School was out for the entire week before Christmas and Alfred’s mother had lots of chores for him and Agnes. She always assigned the dirtiest projects to Alfred. Agnes’ asthma prevented her from doing so many things.
The house had to be scrubbed from top to bottom. The gingerbread baked for the gingerbread houses, the outdoor life-size nativity scene retrieved from storage and arranged by the front door. More decorations needed to be hung outside. “Isn’t this enough already? I haven’t even had time to go to my fort all week.”
“That can wait until after Christmas. You’ll have another week of vacation before you have to go back to school.”
“No, buts. Just hand me that extension cord.”
The animals stayed on his dresser with no more activity that week. The only thing Alfred was aware of was a glowing light over his dresser when he turned out the lights. But by morning, he forgot about the moving animals and got right to work. His mother kept him busy all day. Every day she asked him about his plans for a gift for his sister. Unable to give her a definite answer, he finally told her he had a plan. He didn’t, but had the impression that something would turn up.
Christmas Eve was on a Sunday that year. The children’s program was presented in the afternoon after mass. Agnes sang a solo. Luckily her asthma was under control that day. Sometimes her asthma attacks landed her in the hospital and the family kept vigil while she struggled for air. At those times, Alfred forgot how aggravating she could be. He felt sorry for her.
After reciting his memorized poem, Alfred was eager to get home. He sat through the rest of the program daydreaming about what he would get for Christmas. He planned to search through his room and wrap a recycled toy to give to Agnes. “She doesn’t ever like what I give her, anyway. What’s the point?”
It was dark when they finally got home and his parents got busy in the kitchen preparing a buffet supper.