This is the second part of the story, M&M Cookies for Rhoda. If you haven’t read that story, start there!
“Look at me! I look like a princess.” Rhoda Marshall twirled around, her pink gauze skirt ballooning as she went.
Ruby Randall laughed. “How am I supposed to put this headband on with you spinning around like that?”
Rhoda took one last good spin and then stood perfectly still. Her look of innocence made Ruby laugh again and hug the little girl. “You’re so funny, Rhoda.”
She placed a vintage-looking headband with a large rose on Rhoda’s head. Ruby had woven the headband out of black and white pages from an old phone book. She had made the rose out of the same kind of paper. The black and white colors stood out charmingly from Rhoda’s pink frilly dress.
“There. Now let’s go outside and get your picture taken.” Ruby grabbed her camera in one hand and took Rhoda’s offered hand in the other. “I’m glad it’s not windy today. It will make it easier to get good pictures.”
“If it was windy, my skirt might puff up like a balloon, and I’d float right into the sky.” Rhoda looked up at the white clouds overhead as if imagining what it would be like to float among them.
Ruby chuckled at the little girl’s imagination. She remembered a few years ago when she would lie on her back in the soft grass and look up at the clouds, wishing that she could go to sleep on them.
Out in the pasture, Ruby took pictures of Rhoda in different poses. She had her sit on the ground and rest her chin on her hand. There were a few different poses with Rhoda standing and looking in different directions. Then Ruby took some close-up shots of the headband against Rhoda’s dark brown hair.
After Ruby made the big sacrifice and gave up the headband business temporarily to watch the Marshall girls, she had felt very content. True, it did give her a twinge of sadness when she thought about the headbands, but it was far outweighed by the fun she had with the girls and the gratitude of their parents. Their premature baby boy, Luke, was still in the hospital, and would probably be there a while longer. But, he was improving.
After they had been keeping the Marshall girls for some time, Mrs. Randall had an idea. She didn’t want to get Ruby’s and Amber’s hopes up, so she talked to the Marshalls about it. They happily agreed to let Ruby use their girls to model the headbands for product photography.
When Ruby heard that, she was elated. She had wished that she could take pictures of them on a little girl since she knew it would make much better pictures. Now her dream could be realized. She had taken a few pictures of them on Phoebe and Priscilla, the two-year-old Marshall twins. They were so active that it made it challenging to get a picture of them in a nice pose. Mostly she had taken pictures of Rhoda. The four-year-old girl adored both Ruby and playing dress-up, so she had loved every minute of it.
The headband with the rose was the last one that needed to be photographed. Since it was one of Ruby’s favorite headbands, she had saved it for last. That way she would be more practiced and, hopefully, the pictures of it would turn out the best.
Ruby slipped the strap of Sterling’s camera around her neck as they headed back to the house.
“Are we all done?” Rhoda asked.
“Yes, we’re all done. And, you know what? I’m going to give you, Priscilla, and Phoebe each a headband to keep.”
“Really?” Rhoda’s eyes were wide. “Which one do I get?”
“Whichever one you want.”
“I know which one I want,” Rhoda said confidently.
“Which one?” Ruby was pretty sure what the answer would be.
“This one.” Rhoda reached up and pulled off the headband so that she could look at it again.
“Good choice, Rhoda! That one is my favorite, too.”
“Oh.” A cloud passed over Rhoda’s face. “Then I won’t take this one. You can keep it.” She held the headband out to Ruby.
“Aww, that’s so sweet of you, Rhoda. I want you to have it. I have several more like that one.”
The sunshine returned to Rhoda’s face, and she slipped the headband back on, quite crooked. When they got back to the house, Rhoda changed out of the pink church dress that she had been wearing for the pictures and into a denim dress with kittens wearing red bows embroidered on the front.
“What we goin’ to do now?” she asked Ruby.
“Well, the twins are still taking their naps, and Amber is doing school. So whatever we do will have to just be me and you right now.”
“Could we make something?” Rhoda had already learned that Ruby enjoyed making crafts, and Rhoda had a lot of fun helping her with them.
“Let me think a second. It’s almost Christmas, so maybe we could make some kind of ornament.” Ruby immediately remembered the ornaments she had wanted to buy pretty paper for if she had sold some headbands. Her babysitting had been the end of that dream. But…
Ruby went into the living room and turned on the family computer. She went straight to the bookmark she had saved for the ornaments. She didn’t have the glitter paper to make it, but, she did have plenty of glitter. Mrs. Marshall had sent a lot of craft supplies for them to use to help entertain the girls. There had been several containers of glitter, but they hadn’t opened them, knowing what a mess it would make.
Rhoda leaned against the computer desk, patiently waiting for Ruby to produce a fun activity.]
“I’ve got it!” Ruby cried. “It’s warm enough for us to go outside. I’ll set up a table, and we can make glitter paper.”
“Yay! I love glitter.” Rhoda beamed.
It didn’t take long for Ruby to get everything ready. She set up a small folding table and two chairs in the front yard. Then she let Rhoda carry the glitter bottles out to the table while she went and got her package of sticker paper. She enjoyed printing stickers onto full-size shipping labels and cutting them out. The sticky residue of the paper would be perfect for making glitter paper. Ruby stopped by the kitchen and got a jelly roll pan. Then they were ready to start.
