Multi-colored scraps of wrapping paper littered the floor of the living room. Maddie and Monroe happily laid in the middle of the floor chewing on their Christmas bones. Bennett and Sawyer had set up a Lego kit on the game table, and the ladies of the family were looking over the books they had unwrapped.
Lizzie closed the cookbook she had been pouring over, her mind already planning which recipes she wanted to try first. “So is everyone content with their haul?”
Sawyer set down the diagram he was studying, “Santa gave me everything on my list!”
“I certainly can’t complain. I can’t believe you got me tickets to spring training!” Bennett said with the same enthusiasm as Sawyer.
“I got off easy; I only had to buy for two. Amy got tickets for Scott and all three boys,” Lizzie said.
Aunt Dorothy closed the biography she was examining, “Watch out Florida! Dot, I think we best get the Christmas rolls out of the oven, they smell about done.”
Dot reluctantly put down the mystery book she had been reading. “Yes, ma’am.”
Twenty minutes later, the family gathered around the kitchen table and indulged in the gooey cinnamon rolls they had eaten every Christmas morning for as long as Lizzie could remember. Aunt Dorothy had always taken on the task of preparing them, but this year she passed the torch to Dot, instructing her step by step in this time-honored recipe. Lizzie loved that Dot got to experience firsthand what a marvelous teacher Aunt Dorothy could be.
“Dot, these are wonderful! When you get a bit older, I might get you to work at The Biscuit Box,” Lizzie said.
Sawyer licked his fingers, “I vote we have these every weekend.”
“Then they wouldn’t be so special. We call them Christmas rolls for a reason,” Dot answered. She was clearly enjoying the family’s praise for her culinary accomplishment. Lizzie was pleased Dot felt so comfortable in the kitchen. It was a natural place for them to work side by side and strengthen their bond.
Lizzie put down her napkin and sat back in her chair, “I suppose we ought to start cleaning up; we will have the rest of the family over here in a few hours, and I need to get moving on the feast.”
Aunt Dorothy raised her hand, “We have one more present to open. Bennett if you would be so kind as to fetch the package that is on my chaise.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Bennett complied immediately, returning with a package wrapped in simple brown paper and a twine ribbon that held a silk magnolia blossom to the package. “Whom do I present this to?”
“It is really for all of you, but I think Lizzie should open it.”
Bennett sat the package in front of Lizzie, and all eyes looked expectantly as she carefully untied the ribbon and set the flower aside. She carefully pulled off the paper.
“Oh! It’s beautiful!” Inside was an album with a hand stitched cover. The border was a mix of lowcountry scenes and in the middle were the words The Wilson Family with Bennett and Lizzie’s wedding date. Lizzie ran her fingers across the stitches. She knew how much effort and time Aunt Dorothy had put into this.
Inside the pages began with Lizzie’s and Bennett’s baby pictures up to the time they were married. Lizzie’s pictures were on the left and Bennett’s on the right. After that, their wedding, the milestones of their children and events from the past fifteen years were featured together. The last page was a photo taken just weeks ago of the family gathered in front of the house. “I love it!” Lizzie’s eyes were moist with tears. She did not try to contain them. Tears of joy were always welcome. It was refreshing to cry from overwhelming happiness instead of the fear and sadness that had brought tears in the recent months.
Aunt Dorothy smiled, “I am so pleased. Amy helped me with the childhood pictures of Bennett and with the layout of the pages.”
Lizzie nodded. “Now I know what you and Amy were up to that afternoon.”
“Mama, I got to help with some of it too,” Dot said.
Aunt Dorothy winked at Dot, “Yes my namesake is excellent at keeping a secret. There is more, turn to the back cover,” Aunt Dorothy gestured.
Lizzie did as she was instructed and found an envelope attached. She opened it and removed the documents inside. Bennett came and stood over Lizzie’s shoulder. They looked together and were stunned. It was a legal document officially making Lizzie and Bennett the legal owners of the house.
“I don’t know what to say,” Bennett said shaking his head. He placed his hand on Lizzie’s shoulder.
“You don’t need to say anything; I really want this house to be your family’s home. It would be Lizzie’s someday anyway. I just moved up the timeline,” Aunt Dorothy reassured Bennett.
Lizzie looked across the table at Aunt Dorothy, “But this is still your home!”
“Of course it is, child, but it is yours as well. Besides, now the tax bill comes to you,” Aunt Dorothy said, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
Dot touched Lizzie’s arm. “Can I look at the pictures again?”
Lizzie pushed the album over to Dot, “Of course, sweetie.”
Dot slowly turned the pages and examined the photos with Sawyer at her elbow. Lizzie’s heart was full. All she truly held dear was gathered around this table. She concentrated on the scene around her trying to record it in her memory bank. Dot got to the end with the photo of all of them surrounding Aunt Dorothy on the front steps.
Dot looked at her mother. “We’ll have to start collecting pictures for the next album,”
Lizzie raised her eyebrows. “The next album?”
“Yeah, of all the great times we are going to have living in this house.”
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