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Fantasticoe Spring 2005 Contents
 
   


 

Perfectly Happy

Janna Dierks


 

 

They looked like such a perfect family. As they slowly walked down the long hallway at the shopping mall, they were an object of interest to many. The view of such a handsome, well-dressed family was impressive in a world that had become a blur of frenzied shoppers looking for last minute Christmas gifts. Two ladies resting in an open café with shopping bags piled at their feet noticed the family passing by. The older lady raised her eyebrows and said, "You have to be kidding me. Who comes out to the mall just to look around this close to Christmas? It doesn’t even look like they’re shopping, just strolling along looking at the lights. "

The other responded, "Oh, Mom, that’s just Stan and Grace. You remember I went to high school with them? Well, they got married after college, got great jobs and then started this cute little family of theirs." While she was speaking, Stan, Grace and their two children had stopped to look at a Christmas display of snowmen and pine trees with sparkling lights that wound their way along a pathway.

"You sound a little jealous, dear. Don’t you like them?"

"Oh, I like them just fine; they’re friendly and all. I guess I’m not really jealous, but wow, I mean just look at them. Their clothes are perfect, the kids just walk along quietly and patiently…My kids would be bouncing off the walls with everything to see here. It’s like they are this perfect little family that can’t do anything wrong."

"You know what, honey, you just wait and see. Just when things seem to be going along too smoothly in any family, something can happen to shake everything up a bit."

"We’ll see, Mom. I don’t know if there’s anything that can shake those two up. They’ve got everything going for them; money, a great house, great kids, each other..."

Stan and Grace had moved on with the kids holding hands in their matching jackets following in their parents’ steps. The older lady nodded her head slowly and thoughtfully and said, "I wonder…do they really have it all?"

* * * *

Stan, Grace and the children climbed up the steps onto their wide front porch. "Did you two have a good time looking at the lights tonight?" Stan asked as he opened the front door. He and Grace looked down at the two sleepy children and then caught each other’s eye with a smile. Stan bent to pick up their little girl, Rosie and Grace took Alex by the hand.

"Time for bed, you sleepyheads," Grace said and they moved up the stairs to put the kids to bed. They had coached the children since they were born to be quiet and respectful of their parents, so in just a matter of minutes, the kids were tucked under their covers and settled in for the night.

Stan and Grace headed back downstairs for a cup of hot chocolate before they turned in. They passed by the living room, and Grace thought how thankful she was that their shopping had been done for weeks now. Once in a while, Grace missed the thrill of shopping for that one last gift the day before Christmas, but she and Stan had organized their lives so this type of mishap never occurred. All their gifts were wrapped neatly and placed carefully under the tree. They had decorated the house inside and out right after Thanksgiving , and it sparkled from the rooftop to the front walk with tiny white lights and glittering snowflakes. They were all trying to wait patiently for the holiday that was just around the corner.

Grace poured the steaming hot chocolate into colorful mugs and they seated themselves at the kitchen table. Stan thought he saw a tiny chip on his mug and turned it to double check. It had been just a reflection of light on the top edge of the cup. He thought with relief, "I’d hate to have to throw these out just because one was ruined."

As he was contemplating how just that one little chip would have spoiled the whole set, Grace was saying, "I can’t wait for Christmas this year with the kids."

Stan pulled away from his thoughts and smiled in agreement. "It’ll be great," he said, "Last year, they were just too little to really know what was happening." Grace nodded as Stan went on, "And I know they can’t wait for the Duncans to celebrate with us. It’s just so hard on them with our families living so far away. It’ll be nice to have someone with us that the kids love to be around."

Mrs. Duncan was a wonderful lady that they had found five years ago when Alex was born. When Rosie joined the family two years later, Mrs. Duncan seemed almost happier with the two children than with just one. She truly loved the children and Grace said Mrs. Duncan took care of the house almost better than she did. Mrs. Duncan’s husband, who the children called "Uncle Max’, would visit once a while and do any repair work that was needed on the home. Leaky faucets were quickly fixed, a faded front porch was neatly repainted and all the little troubles that plague every homeowner became almost non-existent for the family.

