Coming Home 9

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“Tell me again how Christmas morning goes?” requested Marshmallow when Grandma came down to tuck her in.

“Why,” said Cinnamon, “all the little children sleep in until around noon, and then the grown-ups tiptoe downstairs and softly say to them, ‘Wake up, sleepy heads! It’s Christmas!'”

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“That’s not how it goes!” protested Marshmallow.

“Do you remember?” her grandmother asked. “You tell me!”

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“How can I remember?” said Marshmallow. “I’ve never had Christmas here before!”

“Well, you did,” said Cinnamon, “when you were about three.”

“Three? Why that’s the size of a peanut! How can I be expected to remember anything that happened when my brain was a little pea-brain of an acorn!”

“All right,” said Cinnamon. “Let’s see if I remember with my little acorn of a pea-brain…”

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Marshmallow took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

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“All the little children are so excited in the morning that they wake up before the first thrush begins to sing. And quiet as mice, they creep up the basement stairs to the first landing. Then, before going any further, they wait in silence broken only by giggles while, every so slowly, the sun rises. Once the first rays of the sun slide in through the window, the children creep across the landing to the next set of stairs, and then they slowly tiptoe up to their mama’s, uncle’s, and grandma’s room, where they burst in, shouting, ‘Merry Christmas!'”

“And what happens next?” asked Marshmallow.

“Then, everybody lines up, with the youngest one in front, and the oldest one in back.”

“That would be Tomas who’s youngest, and then me, and then Kumie. And you in the back. But who goes between, Mama or Uncle Stellar?”

“You’re mom’s behind Kumar, and then comes your uncle Stellar. Then each one reaches in front and covers the eyes of the person before them.”

“So only you can see?” asked Marshmallow.

“That’s right. And I call out the directions. ‘Straight ahead!’ ‘Slow down!’ ‘Now turn!’ ‘Step! Step! Careful!'”

“And do we make it down without falling?”

“We do! We might bump into a wall or two, but that’s half the fun!”

“And then what next?”

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“Next comes the stockings!” said Thalassa, who, with Tomas, had joined her daughter and mother.

“How do we open our stockings with our eyes closed?” asked Marshmallow.

“We don’t, silly!” said Thalassa. “We open our eyes, and there’s the tree all lit up with presents all around! And then we open the stockings.”

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“And while the children open stockings,” added Cinnamon, “I make breakfast!”

“Which involves cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs and fresh orange juice and hot chocolate! And lots of coffee and tea for grown-ups who’ve stayed up wrapping presents all night!”

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“Then what?” asked Marshmallow.

“Then,” said Thalassa, “we all go for a long walk.”

“No! Not yet,” said Marshmallow. “What really happens?”

“We play football,” said Thalassa.

“Not yet!” Marshmallow insisted. “You’re forgetting something… after breakfast, then we…”

“Then we all gather in the living room,” said Cinnamon, “and the littlest one–”

“–that would be Tomas–”

“–chooses a present from under the tree and gives it to the person it’s for.”

“Then that person opens it, and chooses the next present, and gives it, and so on, until there are no presents left, and then we go for the long walk!” shouted Marshmallow. “And that’s Christmas morning!”

“Exactly!” said Thalassa.

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“Then I’m brushing my teeth so I can go to bed so the morning gets here sooner!”

When Marshmallow walked out, Thalassa giggled. “Nothing like the rehearsal before the big event!”

“You mean it’s not just a story?” said Tomas.

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“Not just a story at all!” said Cinnamon.

Tomas sat next to her.

“We had Christmas in summer when I was a little kid” he said. “I know a Christmas song. Do you want to hear it?”

Cinnamon did. Tomas sang very softly, for his brother Kumar was sleeping beside them in the bed.

“Borboleta pequenina,
Saia fora do rosal
Venha ver quanta beleza,
Hoje é noite de Natal!”

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“That’s a beautiful song,” said Cinnamon. “Will you teach it to us tomorrow?”

“I don’t think so,” said Tomas. “It’s in a language you wouldn’t understand. But you can teach me a song in your language, because I can understand it, too.”

“It’s a deal,” said Cinnamon. “Are you ready to brush your teeth and change into your PJs?”

“Not yet,” said Tomas. “I think I will sit up just a little bit and sing some more.”

Thalassa motioned to her mother to head back upstairs, and the two women left the little boy sitting on the edge of the bed, singing softly to himself the songs from his childhood far away.

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