Kiylee's Christmas

Chapter One - Moving In

    I was only nine when we moved from the house on Creekwood Drive.  I left my friends, my school, my teacher, even my dogs, but it was worth it.  We were all tired of tiny rooms and bunk beds.  I even had to share a room with my 7-year-old brother.  What a pain! 
    We started building our new house one week after my birthday in 1993.  My baby brother, Nathan, was only four days old when they dug the hole for our basement.  The house was huge, with four bathrooms and four bedrooms.  Mom would get an office and a craft room and Dad would get a three-car garage.  The kids would have a toyroom in the basement and a place to do our own laundry.  Like we really wanted the laundry room!  Mom said that it was both or neither, so I guess we’ll have a nice place to play.  We only have one washer and dryer anyway, so I don’t know what good it does to tell us that we have to wash our own clothes.
    Mom and Dad got a huge bedroom with a big green tub.  They said it was big enough for all of us to take a swim, but I don’t really think so.  Nathan is sleeping in their room, so, for now, Neal has a room of his own.  I don’t know why a 7-year-old needs a room of his own, especially one bigger than mine, but Mom and Dad never ask me what I think.  My little sisters get to share a room.  Kinsey is four and Kiyna is three.  They like to play together, so they don’t really care.  I get the last room.  It’s the smallest, but Mom says that I will never have to share with anyone so I shouldn’t complain.  They let me decorate it any way I wanted so I chose black and white flowered wallpaper and red chair rail.  It looks really cool.  Most people hate it, but I don’t care.  They don’t have to live there.
    We spent a lot of time in our new neighborhood even before we officially moved in because we had to move out of our old house on June first.  Mom and Dad were able to find us a squishy little apartment for those two months, but it was dangerous there and we had to stay inside most of the time.  The apartments were arranged in circles and there was a playground in the middle of each circle.  When we first moved in, we thought that we would be able to spend some time on the swings and slide.  But the first day we were out there, we found bullet casings under the slide and a boy chased us with a baseball bat.  After that, Mom made us stay inside.
    It was hard to stay in the apartment because we didn’t unpack anything.  Even though we put some stuff in storage, it was way crowded with boxes and furniture.  Mom and Dad felt bad that our house was running behind schedule, so as soon as Dad got home from work, we would all climb in the van and drive to our new neighborhood.  We walked around and got to know some of the neighbors.  We even put up our wallpaper and stuff in our rooms before the house was finished.
    Sometimes we would leave the neighborhood and go on a license plate hunt.  It was one of our favorite games.  Dad would drive the van around the hotels that were close by and we would look at all of the license plates.  Our apartment complex had plates from all over the country, so it was a good place to check.  One day we had nearly all of the states, so we begged Dad to keep driving.  We went clear in to Murray and Midvale, just looking for license plates.  We never did find Hawaii or Rhode Island.  Oh well, 48 wasn’t too bad for one day.
    Finally, our house was done.  We started at our new school on Tuesday and we moved into our house on the next Saturday.  It was all so exciting!  We’d been living in that awful little apartment for so long, our new bedrooms seemed huge. 
    Since school had already started, I was plenty busy just trying to fit in, make friends, and do my homework.  Mom and Dad promised me that on the first birthday I had in the new house, I could have a huge sleepover with all of my new friends.  Since my birthday was in November, that gave me a few months to figure out who I really wanted to invite.  Mom limited it to 15 girls, but I wasn’t sure I could even come up with that many friends in just a couple of months.  I started making my lists and dreaming about the party.
    August and September slipped by and the weather started to turn colder.  We’d been able to wear shorts to school until it got too cold.  We usually didn’t even do most of our school shopping until traditional schools started because Mom said that the sales are always better in September. 
    I remember the school shopping trip very well, because Mom and Dad took us all to WalMart and we actually did all the shopping at once.  We’d never done that before.  Mom usually took us to two or three stores and we got a couple of things in each store.  Dad usually bought our school supplies and he just brought them home.  Well, not this time. 
    Neal, Kinsey, and I all got new shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirts, and jackets.  Then Mom and Dad let us choose backpacks, notebooks, crayons, pencils, rulers, and all that school stuff.  We got to do that because Mom and Dad decided that we wanted to play a game to help us keep our new house clean.  They made each one of us a bingo board with jobs and when we got our first Bingo, we got a pair of socks or a new shirt.  With two bingos, we could get a backpack, and if we finished our entire board with a blackout, we got a new jacket.  Of course, we all worked really hard with prizes like that.  Everybody earned a blackout, so Mom and Dad took us all shopping at once.  I didn’t usually think much about money.   Mom and Dad pretty much bought us everything we needed, but I was surprised when I heard Mom tell Dad that our new stuff cost nearly $800.00.  That’s a lot of money!  But things were about to change drastically at our house.  Two weeks later, my dad got laid off from his job. 
    Dad is an electronics design engineer and he had worked for the same company since I was four years old.  We didn’t have a clue that his job was shaky, or we probably would never have built our new house.  Mom said that it tripled the amount of money we had to pay each month just to have a place to live.  As I said, I never worried much about money before, but after the layoff, it seemed to be a constant worry.  We couldn’t go to the store and just buy whatever groceries we wanted.  We had to be careful.  Mom started cooking more with the stuff we already had in the kitchen, like chili beans.  I like chili, but my brother and sisters don’t.  Neal only liked cold cereal and noodles, so he had a bad time.  I think there were lots of days that all he ate was what he had for school lunch and some bread and butter.
    We really thought that Dad would get a new job right away.  He did get some money from his company to help him find a new job.  It sounded like a lot to me until Mom explained that it would only make two house payments.  I started to wonder about my birthday party.  Mom and Dad aren’t always great about keeping promises like that, and if they had a good excuse, well, maybe my sleepover would be history.  I stopped telling my new friends about it and just kept my mouth shut.  
    About the 20th of October, Mom brought up the subject.  She asked me if I had my list ready for the party.  I was so surprised.  “I thought the party was canceled,” I said. 
“Why?” asked Mom. 
“Well, because we don’t have any money and Dad doesn’t have a job,” I replied.
 “Look, Honey,” Mom said.  “We still have to live, even if we don’t have much money right now.  The party won’t cost that much if we’re careful.”  I must have looked worried, because Mom quickly said; “We can make our own pizzas instead of ordering out.  And Dad can make your cake rather than buy it at the store.  The party will still be great.  Don’t worry so much.”  I gave Mom a big hug and then ran to my backpack to uncover my hidden list of friends.  I think Mom was a little surprised that I already had 15 friends listed, but we made invitations and I passed them out at school the next morning.
    Most of the girls were in my class, but a few from our neighborhood were on different tracks, so I had to find them at lunch or recess.  By the end of the day, my party was the hottest thing going on, except for Halloween, of course.

 Chapter 2 - Making Friends

    The party was only hours away and I was stressed!  I had talked to everybody at school and even though they all said they were coming, I was still worried that no one would show up.  After all, I really didn’t have any good friends yet.  I’d only lived here for a few months.  What if no one showed up?  What would I do?  How could I go back to school on Monday?  I shouldn’t have worried so much.
    The party started at 6:00.  By 5:55, my friends were already showing up.  By 6:30, 13 of the 15 girls I invited were running around my house.  I would never have admitted it then, but I barely knew some of these girls.  Some of them were from the popular crowd and I really wanted to fit it.  To tell the truth, I was kind of surprised that they showed up, but I was glad they did.
    We had great fun at the party.  We started with pizza and videos.  We played some games and opened presents.  I got some cool stuff, like makeup, jewelry, and books.  Presents are always nice, even if they aren’t the reason for the party.  After that, we had cake and ice cream.  Then we spread out our sleeping bags for a late movie.  It was after midnight when Mom and Dad went to bed and the real party began.  We ran around the house, got into makeup, got out Mom’s curling irons, and just made a mess in general.  Mom said that we could make popcorn and it got thrown everywhere.  It seemed that my new friends were out of control and I couldn’t do anything to stop them. 
    About 4:00 a.m., some of the girls, including me, started to get tired and we finally fell asleep.  I heard later that two girls stayed up all night.  I don’t know if they did or if they just said that so we would all think they were cool.
    Mom woke us all up about 9:30 for breakfast.  Dad made French toast and orange juice.  Most of the girls didn’t even want to get up, but they finally did.  At least Mom and Dad were nice enough to throw their fit after all the girls left.  They said that I could never have another sleep over, that I was irresponsible, you know, all that grown up talk.  I told them it wasn’t me, but it didn’t seem to matter.  I was the one who was going to be punished because they were my friends.
    It didn’t take long before half those girls at school were mad at me for some reason anyway.  I guess they weren’t really interested in being friends, they just wanted to come to the party.  Since Mom and Dad were still kind of mad, I didn’t care that much.
    It was the holidays and we always spend that time together as a family anyway.  Nathan had his first birthday right after mine; then it was time for Thanksgiving.  Mom and Dad had planned a huge Thanksgiving feast at our new house.  Some of our relatives had not been to see us yet, so Mom and Dad had a gathering of about 50 people planned from both sides of the family.  I thought they were crazy!  I know our house is pretty big, but where were they going to put all those people? 
     But Dad had it all figured out.  He rigged up a table in the dining room out of two huge pieces of plywood.  All the grownups except Mom and Grandma sat in there.  They got the best food, but we had plenty for us.  Because Dad was still unemployed, he started cooking the feast on Tuesday.  That gave him plenty of time to get everything finished.  Mom is not the cook at our house.  Dad and I can cook much better than Mom.  It works out, because Mom is always in charge of cleanup. 
    Thanksgiving was great.  I got to play with my cousins and eat until I nearly threw up.  My cousin, Todd, is about my age.  He told me that he was going to play basketball in a league right after Christmas.  I had never played basketball before, but it sounded fun.  After everyone was gone and we were cleaning up, I asked Mom if Neal and I could join this league.  They called it Jr. Jazz.  Of course, we knew that money would be a problem, but Mom promised to call and find out all the details.