They lived in a large, older home that was in wonderful condition with a huge front porch, and carvings decorating the peak of the roof and the front door. It was always immaculate with everything in its place, and there was never a time where toys or papers just laid around. There was never any running or shouting in the house. It was a quiet and peaceful place; just perfect. They even owned the perfect pets; a small mixed-breed dog, Toby and a cute white fluffy kitten, Sasha. Friends of Stan and Grace told them how envious they were of the perfect couple with the perfect family.


Stan and Grace chatted over their hot chocolate. Grace loved this time of the year. As a teacher, she had a few weeks off to spend with the family. Stan worked hard as a computer engineer and had slowly climbed the ladder until he was manager of a large firm. Both enjoyed the career they had chosen. After talking for a short time, they finally decided it was time to turn in for the night. They tidied the kitchen so that nothing was out of place, turned off the lights and walked up the stairs arm in arm.

* * * *

Alex and Rosie had a long day in front of them. They tried to play quietly, but dinnertime seemed a long time away. After Alex had asked Grace a number of times "How long?" and Grace had patiently answered him each time, she finally gave the answer he had waited all day to hear, "Anytime now!" Alex turned and started to run to find his sister, but stopped himself when he remembered the rule of no running in the house. Grace just smiled as she watched the little boy trying to control his excitement. She bent down and as she straightened his shirt collar, she quietly suggested in his ear, "Why don’t you go get your sister?"

Alex told Rosie that it wouldn’t be long to wait now and Uncle Max and Mrs. Duncan would be there. The children were almost beside themselves waiting for the doorbell to ring. When it finally did, they couldn’t hold back and both were heard shouting, "They’re here! They’re here!" throughout the house.

As all four family members greeted the Duncans, they were surprised at the gifts the couple brought. "What on earth is this?" Stan asked as Uncle Max walked past him with a huge armload of packages. Mrs. Duncan was right behind him with bulging gift bags that seemed to almost block the doorway as she struggled to get through. The two children stood watching with large eyes and smiling faces.

Uncle Max finally replied, "Well, we’ve been planning this Christmas for a long time." The gifts were all placed under the tree and Grace had not said a word.

Finally she exclaimed, "Mrs. Duncan, Uncle Max. One for each of us would have been plenty. We don’t need so many gifts!"

Mrs. Duncan had a twinkle in her eye when she said, "Oh, my dear, but you do. You need each one of these gifts. We want to give you a Christmas to remember!"

When Stan and Grace realized the Duncans were not to be deterred, they gathered the group together for a joyful and delicious dinner. As they ate their meal, the children chattered with excitement and the adults tried to hide theirs. Each was thinking about what might be hidden away in the gifts under the tree. The Duncans caught each other’s eye every now and then. With a smile, they would turn back to the conversation flowing around them.

At long last, the chocolate cream puffs, strawberry truffles and of course, the fancy Christmas cookies were set on the table to complete the meal. Alex grabbed a cookie and said, "Let’s go!"

Grace tried to slow him down so the others could enjoy their dessert by saying, "You won’t be able to open up a thing until we’re all there with you!"

"Ohhh, Mom….Please hurry, everyone!"

They all ate a little quicker than usual and the children took a quick break to make sure their faces were clean before they finally moved into the living room. The gifts were shuffled around until everyone had a small mound in front of them. The children insisted they go first, so the gift-opening began with the sounds of ripping paper and giggling children. The packages soon dwindled down and Alex and Rosie were able to take stock of all the items before them. There were clothes, shoes, a doll house, trucks, cars, drums, balls, a rocking horse, and a few other odds and ends. There were even a few for the family pets. New bones and toys for Toby, the dog and the kitten, Sasha was now sporting a sparkly pink collar and playing with new kitten toys.

Rosie jumped up and said, "Your turn!" as she ran over to the Duncans.

"Should we open ours now, Sweetie?" Mrs. Duncan asked even though Alex had joined his sister and they waited patiently for the older couple to unwrap their presents. A new bathrobe and lotion for Mrs. Duncan and sparkling new toolbox for Uncle Max brought them smiles and thanks of appreciation. The kids now turned to their parents.

