As Phoebe's mom drove her home from school, Phoebe paid close attention to the houses they passed. Not one had lights hanging. There were no inflatable snow globes. No wreaths with bright red ribbon. No sign that Christmas was approaching at all.
After she put down her book bag and hung up her coat, Phoebe ran to the kitchen where the calendar hung on the wall. Just like Miss Dennis' calendar at school, there was no Dec. 25. Instead of confronting the issue head on, like she'd tried at school, Phoebe decided to take a roundabout approach.
"Mom, when are we going to put up the Christmas tree?" she asked.
Her mother looked perplexed. "Christmas tree? What's a Christmas tree, sweetie?"
"You know, every year we put the tree in the living room, and Daddy gets the lights ready and puts them on first, then we all put on the ornaments and tinsel."
"A tree in the living room?" Phoebe's mom laughed. "What a silly idea!"
Editor's note: This part of a continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read along with their children.
"But you keep all the stuff in the attic," Phoebe argued. "You have the angel that Grandma Bramwell gave you and the special ball from the year I was born, and the wedding one from when you and Daddy got married."
Her mother ruffled Phoebe's hair. "You've got one big imagination, Phoebe. Now run along and start your homework."
As her mother went into the office to finish some work, Phoebe stood in the hallway, uncertain. Was this some cruel joke all the grownups were playing?
There was one way to check. With a look of determination on her face, Phoebe scurried up the stairs all the way to the attic. There were the usual assortment of old boxes, with clothes that Phoebe had outgrown. A sturdier, plastic bin contained mementoes from Phoebe's parents' wedding. A rocking chair, inherited from Phoebe's great-grandmother, occupied a dimly lit corner. But where were the special ornament boxes, with compartments for each snowflake, colored ball or ceramic elf? Where was the box of lights that made her dad mutter colorful epithets as he worked to untangle them every year? (Every year, he vowed that he'd do a better job putting them away, and every year, they wound up as a tangled mess.) Where was Grandma Bramwell's angel that had a special box all its own where it waited most of the year to adorn the top of the tree?
Just then, Phoebe heard her mother calling. "Brenna's on the phone for you!"
"Phoebe, this is bad," Brenna said after Phoebe said hello. "My mom forgot about Christmas, too! I got Owen to ask her about it. He still remembers, though."
Owen was Brenna's younger brother. He was in kindergarten.
"My mom did, too. It's even worse than that, Brenna," Phoebe said. "I went to look for our Christmas decorations, and they're all gone. All of them!"
Brenna was silent for a minute, but when she finally spoke she sounded near tears. "Phoebe, what are we going to do? What happened to Christmas?"
"I don't know, but we've got to do something," Phoebe said. "Let's meet tomorrow at recess. You, me, Cate and Cienna and anyone one else we can get to come. If we all work together, we can come up with a plan."
For the next part of this story, read Sunday's Tribune Chronicle.