Picture Frame

This is it. You can feel it.

You make your purchase and sit carefully reading the instructions on the drive home. Your dad tries to retreat to the couch again, but you drag him into your bedroom and make him help you. He helps until dinner and it’s still not done.

You work at it the next day. And the next. You’ve never known such dread at the approach of Christmas day.

You wake up in the predawn darkness of Christmas morning. Your picture frame lays almost finished on your dresser and you work at it some more while your parents sleep on, oblivious. You finish the frame, dabbing the last bits of color carefully. Red. Red for love.

You hold it back to admire your work. It is pretty. And finally finished. But then… you realize.

No picture. You forgot to get a picture.

Your mind scrambles, but the few pictures your parents have are already framed, nailed into the walls up out of reach. You sit on your bed, the picture frame in your hands, and you start to cry.

You’ve failed. You should have stuck with something simple, something ready. Something you knew you could handle.

A gentle knock at the door startles you and your dad peeks in. “Hey, kiddo. Merry Christmas.”

You mumble something back, looking down at the picture frame.

He steps into the room, his voice low. “What’s wrong? Did it break?”

“I forgot a picture,” you mumble.

He smiles and kisses the top of your head. “Hang on.” He disappears and you sit at the edge of your bed, hardly daring to hope. Then he slips back in and hands you a picture.

Mom’s hair is messy, a hospital gown sitting crookedly on her shoulders. Dad looks tired, a two day beard shading his chin. They sit together on a hospital bed, smiling radiantly with their new baby. You.

Your dad kisses you again and says, “Hurry up. Mom’s waiting.”

You slip the picture inside and quickly fold paper around the frame, cradling it like a newborn child. You carry it reverently out into the living room, your dad close behind. Your mom is sitting on the couch, waiting, her fingers wrapped around a steaming mug. “Hey, honey. Everything alright? You’re usually screaming like a banshee Christmas morning.”

You laugh quietly and hand her the present. She opens it cheerfully and pauses as she sees what you got her. She stares down for a moment, her hands poised, her eyes wide. Then she lifts it and looks up at you, tears in her eyes.

“Sweet baby. It’s perfect.”

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