Stan looked at the Duncans once more and with resignation on his face said quietly, "You really shouldn’t have."

Mrs. Duncan responded, "We just had to, Stan. Go ahead, you two…get started!"

Stan and Grace began opening their gifts first with a little hesitation, but soon they were truly enjoying themselves. Before long, every gift was unwrapped. Stan had received a watch, belts, ties, tools, a clock, and a small wooden box that he placed on the fireplace mantle. Grace was almost overwhelmed at her gifts of new kitchen gadgets, sweaters, a purse, new make up and even perfume. As they looked over all the new items at their feet, they heard sound of the grandfather clock in the hallway striking. They had been so involved in opening packages that they hadn’t noticed what had happened to the room. Their eyes passed slowly around and they saw with amazement that wrapping paper hung from the lamps, it was pushed under the rugs, and even stuffed in the sofa cushions. They looked down at the children; Alex was quietly playing with a toy truck and Rosie had fallen asleep under a new pink blanket.

They turned to offer their thanks to the Duncans and found that their spots in the living room were vacant. After looking for them in the kitchen and calling out for them around the home, they realized that their car was missing from the front drive.

"Well, I guess they’d had enough and headed for home," Stan surmised.

"Without even a "Merry Christmas?" Grace wondered.

With that comment, she reached to turn off the outdoor light and saw a note taped to the switch. She read it aloud for Stan to hear:

We love you all and hope you enjoy the gifts. We

truly believe this will be a Christmas fo r your family to

remember forever. We’ll be in touch soon!

Uncle Max and Mrs. Duncan

"How strange of them to leave like this. But we’ll call them in the morning to thank them for such a wonderful Christmas." Stan stated with Grace nodding in agreement.

They walked back into the living room hand-in-hand. They gathered up the children with awe still reflected in their eyes, took the children to bed and tucked them in with each holding a new stuffed animal. They walked down the hall to their room almost in a daze and they climbed into bed without another word. For the first time in their lives together, their house was a disaster. Not a single thought of cleaning entered their minds as they fell into a deep sleep filled with dreams of Christmas cheer.

 

* * * *

Stan and Grace awoke the next morning to shouts from the children. They sat up immediately and realized at the same time that they had forgotten about Santa! The children would see nothing new under the tree; their belief in Santa would be broken. Grace ran to her closet to grab what she could from the stash of gifts they had planned to put out from Santa, but she saw the closet was empty. She and Stan dashed down the stairs, and heard sounds of laughter coming from the living room. "Look, Mommy, more presents!" Both the children were thrilled at yet even more toys. This time there was a very conservative stack for each child. Alex had a new bicycle and Rosie had a new pedal car. There were a few outfits for each, but other than that, nothing else. As their parents slowly looked around the room, Alex and Rosie entertained themselves with their new toys.

Stan and Grace could not even express their thoughts to each other. When they went to bed, the house looked like a small tornado had blown through with dishes, wrapping paper and gifts scattered throughout. Bright and early this morning, they found that their home was spotless; the wrapping paper was gone, the gifts all in their place except for a few the children had already found, the kitchen was sparkling clean and breakfast was steaming in the oven. When they walked into the kitchen, they found yet another note. This one was also from Mrs. Duncan and it read:

Good Morning and Merry Christmas!

I wanted to let you know that Max and I will be leaving

town for a bit. We needed a vacation and now seemed

like a good time to take it. Don’t worry about a thing…

it will all work out in the end. We’ll check in on you soon.

Mrs. Duncan

"What a strange way to tell us that they’re leaving town," commented Grace thoughtfully.

Stan reviewed the note again, "What does she mean by ‘It will all work out in the end.’?"

"I have no idea, but I do hope they come back soon."

"Oh, Grace, we’ve never doubted them for a minute, they’ll be back."

With a little uncertainty, Grace agreed and turned to call the children to breakfast.

