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Today was Libra’s birthday. She’d been counting on getting that new Fun Sphere 531 that she’d been subtly dropping hints about for weeks. She glared suspiciously at the pink wrapped gift that lay on the family’s ancient mantle. The package was rectangular- not round. Maybe it was just the packaging… she thought doubtfully.
“Libra, we are so proud to celebrate your fifteenth birthday with you- you’ve really blossomed into a wonderful young lady!” her father crooned.
“She lived for fifteen years- quite an accomplishment!” her younger brother quipped.
Libra’s mother pulled her daughter into a warm embrace, “Don’t listen to Paul, honey! Today is your special day! So… What do you want to do first?” her mother grinned conspiratorially at her. That was one of the things Libra loved best about her mother, who was majestic despite being only 5 foot 1, with a generous mane of glistening honey- colored hair. Libra’s mother had a great sense of humor. Libra burst out laughing at her mother’s display.
“I want to open my present first!” Libra admitted, motioning towards the parcel that had been tormenting her for days, now.
“No, I think not. Why don’t we have breakfast first- do you want to go out?” her mother pursed her lips, determined to keep the suspense going for another few hours.
“I guess we could go to caramel Joe’s.” suggested Libra, referring to the local pancake house that put all of those chain restaurants to shame.
“Sure!” Her father agreed earnestly.
The family had a wonderful day- the four of them had the largest, fluffiest pancakes they had ever experienced, followed by an even fluffier chocolate covered pancake with birthday candles in it.
After that, Libra’s ice skating party took up the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, the family retired home, and Libra was finally allowed to open her gift.
Eagerly, she ran to the mantle. She tore at the wrapping paper. But as soon as she saw what was inside, her face fell. Inside was just an old, worn out book. Libra knew money was tight, but this seemed a little extreme.
“What is it?” she frowned at the book, trying to mask her disappointment.
“This is something very special,” Libra’s mother explained, “This book has belonged to my family for a very long time. It is passed only to the women of the family on their fifteenth birthdays. It has been in the family for about four hundred years! Each girl who has it writes one page about anything she wants on her fifteenth birthday, and then passes it on to her daughter. You also should read all of the other entries.” Her mother smiled.
“I wanted a Fun Sphere 531!” she complained, pouting childishly. Try as she may, Libra was unable to hide her discontent.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Libra!” her father scolded, “This is the most important thing your mother has- aside from you children!
“Okay.” Libra conceded.
That night she flipped through the ancient pages. She read about her family before they moved to the United States. It seemed they had been simple shepherds in Poland. One of her ancestors had grown particularly fond of one sheep, and had begged her parents not to shear it, (to no avail.) She read about her great grandmother who at the time was worried about her brother who was fighting in World War I. After that, she had to ask her mother if her great great uncle had survived the war. As it turned out, he had and became a great general. She even read her own mother and aunt’s entries. Both wrote about typical life in the seventies. Reading her aunt’s entry had filled her eyes to the brim with tears, because she knew her aunt died of frostbite at the age of nineteen, only four years later.
After Libra composed herself, she wrote her own entry. She wrote about friends and family, and about the truth of the eye of the beholder.
Years passed, and Autumn leaves of change fell on Libra’s soul. Now she understood just how special this book was, and cherished it. It was the strongest link she had to her past- to her heritage. The day of her own daughter’s fifteenth birthday came all too soon.
She decided to wrap it in pink wrapping paper, just as her parents had done for her, so many years ago. She placed the precious item gingerly on her very own mantel in her very own house.
The next morning, her daughter, Kira opened the package.
Libra could see the confusion and disappointment written clearly on her daughter’s face.
Instead of getting mad, Libra wrapped her arm around Kira, something she’d learned from her mother, and looked her in the eye lovingly, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” She said.