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The Gift

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The couch straight from the 70s, covered in flowers the color of the foul-smelling drink that looked like cranberry juice in Papa’s Barney-sized hand, was weighed down by boxes and bags filled with presents. Ribbons and bows, but not like the ones in my hair, and wrapping paper, with the words “Happy birthday” repeated over and over again. My cousins and sisters, wearing army fatigues complete with military rankings, played with the shoebox-sized cannons while attempting to steal a bite of the cake decorated with the army insignia as I struggled to keep up with their frantic pace. “He’s opening the presents!” started a stampede towards the family room.


Shoving, pushing, flailing. Hey that’s mine! I want the blue one! Give me that! As I jockeyed for position, gifts were yanked from my hands. I reached for another but someone swiped it again, stomping on my toes as they blazed past. Papa handed me a present but my older sister Caitlin protested saying, “I want Papa to open it. It’s my present. She can’t help. She’ll break it.” Papa conceded and Caitlin glared at me with an I-told-you-so look. I retreated to the edge of the room that now resembled a war-torn battlefield. “I can help, too! I can help, too!” But my pleas were drowned out by the “oohs and ahhs” over Caitlin’s homemade gift, a garishly decorated popsicle stick picture frame.


The embroidered flowers of the couch blurred as tears cascaded down my cheeks and onto my Private’s stripe. Caitlin sat victoriously atop the couch, her Five Star General’s badge gleaming. She had won the battle but the war was far from over.





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