Here is my doll’s re-enacted version of Molly’s Surprise by Valerie Tripp. God blessed me with snow before Christmas because if it hadn’t snowed, I wouldn’t have been able to do this post:
“Hey, I don’t think you should write that.”
Molly stopped adding her X’s and O’s and looked up at Jill who was knitting and looking over Molly’s shoulder.
“Write what?” asked Molly.
“That part about how we haven’t gotten any presents.”
“Because,” said Jill in her patient voice, “that letter won’t get to Dad until after Christmas and if he hasn’t sent us any presents -”
“But he did! I’m sure he did!” said Molly, “Dad would never forget to send us Christmas presents.”
“But if he didn’t send us any Christmas presents, he’ll feel bad because we never got them. Don’t you think I’m right, Mom?”
Mrs. McIntire was decorating some wreaths, “I think it is Molly’s letter and she can write whatever she wants to write.”
Jill shrugged and started to knit again.
“Maybe Dad’s present was shot down by Germans and drowned in the ocean,” Brad piped up.
“That’s possible,” Ricky said, “those guys try to shoot down anything that flies.”
Brad suddenly looked up at his mother, “Will the Germans shoot down Santa’s sleigh?”
“Of course not!” Mrs. McIntire rumpled Brad’s hair, “I’m sure Santa will get here safe and sound.”
“I hope so. And I hope he brings me a soldier’s hat and a real canteen.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see what Santa brings,” Mrs. McIntire stood up, “Come on, you can help me hang these wreaths on the doors and then it’s time for bed. Tomorrow is a big day. Gram and Granpa are going to come and bring the Christmas tree.”
As they walked down the hall together, Mrs. McIntire began, “Twas the night before…”
“And all through the…”
“Not a creature was….”
“Not even a….”
When they were gone Jill stopped knitting, “Boy, I feel sorry for Brad.”
“Why?” Molly asked.
“For lots of reasons, first, Dad is gone. It hardly seems like Christmas without him. And there aren’t any presents from him.”
“Yet,” Molly corrected, “No presents from Dad yet.”
Jill continued, “And then there’s the Santa Clause business. Brad will be so disappointed when all he gets are boring presents like socks and handkerchiefs. At least we’re old enough not to mind but he wants that helmet and canteen so badly.”
“Why won’t he get them?”
“Because real soldiers need hats and canteens. They don’t have any to spare.”
Molly had the uncomfortable feeling that Jill was right.
“Plus,” Jill continued, “Mom doesn’t want to spend money any more than she has to. I’m sure all the gifts we will get will be homemade or hand me downs. At least there’s nothing I really want so I won’t be disappointed.”
“That’s not true,” Molly said, “You really want that skating hat like the one you’re making for Dolores, right?”
“Sure, and that’s why I’ve been saving my babysitting money to buy it. I know that’s the only way I’ll get it.”
“But remember what Dad used to say? There are always surprises at Christmas.”
But Jill shook her head, “Not this Christmas. This is wartime so we have to be realistic.”
“Realistic” was one of Jill’s new words. It always sounded gloomy to Molly and she didn’t want to feel that way at Christmas. And suddenly, she didn’t want to be part of the conversation anymore.
She stood up and grabbed her letter, “Well, I think I’ll go to bed now,” she said and rushed out before Jill could say anything else realistic.
Molly closed the door of her room and sat on her bed looking out the window. The sky was dark with no stars. Molly knew that this Christmas was going to be simple. She would probably get presents she really needed but she couldn’t help hoping that somehow, by some Christmas magic she would get the thing she had been dreaming about for a long time – a doll. Not a baby doll but a doll she could have adventures with. She also couldn’t help hoping that something from Dad would come too. Dad loved Christmas. He would give out funny presents every year like kites and yo-yo’s and sing silly Christmas songs like:
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
‘Tis the season to be Molly,
Molly looked down at her letter. Should she cross out the part about the presents? Maybe Dad was too busy to think about Christmas presents. Things were probably very realistic where he was. Molly sighed.
Just then there was a knock on the door.
“May I come in? Or are there presents I shouldn’t see that are out?” Mrs. McIntire asked.
“You can come in, my presents are wrapped and ready.”
“Just like your dad,” Mrs.McIntire smiled, “his presents were always wrapped and ready before anybody else too.”
“Not this year,” Molly said.
“Now, Molly. Don’t tell me you’ve given up hope on Dad.”
