The family, dressed in rags, was seated around the dinner table. There was a plate of cookies on the table. The father smiled at the boy and the girl tentatively. The boy could not believe that his father had dared to spend all of that money on a plate of cookies.
"Da, you shouldn't have!" the boy exclaimed.
"Ah, son, but I did," said the father. "It's Christmas Eve, after all. You kids should have something extra on this special night. Ok, Darren? So I did." Then Da smiled. "Go ahead! Try one!"
Darren and his sister, Katherine, looked across the table. "May we, Ma?" asked Katherine.
"How about you kids break a cookie in half and share it. Then we can save the rest for another night," said Ma.
"Oh, just let them each have a cookie," said Da. "It's Christmas Eve, after all. They ought'a be able to enjoy themselves. Plus, there's more'n twenty cookies on that there plate." And then he added, almost as an afterthought, "And you can have one yourself, Ma."
"Thank you, Da!" cried Darren. He grabbed for a cookie and broke off a piece. He hungrily shoved it in his mouth and began to chew. Katherine did the same. Ma smiled sheepishly at Da and took a cookie for herself.
Da watched them eat for a moment before grabbing his own. Taking a bite, he said, "Why, I haven't had chocolate chips since I was a young lad! What do you think, kids?"
Their mouths full with chocolatey goodness, the kids could only smile. Da smiled back at them.
They all finished their first cookies and took a second one. After the seconds had disappeared, Ma got up from the table. She set the cookies in the pantry with their meager supply of food. Then she sat down.
Now it was the kids' turn to rise. They kissed their parents good night, said an extra thank-you to Da, and went to their bedroom to sleep. They shared a room.
Da smiled as he watched them go.
"Da, wherever did you get the money to spend on them cookies?" asked Ma.
Da's smile faded. "I used my salary," he said. He looked at Ma, waiting for her reaction.
"Your... salary?" said Ma disbelievingly.
A smile twitched at the corners of Da's lips. "Yes, my salary. I got a job!" The twitch became a full-blown grin. "I got a job!"
"Oh!" gasped Ma, jumping up from the table. She ran over to Da and hugged him. "A job!"
"Yes," laughed Da, "a job."
Then suddenly Da got quiet. "Even though I have a job now, I asked for an advance. I don't have enough money left over to buy the children Christmas presents."
Ma sobered down for a moment, and then she smiled knowingly.
"Da, the children will understand. You already bought them the cookies, and you know something?"
Da shook his head. "What?"
"I think that the reason they liked the cookies so much was because you purchased them. Your love is the best gift they could ever hope to receive."
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