Mom hands me a wrapped package and unsuccessfully tries to suppress a smile. String lights on the Christmas tree in the living room flash red, green, and blue patches of color across the snowflake images printed on the paper. The package is malleable and contracts under the pressure of my fingers.
My sister is peeling back the layers of paper around her present. She sits cross-legged on the couch beside me. “We already know what it is.”
Dad watches her progress as he leans against the back of the recliner.
“It could be something different,” Mom says, standing over us.
But she is still smiling, and we are not fooled.
Tiffany tosses the paper aside and holds up what we expected to receive — a pair of pajama pants. Cartoon monkey faces are printed on the light blue fabric. “I knew it.”
I hug my present to my chest. This is the first year our Christmas Eve tradition makes me feel like my ribcage guards an empty cavity. I miss the woody sap smell of a real evergreen tree and my dad’s brown hair, which is now streaked with gray.
Even after Dad lost his job at Airborne, and Tiffany and I told Mom that Christmas wasn’t about presents, they still bought us pajamas.
Mom is the one that told me our town made CNN news and that Bon Jovi wrote a song about the unemployment of our friends and family. Dad still preferred to listen to Rush’s “Working Man.” Afterward, my aunt and uncle lost their house, Dad got six months severance pay, and Mom and Dad’s business went bankrupt.
“Open yours, LeeAnn,” Mom says.
Like Mary on the eve of the birth of Jesus, I am uncertain but blessed. Tonight, I have an abundance of pajamas.