    By Monday, Neal and I were both signed up to play Jr. Jazz.  I was really excited.  I had never played any basketball before, not even at school.  Other than practices and games with my team, it didn’t look like I’d be playing much anywhere else either.  We didn’t have a basketball hoop and neither did most of the neighbors.  Neal had a friend with one down the street, so it wasn’t such a big deal for him.  I didn’t have anybody.  Some of the kids played at recess, but it was mostly the boys and they didn’t think that girls were good enough to play with them.  Boy, were they wrong!  My Jr. Jazz team was awesome!  I don’t know how I landed on the best team in the league.  Most of these girls had been playing together since 2nd grade and they were good!  I started to worry that they wouldn’t like me because I couldn’t even make a basket.  Mom was sympathetic, but she made it clear that while Dad was not working, we couldn’t afford a basketball standard and I’d just have to practice at school.  I was starting to get used to disappointment.  I pinned my hopes on Santa Claus until Mom announced a homemade Christmas.  Not that I minded making gifts for my brothers and sisters; I liked crafts and sewing and painting and stuff.  I was just hoping for a gift that was clearly not possible.
    My basketball team played three games before Christmas.  I didn’t play much, but it sure was fun to win.  We had two girls who were almost six feet tall.  None of the other teams in the league had anyone over 5’6”.  I was not quite five feet tall and even though I practiced dribbling nearly every day, I still couldn’t handle the ball very well under pressure.  Our league was split into two brackets and our team was placed in the winners’ bracket.  They didn’t call us winners and the other teams losers, but we all knew what was what.
    We didn’t have a game the week before Christmas or for two weeks after.  My coach wanted to practice though, so twice a week, we met and ran through plays, even three days before Christmas.  After that final practice, the coach pulled me aside and said, “Kira, you really need to work on your shooting at least an hour a day.” 
    I didn’t know what to say.  “I don’t have a hoop,” I mumbled. 
   He looked concerned.  “We’ll call after Christmas and maybe you can come over and practice with Ashley,” he said.  “But if you ever want to be any good, you’ve got to learn to shoot under pressure.” 
   “See you,” I mumbled to Ashley and I ran across the parking lot to our van. 
   Dad was waiting for me.  “How was practice?” he asked cheerfully. 
   “OK,” I said.  I must not have sounded convincing because Dad looked at me with that ‘concerned parent look.’
   “What happened?” he asked. 
   “I don’t know,” I answered.  “Otto just thinks I should practice more, but without a hoop, it’s really hard, Dad.” I caught my breath and wiped the sweat from my forehead and chin onto my shirt. 
   I looked back at Dad and I could see the sadness in his eyes.  “I’m sorry, Honey,” he said.  “Being out of work isn’t fun for any of us.  I thought sure I’d have a job by now.”  He cleared his throat.  “Maybe Santa will come through,” he managed. 
   I shook my head, “Yeah, right.”  Dad looked at me.  “Don’t look at me like that, Dad.  You know lots of kids at school don’t believe in Santa anymore.” 
   “I guess they don’t believe in miracles either?” Dad asked.  He was getting testy and I really didn’t want to argue with him. 
   “I don’t know, Dad,” I answered.  “They don’t talk much about that kind of stuff.”  I turned my face to the window and rested my forehead against the cool glass.  Powdery flakes were floating gently to the ground as we turned into our subdivision. 
   “I guess we might have a white Christmas after all,” Dad offered. 
   “I hope so,” I said, glad of a safe topic.  Dad was so cranky these days; it was hard to have a conversation with him. 
   “Mom’s got a lot of work to do tonight, so I want you to quickly finish your jobs and get to bed early,” Dad said. 
   “What are my jobs?” I asked. 
   “Family room, batch of laundry,” he stated firmly, expecting an argument.  I groaned, but very softly.  I always got the hardest jobs.  Mom said it was because I was the oldest and I got the most privileges.  I’m not sure any of that makes up for the extra work.  “Honey?” Dad interrupted my thoughts. 
   “I do believe in miracles and in Santa Claus.”  I looked quickly to see if he were teasing me, but his face looked very serious and very sad at the same time.  I squeezed his hand.
   “Thanks for the ride, Dad,” and I climbed out of the car.  “I’ll do my jobs fast.  What’s for supper?”  I promised myself then and there to have a talk with the other kids about Christmas.  We didn’t really need anything but Dad to get a new job anyway.  I opened the front door and forced a big smile as I headed upstairs to get my laundry. 
    I did have that talk with my siblings and we all agreed.  Kinsey and Kiyna needed a little prodding, but they were OK after I told them how sad Daddy was.  They gave him as many hugs as they could over the next few days and on Christmas Eve, we went to bed with low expectations but happy hearts.  Dad didn’t act nearly as depressed and Mom sang Christmas Carols long after our lights were out.  Grandma and Grandpa Ockey were staying with us.  They had never spent Christmas with us before, and it was exciting to share that special time with them.  Uncle Randy was in Alaska, so only Aunt Deb and Aunt Amy came with Grandma and Grandpa.  Mom had lots of siblings, but only two of her sisters were married.  She also had two older brothers, but they lived halfway around the world and they didn’t come home much.
    Christmas morning dawned bright and early.  I stayed in my bed for a few moments, just listening to the silence and watching the Christmas lights twinkling in the hall.  I could tell that everyone was still sleeping.  I peeked out the window and smiled at the freshly falling snow.  “Good,” I thought to myself.  “Maybe Grandma and Grandpa will get snowed in and have to spend an extra couple of days with us.” 
I threw back the covers and made my way cautiously to the door.  Neal’s room was next to mine, so I woke him first.  “Neal!” I whispered loudly.  “Wake up, it’s Christmas!” 
   His eyes popped open and he grinned up at me.  “Did you wake the girls?” he asked excitedly. 
   “No,” I whispered, “you can do it.” 
   He threw back his quilt.  “I’ll wake the girls and we’ll let Kiyna wake Mom and Dad.”  He swung his legs to the edge of the bed.  “What time is it?” he whispered. 
   “Nearly six,” I answered.  “Let’s go wake the girls.”  Kinsey and Kiyna were harder to wake than Neal, but we finally convinced them it was really Christmas and they needed to see what Santa brought for them.  Nathan was sleeping with Mom and Dad, so we sent Kiyna in to wake them up.  After all, who could get mad at a cute little three-year-old with long blonde hair and big blue eyes on Christmas morning?
    Mom and Dad moaned and groaned, but they finally pulled themselves out of bed.  After waking Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Deb and Aunt Amy, we headed for the family room.  I tried to calm the little kids by telling them that Santa was extra busy and he probably didn’t have time to leave us as many toys this year, but I didn’t need to bother.  The family room was covered with wrapped packages and one really huge one by the back door had my name on it!  I tried to contain my excitement as the girls discovered dollhouses and Neal opened a guitar.  I finally got my turn, and as I ripped down the paper, I saw a picture of a basketball hoop and I shouted, “Thank you, Santa Claus!”  The basketball standard was obviously unassembled, but it was there and I began believing in miracles when I turned and saw the huge grin on Dad’s face.
   “Let’s put it together, should we?” 
Mom looked up from the dollhouse and smiled.  “You’d better stay in the garage,” she cautioned, “I think we’re in for a blizzard.”

 Chapter Three - Mom’s Knee     

I never did make a basket during that season, but boy, did I practice!  Our team was undefeated and we also won the county-wide tournament.  It was great to be part of a winning team.  Things were going better at home too.  In January, Dad decided to start his own consulting business.  He bought a new computer with a credit card, applied for a business name, and started advertising.  Soon, he had enough work from several companies to keep him busy for a while.  Mom didn’t look nearly as stressed now that she had more than just Dad’s unemployment check to help her pay the bills. 
    After basketball ended, I was anxious to try another sport and Mom suggested softball.  I was assigned to an Oquirrh team and I played in the outfield.  I had been on a County Rec baseball team before, but this was different.  It was very competitive and my coach didn’t seem interested in teaching me to compete with those girls who’d played since they were two.  I swear, one girl played like she’d been born with the mitt on her hand!  It was fun, but I didn’t get to play very much.
    I think Mom knew I was upset about not getting to play.  Worse than that, I just didn’t seem to be making any friends on my team.  The girls in my neighborhood weren’t that friendly either.  School was OK, but I still didn’t have even one close friend.  Sometimes the girls at school even said mean things about me when they didn’t think I could hear them.  Then they would laugh like they just told the funniest joke in the world. 
I didn’t tell anyone about those girls, and it was pretty easy to hurry straight to the third grade hall so that I could walk home with Neal after school.  I guess Mom finally figured it out, because one morning during breakfast she asked me right out, “Kira, how’s the friend thing?  You haven’t had anyone over since your birthday party.” 
    I stared at my bowl of corn flakes.  I really didn’t want to tell her the truth, but I figured she would get it out of me sooner or later, so I took a deep breath, “Not so good, actually.”
   Mom stopped spooning Cheerios into Nathan’s mouth.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “You had all those girls at your party.” 
   I swallowed hard, “I know, Mom. But they don’t seem to like me anymore,” I said in a small voice. 
   “Did you have a fight?” 
   My eyes filled with tears that I carefully wiped on my sleeve before I looked up at Mom.  “No.  I think they were just nice to me because they wanted to come to my party,” I answered.  Mom didn’t seem surprised.  She started feeding Nathan again. 
    “I’ve got an idea,” she finally said.  “Why don’t we look for a Girl Scout troop for you?”  She smiled.  “I’m sure they have troops in this area.” 
   Now that was a good idea!  I had been in Brownie Scouts in our old neighborhood.  It was fun, but then Mom got pregnant with Nathan and we had to quit.  Mom was one of our leaders, but then she got sick and had to stay in bed for a while, so after cookie sales, we just kind of stopped having meetings.  “Would you be the leader?” I asked Mom. 
   She thought for a moment, “You know that I would like to be the leader, but how about if we wait until next year to start our own troop?  For now, why don’t we just see if we can find a troop for the rest of the year?”  She smiled. 
   “OK,” I said.  “Call today, so I can start right away.” 
   “You know,” Mom said.  “I think Kinsey is old enough for a Daisy troop.  Do you think she’d like scouts too?”  Kinsey always had to do everything I did, but I guess I wouldn’t mind so much.  We wouldn’t be in the same troop.  We probably wouldn’t even meet on the same day. 
    Boy, was I wrong!  Our troops did meet on the same day and in the same place.  We met at a Methodist church in West Jordan.  It was a little strange at first.  I’d never been in a Methodist church before, but we got used to it after a while.  It was much smaller than our church and all of the scout meetings were held on Monday nights.  They had troops for all of the levels in the same place, but the Juniors were in a different room from the Daisy girls.  My leader was kind of weird.  She didn’t really want to work on patches or anything.  She just seemed to like to spend time with the girls.  I was kind of glad when we only met with that troop for about two months.