“I don’t know, I want to think that something from Dad will come. There is still time before Christmas. But…” Molly looked down at her letter, “Jill says this Christmas is different and we have to be realistic. I want Christmas to be special and full of surprises.”
“This Christmas will be different. We can’t pretend there’s no war and we can’t pretend Dad is home, but we can make this Christmas special. It’s just up to us to make it special. I know I have some surprises up my sleeve and I’m sure you do too. But don’t give up hope. Part of Christmas is hoping for good things to happen.” Mrs. McIntire gave Molly a kiss, “Good night dear. Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
“Good night, Mom,”said Molly. She held onto her hope as she dressed in her pajamas and went to bed.
The next morning Molly awoke to a nice spicy smell. Mmm, Mom must be making sticky buns, Molly thought as she pulled on a flannel shirt and corduroys. They had a nice vacation-y feeling.
She felt ready for an adventure. If only I had a doll, she thought, then we could pretend to be nurses or scientists cooking up something interesting.
But the only interesting thing Molly came down the stairs for were the wonderful sticky buns.
“Good morning, Mom. Where’s Ricky?”
A huge box came bursting into the kitchen with Ricky staggering behind it under it’s weight.
“Hurry up and eat that,” he said, “I need your help with the Christmas decorations.”
Brad stood on a chair and opened the box, “My Christmas stocking! I made it last year.”
Molly peeked in the box too. All their ornaments and decorations were inside and they seemed to be calling, “We’ve been waiting and waiting! Now the fun can begin at last!”
Molly remembered when Dad would bring down the box and cry, “Ho, ho, ho! Here comes Christmas!”
“Oh honestly,” Jill sighed, “did you have to haul that big box up?”
“But these are our Christmas decorations. We need them,” Molly said.
Jill raised an eyebrow and then continued to eat her sticky bun with a fork, “They’re just so…junky. I think this year we should just use blue and red balls to be patriotic.”
Molly thought that was a terrible idea, “But we don’t have many blue and red balls.”
“We don’t need many. We usually put too much stuff on the tree anyway. It will look more elegant with fewer.”
“I don’t want the tree to look elegant – I want it to look-”
But Jill interrupted, “Like last year. I know. You want everything to be like last year. But I already told you. This year is different.”
“What do you think, Mom?” Ricky asked.
“Well, it would be nice to have an elegant tree, but all these Christmas ornaments are like old friends. How about this? Brad and I need to go shopping and we can pick up a patriotic flag to sit on top of the tree instead of a star and we can still use all of our ornaments.”
“That would be good!” said Brad.
“Frankly, I don’t care,” Jill said, “It was just a suggestion.”
Well that’s settled,” Mom said, “Come get your coat Brad, and we’ll be off. We’ll be back before Gram and Granpa get here.”
Just after Mom and Brad had left the telephone rang. Jill answered and after she hung up, she went in the living room where Molly and Ricky were decorating.
“Bad news,” Jill said, “Gram and Granpa just called and they can’t come.”
“What!?” Molly and Ricky gasped together.
“They have a flat tire and the spare is too old to use for such a long trip. They’ll have to wait until after Christmas for the tire to get patched.”
“Oh no!” Molly wailed.
“What a Christmas!” Ricky said glumly, “first no Dad, now no Gram and Granpa.”
“And no tree,” said Molly, “No Christmas tree from their farm.”
“Well, what do we need a tree for anyway?” Ricky kicked the lights, “We don’t have any presents from Dad to put under it.”
“I wish Mom were here,” said Molly.
“Mom couldn’t do anything about it,” said Ricky, “Face it. This Christmas is ruined. No one can do anything about it.”
Molly remembered her talk with Mom last night, “Mom said sometimes we have to make Christmas special this year.”
“What are we supposed to do? Make a Christmas tree?”
Jill finally spoke up, “We could buy a tree.”
“How,” asked Ricky, “I only have twenty cents left.”
“I have money,” said Jill.
“But that’s your babysitting money you were saving up for-” Molly began.
“A tree is more important,” Jill interrupted, “Come on, let’s hurry before Mom and Brad come home.”
“Wait!” Molly ran upstairs and came back down with a bag full of money, “This is- was my Christmas present to Brad, fifty pennies.”
“Good, “Jill nodded, “Now we have plenty.”
They walked to the school parking lot where the Boy Scouts were selling Christmas trees. Molly, Jill and Ricky walked slowly, examining each tree carefully.
