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The Swan This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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The warm house spreads an aura of holiday cheer throughout the crisp, cool air. Hoards of family members pile through the front door, with young couples stopping just below the archway for a little peck under the mistletoe.

I leap out of my uncle's beat-up car, officially bored out of my mind from Christmas mass. My breath creates a hazy cloud in the dark sky. The dim luminaries along the sidewalk guide me to the door, and I am escorted inside by my “Santa Claus” uncle. It's a family tradition to dress as famous Christmas characters; there's something truly bizarre about seeing your cousins dressed as Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, and of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. After 13 long Christmases, I have thankfully gotten myself out of having to dress up as a holiday enthusiast. It's not that I'm anti-holiday or anything, I just don't see the point in going overboard with “holiday spirit.”

Once inside, I meander past the piles of gifts, greeting relatives along the way. I enter the kitchen and am immediately hit with the aroma of hoagies, chips, and orange soda – a feast fit for pigs. Dozens of family members surround the kitchen island, and it's a literal push and a shove to grab a plate and small sandwich. I take a seat on the fireplace bricks next to my cousin Kimberly, who is in third grade.

“Who did you have for the present swap?” she asks.

We make small talk for a few minutes, and then she starts to go off on how popular she is. I politely excuse myself. It's hard to find someone to talk to at these gatherings. Relatives are either too old or too young; I'm awkwardly in the middle, bouncing back and forth. After what seems like an eternity, my mother brings out the Christmas cookies, the dessert liquor, and all the gifts. My dad, it seems, has gotten something “special” for her.

“We'll save the best for last,” he boasts.

We begin to open gifts, in order from youngest to oldest. As hours pass, the gifts progress from Limited Too attire to top-grade cigars, and finally the cycle is complete. My dad removes a small box from his coat pocket and hands it to my mom. Questioning looks cross my relatives' faces as my mother carefully removes the bow.

“It's another wedding ring,” jokes my cousin. Laughter boomerangs around the living room.

“A … a swan,” says my mother with a fake smile on her face. She lifts what appears to be a diamond encrusted swan-shaped pin from its cotton packaging. In the awkward silence, one unknown relative, who has had too much egg nog, snores loudly on the plaid armchair in the corner.

My dad looks around the room, half-confident, half-embarrassed. “Don't you like it?” The Christmas tree emits a radiant glow that seems to illuminate his face.

“It's beautiful,” she answers, “just … random.”

“But I thought you liked swans. I remember when you were reading that book. Oh, what's the name … I can't remember now.” He shoots me an awkward glance, as if begging for help.

My mother lets out a cackle – a mean, critical laugh. I see the disappointment in my dad's eyes and decide to give him a hand. “Well, I think it's pretty. Dad put a lot of effort into finding you this.” I knew I should hold my tongue, but words flowed from it like a never-ending waterfall. “Do you really think I like everything you get me for Christmas? No. But I say thank you. Remember what they taught you in second grade?”

And with that I am sent to my room. I start to cry, but I'm happy with my decision to stick up for Dad. And I'm thankful I didn't wear my Dasher costume or I would have had brown face paint trickling off my chin like raindrops from a soggy tree.

When I venture downstairs a few hours later, the house is empty. The mistletoe hangs lonesomely in the doorway, and the crumbs from the half-eaten hoagies have been swept into the trash. My parents are sitting on the couch, talking, laughing, and acting like nothing happened. And my mother is wearing her pin.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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dgeileenThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sep. 16 at 6:01 pm
Aw your dad is so sweet though :)
 
sweetheart2598 said...
Nov. 19, 2011 at 6:58 am

I love this article good job!!!

EVERYONE take a look at my article it's called The Final Serve. Post some comments too!!!

 
thefirstday said...
Jan. 26, 2009 at 10:02 am
Sometimes i feel like that about my mother too. But your story is lovely. Good on you and your decision. I think you were the perfect person to remind her.

I loved it!
 
safetydoc57 said...
Jan. 22, 2009 at 5:56 am
I feel like I experienced this with all of you in person. Very well done, Emma! A very Baiada Christmas indeed!
 
TR3 said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 3:37 am
Captivating although a bit depressing. I wonder if she was "forgiven" or whether her Mom just pretended to forgive. Great story because it let the reader make up the ending.
 
mrs. m said...
Jan. 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm
great story!!!! I bet we all could share holiday stories like that one. I guess it's what makes the holidays memorable, lol. good luck with your writing.
 
Mike B. said...
Jan. 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm
Really enjoyed the story.
You have a gift, keep it alive by wrting more!
 
Joanne said...
Jan. 20, 2009 at 5:01 am
I think this is such a cool story. It is very much like something we might all have happen at our houses during the holidays when everything is busy and distracting and on overload. I loved the ending. Great job!
 
Geeta C. said...
Jan. 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm
enjoyed reading your story , Emma
keep writing ....
 
Q said...
Jan. 18, 2009 at 4:31 am
Very nice article. Captures the flavor of what happened really well.
 
Terry said...
Jan. 16, 2009 at 11:04 pm
Emma, that is a classic! Wonderfully written descriptive story that flows start to finish. You put the reader at the party. I really enjoyed it!
 
E. B. said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm
Nice job Emma.
 
flyerinca said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm
Feels like I've been there, Emma. Great job capturing your holiday experience and sharing it with all of us. Gotta love your dad...
 
jody1221 said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm
Emma, what a wonderful story. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing, but in the end it's worth the self respect.
 
mom5 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 9:50 pm
Beautifully written!! I can imagine being in the room eating a delicious hoagie,being a teenager,and gathering with family.So happy that "The Swan" was appreciated !!!!! Keep writing Emma you are wonderful!!!!
 
bluepearl said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 2:49 am
amazing creative writting. Love the descriptions. It made me feel like I was there.
 
ezstrike said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 12:43 am
I thoroughly empathize with the writer. I remember my teenage years, having gone through the "tolerance" of these family gatherings and the generation gap. The things we do for family! But it's better than not having one to criticize, right?

It's a great story and gives me a better understanding of the teenager from a senior's viewpoint.
 
AnitaCohen said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm
Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing the story and glad it had a happy ending.
 
zap2 said...
Jan. 12, 2009 at 1:42 am
haha....awkward for "dad", tough break!
 
Lizzie said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 5:15 pm
Great Article. It was like I was there in the house and could smell the Christmas cookies
 
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