The Jansen family down the street had a new baby. The baby was born the day after Christmas. “It’s too bad he missed all the fun,” Charlie said. “He should have come a day earlier. If your birthday is on Christmas, do you get twice as many presents?”
“I’m not sure,” Isaac said. “But that seems fair.”
“We have a present to give him now,” Marianne said. She held up a wrapped box.
“Isn’t that Christmas paper?” Charlie asked. “He missed Christmas. You need to use birthday paper.”
“It’s stripes,” Isaac pointed out. “That can be for birthdays too.”
“But it’s Christmas colors. And we used it for Christmas.”
“Red and gold aren’t just for Christmas. And they won’t know we wrapped our Christmas presents with this paper, as long as we don’t tell them.” Marianne raised an eyebrow.
“Fine.” Charlie huffed and crossed his arm. “But if he cries when he sees the present, it’s because he knows Christmas wrapping paper when he sees it.”
Marianne rolled her eyes. “He’s a baby. He doesn’t care. Let’s go.”
So they put on their coats and hats and mittens and boots. The snow was a mix of crunchy and soft, the way it gets when winter won’t make up its mind and everything thaws a bit, refreezes, new snow falls, and it starts all over. Marianne and Isaac stuck to the shoveled path, but Charlie waded through the deep snow just to the sides of the path.
The Jansens lived just around the corner. It didn’t take long to get there. It did take a while for Charlie to brush and stomp all the snow off when Mr. Jansen answered the door and invited them inside.
Charlie hurried into the living room where Mrs. Jansen was sitting in a comfortable looking chair, rocking a small bundled-up baby. Charlie put his hands behind his back and leaned in close to look. Mrs. Jansen gently positioned the baby so Charlie could see him better.
“Oh,” Charlie said softly. “He’s so little. Even his fingernails are little.”
The baby stirred and opened his eyes, just as Isaac and Marianne entered the room. Charlie turned to them with a wide grin. “Mom! Dad! Did you see the baby? He’s so small!”
The baby scrunched up his little face and began to wail. Charlie turned to look at the baby and then looked at Marianne with a frown. “Was it because he saw the present? I bet he doesn’t like it.”
Mrs. Jensen laughed. “He’s hungry.” She held the baby close as she stood up. “I need to go feed him.”
Charlie held up his hands. “But you didn’t open the present. I want to see what we got the baby.”
“I’ll open the present,” Mr. Jensen said.
Charlie turned to look at him, eyes wide with surprise. “But it’s for the baby.”
“I’ll make sure he gets it. He’s not big enough to open presents yet.” Mr. Jensen smiled at Charlie.
Marianne handed him the present. Charlie frowned, but sat on the couch without saying anything. Marianne and Isaac sat by him as Mr. Jansen sat in the comfortable chair.
He tore open the paper. Charlie leaned forward to look. “We got the baby books? Babies can’t read.”
“We’ll read them to him,” Mr. Jansen said. “Thank you for the gift.”
“Like a bedtime story? That’s good.” Charlie jumped up. “Let’s go.”
“Congratulations,” Marianne said.
“Happy new year,” Isaac added.
“Happy new baby,” Charlie said.
Mr. Jansen laughed and led them to the door. On the way home, Charlie stuck to the sidewalk. “Was I that little?”
“And you read to me when I was that little?”
“I don’t remember that.” Charlie held onto Isaac’s hand. “I don’t remember being a baby.” He walked quietly for a few steps. “Next year, will the baby be big enough to open his own presents?”
“Next year, let’s get birthday wrapping paper. And we can get the baby more books.”
Isaac squeezed his hand. “That sounds like a great plan.”
Marianne smiled back over her shoulder. “We can do that.”