    As it turned out, Mom didn’t sign up to be my scout leader for the next year because she was playing volleyball at our church when she hurt her knee bad enough that she had to have surgery.  She went to the hospital while we were at school.  Dad went with her and Grandma came to stay with Nathan and Kiyna.  Mom’s surgery was over by the time we got home, but she was way too sick to see us.  Even when she came home the next day, she just kept throwing up. 
   Mom was very cranky.  I was glad to leave the house every day to go to school.  When I came home, she would be lying on the couch in the same place.  She had a leg brace that ran from the top of her thigh to her ankle.  She couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help.  She had crutches, but she couldn’t use them very well.  She had stitches down the front of her leg and I had to rub her knee around the stitches to keep her skin from scarring.  And she always needed something; a drink of water, her scissors, a book, some crackers.  The list went on and on. 
   I tried to hide in my room when I got home from school so that she would ask someone else to help her, but she always wanted me to come anyway.  Dad said that it was because I was the oldest and Mom knew I was responsible.  I ended up baby-sitting Nathan and Kiyna because Dad had some big thing going on at work.  For a few days our neighbors brought us meals, but after that, I even had to cook supper for all the kids.
   After a week or so, Mom started going to physical therapy, but she couldn’t drive herself, so Dad or Grandma had to take her there.  Dad had gotten a new job in October, so he couldn’t get off all that much, and Grandma only stayed for a couple of weeks.  The worst part about Mom not being able to drive was that we couldn’t get where we needed to go either.  I had piano lessons and early morning band.  We couldn’t go to the grocery store or WalMart.  I hated being stuck at home.  There were times when I just had to get out of the house.  It was November, but it was still pretty warm, so sometimes, I’d climb out the window in Mom and Dad’s room and just sit on the roof.  I even took a book out there a couple of times, just to get away from everything.
   Christmas came again.  We couldn’t do much because Mom was still using the crutches.  The doctor told her that she was going to be fine, but I thought he was crazy.  It looked to me like she would probably limp forever.
   By March, I’d had enough.  I was tired of being Mom’s slave and tired of baby-sitting and tired of school and jobs and homework.  Mom got pregnant after her surgery.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want another brother or sister.  It was just that Mom usually got cranky when she was pregnant and with the knee, things just went from bad to worse.

 Chapter Four – Nathan’s Diagnosis

    In April, Mom took Nathan to the doctor for a checkup.  I still remember the day she brought him home.  She came in the house with this blank look on her face.  I was baby-sitting all the other kids, so I plunked in a Barney movie and joined Mom in the kitchen.  She was acting really weird.  She wasn’t using her crutches any more, so she could at least fix dinner, but she didn’t.  She just sat at the kitchen table and stared at her purse.  I asked her about dinner and she just said that we’d order pizza.  Whatever it was, it couldn’t be that bad if we could still afford pizza. 
    I ran to the office and got the cordless phone and the pizza coupons.  When I came back in the kitchen, Mom was still staring at her purse.  “Mom,” I finally asked.  “What’s wrong?” 
    She slowly looked up at me and her eyes filled up with tears.  “Nathan’s not talking,” she said flatly. 
    “Well,” I said, “he’s only two.  He’ll talk soon.” 
    “The doctor doesn’t think so,” Mom said.  “He thinks Nathan needs to go to a specialist.” 
    “Why?” I was angry.  What could a specialist do that we couldn’t do?  Force Nathan to talk? 
    Mom covered her face with her hands.  “I don’t know,” she moaned.  “Nathan is fine.  He’s a good boy.  A little slow maybe.  A little hard to handle maybe, but he’s a good boy.”  Mom was losing it.  I could tell.  I hardly ever saw her cry unless it was something major.  I put my arms around her and gave her a big hug. 
    “Don’t worry, Mom,” I said.  “Nathan is going to be just fine.  We can help him.  We can teach him to talk.”  I didn’t know how I was going to show Mom that we could teach Nathan to talk, but she seemed to need to hear me say the words, so I said them.  Mom hugged me back and after a minute or two, she stopped crying.  “When does he see the specialist?” I asked with a fake smile. 
    “I don’t know,” said Mom.  “I have to call and make an appointment.  Since it’s Friday and it’s late, I think I’ll wait until next week.”  Mom picked up the phone and ordered the pizza.  She seemed much happier, so I didn’t say anything else about Nathan then.
    But by the next Friday when I asked Mom about the appointment, she said that she had forgotten to call.  I knew better.  Mom didn’t want to call.  She didn’t want Nathan to go to therapy.  She didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong with him.  I heard her tell Dad that the first thing the specialist would do is test Nathan’s hearing.  If he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t speak.  I knew he could hear.  When I yelled at him, he always came running.  He just couldn’t speak.  He could say ‘mama,’ ‘dada,’ ‘ball,’ ‘bye,’ and ‘dog.’  Other than that, most of his words sounded like a foreign language.  He was two and a half years old.  When Kiyna was two, she could say just about anything.  She even got me in trouble a few times for saying things she shouldn’t be saying.  Like the ‘shut opposite from down’ word.  That was against the rules at our house.  If Mom or Dad heard me say it, I always got a punishment job. 
    By the first part of May, I heard Dad tell Mom that if she wouldn’t call the specialist, he would do it.  I’m not sure that Mom would have ever made the call if Dad hadn’t forced her to do it.  Anyway, Nathan got his first appointment for the last week in May.  He didn’t care.  He didn’t even know what was going on.  But Mom knew, and so did I. 
    When the day of the appointment finally came, I stayed home and watched Kinsey and Kiyna while Mom took Nathan to the clinic.  I couldn’t sit still while she was gone.  What if something was drastically wrong with Nathan?  Would I have to baby-sit him until I was 30?  Would he ever learn to talk, or would we all have to learn sign language?

    When Mom finally got home, I was a basket case too.  To make things worse, she didn’t know anything!  Even the results of the hearing test would take a few days.  Mom was exhausted, so I made supper.  Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs were my specialty.  I sat by Nathan and helped him cut his hot dog into little pieces.  I looked into his big brown eyes and then I gave him a hug.  “We’ll show them,” I whispered.  “You’ll learn to talk and then you can tell them a thing or two!”  Nathan laughed, but I knew he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
    When Dad got home, I unladed my dishwashers very slowly.  I wanted to hear Mom tell him about Nathan’s appointment.  She didn’t like the people or their ideas.  Dad urged her to stick with the program at least while the insurance would pay for it.  I think Mom would have gladly stayed away from the clinic forever, but Dad was insistent, so the next week, Mom took Nathan back for his first appointment with the speech therapist.
    Six weeks after that first appointment, Mom got laid off.  She said that the speech therapist wasn’t doing anything for Nathan anyway, so she just canceled the rest of his appointments and said that he wouldn’t go back.  Ever.  I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.  When Mom made up her mind, it was pointless to argue anyway.  Besides, I had other things to think about. 
    Aunt Deb was getting married!  She asked me and Kinsey and Kiyna to stand in her line and be flower girls.  Mom was going to be a bridesmaid.  She was pretty upset about it because by the time Deb got married in August, Mom would be eight months pregnant.  Then, to top it all off, Aunt Deb asked Mom to make all of the bridesmaids and flower girls dresses.  Of course, Mom said yes.  She never told her family, “No!” on a favor.  At least that’s what Dad said when she told him about it.  I decided it was going to be fun even if Mom was going to spend the next month in the craft room behind her sewing machine.
    Aunt Deb came up one day and she and Mom went to the fabric store to choose patterns and material.  They brought home this shiny green satin and lots of white lace.  The patterns weren’t too bad either.  Mom called the dresses “princess lines,” but they were about knee-length with short sleeves.  All the princesses I’ve ever seen in fairy tales wear long dresses with long sleeves. 
    Mom did spend all of her time in the craft room.  I had to watch Nathan and Kiyna, but they mostly liked to play outside on the trampoline or in the sandpile, so I just took my book and a blanket and camped out on the lawn with a huge glass of ice water.  It was a nice way to spend the last of those hot summer days.  Neal and Kinsey were already in school, but I was on my way to middle school so I didn’t have to go back until after Labor Day. 
    Mom finished the dresses only one day before the wedding.  She was horribly stressed, of course, but we were excited about spending the weekend at Grandma’s house.  I got to do all of the packing so that Mom could sew the shoulder pads into Aunt Laurie’s and Aunt Mel’s dresses.  And I know she sewed the lace down the front of Kiyna’s dress while Dad drove for two hours to Grandma’s house.  Well, it was really more like three and a half hours by the time we stopped every half hour for Mom and Kiyna to go to the bathroom!  I’m not sure I ever want to be pregnant when I get older.  Mom looked like she was carrying a basketball under her dress, a shiny green basketball.   
    The wedding was fun.  After we stood for a couple of hours and shook hands with people we didn’t know (boring!), all of the kids went outside and decorated Aunt Deb’s car with balloons and newspaper.  Then we got to throw rice at them.  I don’t think Aunt Deb was all that happy by the time they got ready to leave. 
    We came home early Sunday morning to a messy house.  Mom went straight to bed and I had to clean up.  Dad said that I shouldn’t complain because I didn’t have to do my chores all weekend, but the other kids didn’t have to work because they all had homework to do.  I didn’t have homework, but I had lots of planning to do to get ready for Middle School.  I only had a couple of weeks before I would be a student at South Jordan Middle School and I had to worry about shopping and friends and grades and teachers and makeup and getting lost.

 Chapter Five– Number Six

    Actually, starting middle school didn’t turn out that bad.  Mom took me over for the orientation and I found all of my classrooms and I met some of my teachers.  I was nervous that first day, but I had quite a few classes with a couple of girls that I knew from Jordan Ridge, so they quickly became my best friends.  Mom said I could wear makeup, but I didn’t have any, so that was easy.  Shopping didn’t turn out to be a problem either, because we didn’t have much money with Mom not working.  It was one trip to WalMart and my money was gone, but I did get some cute things.  Mom can sniff out a bargain anywhere.  I think she got it from Grandma because when they shop together, they come home with some pretty amazing things and it seems like sometimes the store even pays them to take stuff home!
    But ready or not, I became a student at SJMS.  The hardest thing about middle school was just getting between classes.  They didn’t give us much time, so the halls were awful.  Kids would just come slamming through, not even caring if they trampled or smashed anybody against the lockers.  On the first day, I had a couple of huge bruises where I had been whacked with backpacks or books.
    But the schoolwork wasn’t all that hard.  I made honor roll the first quarter, even though other exciting things were happening at the same time.  I had a new baby sister!  Kiylee was born right on schedule on September 24.  She was tiny and sweet and I loved her right away.  In fact, I kind of adopted her.
Mom’s company called her about a week before Kiy was born.  They wanted her to come back to work.  We needed the money and so Mom said she would start when Kiy was two weeks old.  Mom was working from our house, but while she was typing, she still needed someone to hold the baby.  I got to be the one.  Because I was in middle school, I got home earlier than the other kids did.  Mom was always tired and frustrated by the time I came through the door, so I would take Kiy on the couch and cuddle with her until she fell asleep.  I usually fell asleep too until Kiy would wake up and want to eat.  By that time, the other kids were home and I would help Mom make supper.
    Sometimes it bugged me that I had to baby-sit all of the time.  Mom and Dad both taught classes in the evenings, so they were gone a lot.  Dad bought a new swing that didn’t make any noise so that Kiy could go with them.  That just made it worse.  I didn’t mind watching Kiy.  It was taking care of everybody else that I didn’t like.  I just didn’t see why it had to be my responsibility.  They could have hired a baby-sitter.  I think they just didn’t want to pay anybody and they knew I would have to watch the kids for free.
    I don’t mean to be nasty.  After Mom went back to work, there was enough money that sometimes she would just bring me something home when she went to the store.  Like, one time she brought me a pair a chartreuse green jeans.  They were so cool!  Another time, she brought me some new dressy shorts with a blouse to match.  Sometimes it was just a bag of M&Ms, but it was nice to be remembered.
    Christmas came and went again.  Kiy was so cute!  She was only three months old, so she had no idea what was going on, but we dressed her up in a little Pooh Bear sleeper and sat her on the floor to watch the lights from the Christmas tree. Kiy smiled and smiled as Mom and Dad let Kiyna open all of Kiy’s presents.  They would have let Nathan open them, but he would hardly even open his own.  He didn’t really understand what was going on.  For weeks we wouldn’t let him touch any of the packages and suddenly, we were all ripping them open.  It must have been very confusing to a three-year-old, especially one like Nathan.  He never said anything that made much sense other than “Mom” and “Dada.”  He couldn’t even say Kira.  I heard Mom telling Grandma how nervous she was that Nathan might hurt Kiy because he might think she was a doll.  When he played with toys, he usually threw them around and played rough like most little boys.  But most little boys could understand the difference between a doll and a baby.  Because Nathan couldn’t understand the words, we didn’t figure he could tell them apart.  And Kiy was so tiny that he could hurt her easily if we didn’t watch him all the time.

