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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

December 25: Christmas

I won’t bore you with all the odious little details, because Christmas is always Christmas, especially the morning part. Jingle bells, jingle all the way. Ripping apart wrapping paper. “Oh, thanks so much!” Kiss and hug. More ripping. Frosty the Snowman. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. “You’re welcome! Do you really like it?”

As per usual, my parents demonstrated such largess that I couldn’t help but feel a little undeserving of all my gifts—including a digital camera and another pair of jeans. But at least Dad lauded the utility of the telemarketer zapper I got him. Rico seemed to dig his snowboarding jacket, but the quickness with which he put it back in its gift box seemed duplicitous. I pressed him until he said it was just that the colors were a tad effeminate. I tried to act like I wasn’t hurt—no problem, I had the receipt—but it actually made me feel kind of glum. Mom seemed to love the coat and the book and the calendar, but it’s hard to know for sure.

We spent most of the day lazing and tinkering about. In the evening, we adhered to the Castarelli family tradition of cruising around Columbus, looking at Christmas lights. It’s the Christmas day event I look forward to most, one that instills a sense of joyful consanguinity. We drove through Mill Race Park, which sets up these intricate artistic light displays every year. My favorite design was the three random Christmas pigs dancing by the lake.

Then we drove through the neighborhoods, voting on our favorite houses. My dad and I both like the gaudiest, most ornately adorned houses with tons of colored lights, Santa and his reindeer on the roof and plastic manger scenes in the yard. Mom prefers the more elegant displays with neatly ordered white lights, ribbons and wreaths. Rico remains dispassionate. But we all chastise the rich people in their McMansions for being too conceited to deign to put up any lights at all.

It’s great to ride around with Mom, because she’s a total gossip queen. When we drove past a familiar house (which boasted a pathetic dearth of Christmas lights), Mom said that that was where the Barton family lived. She intimated that Mr. Barton had already gotten a reputation around town for being a real mover and shaker.

“You know the Barton boy, right?” mom asked me. “Didn’t you study with him a few times?”

“Yeah,” I said, wishing she’d drop the subject there.

“Wait, you didn’t tell me that,” Rico said. “I didn’t know you hung out with Luke Barton!”

I frowned. “Why do you care?”

“Oh, nothing. Except he’s, like, the seventh best skateboarder in the world,” Rico gushed sarcastically. Right. I’d forgotten that Luke was internationally renowned in the sport my brother was obsessed with. “I heard that, on full moons, he used to vacuum out the water from suburban pools in Bakersfield and go skating with his friends,” Rico went on.

“Sounds like a real keeper,” Mom said.

Later on, we passed by Jeremy’s house. Looking at his elegantly illuminated house, a rush of warmth overtook me. Jeremy wasn’t too cool for student government, or Christmas lights, yet he was well-heeled enough to take me out to dinner at a five-star restaurant. I was lucky to have him. He was cute, and sweet, a somewhat adept conversationalist, and not unintelligent. He was about as close to The Whole Package as a girl like me could ask for.

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