It was Melissa’s fifth birthday in two weeks and her grandpa was going to be out of town. “But Grandpa,” she said, “Can’t you come back home for my party? Then you can go back to your silly meeting.”
“I’m sorry pumpkin,” he said. “It would be bad manners to leave my meeting for your party.”
“My party will be more fun,” Melissa said.
“Of course it will,” Grandpa said.
“It’s more important,” Melissa said.
“No,” Grandpa said. “You are more important, but I will be seeing you again very soon. A party is just a party.”
Melissa frowned. “But I want you to come,” she said.
“But I can’t,” Grandpa said. “So tell me what you want as a present from me, and I’ll see if I can get it and leave it with your mom and dad before I go.”
Melissa sat up straighter and smiled. “Oh, that’s easy. I want a parakeet.”
“Really? What for?” Grandpa asked.
“Well, they sing and fly and they’re really cute.” She counted the reasons off on her fingers. “I like the blue ones best. I’ll need a cage too, of course.”
“Hmmm. That’ll be a bit difficult, but I think I can take care of all of that before I leave town. Now tell me all about how you’re doing in ballet class. I heard that your class will be flowers in your spring performance,” Grandpa said.
“I’m going to be a tulip. My skirt is yellow and I hold my hands up like this and kick to the sides. Watch me, Grandpa! I’m really good at it already.” Melissa began to demonstrate her dance, then paused and turned to look at her grandpa with narrowed eyes. “You aren’t going to miss my dance recital too, are you?”
“Of course not, pumpkin. It’s on my calendar and I have nothing else planned for that day,” Grandpa said.
“Was my birthday not on your calendar?” Melissa asked.
“Of course it was,” Grandpa said. “I just can’t miss this meeting. It only happens once every five years. Last time I went, it was just before you were born. This time, it’s scheduled a few days later.”
“Five years is a long time to wait. I guess it’s okay. Just don’t miss my ballet recital. I’ve been practicing a lot. Watch me, Grandpa,” Melissa said. She began to dance once again.
Two weeks later, it was Melissa’s birthday. Her auntie and uncle and three cousins came, and her friends Miranda and Jane came too. Grandpa’s present was up high on the shelf. Mom said they could open it when the noisy party was over.
When everyone had left and Miranda was sick of cake and couldn’t eat another bite, Mom took the present down from the shelf. It was wrapped in soft cloth that covered a wire dome and was tied around the middle with a big blue ribbon. Melissa could hear soft fluttering sounds coming from inside.
She untied the ribbon and lifted off the cloth. There wasn’t a parakeet inside. Instead there were two blue house keys with big blue butterfly wings. They were fluttering around inside a little golden cage.
When the cover was off, pretty music stated to play. Melissa leaned closer. It was coming from the keys. It was the song she was dancing to for her recital. She looked up at her mom. “It’s not a parakeet,” she said.
“No, I think it’s a pair of keys,” her mom said.
“That’s silly,” Miranda said. She looked at the keys. They were kind of pretty. “I was going to name my parakeet Sabrina,” she said.
“Well, now you can think of another name too,” her dad said. “And I think you won’t ever have to clean the cage.”
Melissa watched the pretty keys. They were singing another song. Was it from the Nutcracker? She smiled. “I’ll name the other one Clara,” she said.
Her parents both smiled. “Good choice,” her dad said.
“You’ll have to remember to tell Grandpa thank you,” her mom said.
“I will. I’ll draw him a picture too. When does he get back from his wizard meeting anyways?” Melissa asked.
“Soon, I think,” her mom said.
“Okay. I’ll go put my pair of keys in my room now,” Melissa said. She giggled.