    But Nathan seemed to have a special spot for Kiy.  He never hurt her.  He played very carefully with her and she seemed to love him right back.  By the time she was six months old, she was crawling all over.  The worst thing Nathan did was try to feed Kiy candy or soda pop.  And then he was just trying to be nice.  With most of us, he didn’t understand the word “share,” but with Kiy, it was no problem.
    It was about that time that Nathan started pre-school with the Jordan District.  It was kind of weird because a huge school bus would stop in front of our house and we would drag Nathan to the door.  He usually didn’t want to go to school, but once he got there, he seemed to like it.  We got to visit his classroom and it looked like a fun place to play.  They had lots of toys and games and colorful pictures on the walls. 
Nathan’s tests had determined that he had a severe communicative disorder, whatever that means.  Mom said that it meant he couldn’t talk and he would have to spend time with a speech therapist at school.  At home he acted like a baby and he always threw a fit when he didn’t get his own way.  We usually had to give in to whatever he wanted.  It was a good thing he was cute, because we were all tired of his tantrums.
Kiy kept growing too, but not very fast.  She was tiny and petite and she was light as a feather.  She was sweet and easy to love.   It was a good thing, because we were about to try something new.

 Chapter Six – A Family Trip

     We had never been on a vacation before.  Yeah, we’d been out of school for Christmas and summer, but I mean we’d never really gone anywhere.  We sometimes made plans, but when it came near time to leave, Mom and Dad would change their minds and say they didn’t have enough money and maybe we could go next year.  But this time, they weren’t making the arrangements.
     Jim was getting married!  He was 36 and he had never been married before.  He is Mom’s oldest brother, but he gets mad at us when we call him “Uncle,” so it’s just Jim.  His wife was also 36 and she hadn’t been married before either, so Grandma and Grandpa wanted to have a big family thing to celebrate.  They planned another wedding reception just like Aunt Deb’s, except that this time Mom didn’t have to make the dresses.
     Anyway, Jim lives in New Zealand and his wife, Naimah, is from Singapore.  So they got married in Singapore and then they came to Utah for another wedding and reception.  They said their vows in Aunt Laurie’s backyard and the wedding reception was at a church near Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
The reception was pretty much the same, stand in line, shake hands, smile and pretend we’re having a good time.  That wasn’t the part I was excited about.  Back in December when Jim announced that he was getting married, he also invited the entire family on his honeymoon.  I know that sounds weird, but he thought that we all should get to know Naimah while she was in the United States since they would be going back to New Zealand and we wouldn’t get to see them that much.
     I didn’t care about that part, but the idea of a real vacation sounded great.  Jim put Aunt Laurie in charge and she started making arrangements for everybody.  She wanted money in January for all the rooms, so I knew if Mom and Dad paid up front, they wouldn’t back out at the last minute.  We were going to Yellowstone first; then we would go to Wyoming and spend some time in the Tetons and Jackson Hole.
We were supposed to leave the day after the reception and drive all day.  Then we would get to Yellowstone late in the day and spend our first night there.  It started out kind of fun.  Grandma rode with us and some of my other aunts and uncles traded cars so we could spend more time together.  We stopped at a rest area just before we left Utah and Nathan’s shoe fell out.  Dad picked it up and set it on top of the van.  That was the last time we ever saw it.  Don’t ask me why he didn’t just toss it back in the van!  Mom teased him about it for the rest of the trip.
     We played the license plate game and the alphabet game until we stopped in Idaho Falls for lunch.  By then we were getting tired of riding.  Kiy was just learning to crawl, so she hated being stuck in the van for that long.  Luckily, we bought a little TV and VCR that kept Nathan entertained, but the rest of us were pretty tired of watching Barney. 
     We wandered around the Idaho Falls LDS Temple for a while and watched the water slide off the edge of the embankment.  It was really cool.  It wasn’t really like a waterfall, because the water just kind of dropped off the edge and down into the canal.  Mom was really nervous because Nathan liked the water too much and she was afraid that if we let go of him for even a minute, we’d never see him again.  In fact, Mom’s little paranoia at the temple set the stage for the entire trip.  I don’t know, I guess she just thought that one of us would die somewhere along the way.  First it was the temple, but it got worse when we actually got to Yellowstone. 
      The first night we stayed at the Canyons.  The rooms were pretty small and our family and Grandma squeezed into two rooms.  Since we didn’t want to spend very much money, we also took coolers with food and drinks and stuff.  We didn’t want to attract any animals to the van, so we drug all of it into our room.  We didn’t have much room anyway, and having to trip over coolers and boxes just made it worse.  We were so crowded!

     But I was excited too!  We finally went somewhere on a family trip and it was even better than just our family.  We had everyone with us.  Mom has seven brothers and sisters and they were all there with their families except Gary, who wasn’t married and lived in Japan, and Aunt Deb and Uncle Layne.  They didn’t come because their baby was due any time and the doctor didn’t think that they should leave town.
Anyway, we had a pretty big group.  Our new aunt was nice, but we didn’t really get to spend much time getting to know her.  She rode the whole time with Grandma and Grandpa in their car and other than a little bit of time in the evenings, she and Jim stayed in their room.  I think she was tired.  She had that huge wedding in Singapore that she planned all by herself.  Then she came to Utah and went through another wedding and reception.  Then she got in a car and listened to Aunt Amy gab for hours.  She must have been exhausted!
     We got up that first morning after finally sleeping for a few hours.  I was staying with Grandma in her room about 30 feet from Mom and Dad’s cabin.  We opened the door and when we got about half way over to the other cabin, we noticed three buffalo standing about 50 feet from us!  Neal was scared, but he wouldn’t admit it.  I had read books on buffalo, so I knew how fast they could move.  I started walking faster, and I sort of pushed Neal in front of me.  We finally got to Mom and Dad’s door and I don’t think those buffalo even glanced at us.  Mom and Dad had the door locked and we finally roused them out of bed about ten minutes later.  Those buffalo could have eaten us in the amount of time it took for Dad to find his glasses and step over coolers and boxes to get to the door.
     Kinsey and Kiyna were very excited to see the buffalo, but Mom and Dad made us keep our distance.  Then Uncle Randy came over from his cabin to see what all the fuss was about.  He started walking toward them like they were in the zoo and there were iron bars to keep him safe!  He’s lucky they didn’t gouge him in the stomach.  We finally got him to move away from them and we all piled into the vans and cars for our first real look at Yellowstone.
     I think Mom’s first real look at Yellowstone was enough!  We drove a few miles to see one of the waterfalls.  I don’t know what she was expecting, but she put Kiy in the backpack and grabbed Nathan’s hand.  We all kind of skipped ahead on the path and Mom and Dad followed.  The path was well used, but the walls were short and really wouldn’t keep anybody safe.  The cliffs were high and they dropped two or three hundred feet to the river bottom.  That was the good part.  By the time we got to the waterfall, I thought Mom was going to be sick.  She wouldn’t let us get close to the wall to look over at the water.  Nathan’s hand was practically purple because she was holding it so tight.  Mom took one peek and hustled us all back to the van. 
     The second place we stopped was at the geyser basin.  Grandma helped Nathan into his stroller and started down the path.  Mom was changing Kiy’s diaper and she told all of us to stay put until she was finished.  It took us about ten minutes to realize that Nathan and Grandma were too far ahead and we weren’t going to catch up with them before we entered the basin.  Mom was terrified of the geysers and the pools of burning water that always went with them.  I thought she was going to faint when we couldn’t find Grandma and Nathan.  Grandma never remembered to fasten the seat belt in the stroller and Nathan liked to climb out whenever and where ever he wanted.  Because he couldn’t talk and understand things, “danger” was not something that bothered him.  Most of the time, “HOT!” didn’t even mean anything. 
We took the short path through the basin.  Mom had Kiy in the backpack and I could tell that Mom’s leg was bothering her.  She was very upset and after about 100 yards, she found a bench and sat down.  We waited there for about 15 minutes.  Dad found Uncle Glen and asked about Grandma.  They hadn’t seen her either.  Aunt Laurie’s family joined us on our bench and we all waited.
     Finally, we heard Grandma coming before we saw her.  Mom sent me down the trail to make sure she was OK.  She still had Nathan in the stroller and she was patiently pointing out things to him as they passed.  Nathan was looking around, content as could be with his little tour of the geyser basin.  As soon as we reached the rest of the group, Nathan climbed out of the stroller and started to run.  Mom grabbed at him and caught him, but luckily, Uncle Glen was close by, because as she grabbed for Nathan, Kiy nearly fell out of the backpack. 
     Of course we left the geyser basin right away.  Mom was a basket case.  I think that was the last time she got out of the van to look at anything.  When we stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone I heard her ask Dad to please bring us all back.  She stayed in the van with Nathan and Kiy.  I think one of the reasons Mom was so upset was that at one of the bookstores, Grandma bought a book called Death in Yellowstone.  It talked about all these kids who had been mauled by bears, fallen into the geysers, or toppled off the cliffs.  Most of them were just plain stupid, but it was kind of scary how quickly something can happen.  I read the book too, and I remember one story about a guy who had his dog with him.  He was supposed to keep the dog locked in the truck, but he didn’t and the dog fell into a geyser.  The guy was stupid enough to jump in to try to rescue the dog.  Of course he and the dog both died.  The temperature was way above boiling. 
     Another story told about a mother who was standing there with her five-year-old son watching Old Faithful when the boy took one step backward because he was scared by the spray.  He fell off the boardwalk into a geyser pool and was scalded and died instantly.  That’s the one that scared Mom.  I think that ever since she found out that Nathan had problems, she just knew that something bad was going to happen. 
     As it turned out, the only injury anyone suffered on our vacation was a bite from a vicious buffalo gnat.  It got Neal right on the upper lip.  Within an hour, his lip was so swollen; it looked like he’d been in a boxing match and lost big time.  He could hardly eat and his lip cracked and bled.  We didn’t know why his lip was swollen until we were in a grocery store and a lady who had had a similar problem told us what to do for him. 
     The Tetons were more enjoyable.  Mom relaxed a bit and we were all able to have more fun.  We took a boat ride around a lake and we drove into town to a cowboy ranch for dinner.  Our cabins were much bigger and more comfortable.  Mom even said that we could come back to the Tetons sometime if we just skipped Yellowstone.
     We made our way home through Jackson Hole.  We had lunch there and then we shopped at some of the tiny stores.  Dad bought us doughnut holes from a street vendor who made them right in front of our eyes.  We also saw all of the elk horns stacked up at the park. 
     The ride home seemed even longer than the ride to Yellowstone.  Everybody was tired and ready for a nice hot bath.  It was late when we finally got home, so we just all kind of fell into bed.  We didn’t even unload the van.  Mom didn’t care, she was just glad to be home with everyone still alive.  I didn’t care, as long as I could sleep in my own bed and listen to my own music.  Nathan was just glad that he didn’t have to wear clothes all the time and Mom was so tired, she even let Kiy sleep with me.

