Authors: Laura Dower
Give and Take
For Nana, the real Gramma Helen
Special thanks to Laura Wilson at the Alzheimer’s Association for her guidance.
Madison Finn was in a chat room with her two BFFs, Fiona Waters and Aimee Gillespie. Even though they had walked home together from school, there was still lots to discuss.
Madison didn’t want to log out of the chat room with her friends, but she signed off after Fiona signed off, hit the
hot key on her keyboard, and rolled over onto her bed to think.
She had a lot to think about. The Winter Jubilee concert was going to be fun. The holidays were coming. And best of all, Madison was going skiing with Dad.
He’d promised to take her along with him on a real winter vacation to Mount Robinson, a peak in upstate New York. They’d gone once before for a day trip years ago when Mom and Dad were still married. Mom skied the expert trails while Madison and Dad hung out on the bunny slope.
Since the Big D (divorce), Madison had to alternate holidays between her two parents. Madison knew that going away together with Dad would make up for a few of the weekly dinners he had missed lately. Even Mom thought a ski trip was a great idea.
Clicking back onto her laptop, Madison opened her e-mailbox. The only e-mails there were spam—junk e-mail. Somehow she had been added to a promotional mailing list, receiving e-mail from different girls’ catalogs and websites. Dad always said that Madison shouldn’t open e-mail from strangers because it could download viruses onto her computer. She always followed his advice.
DELETE. DELETE. DELETE.
Madison was sad to see no e-mail from her long-distance keypal Bigwheels. No e-mail from any of her friends. And no e-mail from Dad either, confirming details of the ski trip, like Madison had hoped.
She opened up the special calendar app that helped her to organize her time, after-school meetings, homework, volunteering, and more. As usual, Madison’s schedule was jam-packed. December had something to do typed in for almost every day of the month.
12/5 Wednesday. Math test. Chorus rehearsal.
12/6 Thursday. Science lab w/Ivy.
12/7 Friday. Chorus!!! Work on essay. Help Mom decorate.
12/8 Saturday. Hockey game @ school.
She scrolled down and keyed in additional chorus rehearsal dates. Winter Jubilee practices would probably be taking up most of Madison’s time over the next few weeks, but she didn’t mind. Winter Jubilee was one of the most anticipated weeks of the school year.
“Maddie,” Mom said, entering Madison’s room without knocking. “I saw you left me this permission slip on the kitchen counter.”
Students participating in Winter Jubilee activities needed to have parental approval if they were going to be taken off the school premises. Mom signed on the dotted line and handed it over.
“Thanks, Mom,” Madison said, taking the slip.
“By the way,” Mom said, sitting down on the edge of Madison’s bed, “did you finish that essay you were working on?”
Madison shrugged. “Not really. I’m doing something else right now.”
“Fun …” Mom asked, eyebrows arched, “or for school?”
Phin, Madison’s pug, waddled over to the bed and put his paws up on the edge. Madison reached down to pet his little back.
“Both, Mom,” Madison said. “You know I use the laptop for homework and a bunch of other stuff.”
“Well, the dog needs to go out,” Mom said. “Why don’t you take a little break from the ‘stuff’ and walk him around the block.”
As soon as he heard the words
Phin jumped off the bed and started to chase his tail. Madison flopped back onto the bed.
“Do I have to?” she groaned.
Mom made a face. “Get up, honey bear. Now. Before he pees on your…”
“Okay, okay!” Madison said. “You don’t have to be all gross about it.”
Mom laughed and handed over the dog leash.
“Rowrooooo!” Phin howled, jumping up into the air on all fours as if he had springs on the bottom of each paw.
Madison laced up her sneakers and grabbed a warmer sweater for herself and for Phin. The pug squirmed as Madison tugged on a green knit cover-up Gramma Helen had knit for him the year before. He looks like a cross between dog and leprechaun, Madison thought as she pushed his paws through.
“Don’t stay out too long,” Mom cautioned. “It’s starting to get even colder outside. And wear that scarf around your head, please.”
“Mom, don’t be such a worrywart,” Madison said.
