Who would have guessed that the ladies dipping their toes in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean on the twenty-fifth of December were the once-predictable ladies of the Lakeside Baptist Christmas Club? Imagine a group of normally sensible, conservative women sporting Sponge Bob T-shirts and orange flip-flops, with their hair braided Jamaican style.
The congregation of Lakeside Baptist Church couldn’t envision it. The news of the last-minute getaway was a complete shock. Peggy Wiggins had to play the piano two Sundays in a row, and let’s just say the piano is definitely not her calling.
Jennifer Baker didn’t know she was going to start a revolution. All she knew was that Christmas was getting to her, and if she didn’t do something about it, she was afraid she was going to lose her mind.
If it had been any other day, the truth might not have spilled out so honestly. If Jennifer had spoken to her best friend about her frustrations first, Claire would have reasoned with her. She would have told her life is tough sometimes. And if that didn’t help, then Claire would have purchased Jennifer’s favorite chocolates over the Internet and had them Fed Ex’d to her doorstep. Jennifer would have munched right through her restlessness.
But Jennifer didn’t talk to Claire first. And Claire thanks her for it. All the ladies in the Christmas Club thank Jennifer for convincing them to take up Becky’s generous offer. Every time they see her they thank her profusely, do this jig they made up at the beach house, and say, “No problem, mon!”
This drives the other church ladies mad.
The membership of the Christmas Club has doubled since January. Suddenly all the ladies are feeling charitable. They’re pulling out their holiday sewing patterns and cookie recipes for next year’s underprivileged children’s party.
“We want to go with you guys next time!” they say. The same ones who called them “terrible” and said they would never do such an unspiritual thing.
“There won’t be a next time,” Jennifer says assuredly. But the women don’t understand . . . it was just one of those one-time things. You had to be there to learn the lesson.
The pastor’s wife is starting a new Bible study on contentment, and Jennifer and the other bongo beaters are talking about more outreach to the community. Martha is wearing her hair down these days, and Lillian has incorporated an inordinate amount of beach illustrations into her Sunday school lessons. Claire and her husband are planning a Hawaiian cruise; Dawn is perfecting the Tropical Coconut Chicken recipe; and Becky, the only single of the group, is going back to Jamaica in the spring. Jennifer . . . well, she’s looking forward to next Christmas already.
Just to assure you, the husbands and children sustained no permanent damage. In fact, Casey learned to tie her shoes while her mother was gone, and Trevor learned to make scrambled eggs. The husbands learned some valuable lessons.
There were many small miracles that came out of Jennifer’s dance with Christmas discontent.
To understand how Jennifer overdosed on Christmas, you have to know about her morning that first week in December. She had just flipped an egg and broken the yolk after a poor night’s sleep filled with puzzling dreams. In the dream she could remember, she was lumbering under a load of cumbersome packages, which may have been related to the previous day’s bad shopping experience.
She was feeling the pressure.
Jennifer noticed her son’s gourmet chocolate Christmas calendar lying on the counter. She wondered what beautifully shaped chocolate was behind the cardboard door for December third. She wondered, and then she did an unthinkable thing. She tore it open and stole the chocolate. It was a reindeer, and she bit off his head and then followed it with his brown, milky body.
Jennifer jumped as her fourteen-year-old son walked in the kitchen, his dark hair spiked full of sculpting gel. Trevor’s big blue eyes widened as they took in her expression and then fell to the skinny box with an upturned flap she was holding. “Mom, is that the chocolate calendar you bought me?”
With the evidence in hand—and mouth—what could she say? She stared at him blankly.
“It’s okay; you can have it,” he insisted.
“I’m so sorry, Trevor, I’ll buy you another one; I’ll buy you three.”
Trevor smiled. “That’s okay, Mom. I’m getting sick of chocolate.”
“Sick of chocolate?” Jennifer swallowed the last of the delicacy, thinking it was impossible to ever tire of chocolate.
“They’re serving chocolate pudding for dessert at school, and I’m sure there’ll be even more at today’s party.”
“Party?” She slid the calendar back onto the counter.
“Yeah. This afternoon.”
“And I’m supposed to bring . . .”
“Rice Krispies treats.”
She sighed. These parties were getting earlier every year.
At least they packaged Rice Krispies treats now. Would she be a horrible mother to buy packaged goods instead of making them herself?
“Oh yeah, I’m supposed to bring some canned stuff for the food drive.” Trevor walked to the cupboard and swung open the door.
“Take the cranberry sauce. I bought too much.”
“I don’t think people eat cranberries after Thanksgiving.”
Jennifer gazed at her son’s tall form, then eyed the canned goods on the shelf. “Take the green beans then.”
Trevor pulled three cans from the lazy Susan and re-arranged his backpack to squeeze them in. Throwing his pack over his shoulder, he said a hasty good-bye that Jennifer only half heard.
He was out the door and headed for the corner bus stop before Jennifer realized he hadn’t had breakfast, which most of the time, lately, had been Cocoa Puffs or Cap’n Crunch.
A quiet fell over the house. Jennifer leaned against the counter in her blue terry robe. She stood there motionless, staring into space, until her husband’s entrance caught her attention. She grimaced at his mismatched outfit.