 Chapter Seven – Christmas Eve

    The rest of the summer passed quickly.  I started eighth grade in September.  I liked my teachers and my classes.  I was elected as a student representative for the Parent Teacher Student Association and I was chosen to be a member of the Junior National Honor Society.  Kiy had her first birthday and she grew her first four teeth all in one week.  Nathan started school again in September too.  He was learning to speak, even though he was still way behind all of the other kids his age.  It was weird, it was like he and Kiy were the same age.
    In November, Mom and Dad told us that we were going to have another baby.  We were all excited.  I was sure that it would be a boy since we already had four girls and only two boys. 
Mom had her second doctor’s appointment on Christmas Eve and Dad decided to go with her since the doctor had promised that they could have a look at the baby on the ultrasound.  They left about 9:30 in the morning and I was still tired.
    I was lying in my bed feeling lazy, after all, it was the Christmas holidays and I deserved a break from getting up early.  I knew that I was baby-sitting and responsible, but Kiy was asleep on Mom and Dad’s bed and Nathan was downstairs watching cartoons with Kinsey and Kiyna.  When I heard the water running in Mom and Dad’s room, I figured that Neal was in their shower, so I let it run. As it turned out, Neal had heard the water too, but he thought that I was the one in the shower.  He had just gotten a great present from a friend, root beer and a huge candy-cane and he was anxious to show them to me.
    He ran up the stairs and yelled, “Kira, are you modest?”  Hearing no answer, he opened the door to Mom and Dad’s room and Nathan ran out.  Nathan was naked and wet and Neal knew that Nathan was not allowed to shower alone.  It only took Neal a second to know that something was wrong.  He ran into the bedroom and saw Kiylee floating face down in the big green tub.  He threw the presents on the floor and grabbed her blue little body out of the ice-cold water. 
    Suddenly I heard him scream, “Kiylee’s dead! We killed Kiylee!”  He pounded on my door and handed her to me.  He was hysterical and crying.  I grabbed her and said, “Neal, go call 911!  Tell them we have a baby that we found in a tub, and stay calm!”
    Neal ran down the stairs and called 911, while I sat on the stairs and cleared Kiy’s throat.  She was so cold!  I had learned CPR in school and in scouts, so I knew what to do, but something deep inside me shriveled into a tight little ball of fear as I started listening to her chest and automatically doing the things that had to be done.  What if she died?  My parents would never trust me again.  What would I do without my little sunshine?  She was my baby.  I’d spent almost as much time cuddling with her as Mom had.  I felt for her pulse and again pushed my fingers into her mouth and throat.

    I was getting ready to start chest compressions and real CPR when she started to throw up and poop everywhere.  There was some on my shirt and all over the stairs, but I didn’t care.  Kiy was the most important and even though she was still blue, now at least she had shown some signs of life.
    Neal yelled for me to come downstairs and sit by the telephone, so he could give me instructions from the dispatcher.  I ran downstairs with Kiy in my arms and told Kinsey to get a blanket and clothes for Kiy.  I told Kiyna to go get my glasses and then to keep Nathan in the family room.  It wasn’t his fault.  He had put Kiy in the tub and we all knew it, but he didn’t understand that what he had done would hurt her.  He just wanted to give Kiy a bath.  They had baths together all the time, but never without someone making sure that nothing bad happened.
    I told Neal to tell the 911-dispatcher that Kiylee had a pulse and was breathing, but she was horribly blue and cold.  Meanwhile, our next door neighbor who is a paramedic, was pulling out of his driveway when he heard the call on his scanner.  He flagged down another neighbor who is also a paramedic.  She happened to be driving in front of our house right when we needed her.  Together, they began stabilizing Kiy within a minute of Neal's call.  The South Jordan paramedics arrived about five minutes later and kicked us out of the kitchen.
    We knew we had to call Mom and tell her what was going on.  I knew she would be upset.  She had worried that something would happen in Yellowstone, but she thought we were pretty safe in our own home.  I knew she wouldn’t blame Nathan; she would blame me.  I was supposed to be baby-sitting.  I was supposed to be responsible.  Kiy was so tiny and sweet and I had let her be in danger.  She might even die and it was all my fault!
    Neal called Mom and tried to tell her what was going on, but he ended up crying hysterically.  Mom was trying hard to stay calm, but she lost it when I told her we found Kiy in the tub.  I couldn’t tell her if Kiy would live or die, but I knew she wasn’t dead yet.  I tried to tell her that they were life-flighting Kiy to Primary Children’s Medical Center, but Mom was so hysterical that I don’t think she understood me.  A paramedic came in just then and I gratefully handed him the phone.  He told her to calm down and carefully drive to the hospital because she would probably get there before Kiy.  I stayed nearby during the entire conversation, but the paramedic didn’t tell them anything that I didn’t already know about Kiy’s condition.  He told them that she was still breathing, but that was all.
    I went back into the living room where all of my brothers and sisters were lined up on the couch.  They were crying and upset.  Neal was struggling with Nathan.  He didn’t want to sit quietly; he wanted to watch TV.  Neal was trying to put some clothes on him, but he wasn’t having much luck.  I took Nathan’s hand and he settled down.  I mechanically pulled on his Levis and t-shirt and slipped his arms into his coat.  I knew that the helicopter was on its way and I didn’t think that they would let us stay there without my parents since we had already had one accident.  I just wasn’t sure where we were going to go.  I knew the paramedics didn’t want us to see them stick IVs and breathing tubes into Kiy.  They also didn’t want us to know if she suddenly stopped breathing. 
    After a few minutes, our next door neighbor, Janice, took us all to her house.  They wouldn’t even give me time to change my shirt.  We sat on her living room window seat and we watched Kiy go down the street on a stretcher.  They didn’t dress her and she was covered with all sorts of tubes and wires.  The helicopter had landed in the middle of the street a couple of houses from ours.  The policemen had put up a tape-line so that none of our neighbors could get in the way. 
    We watched the life-flight crew load her tiny body into the helicopter and then we saw the helicopter take off.  All this time, our neighbors were gathering.  By the time Kiy’s helicopter was in the air, about 50 of my neighbors had gathered at our mailbox.  A neighbor organized a prayer circle and they all pleaded for a miracle.  Most of the people were crying and hugging their own children.  I think everyone thought that Kiy would probably die.  Why would they life-flight her if she could have ridden in the ambulance?  Besides, she was so cold and blue.  How would they ever get her temperature back up to normal before it damaged some of her body parts? 
    I was scared.  I looked at Neal and I could tell that he was scared too.  By then, I didn’t care if Mom and Dad grounded me for the rest of my life, as long as my little Kiy lived.  I just wanted to hold her in my arms and tell her everything would be OK, but I couldn’t.  It was Christmas Eve and we really needed a miracle.

 Chapter Eight – Just Waiting

    We stayed at the neighbor’s house for lunch and later, after the paramedics had gone, I went home to have a shower, change my shirt, and clean up a little bit. It was Christmas Eve, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
We stayed with different neighbors until Aunt Julie got off work and came over to stay with us. Then we went home and the cleaning began. The paramedics had made a big mess with muddy boots and plastic and stuff.  Not that it was all that clean before, but it was a relief to get rid of some of the reminders of what had happened to Kiy.
    We still hadn’t heard anything from my parents. We knew they were at the hospital because Mom had called one of the paramedics while they were waiting for the helicopter. We kind of figured that no news was good news. If she had died, we would have heard about it already.
    One hour later, Grandma arrived. Her drive normally takes two hours without construction, but it only took her one and a half hours this time. Aunt Julie and Uncle Mike left and we waited with Grandma for a call from Mom and Dad.

