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December 25, 1996
Harmony and Leo sat in the floor by the Christmas Tree watching the parade on TV. Mary was cleaning the last of the lunch dishes and Gene was sitting in his favorite chair reading the newspaper. Every now and then Mary would smile and Gene would look up as the heard the children get excited about one of the floats or large balloons in the parade. Leo had never seen a parade until the before when he had accompanied Harmony and the Harrisons to the Miami Christmas parade. It had been fun to see in person, but the floats weren’t as big as the ones the kids were now seeing in the televised parade from Disney World.
Mary finished with the dishes and joined her family in the living room. “Do you kids think you’ll be able to pull yourselfs away from the TV long enough to open up a couple of presents?”
Harmony jumped up and turned the TV off as Leo smiled from ear to ear. The Harrisons laughed and told each of the kids to pick a present. Without waiting Harmony grabbed the present she bought for Leo and he grabbed the present he had gotten for her. Gene mumbled something to his wife about ‘young love’ and she giggled while slapping his hand playfully.
Leo and Harmony exchanged boxes and he waited for her to open the box Gene Harrison had helped him wrap earlier that day. Harmony tore into the wrapping paper as she laughed. Then she lifted the lid on a small box and found a perfect sand dollar sitting on some crinkled tissue paper.
“I found it on the beach. I thought it was pretty like you are and since I don’t really have any money to buy you a present I thought you might like it. Someday, I’ll have a job and I’ll make lots of money and I’ll buy you one of those nice houses on the water. I promise.” Leo explained quickly, hoping that if Harmony didn’t like his present the promise of a larger one someday would keep her happy.
Harmony carefully pulled the sand dollar from the box and turned it over in her hands. Leo held his breath as she examined it with a far away look in her eyes. “It’s beautiful, Leo. It’s the most beautiful present I’ve ever been given.” Leo smiled at her. “Open your present now.” Harmony urged him.
Leo opened his present and found a Miami Dolphins football jersey bearing Dan Marino’s name and number 13. Leo had watched football games with Gene who explained the rules and plays to him. Dan Marion was Gene’s favorite player and so he was also Leo’s favorite player. Leo jumped up and hugged Harmony and then Mary and Gene while they all smiled and laughed.
Leo ran back to the tree and grabbed a present for Mary. She opened it and saw an empty soda bottle that he had covered with brightly colored tissue paper and glue. “It’s a flower vase. We made them in art class at school and I wanted to give you mind.”
Mary was touched by the sweet act. “Well, it’s beautiful and it will come in handy with all those pretty flowers you’re always giving me.”
Leo smiled and Harmony grabbed another present. “Here, Gene, open this one. It’s from Leo too.”
Gene reached out and took the present. “You know you didn’t have to give us presents, right? We’re just happy that you could join us.”
“It isn’t much. I made it myself, but someday I’ll have a job and make lots of money and I’ll buy you a real present then.”
Gene could feel himself choking up at the kindness and hope that still lived inside this boy. A boy that had known every reason in his short life not to be kind or hopeful. “I bet you will. I just bet you will.”
“Open it!” Harmony exclaimed as everyone laughed.
Gene found a small frame inside the box that had been made out of painted popsickle sticks and glitter. “I love it. As a matter of fact, I’m going to get the camera and take a picture of you kids to put in the frame.”
Leo was thrilled that his small gifts had been so fondly received and grabbed Harmony so they could stand in front of the Christmas tree to pose for the camera.