Finally Jill stopped, “This is it.”
It was tall and skinny and there seemed to be hardly any branches on it.
“This one?” Molly asked, “But-”
Ricky jabbed her and pointed to the price tag and Molly understood. It was the only tree they could afford. Jill gave away all of their combined money and the three lugged the tree down the blocks to their house.
“Let’s decorate it before Mom and Brad get home so we can surprise them,” Molly said.
Jill shook her head, “You and your surprises.”
But Molly could tell Jill was excited too. She walked a little faster making the tree bounce with every step.
This tree is going to be okay, Molly thought, and we did it all by ourselves. I guess Mom was right, the McIntires are pretty good at surprises.
Later that day after supper Jill and Molly stood in front of the tree, “Jill, do you mind that we put all our old ornaments on it?”
“No,” said Jill, “This tree needed all the ornaments. Besides, I just thought it might be better if the tree looked different this year. See, when everything is the same as last year, it just makes me miss Dad even more. Everything is the same except for one big, horrible difference – Dad isn’t here.”
“Oh, I never thought of it like that,” Molly said, “Well, I think this is the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had.”
“You say that every year.”
“I know, but this year it’s true.” Molly remembered her mother’s face when she came home and saw the tree. She had never seen her so completely surprised.
“You know what, Jill? I’m thinking making surprises for others is more fun than getting them yourself. It would still be great to get one from Dad but..”
“What makes you so sure we’ll get presents from Dad, anyway?” Jill asked bobbing one of the ornaments.
Molly was silent for a moment. Should she say the worry she had been carrying around out loud? She took a deep breath, “Jill, I have to keep thinking a package will come because if it doesn’t, I’m scared it means…” She stopped.
“If nothing comes, it means Dad may be hurt of sick or lost. It means maybe he couldn’t send any presents,” Jill finished for her.
Molly nodded. It was kind of a relief to know someone else shared the same worry, “It’s not really the presents I care about, I just want to know Dad is okay.”
“I know exactly what you mean. I’m sure Mom and Ricky feel the same way.”
The next morning, Molly knew something wonderful had happened even before she opened her eyes. Everything was so bright. Light shimmered and danced on the wall. She looked out the window. SNOW! Beautiful, perfect, bright white snow all over everything!
Molly was in such a hurry to get outside she didn’t even get dressed. She rushed across to Jill’s room.
Jill was snuggle so deep under the covers only her the top of her head showed.
Molly shook her shoulder, “Jill! Wake up!”
Jill rolled over and opened one eye, “What?”
“Come on. Get up. It snowed!”
“Ohhhh,” Jill moaned, “Go away.”
“But Jill, it the first snow of the winter. Don’t you want to -”
“No!” Jill snapped, “I want to sleep! I can’t believe you woke me up just because of some stupid snow. Now go away,” she pulled the covers over her head.
Molly backed out of Jill’s room and closed the door. Last year, Jill woke Molly up for the first snow. She was just as excited as Molly. Molly sighed. She should have realized Jill wouldn’t care about snow this year. Now that Jill was fourteen, she didn’t get excited about anything that was fun anymore. She was realistic.
Molly tiptoed downstairs and pulled on her jacket and boots and stepped outside. She came out of the same old back door, but entered a whole new enchanted world no one had touched. The scrawny skeletons of the trees had changed to lacy white fingers of elegance.
With a wild whoop, Molly took a flying leap off the stirs into the drift of snow. It was like jumping into a cloud.
Snow for Christmas, she thought, it’s perfect. She wondered how Dad was going to celebrate Christmas in England. The doctors might have a Christmas party. Would they sing carols and give each other presents?
Suddenly, Jill appeared on the back steps.
“I thought you wanted to sleep,” said Molly.
Jill grinned and shrugged, “I figured I was already awake. I might as well come out.”
“Let’s make snow angels in the front yard.”
Molly made a chain of neat boot prints that Jill stepped in so they could leave the snow as pure and unmarked as possible.
Molly admired the front of their house, “It looks like a Christmas card.”
But what was that lump on the front porch? She began to run, slipping and sliding on the porch steps.
“Jill! Come quick!”
“What is it?”
“It’s from Dad! It’s from Dad!” exclaimed Molly. She felt happiness exploding inside her like fireworks. She hugged the box as if it were her father.
Jill was too happy to talk. Molly dug all the snow away from the box and there in big letters was a message. It said:
KEEP HIDDEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS DAY!