    That call didn’t come until nearly dinnertime. When I heard Mom’s voice on the other end of the line, all I could say was, “I’m so sorry, Mom,” then the tears just started to pour out of me. 
    Mom was crying too. “Kira,” she choked out, “It’s not your fault or Neal’s fault, or Nathan’s fault.  Nathan didn’t know. He was just trying to help.” 
    I sobbed quietly for a minute, then I managed. “Did Kiy die?” 
Mom sighed. “No. They moved her to the Intensive Care Unit and they have her hooked to all kinds of machines. She’s still very cold and even if they get her warmed up without damaging her internal organs or giving her a raging fever, she could still have brain damage or physical damage.” 
    Mom was actually very calm as she told me all these things that could go wrong. “Do you think she’ll be OK?” I pleaded. 
    “I do,” whispered Mom. “I just feel like everything will be OK.” After I hung up, I felt better too, but I was worried. It still sounded like we needed a miracle.
    The neighbors were worried too. They kept coming over with all kinds of treats and goodies and hugs.  They cried a little with us and tried to make us feel better. Then I helped Kinsey and Kiyna finish wrapping their presents. We cried again as we put Kiy’s presents under the tree. We didn’t know if she would ever get to open them or play with them. Kinsey and Kiyna wondered what Santa would do with all of her toys if she never came home. We hugged each other and cried some more. If Kiy died, how would we ever celebrate Christmas again?
  Chapter Nine – The Morning After

    I didn’t sleep much.  I kept seeing her tiny blue body floating in the big green tub.  I snatched her and held her.  Then the helicopter would land and pick her up and I would climb in the back, clutching her little body to my shirt that was stained with poop and throw up.  At the hospital, I would run up and down all of the halls, clutching Kiy and crying, looking for Mom and Dad and not being able to find them.
I woke up with tears streaming down my cheeks when Grandma turned on the light.  “Kira, are you OK, Honey?” she asked. 
     “I just want Kiy,” I sobbed. 
    Grandma sat on the edge of my bed and put her arms around me.  She hugged me close and whispered, “Everything’s going to be OK.  Just try to go back to sleep.” 
    I dozed off again and when I opened my eyes, the bright sun shone through my window.  It was Christmas!  But then I remembered Kiy.  Was it a dream?  I dragged myself out of bed and hurried to the master bedroom to tell Mom and Dad about the horrible dream I had. 
    But they weren’t there.  They were at the hospital with Kiy.  The tears came again as my mind wandered through the events of Christmas Eve.  I flopped down on their bed and pulled a pillow over my head.  I was vaguely aware of the phone ringing from far away.
    I was so glad to hear Dad’s voice.  He told us that he would be coming home for a few hours to check on us.  Mom was going to stay with Kiy.  The doctor hadn’t been in yet, but they almost had Kiy’s fever down and they were hoping that she could come off the respirator sometime on Christmas Day.  He also said that they still had Kiy under sedation so that she would not pull out her respirator by herself.  She also had a catheter, two IVs in her forehead, and lots of other wires and tubes. 
    Dad explained that because the water was so cold when we found her, Kiy’s body temperature was about 72 degrees when she got to the emergency room.  The doctors were very concerned about bringing her temperature up before hypothermia set in. They decided to warm her from the inside out. They took out some blood, warmed it up and put it back in. They repeated this over and over again all night long until she was warm.  Then about 4:00 a.m., when she finally warmed up, she started running a fever.  He said they weren't even able to touch her for a while, but she was finally sleeping, so he was going to come home. 
I think they were worried that we would be disappointed because Santa Claus had not visited us.  They should have known that we were just worried about Kiy.  The only Christmas present any of us wanted was to know that Kiy would be fine and coming home soon.
    We quickly straightened up the house for Dad.  He didn’t need any more stress from us, but he didn’t show up for about three hours.  Just as he was about to leave the hospital, the nurses decided to take Kiy off the respirator.  They said she was breathing on her own and progressing wonderfully.  Dad said that the nurses thought that Kiy would probably be able to come home around New Year’s Day.  We were so happy!  We could wait until New Year’s Day.  We could wait until Valentine’s Day, as long as we knew she would be coming home!   Then Dad gave us the best news.  We needed to find our coats and shoes and we could all go and see her.
    I think we were all in the van in less than five minutes.  Dad wanted a quick shower and a change of clothes.  He also had to gather a few things for Mom and we were all waiting patiently in our seat belts when he finally locked the front door. 

    It took us about 30 minutes to drive to the hospital.  The van was incredibly quiet.  We had no idea what to expect.  We were nervous and scared and excited all at the same time.  Dad looked very tired.  I sat in Mom’s seat in the front, but he didn’t want to have a conversation, so I stared out the window and watched the lines of the freeway pass by. 
    Dad parked the van in the visitor’s parking lot and we all climbed out.  Nathan didn’t want to go inside the large unfamiliar building.  He hung on my hand until Dad finally picked Nate up and put him on his shoulders.
    The lobby was huge with a high ceiling and several elevators.  Kiy was officially in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but most people called it the PICU.  Nathan had always hated elevators and he had a short tantrum before we were able to get everyone inside and the right buttons pushed. 
    As we stepped off the elevator, Dad led us into a smaller waiting room with a couple of TVs and a large aquarium.  It also had lots of chairs and a couple of couches.  A half dozen people were lounged there.  Some were even sleeping on the couches with their belongings scattered around like they were actually living at the hospital. 
    Dad opened a door and we entered a room about the size of Mom and Dad’s walk-in closet at home.  It contained a bed a little bigger than mine and an alarm clock.  Other than that, there was a small walking space and nothing else.  “What’s this?” I asked Dad curiously. 
    “This is our room,” Dad replied. 
    “You slept here?”  I couldn’t believe it. 
    “Yes,” Dad said. 
    “And so did Mom.”  He sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Well, when we did sleep.”  Dad continued, “One of us stayed with Kiy all the time until about 4:00 a.m. when we couldn’t even touch her because of her fever.”  Dad rubbed a tired hand across his beard.  “Then we came in here and slept until about 6:00.”  I put my arm around Dad’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze.  He seemed to need a hug, because he squeezed back.  Then Neal tugged open the heavy door and we found ourselves in the waiting room again. 
We stepped through another doorway and then we were standing outside the blue double doors that led into the PICU.  Even Nathan was very quiet.  There weren’t any signs or anything, but we could hear the monitors and buzzing sounds before we even opened the doors. 
    Kiy was in the very first bed on the east side of the room.  The sun was streaming through the window, lighting up her bed.  Mom was sitting in a chair right next to the bed.  She wasn’t asleep, but she looked like she should have been.
    I was a little nervous.  Mom had said on the phone that she wasn’t mad at me, but I wasn’t sure how she was going to react until she looked up and saw us all standing there by the door.  She stretched her arms into a wide hug big enough for all of us and we ran to her.  Mom squeezed us all like she hadn’t seen us for months.  When she finally let go, I peeked over at the bed to see Kiy.  I was afraid to look at her.  Dad had said that she was all bloated from the IVs and she had wires everywhere, but I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
That baby lying in the crib didn’t even look like Kiy.  Her wispy blond hair that was usually flying everywhere was matted to her swollen face.  Her big blue eyes were tightly closed beneath two huge round circles taping needles into her forehead.  She sucked quietly on a pink preemie pacifier.  At least the pacifier was familiar.  She always had one in her mouth at home.
    Kiy was only wearing a diaper and I could see one big wire hooked into the inside of her leg just above her knee.  She had three round circles with what looked like snaps on them attached to her chest and there were wires connected to the snaps and then into several big machines.  I knew one of them was a heart monitor, because I’d seen stuff like that on TV.  I didn’t know about the other one.  Her feet and hands were still pretty blue and they looked cold.  I wanted to touch one, but I was afraid to. 
    I looked at Mom and her eyes were full of tears.  She was hugging Nathan and he was struggling to get away.  Grandma and Dad were crying too.  I couldn’t help it when my own eyes began to water.  What a Christmas Day!  It was my fault that we were all there in the hospital when we should have been home opening presents and eating Christmas cookies.  And my poor little Kiy!  What had I done to her?  Why didn’t I stay in Mom and Dad’s room after they left?  Why didn’t I wake her up and take her downstairs and get her some cereal and watch a movie with her instead of leaving her in the bedroom all by herself?
    I hung my head and let the tears fall.  Deep in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t my fault.  I knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault either.  It was nobody’s fault, it was just an accident.  A terrible, awful, horrible accident; and it happened to my little Kiy!  
    Suddenly, I felt Mom’s arms around me.  I turned and sobbed into her shirt.  “Why did this have to happen to Kiy?” I choked.  “She is so sweet and so tiny and so....” 
    My words were muffled as Mom stroked my hair.  “There must been some reason that we all needed to go through this experience.  We just need to be grateful that she is still with us.  The doctor says that she will probably not die, but we won’t know about brain damage or physical damage for a while.” 
    I slowly lifted my head and stared into Mom’s cloudy blue eyes.  “Brain damage?” I questioned. 
    Mom still held me in her arms, but she was looking at Kiy.  “Yes,” she said quietly, “The doctors say that it is far too soon to know if there will be any permanent damage.  We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Wait and see.”  The words echoed in my brain.  What kind of brain damage?  Would she be able to walk?  Talk?  Feed herself?  And what could happen to her physically?  She was off the respirator, so I knew that she would be able to breathe on her own, but would she have lung damage?  Heart damage?  These disturbing thoughts swirled through my brain like the snow that was beginning to fall in spite of the sun.
I walked to the window and stared at the half-full parking lot.  How many other families were spending their Christmas Day like we were?  Were their babies hovering between life and death with such uncertain futures?  Did they blame themselves and wonder what they could have done to make sure their babies were safe and healthy?
    I felt Dad’s hand resting on my shoulder.  It didn’t make me jump, it was just kind of comforting.  I turned to meet his eyes.  They were red and puffy with dark circles like he hadn’t slept in days.  “Should we go?” he suggested. 
    I turned back to Mom.  She was holding up Nathan so he could see Kiy.  He wasn’t impressed.  I don’t think he even thought it was Kiy.  I looked quickly at Dad.  “Can’t I stay?”  I asked.  “Just for a little while?” 
    Dad was about to say, “No,” I could tell, when Mom answered for him.  “I think it would be a good idea if both Kira and Neal spent a little time with Kiy.”  She squeezed Dad’s hand.  “Why don’t you take Grandma and the kids home, grab a little nap, and then come back?  Then Kira and Neal can ride back with you and spend some time with Kiy.”
    Dad agreed.  He certainly was tired and he did need a nap.  We started gathering the kids together and putting on their coats.  We were just getting ready to leave when the blue double doors opened to a face that looked vaguely familiar to me.  She was a young, blonde woman in green doctor’s clothes.  She gave me a big smile and then she turned to Kiy.  “How is Kiylee doing?  From what the doctor said, it only looks like good news.”  I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she said, “You don’t know who I am, do you?”  She chuckled.  “I’m Amy.  I was the nurse on the life-flight helicopter yesterday.”  She paused, “I worried about our little Kiylee here all night until I had to come in and see for myself that she was OK.” 
    “I knew you looked familiar,” I said.  I turned to everybody, “Do you guys remember Amy?”  They all had blank looks until I said, “The helicopter ride?  Remember?” 
    Amy chuckled again.  “You know,” she said, “I came down here earlier and visited with your folks and they said that it would be OK for you all to come out to the launch pad and look at the helicopter before you go home.  Would you like to go now?”
    When we left Mom and Kiy in the PICU, I wasn’t sure if I could ever be happy until Kiy was safe at home, but Amy’s smile was contagious.   She seemed so positive that Kiy would be fine that I started to believe she was right.  After all, she was a nurse and she’d seen lots of babies like Kiy survive horrible accidents.  Amy knew what she was talking about!  Besides, I’d never been inside a real helicopter before.
The launch pad was on the top of one of the buildings of the hospital.  I was glad that Dad was with us so that he could hold onto Nathan.  I held Kiyna’s hand on one side and Kinsey’s hand on the other.  I didn’t want more accidents with any of my other little sisters.  Neal walked ahead with Amy.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I’m sure that he was driving her crazy with all kinds of dumb questions.
    The helicopter seemed huge when it landed on our street, but when we got up close to it, I could see that it wasn’t really that big at all.  In fact, the inside was smaller than the ambulance we had seen on our field trip to the fire station, but it had the same type of equipment.  There were all kinds of monitors and machines and medicines.  They had a little refrigerator that held blood and other stuff that needed to be kept cold.  Everything was wrapped in plastic and very sanitary. 
    The little bed that they put Kiy in was strapped to one wall.  There were a couple of seats plus the seats up front for the pilot.  Amy climbed up inside the helicopter.  She looked like she belonged there.  She pointed to the machines and began explaining what each one was for.  We listened for a while until Nathan decided he was ready to go home.  He started tugging on Dad’s hand and throwing a fit, so we thanked Amy and she led us back to the elevator.  I hope I never see that helicopter up close again! 
    We crossed the parking lot and headed for our van.  I usually held onto Kiy when we went anywhere, but she wasn’t there, so I held onto Kiyna.  She probably thought I was weird, but she didn’t say anything. 
Dad helped Nathan and Grandma up into the van and the rest of us crowded in.  I usually get the front seat when Mom is not with us, but I didn’t say anything when Grandma clicked her seatbelt and settled there.  Part of me was glad that Grandma was with us, but the other part of me felt like I could have watched the kids without her.  I was hoping that Mom and Dad would still trust me to baby sit when they weren’t home.  Not that I particularly like being home alone at night, but I could still watch everybody during the day.
    The wailing of an ambulance interrupted my thoughts.  My heart started thumping and I linked my hands together.  I craned my neck to see the flashing red lights.  Dad pulled over to the curb and we watched the red and white vehicle go whizzing by us toward the hospital.  Kinsey started to cry softly.  Dad turned to see what was wrong and I watched the sadness fill his eyes when he figured out that nobody was picking on her.  I swallowed the lump in my own throat and rested my head against the cool glass of the window.  Nothing was over yet.
Chapter Ten – Christmas Day