 

* * * *

The next morning was Sunday and Alex and Rosie had insisted on wearing some of their new clothes. Grace helped them get dressed and the family gathered in the hallway to leave for church. As Grace ran a brush through Rosie’s curls once more and pulled Alex’s belt buckle back to the center of his pants, Stan asked if the others heard a strange sound.

Grace replied, "I do hear something…Alex, did you leave a toy running?"

"No, Mommy, I didn’t play with anything."

Stan was trying to place the sound and when he did, he said, "It sounds like a ball bouncing on the floor" and he ran up the stairs. The noise soon stopped and he came back down to join the family. "Well, your new ball was up there, but it was sitting on your bed, Alex. Let’s go out to the car," and they left for church.

The car ride to church was quiet. The kids were still thinking about their new gifts at home and the adults were pondering the Duncans decision to leave them without a proper farewell. They entered the church holding the hand of each child. Alex’s jacket was buttoned up just right and Rosie’s hair ribbons bounced as she walked down the aisle.

The service was going along smoothly until Alex began kicking the church pew in front of him. The dull sound of a ‘thud , thud, thud’ caused Grace to place her hand on his knee to stop the motion and all was quiet again. Grace glanced at Stan and they smiled at the impatient five year-old who was doing his best to sit still. They began listening intently to the words being spoken from the pulpit until, "Thud, Thud, Thud" sounded out again. This time it was noticeably louder and a number of church-goers turned around to see who was making the racket.

Grace had immediately placed her hand on Alex’s knee again and this time looked at Stan for help. He picked up the boy and placed him on his lap to finish out the church service in peace and quiet. However, within minutes, the noise began again, even louder than before, "THUD, THUD, THUD!" The church pew in front of them shook as Alex kicked the back of it with all the strength a five year-old could muster. As quick as he could, Stan hoisted Alex up on his hip and strode from the sanctuary. This time it seemed like the entire congregation craned their necks to see what was happening, the pastor stumbled over a few words as he tried to continue speaking and a number of other children began giggling.

Stan was now out in the lobby and he set Alex down on the floor. Kneeling down, he said, "What on earth were you doing in there?"

Alex replied innocently, "It wasn’t me, Daddy."

"What do you mean, it wasn’t you? I saw you and everyone heard you. You know how to behave in church and that was a very bad thing for you to do."

"Daddy, I telled you … It wasn’t me!"

"Ok, Alex, before I get very angry with you, tell me who you think it was that was doing all that kicking."

Alex leaned closer to his dad and whispered, "I think it was my shoes."

Stan had been trying to remain patient while reprimanding his son, but this was not the answer he expected. He opened his mouth to reply, then shut it. He opened it again and slowly responded to his son, "Alex, you know I do not like it when you tell stories. They’re called lies, and it is a very bad thing to do."

"I’m sorry, Daddy, but I’m not telling a story."

During the course of their discussion, the church service had ended. People were filing out and smiling at the father and son. Stan smiled back and put his hand on Alex’s head, knowing that this conversation would be continued later on.

* * * *

By the time the family returned home, Alex was in tears because his parents didn’t believe he hadn’t tried to kick the bench in front of him, Rosie’s dress was rumpled and her hair was a mess, even though Grace had repeatedly straightened her up. Stan had been silent the whole way home while he tried to forget how much his son had embarrassed him in church and Grace was frustrated with Stan for not dealing with the situation better .

They walked in the door to the sound of glass crashing to the floor and saw Toby tearing through the kitchen with something on his back.

"What on earth is going on!" Stan shouted and then raced after the dog.

Grace tried to quiet the children, who were frightened at the sight of the normally complacent dog charging around their home and the sound of their normally quiet and composed father shouting and running as fast as the dog. Grace led them into the kitchen after the racket had finally stopped, and found Stan holding Toby under one arm and a stuffed monkey in his other hand.

He looked at Grace and with disbelief in his voice, said, "I think the monkey was riding on his back."

"You think…what?" Grace asked quietly.

"It was, ahh, riding Toby’s back…I guess."

