“Four eleven-year-old boys inClaire’s. Wow,” I observed, standing sleepily in thestore’s entrance. Holding my steaming chai tea in one hand and abagel in the other, I observed this strange sight. My dad had justdropped me off after swim practice to shop for friends for Christmasgifts, but my brother and his comrades had a more noble reason forshopping.
“Do you think Caitlin will like this?” oneof the boys asked, shoving something very pink and very furry in myface.
I transferred the bagel to my tea hand and took it. It wasan incredibly fuzzy scarf. “Does she likepink?”
“Umm ....” He appeared to be drawing ablank.
“I’m sure she’ll loveit.”
“Brigit! Can you help them here?” my momasked. The cashier was looking at us as though we were nuts.
“Coming.” I wove my way through the earrings, lipgloss, and funky hair thingies until I reached the back of the store.Another one of the boys, looking rather confused, was standing in frontof a shelf of satiny and fuzzy jewelry boxes decorated with frogs andballerinas.
“Does she like pink?” I asked again.Maybe this one would know.
“Yeah, it’s her favoritecolor.”
“Okay. Then picking something pink would bea good idea,” I encouraged, removed the blue box from his hands.He picked up a pink satiny one with a frog and presented it to me forapproval.
“Nice.” David came over and dragged metoward a display of funky socks.
“Which of these would bebest?”
“Well, she likes pink, right?”
“No, she hates it,” David said with certainly. I hitmyself on the forehead with my palm.
“I don’t know.Pretend you’re a girl, David.”
The boys had beenshopping all morning and still weren’t done. They were spendingall their money, some of which they had saved up over the course of theyear and had planned to put toward Christmas gifts, and some of whichwas early gifts from relatives to spend on themselves. But, they had alldecided to spend it on Caitlin.
Just nine days before Christmas,Caitlin’s house had burned to the ground. By some miracle Caitlin,her two siblings, her parents, and their dog had all escaped. When I sawthe picture in the newspaper, I couldn’t believe they had gottenout. The house was engulfed in flames, and in the end, there was nothingleft except a pile of ashes and the chimney.
All the family hadwas what they were wearing, what the kids had in their lockers atschool, and each other. All the pictures Caitlin had drawn inkindergarten, the family photo albums, the super-cool roller-sneakersher younger brother had earned doing chores, and the Christmas presentswaiting to be wrapped - all gone. The school was replacing their booksand uniforms and now, two days after the fire, all the girls inCaitlin’s class were taking her shopping for clothes and shoes.The boys were shopping for things like earrings, scarves, socks,headbands, and hair ties, all the things we don’t even thinkabout.
After another hour, I had finished my shopping and hadhelped the boys pick out everything they wanted to get for Caitlin. Istill don’t know if she likes pink or not. They had almostexhausted their funds when we passed a shoe store. The boys ran inside,having spotted the sneakers that Caitlin’s brother had held sodear. They all agreed to put $25 toward them, and together, they wereable to buy him a new pair.
When we got home, my brother broughteverything he had purchased for Caitlin to my room to make sure Ithought she’d like everything one last time before he wrappedthem.
“I think she’ll love everything,” Isaid, and he smiled his big goofy smile. I hugged him, even though hetried to push me away. I was so proud of him at that moment. My brotherhas a big heart; he loves giving and making others happy. He’s anhonest kid who sees only the good in the world. I used to wonder how hecould only see the good when there was so much bad, but now I realizewhy: there is so much good inside him.
David, goofy little(okay, not so little) David, my Monkey Man - the kid who idolized mewhen he was little, who followed my friends and me around endlessly, whoalways wanted to be like me, who asks me for advice oneverything, who looks up to me - I discovered I have a lot tolearn from him. He selflessly gave up all his savings for a newskateboard he had been obsessing over for a friend who needed aChristmas present more than he did. He had, through this act of a pureheart, captured the true spirit of Christmas.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the December 2006 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.