid."

Nicole didn't feel like laughing or playing games. She tuned Mom out and looked at Jason. She stared at his blond hair and blue eyes -- just like Dad's. She looked over at Todd. His hair was black and his eyes as green as Mom's. Nicole didn't look like anybody. Her hair was brown and her eyes were hazel. Mom and Dad were tall. Jason was already taller than Nicole and he was only nine. Todd was only seven and he was already up to her eyebrows. It wasn't fair. She should be the tallest - she was ten and a half. Nicole sighed and looked back at Mom.

Mom smiled as she talked. Her eyes sparkled. "Laughter really gets into your blood," she said. "It helps you stay healthy."

Todd flopped onto the couch, next to Jason. "Aw, Mom. How can that be?" he asked. Jason gave him an elbow. Nicole smiled. She knew Mom could take forever to answer a question like that and Jason couldn't sit still that long.

"I don't know exactly how it works, but scientists have proven it. A good laugh can help you live longer. "

"What's the game?" Jason interrupted.

"I'll show you," said Mom. "Everybody on the floor. Todd, lie on your back. Jason, do the same and put your head on Todd's stomach. I'll put my head on Jason's stomach, and Nicole, you put your head on mine. Now we'll make Todd laugh and you'll see how it works."

"Nothing's funny," said Todd.

Avery jumped off the couch onto Nicole's stomach. "Oof," said Nicole.

Todd laughed, making his stomach jiggle. Jason's head bounced on Todd's stomach. That made Todd laugh harder. Jason chuckled and Mom's head jiggled, which started her laughing. Nicole started bouncing and giggling. Avery hissed and backed under Dad's chair, which made them all laugh louder.

They laughed so hard, tears rolled down their cheeks. Finally, they couldn't laugh any more and became quiet. Nicole pictured Mom at work, telling her customers about rainy day games.

"I have another idea," said Mom, as she sat up. The kids gathered around her. This time, no one looked away.

"We'll make up a new game. Think about someone you know who needs cheering up. The object of the game will be to make that person laugh before bedtime Christmas Eve."

"We could make it a contest," said Nicole.

"Let's write the names down," said Jason. "We can put them in a bowl, and have everybody pick one."

"I'll get the pencils and paper," said Nicole, as she jumped up and ran to the desk.

"We can use the fruit bowl," said Mom, and went to the kitchen. She came back with the old wooden bowl and an apple for each of them.

"What about prizes?" asked Todd, around a mouthful of crunchy apple.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," said Jason.

"No prizes, no penalties . . .", said Mom.

"Aw, Mom. You've got to have prizes or it isn't a contest," Todd interrupted.

"I know, " said Jason. "When you get your person to laugh, everybody has to call you 'The Great' for a whole day. Like, 'Jason The Great, would you please pass the salt?' How about that?"

Todd nodded, Nicole rolled her eyes, and Mom said "Okay."

"Now let's have some rules, before you get carried away," Mom continued. "No dirty tricks. Whatever makes these people laugh has to be good, clean fun - in keeping with the spirit of Christmas."

The three kids nodded and scrambled for pencils and paper. They scooted into different corners to write.

"One more thing," said Mom. "If these people know what you're up to, they might pretend something's funny, just to make it easy for you. That isn't the same as really laughing. This game has to be a secret."

"It will be our Christmas Secret," said Nicole. Todd and Jason agreed.


Copyright 1995-2007 Susan Molthop
All Rights Reserved

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