Grace shot her husband a glance that stopped further conversation and said brightly to the children, "Kids, why don’t you go find some of your new toys!" And they took off without a backwards look.

Grace turned to look at Stan, who had dropped the dog and put the monkey on the counter. He looked at her sheepishly and murmured, "I don’t know, Grace, it’s just what it looked like."

Grace looked skeptical, but sighed and said, "Ok, Stan, let’s just forget it and clean up this mess." They worked together to sweep up the vase of flowers that had been knocked off the kitchen table.

As the day progressed, more strange things took place, but they were easily blamed on the children or one of the pets. Drawers were left open in the kitchen, toys showed up in the middle of a clean room, and shoes seemed to appear from nowhere. The family tried to ignore these events. They considered it was just the stress of the holiday that was making everyone a little forgetful. They all went to bed early and hoped that the next day would bring a little stability back into their world.

* * * *

The next morning, Stan left early for work and Grace did her best to keep ahead of the little messes that appeared frequently throughout the day. She had called to the children a number of times to clean up this or clean up that. Each time, they told her they hadn’t played with this toy or hadn’t even seen that one. The strangest event was when Grace was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table and felt a gentle tickle by her ear. She reached a hand up absentmindedly, but found nothing there. She kept on reading until a few minutes later, another, stronger tickle made her sit up straight. "Stop it!" she blurted out quickly and turned to see who was tickling her. There was no one in the room, but out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a movement around the corner of the doorway. She slowly walked towards it thinking she’d find one of the children teasing her. However, she just shook her head in surprise when she saw the kitten’s new feather toy lying alone on the floor. "I better get to bed early tonight, I think I’m losing it," she thought to herself.

The day passed quickly and by the time Stan got home, he was exhausted. He walked through the front door and was greeted by the children shouting about something that he wasn’t able to understand. He called for Grace and she shouted for him to come upstairs. As he jogged up to the bedrooms, he heard some strange sounds.

Grace was standing in the middle of Alex’s room with a butterfly net in one hand and an expression of determination on her face. "I’m gonna catch it, Stan! Look out!" she shouted as she dove across the bed and snagged something in the net. "Look, it’s the bird, I caught it…Kids! Mommy caught the toy birdie!"

Stan was speechless as he watched the kids cheer for his wife and she danced on the bed holding up a tiny stuffed toy bird. He finally managed to stammer quietly, "What is going on?"

Grace stopped her hero dance on the bed and stepped slowly on to the floor. "Oh, this silly bird started flying around and we couldn’ t get it to stop, so I had to get the net out."

"What on earth are you talking about, Grace?"

"Ohhh!," she replied quickly, "I forgot you haven’t been around the house all day. Did anything strange happen to you at work?"

Stan said, "Well, I wouldn’t have said anything if you didn’t ask, but I guess I did have a little trouble with my belt, and my shoes and my…well, why do you ask?"

"What happened?! Quick, tell me!"

"For one thing, I had to keep loosening my belt, all day, every few minutes, I thought I must have eaten too much over Christmas, but it just kept getting tighter and tighter."

"HA!" Grace shouted happily, "It’s happening to you, too!"

* * * *

By the next Sunday morning, the family seemed to be falling apart. They walked to their regular church pew trying to ignore the many glances directed at them. Alex’s shirt was untucked even though he tried to fix it constantly. Rosie’s hair ribbons were tied one minute and untied the next, sometimes they even curled around her ears and made her giggle. Stan was still struggling with his belt, it kept growing tighter and tighter and he sat fidgeting in church throughout the morning. Grace, poor Grace, had make-up smeared up across her cheek and bright red lipstick scribbled down on her chin and over her nose. She kept giggling as she reached for her ear rings; one time even whispering, "Who’s tickling me?" to no one in particular. The people sitting near the family saw Grace talking to herself, Alex constantly kicking the pew and Stan scooting around in the pew while Rosie just giggled happily.