    I noticed that the sunshine was quickly melting the crusty snow as we drove into our neighborhood.  We’d had a white Christmas, but all signs of the beautiful white flakes of last night were gone and all that was left was the gray crunchy stuff that didn’t even make good snow angels.  There were kids out playing with what looked like new Christmas toys.  A couple of little boys had a new sled and they were trying to get it to slide, but the crunchy stuff wouldn’t let them get very far.  Some other kids were riding new bikes in their garage.  We could see them going around and around in little circles.
    I looked around at my brothers and sisters.  They didn’t look very happy and neither did Dad.  So far, Christmas Day had been much different for us than it had been for these other families.  Of course, it wasn’t really Christmas Day for us.  Santa had avoided our house and he wouldn’t come until Kiy was home, and nobody knew when that would be. 
    Dad pulled into our driveway and everybody piled out.  I helped Nathan out of his car seat and set him down on the cold concrete.  He immediately started whining, so I picked him up and carried him into the house.  Christmas decorations were everywhere and presents were still lying under the tree, but I didn’t see them.  As I held my little brother and he snuggled in my arms, I knew I couldn’t blame him for what had happened to Kiy.  He really didn’t understand. 
    Tears blinded my eyes as I climbed the stairs to my room with Nathan still in my arms.  I shut the door quietly and pulled down the blankets on my bed.  After tugging at Nathan’s shoes and then my own, we climbed in my bed.  He was already starting to snooze and his little face looked so innocent and sweet.  Gently I removed his coat and then my own.  I rested my chin on his soft hair and closed my eyes.
    It was starting to get dark when I heard Dad calling my name.  “Kira!  Kira, wake up!”  Nathan was gone and I was wrapped tightly in my blankets.  Dad was calling from the entryway, which meant that I had to get up and open the door to talk to him.  My head still felt groggy as I dragged myself out of bed.  I stumbled to the door and opened it.
    Dad had a big old grin on his face.  “They’re moving Kiy out of the PICU and into a regular room!  She’s doing great!  I told you there is a good reason to believe in miracles!”
    I think I flew down the stairs.  I gave Dad a hug and we danced a little jig.  “Is Mom still on the phone?” I asked.  “I want to talk to her.” 
    Dad let go of my hand and glanced at the clock in the kitchen.  “I think you’d better wait a little longer to make sure they are settled in the new room before you call.”  He picked up a piece of paper from the table.  “Here’s the new number, but wait until 6:30.”  It was only 6:10.  How could I wait?  I wanted to talk to Kiy!
I sat down in the living room and stared into the lights of the Christmas tree, but I couldn’t just sit for long.  I was too excited.  I jumped up and headed for the fridge.  My stomach was growling.  I was finally hungry and the thought of food didn’t make me feel like I wanted to throw up. 
    I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk and sat at the kitchen table to eat it.  Grandma was crocheting and the kids were watching Miracle on 34th Street..
    I glanced again at the clock, 6:20.  Time seemed to be crawling.  I forced myself to concentrate on my sandwich, but by 6:22, it was gone.  Since Mom wasn’t home to give me a bad time, I brushed my crumbs on the floor and carried my empty glass to the sink.  Only eight more minutes!  I could wait for eight more minutes.
    I wandered restlessly to the living room and sat down at the piano.  Kiy loved to play the piano, I remembered.  I plunked out the melody to Jingle Bells.  I should have practiced more when Mom and Dad were paying for lessons.  I started over and that time I was able to put in a couple of the left-hand notes. 
After a couple more tries, I suddenly remembered Kiy.  I jumped from the piano bench and headed for the kitchen phone.  The family room clock said 6:29, so I grabbed the phone number and quickly began to dial.  My fingers shook with excitement as I punched the last number.
    Mom answered the phone.  Her voice sounded so good!  “Hello?”
    “Hi, Mom, it’s Kira.  Can I talk to Kiy?”
    Mom laughed, I mean, she actually laughed!  “Wait a minute,” she said.  “Don’t I get to say anything first?” 
    “OK,” I apologized.  “What did you want to tell me?”
    Mom paused for a moment.  “Well,” she said.  “First of all, you can’t talk to Kiy.”
    My heart dropped in my chest and a lump rose in my throat.  “Why not?” I finally croaked.
    “Honey, she’s still on medication and she’s still groggy,” Mom explained.  “She hasn’t even responded to me yet.”  Mom quickly added, “But she is sleeping peacefully and they have removed all of the monitors except the heart one.”
    I didn’t say anything; I couldn’t.  I swallowed the tears, but they kept coming back.  I just wanted to talk to Kiy!  Mom must have sensed that I was upset, because she finally said, “I’ll tell you what.  I’ll put the phone up by her ear and you can talk to her.  She will probably hear you even if she can’t talk back.”
    “OK,” I said.  At least it was better than nothing.
    “Here she is,” Mom said.
    “Hi, Kiy,” I began.  Suddenly the tears came.  I found myself apologizing all over again as I imagined my tiny sister curled up in a ball in the middle of that big hospital bed.  “I’ll make it up to you, Kiy,” I promised.  “I’ll take you for a bike ride and we’ll go to the park.  I’ll paint your fingernails and you can sleep in my bed.”  I made promise after promise to my sleeping sister. 
    Then, just as I became exhausted from thinking about all of the fun things that we could do, I took a deep breath so I could say goodbye.  Then I heard a tiny, sleepy voice, “Ra-ra.”  That was it.  I lost it.  My name was the first thing she said when she woke up.
    Suddenly I heard Mom’s teary voice.  “Did you hear her?” she asked quietly. 
    “I did.  She said Kira!”  I couldn’t keep the excitement or the tears out of my voice.  “Mom?”
    “When will she be able to come home?” 
    “I don’t know, Honey.  Hopefully soon.  They just want to keep an eye on her to make sure she’s OK.”  Mom sighed.  “We probably won’t know about brain damage for quite a while.”
    I swallowed hard.  “Ask the nurse, OK?” I begged.
    Mom put the phone to her chest.  I know, because I could actually hear her heart beating.  A moment later, she was back.  “The nurse said maybe by the weekend, but not to get our hopes up!” Mom said breathlessly.
    “All right!  I’ll tell the kids and we’ll start planning Christmas.”  Now I was excited.  It was Thursday night, so that was only a few days away.  We still had a lot of work to do.  I still had presents to wrap.
    “Kira?”  Mom’s voice brought me back to the phone.
    “I love you,” she said quietly.  “Give the kids a hug for me.”
    “I will,” I promised.  “And Mom?  Don’t worry so much.  We’re fine here.”
    “I’m glad to know that,” she said.  “I’m so tired and so worried about Kiy.  The last 24 hours seem like a lifetime.”
    “I know.  We’ll take care of everything, you just get some sleep.”  I thought a minute.  “And Mom?  Give Kiy a hug for me.”
    “Aren’t you and Neal still coming back over with Dad?”
    “Oh, yeah!”  I had forgotten.
    “Good,” Mom responded, “You can hug her for yourself.”
    “Bye, Mom.”
    I barely heard her say goodbye as I hung up the phone.  I had to get ready.  I was pulling on my shoes when Neal wandered back into the room.  
    “What’s up?” he asked.
    I looked up from tying my tennis shoes and grinned.  “Kiy said Kira,” I bragged. 
    “So?” he answered.  I could tell he was jealous.
    “Dad!”  I yelled.  “Are we ready to go?”
    “In a minute,” he called.  I could hear him telling Kinsey and Kiyna and Nathan to watch a movie and be good for Grandma. 
    Neal ran to the mudroom for his shoes.  I brushed past him and pulled open the door to the garage.  The rush of cool air felt good on my hot cheeks.  I climbed into the front seat and shut the door.  After several moments, I flipped on the dome light and reclined the seat.  “What is taking them so long?” I muttered.  I wanted to see Kiy.

    Just then, the door opened and Neal and Dad both came into the garage.  I yanked the seat to its upright position.  “Let’s go!” I said.  Dad grinned.  He looked much better after his nap.  Neal was excited too.  Dad hit the button to the garage door and started the car. 
    It was dark outside and snow was falling lightly as we pulled out of the neighborhood and onto 22nd West.  There weren’t many cars on the road.  I guess everybody was at home, playing with their new Christmas toys, watching Christmas movies, and eating Christmas dinner.  Only the Christensens were driving to the hospital.  I shook myself.  I didn’t care what anybody else was doing.  Kiy was all that mattered.  And what mattered now was that she was getting better.

