Finally, we finished and I hurried to grab the puzzle for our New Year’s celebration. As I passed the fireplace I gazed fondly at Ellie, our 3 year old pregnant Golden Retriever, dozing on the rug.
“I can’t believe her due date is only the day after tomorrow!” Seth exclaimed beside me. Our whole family couldn’t wait to meet the pups. I had secretly hoped that they would be born on Christmas Day but that hadn’t happened. Oh well, that was okay!
I swung open the game cabinet in the hall and scanned the stack of puzzles. There was the bird one, the Christmas village, the field of deer, and the scenic landscape. Which one? I thought. I brought the stack out to the dining room and set them on the table in front of Dad. “Which one do you want?” I asked.
Dad is the king of puzzles. It’s a tradition that every New Year’s Eve we stay up until midnight and sometimes later, piecing together a big one. He looked at the few in front of him and scratched his chin. “Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe,” he started, grinning. I giggled and joined in the rhyme, “Catch a tiger by its toe. If he hollers let him go; Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe.” The “moe” landed on the Christmas village. “I like that one, Cherry,” Dad said.
“I do too,” I replied. I left the puzzle with him and put the others away in the cabinet.
Soon our family gathered around the table and Mom brought a plate of sugar cookies out. “Yum!” said Seth, Matthew, and I. We each took one of the splendiferous-looking, iced cookies.
Matthew checked his watch. “Only 4 more hours ‘til next year,” he reported.
“Well,” Dad laughed, “I’ll be able to say things like, ‘I haven’t eaten since last year!’” I laughed too, and sunk my teeth into the gingerbread-man-shaped sugar cookie I was holding. As it melted in my mouth I felt slightly guilty for a moment because I had eaten his head first. Silly me, I thought.
Dad’s voice brought me back from my thoughts. “Let’s start,” he said. Matthew dumped all the puzzle pieces on the table and we started to pick out the edge pieces. Soon the puzzle was starting to take form.
“It’s looking nice,” Mom said. She was knitting a baby hat for my nephew.
“Thanks Mom,” I said, “I think I’ll go check on Ellie.”
“Alright, Cherry,” said Mom.
Ellie was still sleeping. I gently placed my hand on her belly and felt her puppies wiggling. I smiled. “I can’t wait to meet you,” I whispered, stroking Ellie’s fur.
“Cherry!” Seth called, “Are you coming back? Can you grab the fudge on your way?”
I popped my head in the dining room. “Sure, I’ll get it,” I said. Holding the fudge plate carefully, I skipped back.
“Thanks,” said Seth appreciatively.
We kept working for a while and Dad asked, “What time is it?” Matthew, the watch guy, glanced at his watch (it’s funny the rest of us don’t have watches) and said, “It’s only 9:30.” It felt much later than that to me.
“Getting sleepy, Cherry?” Mom asked me.
I nodded, but determined I would be awake with everyone else to shout “happy new year!” when the clock struck 12. Somehow I got sleepier and sleepier until, before I knew it, my eyes had shut and I was off in sleepy land, playing with puppies in a Christmas village.
I was awakened by my mom gently shaking me. A blanket had been wrapped around me, and the dining room table was deserted. The puzzle was finished. “Oh no,” I groaned, “Is it past midnight?”
“Nope, it’s only 11:45. Mom thought you might want to wake up for the new year,” Seth said, nearby.
“Best news is, though,” Mom said, “Ellie’s in labor.”
“She is!!” I gasped, throwing off my blanket. All traces of sleepiness were gone.
“Yes,” said Mom, smiling. “Go ahead and wait in here. Matthew and Dad are helping her. We’ll let you know when they are born.”
Mom left the room and Seth and I waited at the table. We said “happy new year” together when midnight came then I tried reading a book (I couldn’t keep my mind on it), then Seth and I reconstructed the puzzle. I was growing restless and excited. “There’s two cookies left,” Seth said helpfully. I eagerly took one and ate it to help me not feel so hungry.
“What time is it?” I asked. “Don’t know,” said Seth, “Our watch guy isn’t in here.”
It felt like forever until Matthew came in grinning and said, “Come meet the puppies.”
Seth and I jumped to our feet and dashed to the living room.
“Shhh,” said Mom. She pointed to Ellie who was snuggled up with her new babies.
I counted them. “One, two, three, four! Oh they’re so adorable!” I said softly, tucking a strand of brown hair behind my ear.
“What should we name them?” Dad asked us kids. There was a moment of silence while everyone thought.
“Well…” I started.
“Yes, Cherry?” Mom asked.
Dad’s twinkling eyes and my dark brown ones met and we started to recite, “Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe…” together.
“I love it!” said Matthew. Seth and Mom agreed.
“I like the sound of it,” I said, taking another look at the pups.
I went to bed that night (or more like, that morning) running the names Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe through my head. It certainly sounded nice.
“God, thank you for a great start to this new year, and thank you for Eeny, Meeny, Miney, and Moe,” I prayed, “Amen.”