After the service ended, the family made a dash outside and Stan drove home as fast as he could. "What is happening to us?" he asked Grace as soon as they pulled up in front of their home. The front porch light was hanging crookedly, the doorbell was stuck and was ringing over and over. As they walked inside, the house was in utter chaos. The rugs were rolling and unrolling, the kitchen drawers were opening and shutting, the faucet was leaking like crazy, the dog and kitten were chasing ‘things’ around the house and the overall racket was almost deafening.

Stan and Grace didn’t even know how to begin tackling all the problems. Alex looked up at the expressions of disbelief and frustration on his parents’ faces and said, "I guess this is the time." They glanced down at him and jumped back as one when he started shouting at the top of his lungs. But the words he said surprised them even more, "I WANT EVERYTHING TO STOP MOVING RIGHT NOW! GO BACK TO WHERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE AND BE QUIET!"

As his parents watched in amazement, every item, every toy, every piece of furniture and every thing that was out of place slowly started moving back to where it should have been. The noise quieted and the house seemed still and calm. Stan kneeled down to look into Alex’s eyes and asked him quietly, " How did you know to do that?"

"Uncle Max told me," he replied with a smile and ran to play in his bedroom.

"UNCLE MAX!" Stan and Grace shouted together.

Grace was almost dancing she was so happy, "Of course, why didn’t we think of them first…these crazy things that are happening started with their gifts…all those crazy Christmas gifts went crazy!"

Stan was relieved to at least have an idea about what was going on, but realized they still didn’t know what to do about it. They tried to track down Mrs. Duncan and Uncle Max but hit a dead end every place they turned. Stan kept saying, "They said they’ll be in touch…they said it, they’ll call, I know they will." Grace, on the other hand, was relieved to think that out there somewhere just might be the answer to what was happening to them. But at least for now, they had an idea of how to control these ‘misbehaving’ toys, clothes and other items. By shouting at them to stop acting up, the item would immediately behave. This alone was a relief to the family, but they kept up their pursuits in trying to find the Duncans.

* * * *

Two months later, the perfect family of Stan and Grace’s appeared much different than it had previously. Their typically spotless home was cluttered and noisy almost constantly. The gift items all seemed to have a mind of their own and before long, other things in the house seemed to take after the gifts. It took continual surveillance by the family to keep everything somewhat under control. The formerly perfect children were somewhat crumpled and rumpled looking every time they left the house. They spoke out loud frequently saying things like, "Stop it now!" and "You’re tickling me!" even when they appeared to be alone. Stan had trouble wearing ties and belts and had become a much sloppier dresser than usual. And Grace, she tried to hold herself together and keep the house and her children in order, but wondered if she really had any control at all. Her clothes seemed to shift on her body and her purse would open and shut as she stood in the grocery check-out line. She had almost given up wearing make-up and doing her hair because she seemed to always end up looking like a clown.

All in all, though, the family was happy. They weren’t a perfectly presentable group that was the envy of all their friends, but they were happy. One Saturday afternoon, Stan and Grace looked around their noisy and cluttered home, they heard the sounds of their children playing and laughing and ignored all the little things that used to drive them crazy; the faucet that was still leaking and the broken porch light seemed so insignificant now. They had both changed and their children had changed with them. Stan spent more time at home and the family enjoyed their time together. They no longer felt the need to be perfect and what a freedom that was.

One morning, as they stood among the controlled chaos that their house had become, the door bell rang. All four family members sprinted towards it and the door slowly swung open to reveal Mrs. Duncan and Uncle Max!

The shouts of joy were heard throughout the neighborhood and the couple was welcomed into the home with open arms. After everyone had calmed down a little, Rosie and Alex began telling the Duncans story after story about what had taken place over the past few months. As they spoke, Mrs. Duncan and Uncle Max looked over their heads at Stan and Grace with sympathetic smiles. Grace poured some coffee for their guests as the children chatted. After talking for quite a while, they decided to head up to their bedrooms to play. With a quick hug for both the Duncans, they ran from the room.

As the four adults looked at each other, Stan and Grace had so many questions, they didn’t know where to start. Mrs. Duncan seemed a bit nervous and chose a simple question to begin with, "Will it be a Christmas you’ll always remember?"

