The Great Christmas Scarf Scare
As soon as Karen saw that crimson scarf, she knew that she was done for. Mrs. Parker had crinkled her way through the tissue paper, pulled the scarf out of the shiny red bag, and cooed approvingly. Even in the strange, dim glow of the Christmas tree Karen had no doubt: that was exactly the same scarf that she had bought for Mrs. Parker. Karen swallowed hard, pasted a blithe smile on her lips, and forced the contours of her face to remain in a placid position.
Her internal condition, however, was anything but placid. This was her first Christmas with Stan's family, and she had been so determined to make a great impression! Stan made it sound as if this whole Christmas party consisted of a complex sequence of family traditions bequeathed from one Parker generation to the next. Just one mistake and she might trample about 200 years worth of Christmas cheer beneath her big, un-Parker feet. And her mistake was being wrapped around Mrs. Parker's neck right now. A fuzzy, knit, crimson mistake with little white snowflakes.
Karen had hoped that if only she could bestow an astounding gift upon Stan's mother, the family might magnanimously remit all her accidental crimes against their Christmas traditions. She had already tripped over the ceramic caroling cat and messed up the words to the fifth verse of the "12 Days of Christmas." Why on earth had she sang "five golden beans"? Now she felt sure that she would singlehandedly destroy the Parkers' Christmas and her own romantic life in one fell swoop! She turned to gaze at Stan, perhaps for the last time. He looked so stunning in his Christmas sweater. Its ugliness only amplified his beauty. She couldn't give up stunning Stan without a fight! She summoned up her courage for one last desperate effort. Maybe, just maybe, she could surreptitiously switch the tags on Mrs. Parker's and Aunt Jean's gifts. Then Aunt Jean would get the scarf, and Mrs. Parker would get the perfume.
The Parker family and friends were spread around the Christmas tree in a buzzing, convivial cluster. As Karen collected her thoughts, she was struck by how much she liked being a part of this. Not all this stress and fear, of course! But this fun family gathering where everyone seemed to enjoy being with one another. Karen's Christmases growing up hadn't been like that at all. Aunt Jean was taping a shiny green bow to her husband Al's bald head, and Karen almost laughed in spite of herself. She didn't want to lose this. Certainly not over a crimson scarf!
Everyone was preparing to open their next gift, so she had to act quickly. A distraction. She needed a distraction. If only a passel of adorable caroling children would come wassailing the Parker house right now! Karen remembered that in olden times groups of wassailers would sometimes force their way into a house and loudly demand food and drink. That would certainly be distracting. But in the absence of such good fortune, Karen would have to act alone. She pivoted her head toward the living room window, squinted her eyes, and exclaimed rapturously: "Ooh, I think it's snowing!" While everyone else immediately began peering outside and arguing about whether or not they were seeing snowflakes, Karen capitalized on her deft act of deception. She had done it! She had switched the labels on the gifts.
However, Karen's felicity was short lived. When everyone's attention returned from Karen's imaginary snowflakes to their Christmas gifts, Karen realized that she had made a terrible mistake which might irreparably mar this blithe family gathering. She had switched the wrong labels. Mrs. Parker was now opening Uncle Al's aftershave, and Uncle Al was opening Mrs. Parker's scarf. Should she scream? Should she set the tree on fire? She felt helpless as she watched Uncle Al merrily rip the wrapping paper off of her human dignity. He lifted out the scarf, wrinkled his brow, and then assumed an expression of artificial appreciation and genuine confusion. Mrs. Parker wore a similar expression.
"I...I think I made a mistake..." sputtered Karen.
For one terrifying second the convivial atmosphere was suspended in a pregnant silence. Then it was Karen's turn to feel confused. Mrs. Parker started to laugh, Uncle Al joined in, blithely donning a crimson scarf, and soon the whole Parker crew was roaring. Amidst all of this Christmas jollity, Karen heard herself being teased mercilessly. Teased just like a real member of the family. And right then it occurred to Karen that maybe she had something to offer which all of the Parkers might like, and not the sort of something that fits in a box.
Learn more about the words from our Christmas story!
- Blithe: Carefree or unconcerned happiness
- Placid: Pertaining to a calm person, place or a water body
- Bequeath: To assign one's property to another through a legal will; to leave for posterity
- Bestow: To present something as a gift; or to put something to use
- Remit: To pardon a sin or debt, or to reduce payment due; to send money; to reduce or eliminate a status or activity; to restore
- Convivial: Concerned with or relating to social festivities; being fond of social merrymaking
- Wassail: Old English toast to someone's health; the drink traditionally used for the toast; festive party where the toast is made; a song sung at that kind of party
- Felicity: The quality of exceptional happiness, or the source of that happiness; a particularly apt phrase or style in speech
- Jollity: A state of cheer and glee
Have a very vocabulary Christmas!