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  The Toy Home.                                                       Page 11 of 12

              The little bear awoke to the sounds of rustling and of being carried in darkness.

            Christmas Day!

            Although he was being tumbled to and fro in the dark, he didn’t mind:  this was what every toy dreamed about:  the rustling, the shaking, the tearing of paper, sudden brightness, peals of laughter, new children for playmates, and new toy friends ... His eyes were bright with anticipation...

            There it was!  The burst of light, voices, laughter.  He saw a dark-haired man, Sarah’s father he supposed, and a fat little baby (brother? sister?) that Sarah’s mother was holding, and then Sarah held him up for all to see and said, “Well, good morning, Mr. Bear.  And Merry Christmas!  Here’s my dad, and my mom holding my brother Brian.  Later on, you’ll get to meet my other toy friends, too!”

            Sarah passed the little bear to her dad, who said, “So this is the little adventurer!  Let’s give him the best seat in the house!”  He put the little bear on the threadbare green sofa, between him and Sarah’s mom.

            From this vantage point, the little bear watched as the joy of Christmas morning unfolded.  Because there were only a few presents, they were opened slowly, deliciously, to savor every moment.  There was a set of large plastic beads for Brian, a new scarf for Sarah’s mother, slippers for Sarah’s father, some new shoes for Sarah.  When the gifts had all been opened, Sarah’s father got a strange look on his face.

            “Wait here,” he said mysteriously, and he left the room.  The little bear heard him go down and then up the cellar stairs, and when he came back in the room, he was carrying a large, wrapped box.

            “What’s that?” Sarah squealed.

            “For you,” her father said.

            Sarah’s mother stood up and gave a troubled look to Sarah’s father, who just shook his head, smiling, a finger to his lips.  Sarah was already busy tearing off the paper.

             The box was taped shut, but Sarah soon had the top sprung open.  The flaps kept the little bear from seeing what was inside, but Sarah’s squeals told him it was something very special.  “Let me help,” Sarah’s father said:  “Hold the box.”

            Slowly, gently, he pulled out what was inside.  The little bear simply could not believe his eyes.  First, a brown mane with a chip in it -- but the chip had been sanded and painted over.  Then tail, creamy body, golden eye and -- little bear felt he would burst with the sheer joy of it -- two solid rockers, all four legs fastened in a strong and graceful gallop, his friend, his beloved rocking horse, home for Christmas, the third and most wonderful miracle!

            “Oh, Daddy, she’s just beautiful!” Sarah exclaimed, taking the rocking horse and holding her gently.  “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, this is the most wonderful Christmas ever!”

            Sarah’s father straightened up, saw the meaningful, troubled look on her mother’s face, and by a tilt of his head motioned Sarah’s mother back to the sofa, where she and the little bear heard him say softly, “And it didn’t cost me a penny, in case you were worried.  I found it in a dumpster next to St. Vincent de Paul’s, when I went down there to find out if we could drop things off.  Found it in a dumpster!  Someone had thrown it away, can you believe it?  A beautiful horse like that!  When all it needed was a new rocker, some touch up paint --”

            “A little T.L.C., in other words,” Sarah’s mother said.

            “Exactly.  A little tender loving care.”

            “Well, I’m sure she’ll get plenty of that from Sarah.  And so will our wonderful Mr. Bear, here.  Merry Christmas, honey.”

            “Merry Christmas!”


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