"Without a doubt." Stan replied, "But what did you two do to those gifts? Our house was turned upside down and inside out, it was crazy around here."

Uncle Max thoughtfully asked, "But was it a bad thing?"

Grace glanced at Stan and answered truthfully, "At first, yes, it was very bad. But now, it’s just great!"

Stan gave his wife a big hug, "We’re a different family and I think a better family. But I still want to know what it’s all about!"

The Duncans explained that when they first married, they were just like Stan and Grace. They felt that everything had to fit in their lives and their homes perfectly. They raised their children to be perfectly behaved, with no loud shouting or playing, to act just like little adults. They worked hard at maintaining a spotless home and they put a great deal of value on what people thought of them.

Stan looked at Grace a little guiltily, "Was that how we were?"

Mrs. Duncan smile as she responded, "I’m afraid so. But a strange thing happened to us one Christmas many years ago when a couple we knew well delivered gifts to our home that soon turned our home into a whirlwind of noise and clutter. We eventually got things under control, much as you appear to have gotten your house back in order…Well, somewhat in order!" she said as she noticed a small chip in her coffee cup.

"Well, it’s better now than it was those first few days," Grace agreed, "But it’s certainly different than before."

"Oh, I know, dear," Mrs. Duncan continued, "We eventually tracked the couple down and asked them to explain what those gifts were and how they acted the way they did. Do you remember the small wooden box we gave you that night?"

"Sure," Stan answered, "It’s right over there on the fireplace."

"Good. The box is filled with a powder, call it pixie dust, magic potion or whatever you like, but it certainly is special." Mrs. Duncan held out her hand with a small key in it. "This will unlock it…someday, when you feel it’s needed. All it takes is a sprinkle of powder from that box and whatever you sprinkle it on will slowly change until it becomes as active as it needs to be. When an item with the powder on it touches one that doesn’t have it, the powder spreads and everything seems to become affected by it. It’s meant to shake things up, to make life a little tough for a bit. After quite a while, it may be months or years even, it will wear off completely. But hopefully the lessons learned won’t ever fade away. When we saw that you were just like we were, we had to do something to help. And I’m glad we did."

Grace laughed happily, "So am I! And we will never forget what it’s done for us."

"Put that key away in a safe place and remember, the powder is always there when you find someone who needs its help."

"No problem," said Stan and they spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and talking about some of the strange events that had occurred to each family as the powder took hold of the gifts.

Stan, Grace and the children did gain a little control over the crazy activities within their home, but they have learned to accept that ‘things happen.’ They enjoy life and their family a great deal more than before and spend much more time together. They may not be perfectly dressed and pressed, but they are happy and ready for anything. Stan and Grace are more relaxed, they play and dance with the children and look forward to every minute they have together. The children love having their parents play with them and seeing them happy and carefree.

* * * *

One morning early the following summer, Stan and Grace were playing in the park with the kids. Stan was climbing and sliding with Alex while Grace dug in the sandbox with Rosie. She looked up at the sound of her husband laughing and shouting, and watched as he tried to catch Alex on the monkey bars. Off to one side, two ladies were taking a morning walk together.

The younger one said, " Look at those crazy people. Why, he’s going to hurt himself acting like a kid like that. And that woman, look at her. She’s got sand up to her elbows. She’ll never get that shirt clean!"

"Oh, honey, they’re having fun. Look at the smiles on their faces."

The first lady stopped walking. "Oh, my gosh," she said with disbelief, "Mom, I think that’s Grace and… that must be Stan…It is! It’s Grace and Stan! What happened to them? They’re noisy and dirty…They’re not perfect!"

Her mom just smiled and said, "But, they look so happy."

"Happy?! Mom, they’re a mess!"

"Yes, dear. They look happy…perfectly happy!"


Acknowledgments:

Many thanks to my fellow Fantasy Writing classmates for their help in making this story complete and for putting up with an old lady in class! Thanks to Terry Heller for offering a class that was both educational and fun. And to the five most important men in my life; Mark, Jake, Ollie, Ky & Noah - Thanks for being patient while I spend so much time away from you!


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