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Olivia gets a furry holiday surprise

Olivia hadn’t felt this happy on Christmas morning in years. Somehow, everything felt perfect, from her mom’s traditional breakfast of French toast casserole and bacon to Sam jumping around, unable to contain his excitement over the pile of gifts waiting for him under the tree.

She appreciated her gifts this year more than ever, knowing how hard her mom worked to make Christmas morning magical for her children. The pile of clothes, new phone accessories and gift cards were exactly what she wanted.

At least, she thought so. Everything changed when Gia and her father arrived for Christmas dinner.

She’d barely gotten out a greeting to her new friend when something large, furry and extremely excited launched itself through the open door at her.

“Chewy!” she cried, hugging him around the neck. She could hardly believe her furry friend was right here in her house, his tail wagging so hard his entire backside wiggled.

Gia was grinning so wide her cheeks probably hurt. “Merry Christmas, Olivia.”

“Merry Christmas, Gia.” Olivia looked around the room, shaking her head slightly. “I don’t understand … what’s Chewy doing here? Did you adopt him?”

“No, sweetheart,” her mom said, kneeling beside her to scratch Chewy behind the ears. “You did.”

With wide eyes, she stared at her mom. “You mean … he’s mine?”

When her mom nodded, Olivia wiped happy tears from her eyes and gave her mom the biggest hug she could. “Oh, thank you. Thank you thank you! I love him so much!”

With a laugh, Olivia’s mom hugged her back. “You’re welcome. I’ve been planning it with Carter; he and Gia agreed to help with the surprise.”

Olivia hugged her new friend. “Thank you, Gia. This is one of the best Christmases ever.”

She’d never thought she’d say that — how was it possible to have a great Christmas without her dad? But she knew he’d be glad she was able to open her heart to joy again. Enjoying Christmas, and life itself, was the best way she could honor his memory, and she vowed to live every day to the fullest in a way that would have made her dad proud.

Late that night, after their company had left, snow was falling. Big white flakes joined the soft snow already blanketing the ground.

Olivia sat at the bay window looking out at the snow and twinkling stars in the late night sky.

She heard her mom approach behind her and clear her throat. “Can I join you? I brought cocoa.”

“Olivia, I want you to have this.” She handed Olivia her mug of cocoa and Olivia froze at the sight of her dad’s favorite coffee mug.

“It was his favorite.” Her mom echoed Olivia’s thoughts. “He loved it so much and used it all year. I put it up partly because it made me sad and partly because I didn’t want anything happening to it. But he would want you to have it. It’s a small thing. Silly really. But …” Her voice trailed off as she shrugged.

“It’s perfect,” Olivia whispered. “Thank you.”

Olivia held it tightly, letting it warm her hands before reading the faded script that wrapped around the mug.

Christmas spirit isn’t something that you can buy or eat or watch on television. It’s something that you feel everywhere — and it starts with just a drop in your heart that warms your soul.

They sipped their cocoa together, with Chewbacca sleeping at their feet. A shooting star fell from above, and Olivia closed her eyes and wished that everyone in the world could believe and receive their very own Christmas magic.

“Merry Christmas, Mom.”

“Merry Christmas, Livy.”

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