“I worry. I’m your mom,” Mom said, grinning. “Speaking of worrying, did your father call you to confirm the ski plans for the end of December?”
“Plans?” Madison said, thinking fast. “Yes. Well, he e-mailed me actually. Today. He e-mailed me to say the trip was all planned and I shouldn’t worry, so neither should you.”
Madison gulped. That was a lie. He hadn’t e-mailed.
She’d never lied to Mom before.
“So when are you leaving?” Mom asked, leaning back onto Madison’s bed.
“L-l-leaving?” Madison stammered. “You mean to take Phinnie out?”
Mom laughed. “No, honey bear. To go
When is your Dad taking you away?”
Madison’s stomach flip-flopped. She’d lied once. Now she needed to lie twice?
“Gee … I don’t remember exactly, Mom. Right before Christmas sometime,” Madison said. “Like he told us before. You know. What he said.”
“Oh,” Mom said nonchalantly. “I guess it was unfair of me to assume your Dad would just propose these big plans and … well, I won’t say it.”
“What?” Madison asked. “What were you going to say?”
“No, no. I won’t say anything more about your dad.”
“Say it,” Madison sighed. “I’ve heard it before.”
Mom looked taken aback. “Excuse me?” she said.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap like that,” Madison said.
“Well, honey bear,” Mom said slowly. “I just don’t want to see you get your hopes up for some great vacation and then have him change the plans.”
“Oh, Mom,” Madison said. “You don’t understand. That isn’t what’s happening this time at all.”
“Are you sure? Because sometimes your father—”
don’t worry,” Madison said, cutting off her mother midthought. “Everything will be fine. Dad and I will have an awesome winter vacation and everything will be perfect … except that you won’t be there.”
Mom smiled. “Thanks, sweetheart. I’ll miss you too.”
“Rowrrooooooo!” Phinnie wailed. He scratched at his ears and belly. The green sweater itched and he wanted O-U-T Madison was happier than happy that the dog was acting up. It provided the best distraction.
She clipped on Phin’s leash and walked down the stairs, out the front door, and into the cold.
The pair wandered down the block at a slow pace. The air was so cold that Madison could feel her toes through her shoes and socks. Phin could see his doggy breath. Madison’s wool scarf helped keep out the chilly wind.
After a few moments, Madison found herself walking past Aimee’s house. Her BFF lived only a few houses down from Madison on Blueberry Road. Sometimes Madison would stop by on her walks around the neighborhood.
She climbed up the doorstep and rang the doorbell. It played a few bars of Beethoven. Mr. Gillespie loved classical music, even on his doorbell.
“Maddie! What are you doing here?” Aimee said when she opened the door. She bent down to scratch behind Phin’s ears.
“Do you want to go for a walk with me and Phin?” she asked. “And Blossom, of course.” Blossom was Aimee’s basset hound who hated the cold weather but loved Phinnie.
Aimee slipped on her parka. “Let’s go!” she said.
Phin and Blossom sniffed each other hello while their walkers walked, talking some more about the school concert, Ivy, and homework. Aimee had been in the middle of finishing her science homework when Madison arrived.
“I have too much to do,” Aimee complained.
Madison nodded in agreement. “Me, too.”
“And I think science class is such a drag,” Aimee said.
Madison agreed. “Me, too.”
“And I wish it would snow,” Aimee said with a sigh. “Winter isn’t winter without snow and ice. The cold isn’t the same. Know what I mean?”
“It sort of smells like snow,” Madison said.
“I’d give anything to go skiing over vacation like you,” Aimee said. “Instead, I’m stuck at home hanging out with my dumb brothers.”
Madison shrugged. “Yeah, I’m psyched. I haven’t been to Mount Robinson for a long time.”
“And it’s in Longmont, which is such a cool town,” Aimee said. “They have this store with handmade ballet shoes. I remember because my mom took me there for my birthday one year. Remember? I’d give anything to go back there again.”
“I’d give anything to—” Madison started to say, but she cut herself off. She sniffed the cold air and walked a few paces ahead with Phin.
“Hey, Maddie, wait up!” Aimee yelled. She and Blossom ran to catch up. “You didn’t tell me. What are you wishing for this holiday?”