Unexpected Christmas Treasures by Mildred Grant

Napkins in rings—all the last touches—the table is all ready.
“Oh, dear, not the phone!” Mom complained. “Hello. Oh, Mother, are you and Dad ready this early?”
Grandma’s message left Mom speechless—just for a moment.
“Of course we’ll be happy to have them join us. There’s plenty of food—oh, an extra salad is a perfect addition. I’ll just add the extra leaf and two place settings to the table. We’ll see you soon.”
“Girls, I need your help, now,” Mom called. “We have to take the table apart, add the extra leaf, then put everything back together, adding two more place settings. Uncle Ed and Aunt Eva are coming down from Manchester to spend Christmas Day with us.”
“Oh,” Mom paused. “We don’t have two more napkin rings.”
Eleanor was already searching the back corners of the silver drawer.
“How about these, Mom,” she asked as she unwrapped and held up two beautiful, very old, silver napkin rings.
Mom paused, took the rings, and looked at them intently, running her fingers over the lovely raised surfaces, finally saying, “Yes, this is the perfect time to put these to good use again. Mildred, you can put the napkins into them and put them here for Uncle Ed and Aunt Eva.”
Always curious, Mildred asked, “How come they’re coming way down here and how come Roddy isn’t coming with them?”
“I don’t know, to both questions,” Mom replied. “Grandma said she would explain when they get here, but I think they really need us today.”
“They have a cottage and a big in-board motor boat on the lake,” cried Allen.
“Why would they need us when they seem to have everything?” Chester wondered.
Mom, on her way back to the kitchen, said,” The word to think about in your sentence, Chester, is ‘seem’, but we’ll just have to wait until they get here to find out.”
The children went back to the living room to finish mining their bulging Christmas stockings for every last treasure and trying to guess what delights the many beautifully wrapped packages under the brightly lit tree could possibly hold.
Dad, bathed and freshly shaven came out of the bathroom.
“What was all the ruckus out here?” he asked Mom.
“Your Mother called—no they aren’t ready, yet—to say Uncle Ed and Aunt Eva are going to pick your parents up on their way here to spend the day with us,” Mom said. “The children helped me to enlarge the table and reset everything.”
“Doesn’t that make everything harder for you?” Dad asked. “Of course I want them to come, but you have enough to do to take care of our own, plus my parents.”
“Just two more and, though I’m nor sure what has happened, it sounded as though your aunt and uncle were going to be alone today,” Mom explained. “Go put your shirt and tie on. They’ll be here by that time. Everything is ready to serve, here in the kitchen, so I can go to the door. Oh, they’re here!”
Mom opened the side door as an avalanche of children spilled out of the living room. Dad, all freshly shirted and tied came out of the bedroom just in time to stem the tide.
“Hold your horses! They aren’t used to kids in large, noisy bunches.”
“Ok, ok, let’s do what we practiced in case company came,” said Chet as he quickly pushed his brother and sisters into a line across the double opening between the living and dining rooms, just in time, as Mom and Dad greeted our guests. Chester bowed and shook hands. “Aunt Eva, how nice you could come to see us, today. Uncle Ed, your company is always more than welcome. Grandpa, you’re looking well, sir, and Grandma, you always come bearing gifts for all.” The girls curtsied and Allen bowed and shook hands, and nearly bust into tears, saying, “All that stuff Chet said , but I can’t remember it all!”
Dad and Mom were speechless (are these our kids?) Uncle Ed and Aunt Eva were completely charmed. Grandpa, who rarely laughed out loud, let out a couple of hearty guffaws. Grandma, last in line, gave Allen a real tight hug, saying ”You did very well, Allen and you all made us feel so welcome.”
Dad, finally recovering his voice, said,”Put your coats on the bed. Here, Mother, let me have yours and Aunt Eva’s.”
Mom suggested, ”Since we’re all here in the dining room, let’s find our places at the table while Mother and I bring in the food. Uncle Ed and Aunt Eva, your places are here.”
After surveying the table, Aunt Eva touched Uncle Ed’s sleeve. “Look Ed, we have the honor of using the 200-year-old napkin rings I told you about.”
Uncle Ed cautioned, “Don’t you dare cry! There’s been too much of that lately.”
“Just think,” Aunt Eva replied. “I wouldn’t even be looking at them if everything had been ‘as usual’ at home.”
The sumptuous meal over, everyone gathered around the Christmas tree. Dad was Santa Claus and Chester his elf/helper. One of the last gifts was a box, about a foot square and four inches deep, Santa handed to Aunt Eva.
“Oh, no, Furb, Helen, we didn’t expect any gifts. We didn’t bring any, either.” Aunt Eva was genuinely distressed.
Grandma emptied her lap of bright ribbon bows and even brighter wrapping papers, crossed the room, and hugged her sister, saying, “Helen and I agreed that this was just the right time and place to give you and Ed this gift. Merry Christmas!”
Touched beyond words, Aunt Eva unwrapped and opened the box to reveal “The McLachlin Family Treasure”—the napkin rings.

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