“I was the kid who always kept her presents,” said Sofia when the neighbors were swapping stories at Kate’s Christmas feast.
“What do you mean?” the raccoon asked.
“I didn’t open them on Christmas morning.”
“And your parents let you get away with that?” he asked.
“We had a big family. No one noticed, or if they noticed, they didn’t care. We all had to open our stockings, but after that, it was a free-for-all.”
“You didn’t, like, each take turns?” Kate asked.
“Nope,” replied Sofia. “So I took them up to my room and stored them in my closet. They were my… what-do-you-say… security. My coping strategy. My lifeline.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said the raccoon. “It’s not like I need a coping strategy. It’s not like this big furry suit is the only thing that gets me through the anxiety of being in a room with actual people, actual people I don’t yet know or might have to actually talk to. Oh, no. Coping strategy? What’s that?”
“And it’s working really well for you, I see!” said Stefan. “Every Christmas party needs a furry! Am I right?”
“Did you ever open them?” Kate asked.
“I did,” replied Sofia. “I kept them for the really bad days, and then, when I felt like I couldn’t stand anymore, I’d open one of them. It got me through the bad days.”
“But what if you had more bad days than presents?” the fashionable guest asked.
“That’s where the strategy came in, you see,” replied Sofia. “You see, I had to allot the number of really bad days I had to the number of presents I received. So, for example, if I got twelve presents one year, that meant that I could have twelve bad days, one per month, maybe.”
“How would you know if it was bad enough to warrant a present?” Ishaan asked.
“I would ask, ‘Is this bad enough for a present?’ And if I thought I could get through the day without one, then I would. But if the day was so sad or so hard or so stomach-twisting that I just couldn’t get through it, then it was present-worthy.”
“But what if you had more really bad days than presents?” Ishaan asked.
“Oh, that would never happen, would it, Sofia?” Bertha said. “These things have ways of evening out.”
“Bertha’s right!” replied Sofia. “One year, we were so poor that I got only one present. I was so worried. How would I get through the year? But you know what? That was my best year ever! Each day that was hard, I told myself, ‘It’s hard. But it’s not so hard that I need to open my gift.’ So I got through. It was like… I don’t know. It was like hard days were just part of being alive, right? Part of being a kid. So I would just say, ‘It’s not present-worthy. I can get through it.’ And I did. Christmas Eve rolled around, and I still hadn’t opened my gift, so I did. I opened it.”
“What was it?” Ishaan asked.
“It was a bar of soap!” Sofia laughed. “I told you we were so poor that year! A bar of soap! It’s a good thing I hadn’t opened it on the bad days or I might have been so disappointed!”
“Was it nice soap?” asked the fashionable guest.
“Oh, yes!” replied Sofia. “Lavender! I’d never had scented soap before. So I took a Christmas Eve bath, and I smelled so good all night!”