It was Dad’s handwriting. Molly would know it anywhere. It was as familiar as his face.
“Dad wants us to hide the box until Christmas. That’s two days away,” Molly said.
“I don’t know if we should hide it. I’m so glad it’s here, because it means Dad is okay. I want to tell everyone, but..” she read the message again.
Molly stood up, “Let’s put it somewhere first and then decide what to do.”
“How about in the garage.”
Like two excited pirates, they hauled their treasure into the garage. Molly put a blanket and tennis rackets on top to hide it.
“I wish we could see what’s inside of it right now,” Jill said, “He doesn’t know how hard it’s been. Waiting and waiting for even a letter. He doesn’t know how much we’ve been hoping for this box.”
“But Dad said keep it hidden until Christmas day. If we open it or even tell anyone, it will ruin Dad’s surprise,” Molly said.
“I sort of don’t want to go away and leave it,” said Jill as she began to walk out of the garage, “I’m afraid it’s a dream and the box will be gone when we come back.”
“I know what you mean, but we can check on the box later,” Molly said.
“Good old Dad,” Jill said.
“I told you he wouldn’t forget.”
Just before they went inside Jill whispered, “Remember, act as if nothing has happened.”
As she followed Jill inside she felt happy, completely, entirely, head to toe happy.
Mrs. McIntire took one look at them and laughed, “Well, you two look like rosy little elves! Where have you been? Up to the North Pole working on Santa’s surprises for all of us?”
Molly felt her face get hot. Mom’s joke was too close to the truth, “We were just out-outside,” she stammered.
“Playing in the snow,” finished Jill.
“So I see,” Mrs. McIntire squinted at Molly, “How did you manage to get dirt streaked across you jacket when everything is covered in snow?”
Molly looked down at her jacket where a dust streak from the blanket had left a mark. She didn’t know what to say.
“We were in the garage,” said Jill cool as a snowflake.
“Looking for sleds I’ll bet,” smiled Mrs. McIntire, “Well you can go sledding all you want as soon as you eat breakfast. Right now, both of you scoot upstairs and put on some dry clothes. Molly, you’re still in your pajamas!”
Jill and Molly galloped up the stairs and Jill whisked Molly into her room.
“Phew!” said Molly, “I thought maybe she saw us with the box or something.”
“Listen, I think we should tell Mom about the box. Dad probably thought she’d be the one to get it first anyway.”
“It would be easier if she knew,” Molly agreed, “it almost feels like we’re lying to her by keeping it a secret.”
“That’s what I think too. Besides, she’s probably already suspicious. You’re terrible at this secert-keeping business. Youre acting as if you robbed a bank or something.
But Molly just couldn’t give in, “Telling one person is the same as telling everyone. Dad wants to surprise everyone for Christmas. We have to help him.”
“All right, but how much longer do we have to keep the box hidden?”
“We’ll have to wait until everyone goes to sleep on Christmas Eve. Then we’ll sneak over and put it under the tree. But until then, absolutely no telling anyone! Promise?”
“Okay, I promise.”
“This will be the best Christmas surprise anyone has ever had.”
Keeping Dad’s secret did not get any easier. Molly was jittery all day. When Ricky went to shovel Molly hovered over him until he made her help him. Molly didn’t mind because she could keep her eyes on the garage.
By the end of the day, she was exhaused from this secret keeping business and she still had a whole other day to get through!
The next day Molly was on pines and needles all morning but no one went close to the garage. Brad and Ricky had a snowball war outside and Mom stayed in wrapping presents.
At last it was time for everyone to go to church for the Christmas Eve service. As Molly put on her special green velvet dress she felt relieved that the secret would be safe while they were gone.
Molly loved the Christmas Eve service. The church was decorated with poinsettias and garlands and a huge manger scene in the front. Everyone was given a small white candle to hold. The flame flickered and danced as she listened to the Christmas Story:
“And suddenly there was with the Angel
a multitude of heavenly hosts parising
God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth, peace, good will
Molly knew everyone in her family was thinking of Dad and hoping this Christmas would truly bring peace on earth so that he could come home. Maybe next Christmas Dad will be here with us, thought Molly. She remembered how his deep voice sang out, “Silent night, holy night.”
Molly looked down the pew. She saw a tear caught like a tiny diamond in the corner of her mother’s eye, shinging in the light of the candle. Molly bit her lip. Maybe we should have told her about the box, she thought, Maybe then she wouldn’t be so sad.