Ruby peeled the backing off the sticker paper. Then she laid it face down on the pan and let Rhoda dump gold glitter all over it.
“Oh, I forgot a funnel.” Ruby made a quick trip to the house for a funnel.
The funnel made it much easier to pour the excess glitter in the pan back into the bottle. They made several gold sheets of paper. Each time, Ruby shook the excess glitter from the paper, hoping that it wouldn’t shed as much that way. After they finished the gold, they made silver. By the time they needed to clean up and go have supper, they had made gold, silver, white, red, and green paper.
* * * * *
Over the next few days, Ruby, Amber, and Rhoda made the glitter sheets into beautiful ornaments. It was a little challenging since the paper was supposed to be double-sided cardstock. But, they worked persistently, and Ruby was pleased with the results.
The day they finished the ornaments was Christmas Eve. Mrs. Randall took all of the girls around to the neighbors to deliver the Christmas ornaments. They also had cinnamon rolls that Mrs. Randall had made and some gospel booklets.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
By the time they had stopped at all of their neighbor’s, it was the usual time to take the Marshall girls home for the evening. They pulled up outside the house, but the Marshall’s vehicle was not there. Amber and Mrs. Randall unbuckled the twins from their car seats, while Ruby helped Rhoda slip out of her booster seat. Mrs. Randall had a key to the Marshall’s house, so they all went inside and settled in to wait for the girls’ parents. After about half an hour, Mrs. Randall began to get concerned. The parents were never this late.
“I don’t know when they’ll get here,” she told Ruby. “Why don’t you and I try to mix them up a little something for supper?”
They found some canned chicken in the cupboard and quickly made a pot of chicken noodle soup. When it was almost done, Ruby let her mom finish. She went out to the vehicle and brought in the ornaments they had saved to give the Marshalls. The girls hung several of them in the living room. There were quite a few, so they also put 3 in the girls’ room and 3 in the parents’ room. One of those they hung over the empty crib, still awaiting the arrival of little Luke.
“Mom.” Ruby went into the kitchen where her mom was making garlic toast. “The Marshalls haven’t been able to decorate for Christmas at all this year. I had an idea. We don’t know how soon they will get here, but we could try to beat them. Could you run to the grocery store real quick and buy a few strings of lights? We would like to make the house cozy for them while they are here together on Christmas Eve.”
“I think that’s a really good idea, Ruby. If you finish toasting this bread, I’ll go. I can probably be back in 10 minutes. I can’t think what is keeping them so long tonight, but they have been a little late before. I just hope nothing is wrong with Luke.” She pursed her lips.
Ruby’s heart jumped. She certainly hoped not too. Trying to push the thought from her mind, she buttered another slice of bread, sprinkled it with garlic, and laid it in the steaming skillet.
The Marshalls were still not back when Mrs. Randall arrived with several strings of lights. The girls strung them around all the windows in the living room. They put one strand around the window in the girls’ room. The final strand was hung over the crib. Just as they finished hanging the lights, a vehicle pulled up outside. Rhoda raced to the window and looked out.
“It’s Mommy and Daddy,” she squealed. “And Daddy’s got a baby carrier.”
“What?” Mrs. Randall and her two daughters all said it at the same time on their way to the door.
Ruby swung the door open. Mrs. Marshall came in, followed by Mr. Marshall, carrying a baby carrier covered over with a light blue snowflake blanket.
He set the carrier on the floor and took off the blanket. The little girls crowded around, eager to see their tiny baby brother.
“Oh, I’m so happy for you,” Mrs. Randall was saying to Mrs. Marshall. There were tears in both ladies’ eyes.
“Thank you,” Mrs. Marshall said. “We didn’t think he would get to come home this soon, but he’s doing so well. We wanted it to be a surprise.”
Mr. Marshall unbuckled Luke and gently lifted him from the carrier.
“His crib is all ready,” Rhoda announced. “We just got it ready.”
Mr. Marshall looked at Ruby for an explanation. The crib had been ready since before the baby was born.
“We got it ‘Christmas’ ready,” Ruby said by way of explanation.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
They all went into the parents’ bedroom and over to the crib. There, under the shining colorful lights and the sparkling gold ornament, Mr. Marshall laid his newborn son. They looked at the baby, peacefully sleeping in his blue swaddle.
“We should be going so y’all can have supper,” Mrs. Randall said, pulling her eyes away from the beautiful scene.
“Oh, I forgot about supper,” Mrs. Marshall said. “I don’t have anything for tonight.”
“Yes, you do. There is hot chicken noodle soup and garlic toast on the stove.” The garlic and warm soup aroma that filled the air verified what Mrs. Randall said.
Mrs. Marshall gave Mrs. Randall a hug of thanks. They all took a final look at the beautiful bundle of baby, his dark hair peeping from under his tiny white hat, his skin so soft and perfect. Then they wished the Marshalls a ‘Merry Christmas’ and left.
At the doorway, Ruby stopped for one final look. Rhoda was peeking through the crib rails, smiling at her brother. Each parent was holding a twin girl. All five of them were looking at the baby under the shining lights. Truly, all was calm and bright.
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Until next, rejoice in the perfect Christmas gift, Jesus Christ!