Chapter Eleven – The Best Gift

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital.  I thought that because we were about the only car on the road that there wouldn’t be any cars in the parking lot either, but I was wrong.  I guess we weren’t the only ones spending our holiday at the hospital.
Kiy’s new room was on a different floor.  The elevators took forever and when they finally stopped at the right level, we had trouble finding the room number.  She was all the way down at the end of the hall in a private room.  I was a little nervous about seeing her again.  Kiy hadn’t looked much like herself with her swollen face and wires.  I slowed my steps until Neal shoved me from behind.  “Hurry up!” he mumbled.
“Cut it out,” Dad said quietly.
I picked up the pace as we turned the corner that led to Kiy’s hallway.  I could hear voices coming from her room.  Mom’s was definitely one of them, but I couldn’t make out the others.  I shrugged.  Must be a nurse, I thought to myself. 
Kiy’s door was wide open, so I stepped inside her room.  The voices didn’t belong to nurses.  Aunt Laurie and Uncle Glen were standing just inside the door.  We didn’t see them very often, so I was pretty surprised that they would leave their family on Christmas Day just to see if Kiy was OK.  I said a quick “Hello,” and headed for Kiy’s bed.  It looked like the same bed she was in earlier.  It was like a crib except it was higher with huge silver circular bars instead of wooden slats.  The sheets were white and clean and she was covered with a little pink blanket.  Most of the wires were gone, but her tiny face was pretty swollen.  Her hair was still matted and sticky from the adhesive buttons on her forehead, and her eyes were tightly closed.
I carefully touched the blanket at her feet.  Earlier, her feet had still been mostly blue from the cold, but now they looked a healthy pink.  She was getting better!  “Did she wake up after I talked to her?” I asked. 
Mom glanced up from her conversation with Aunt Laurie.  “Not yet,” she answered slowly.  I rubbed my finger across the bottom of Kiy’s tiny foot.  Her toes curled and she pulled away from me.  Even in her sleep she was ticklish!  Aunt Laurie’s voice caught my attention and I heard her say, “Why don’t you guys go downstairs and grab something to eat?  Glen and I can sit with her for a little while.” 
I glanced quickly at Mom’s face.  She looked so tired!  She definitely needed a break.  “Yeah,” I said, “Neal and I can stay here too.  We’ll take care of Kiy.” 
Mom looked at Dad and then she said, “That sounds like a good idea.”  Dad pulled her to her feet and she glanced around the room.  “We won’t be very long.”  Mom lingered by the bed and slowly stroked Kiy’s tiny arm before she left.  I don’t think she wanted to go, but she really needed to get away for a few minutes.
Aunt Laurie took off her coat and made herself comfortable on the couch.  Well, it was kind of a couch.  It looked like it could actually be a bed if it wanted.  Uncle Glen took the other half of the couch and picked up the remote for the TV.  Neal threw his coat in the corner and slid to the floor in front of the football game that Uncle Glen had chosen. 
I slowly pulled off my coat and laid it across the only other chair in the room.  Why were they watching TV?  I thought we were supposed to be watching Kiy.  I moved back over to Kiy’s crib and reached for her pale little fingers.  I could see all of the blue veins right through her skin.  I leaned my head close to her ear and kissed her swollen cheek.  Then I softly hummed the “I Love You” song from Barney.  It was her favorite and after talking to her on the phone, I was sure that she could hear me even if it looked like she was asleep.  I finished my song and carefully watched her little chest rise and fall with every breath.  Yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I would ever see her tiny chest rise and fall again.  My mind wandered to those terrifying moments on the stairs when I held her freezing blue body and desperately tried to clear her throat so that she could breathe.  

A tear slipped down my nose and landed in her hair.  She tossed her head restlessly, but her eyes didn’t open.  Oh, Kiy, why don’t you just wake up so that I can hold you and tell you that everything will be OK?  I rubbed her palm until it turned pink.  Her wrists were about as big around as my thumb! 
Suddenly, her eyelashes fluttered and I saw a glimpse of her pale blue eyes.  “Kiy?” I whispered softly.  I didn’t want to share this moment with anyone.  “Are you awake, Sweetie?”  I rubbed her hand a little harder.  “It’s me, Kira,” I whispered. 
Slowly, her eyes opened and she turned to look at me.  Her pupils were huge and she looked like she was on drugs.  For a minute, I could tell that she was afraid and she didn’t recognize me.  She closed her eyes slowly and then they opened again.  She looked at me and her lips moved without a sound.  Then her eyes closed again and I heard a tiny “Ra-ra.”
 She didn’t have brain damage.  How could she when she knew me?  The tears wouldn’t stop as I stood there just holding her hand.  No one else seemed to notice.  They were busy watching the game.  Mom and Dad were still downstairs in the cafeteria and I could hear the nurse down the hall.  I had just received a wonderful Christmas gift.  Maybe one of the best Christmas gifts ever.  Kiy was going to be fine.

Chapter Twelve – The Night Before

    Aunt Laurie and Uncle Glen took us home on their way back to Orem. Dad wanted to stay at the hospital a little longer with Mom. They were both hoping that Kiy would wake up and talk to them, but I knew she was going to be fine. 
    I told the other kids what had happened at the hospital, but they still seemed a little scared. Grandma just kept crocheting. Nathan watched TV, and Kinsey and Kiyna huddled together on the couch with their dolls. 
I finally went upstairs. I still had presents to wrap and things to do before Kiy came home. If she came home on Saturday, maybe we could have Christmas on Sunday. That was only two days away and I needed to be ready.
    I gathered all the wrapping stuff and lugged my bag of presents to Mom and Dad’s room. I could lock the door in there so the other kids wouldn’t see what I was doing. I usually put off wrapping my things until the last minute. If I put them under the tree early, some of them always got mysteriously opened. Neal always says it’s not him, but I wonder. 
    I unrolled some bright red wrapping paper with little angels all over it and I cut off a piece. Then I dug into my goodie bag and pulled out the first gift. It was a little stuffed dog I found on sale for Kiyna. She loved dogs, even though she hardly remembered when we had dogs in the Creekwood house. I stroked the dog’s long shaggy fur and pulled off the price tag. Kiyna was going to love him. I taped and tagged and started my pile. 

    It wasn’t long before I had a bunch of packages all ready to go under the tree. I reached into the bag and pulled out the doll that I had chosen for Kiy. She cost more than all the other presents, but when I saw her at the store, she looked just like Kiy with her big blue eyes and short curly blond hair. She had a soft body and fuzzy pink pajamas. Kiy loved babies. I touched each pink button and straightened her little white socks.  She even had a pink pacifier attached to her wrist. I smiled. She was just like Kiy. 
    I carefully cut off another piece of paper, making sure it was the right size. After wrapping the doll, I gathered up all the presents and carried them downstairs. Nobody had bothered to plug in the tree. I guess that part of Christmas wasn’t as important anymore. I arranged all my presents with the one for Kiy right on top, then I plugged in the lights. Their bright colors lit up the darkened room. Even the angel on top seemed pleased. Christmas this year was going to be perfect.

Chapter Thirteen – Christmas Eve

    I could hear the phone ringing, but I guess Grandma couldn’t. She must have taken out her hearing aids because after about eight rings she still hadn’t answered it. I dragged myself out of bed and down the hall to Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Nathan was still asleep on their bed, so it must have been early. I hadn’t grabbed my glasses, so it took a minute to get my eyes to focus on the numbers on the clock, 9:15. “It’s pretty early,” I grumbled as a picked up the still ringing phone. “Hello?” I croaked.

    “Kira?” It was Mom.
    “Yeah?” I sat down on the side of the bed and yawned.
    “Wake everybody up and get them dressed. Dad will be there in half an hour. Kiy is coming home today!”
    “All right!” I yelled. I could hear both Mom and Dad laughing on the other end of the line. Nathan sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Well,” I said into the phone, “that’s one.”
    “What?” Mom asked. She was still laughing. 
    “We managed to wake Nathan up already,” I said, pulling him into my arms for a good morning hug.  Suddenly, my tired brain understood what Mom had just said. “What happened? Is she fine? How does she look? Can she talk now?” The questions tumbled out of my mouth before Mom could answer any of them. 
    “Slow down,” she said, “one question at a time.” Mom laughed again. “Kiylee had a peaceful night. This morning, our regular pediatrician came in to see her. After looking her over, he said, ‘I think after a few more hours of observation, she can go home today!’”
    I squeezed Nathan and he stared at me with his big brown eyes. He probably thought I was crazy! “I’ll get everyone ready. Tell Dad to hurry!”
    “I will,” Mom promised.
    “Oh, and Mom?”
    “Does this mean it’s Christmas Eve?” I held my breath.
    She laughed. “Of course!” she exclaimed. “Tell all the kids that tomorrow we are going to celebrate Kiylee’s Christmas.

 Chapter Fourteen – Kiylee’s Christmas

    “Line up, line up!”  We crowded near the top of the stairs in our new pajamas.  Mom was first, carrying a fragile wrapped gift in her arms. Nathan was after her, then Kiyna, Kinsey, Neal, and finally me. Dad was already downstairs. He always went down first to turn on the Christmas tree lights.
    It was still dark outside and the living room was lit only by the lights from the tree. “Careful,” Mom cautioned as we made our way excitedly down the stairs. 
    I bumped into Neal somewhere near the bottom step and I grabbed his shoulders to keep him from falling. “Kira,” he complained. 
    “Oh, you’re fine,” I mumbled. “Hurry up.”
Mom sat down on the couch and cradled the precious gift on her lap. Usually, we all grab our stockings and then start ripping, but not this time. I picked up my gift for Kiy and carried it to Mom. I could see the tears shining in her eyes as she carefully unwrapped the blanket from Kiy’s arms and sat her up. She still looked so pale and small! I handed her the package.
    Kiy was too weak to tear the paper herself, so Mom helped her. Within a few seconds, the doll’s blue eyes stared up at Kiy from the torn paper. Kiy looked up at me and smiled. “Ra-ra,” she whispered and reached for me.
    I hugged her gently and carefully while the tears slid down my cheeks. I looked at Mom and she was crying too. “You know, Mom,” I said, “the best gifts aren’t wrapped in Christmas paper.”

    I glanced across the room at Dad. He was trying to get Nathan to open one of his presents. I laughed, “Guess what, Dad?” 
    “What?” Dad asked.
    I gently stroked Kiy’s wispy curls. “I believe in miracles.”
    He smiled. “And in Santa Claus?” he questioned.
    I looked around at the mound of unopened gifts. “And in Santa Claus!”

The End

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