But when they walked home there were so many shouts of ‘Merry Christmas’ and other happy calls Mom seemed happy again. After they got home, Mom read ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas and then they all jumped into bed.
Molly laid in bed with her glasses on so she could see the clock. It seemed to tick soooo slowly. At 11:56 she couldn’t wait anymore. She got out of bed and crept down the dark hallway.
THUMP! A white shape bumped into her. Molly gasped and the white shape giggled. It was Jill.
She held her finger to her lips for no talking and they both felt their way down the stairs. All of a sudden she felt sort of wobbly.
She grabbed Jill’s hand and Jill squeezed it. Molly felt better. She reached for her jacket but Jill whispered, “No, too noisy.” So they went outside without their coats. They ran fast to the garage and shivered up the icy front steps with the heavy box between them.
Just as they were about to put it under the tree in the living room Jill pointed to a load of presents already under the tree, “Santa Claus has been here,” she whispered. For some reason that made the two of them burst into giggles. When they had finally calmed down, they heaved the box under the tree and went back upstairs to their rooms drowsy, happy and very relieved.
“MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!” was the next thing Molly heard. She opened her eyes to hear Brad banging on everybody’s bedroom door, “Merry Christmas! Get up!”
The McIntire’s rule was nobody could go downstairs until everyone was up and on the top stairs. When they were all gathered Mrs. McIntire nodded with a smile and they stampeded down the stairs.
Brad stopped right at the entrance of the living room, “Hey! What’s that big box?”
Ricky rushed past him and squeaked, “It’s from Dad! Look! It’s from Dad!”
Mrs. McIntire’s face went white, “From…?” she whispered.
She knelt down and touched the label. She looked up, “It is! It’s from your father! But how?”
She looked at Jill and Molly. They smiled.
“You two!” she laughed, “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Dad said not to,” said Molly, “Look.” She pointed to the side of the box.
“Keep hidden…” Mrs. McIntire read, “Just like your father! Always surprises!” She hugged Jill and then Molly.
Molly could feel her trembling.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s open it,” said Ricky and he and Brad ripped it open.
The box was filled with presents wrapped in tissue paper.
Brad opened his bundle first.
“Oooh, look! A real canteen and a soldiers hat. I guess Santa asked Dad to get them.”
Ricky got a genuine scarf that parachuting pilots wore.
Jill had a heather-colored skating hat, “Much nicer than Dolores’s,” she said with satisfaction.
Mom got silk gloves and a note.
But Molly’s gift was a doll –
a beautiful doll with darl shiny hair and smiling blue eyes. She was dressed in a nurse’s uniform and hat like the one Molly had dreamed about.
Molly hugged her. This doll would be her friend, her companion in adventures, the secret sharer of all her dreams. And when when she played with her, Molly would always remember Dad had chosen this doll for her. Even though he was far away, he knew how to make her the happiest girl of all.
Mrs. McIntire read the note, put it in the pocket of her robe and said, “What time is it?”
“It’s exactly 7:03,” said Ricky who always wore his watch.
“Let’s turn on the radio while we open up our other presents,” she said.
Soon, Christmas music filled the room while they opened up each other’s presents.
All too soon the Christmas presents were unwrapped and everyone sat around a sea of tissue paper. Ricky flung his scarf around his neck and pretended to be the singer on the radio,
“May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.”
Then a scratchy voice on the radio said, “Merry Christmas! We’re broadcasting from the USO party in England, and we have some military men here with messages for the folks back home. What’s your name, Captain?”
“I’m Captain James McIntire,” said a familiar voice. They all stopped still and listened to the radio, “I’d like to say Merry Christmas to all the merry McIntires – Jill, Ricky, Molly, Brad, and my wife, Helen.”
Molly held her doll very tight.
“I miss you all very much. And I hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of happy surprises.”
And that was all. Other soldiers spoke but Molly didn’t hear them. She kept the echo of Dad’s voice. She never wanted it to fade. There really were always surprises at Christmas.
Mrs. McIntire…………………………………Carlie Cullen
I’m so similar to Molly; I want everything to be the same as last year and hate change. Even after all the many times I’ve read this book I learned something; I never realized the note James McIntire gave to Helen told what time he was going to be on the radio until I wrote this post! I just love Mrs. McIntire’s reaction to the box. It’s how I would have reacted to a present from someone so special in that kind of situation.