“Attention! Attention! I would like to call to order this meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club.”
“Kristy, it’s not a meeting,” said Mary Anne with a sigh.
“Yeah, Kristy, it’s a holiday party, it’s supposed to be relaxed.” Claudia took downtime seriously. She needed it to recharge and keep her mind open so her creative juices would flow more easily when she worked on her artwork.
Kristy seemed to be suppressing the urge to shoot them both a look. “I was just going to give everyone their present.”
“Oh, well, that’s different.” Dawn giggled and passed Stacey one of the bags Kristy was handing out. “I love presents.”
“Do we all open at the same time?” Stacey asked, unsure of the procedure. “Or?”
“Yes, yes, go ahead.” Kristy beamed as the girls started pulling the tissue paper out of the bags.
Claudia noticed they weren’t very heavy; she couldn’t think of what might be inside. Hidden under the paper, she found a stack of stickers and a handful of pencils with the BSC logo and phone number on them. Looking around the room, she realized everyone else was holding the same things. The other girls smiled but exchanged a few slightly uncertain looks. Claudia liked stickers and pencils, but she wasn’t sure what exactly Kristy was thinking. However, she didn’t have to wonder for long.
“The stickers are for your laptops, water bottles, and stuff like that, so that people will know you’re a Baby-Sitters Club member and ask you about it. It’s great advertising for the club. Plus Claudia’s logo looks really good on them, and the pencils, too.”
Claudia blushed at her last comment. She was pretty proud of her design if she did say so herself.
“Thanks, Kristy, this is really great.” Mary Anne said with a genuine smile. “I love that the pencils come with all different colors and background designs.”
“I found this great company that sent me a variety pack of 100 for free. And they’re made with recycled materials, so we’re also showing we care about the environment if we order any more.”
“Nice!” Dawn said with a huge grin. She had been sure to source a small, ethically grown, living Christmas tree for the party that they could plant in her backyard once the holidays were over. It was looking a little bare at the moment, though.
“Is it time to make decorations for the tree now?” Dawn asked.
“Oh! Yes!” Claudia scrambled off her chair. She grabbed a half-filled box with miscellaneous art project cast-offs and then started adding more things from around the room. Soon the box was filled with bits of paper in different sizes, colors, and textures as well as bits of cloth, half used bottles of glitter glue, twine, ribbons, and other bits and bobs left over from her recent college class focused on mixed media arts. Claudia definitely still preferred drawing and painting, but working with the different materials had been a lot of fun.
Stacey also started rummaging around in her bag. She came out with a couple bags of microwave popcorn and a reel of fishing line. “I thought we might do some strings of popcorn? It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions.”
“Oh my gosh! Of course. That’ll be perfect. I love popcorn.” Claudia grinned.
Mary Anne stood up. “I’ll show her where the microwave is.”
Kristy, Dawn, and Claudia started pulling things out of the box, trying to see which odds and ends could come together to form something new.
“I think I’m just going to make a paper chain. Creativity isn’t exactly my strong suit.” Kristy shrugged and made a loop with a piece of navy stock paper and tape.
“Just because it’s not exactly original doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.” Dawn watched Kristy add two more loops to her chain. “And you’re already on your way to a beautiful paper chain.”
Kristy shook her head a little and smiled as she cut a large piece of orange paper into strips.
Across from them, Claudia was working with great vigor as she broke pieces of balsa wood into pieces. She had been looking at the materials and was suddenly struck with this one idea. Hopefully, it would come together nicely.
Stacey and Mary Anne returned with two big bowls of popcorn and Mimi was right behind them, holding a platter with four mugs of hot cocoa and a mug of tea for Stacey.
Kristy took one of the mugs and breathed in the aroma of chocolate, marshmallows, and something else. “This smells amazing.”
“It’s Mimi’s special recipe.” Claudia grinned, pride beaming from her chest. “I’m the only one who knows the special ingredient.”
“Well whatever it is, you could sell it and make a fortune.” Kristy wiped a cocoa mustache off her face with the back of her sleeve. Stacey had a slightly pained expression as she passed Kristy a napkin.
“Thank you, Kristy.” Mimi’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “How are the decorations coming, my Claudia?”
Claudia held two pieces together, looking at how they fit together. “I think I’m just about done! And Kristy’s paper chain is coming along really nicely. Plus, check out Dawn’s paper airplanes.”
Kristy and Dawn both held up their creations for Mimi to murmur compliments over. Kristy’s paper chain was a hodgepodge of colors with little rhyme or reason to the ordering, but it still looked nice and mostly neat. Dawn had claimed the glitter glue early and created some sparkly and goopy looking airplanes to hang on the tree with twine. Claudia wasn’t sure what had inspired the airplanes, but sometimes art has no reason except to make the artist happy.
Mary Anne and Stacey peered over Claudia’s area with interest. “It’s a puzzle?” Mary Anne pondered out loud.
“Well, kind of. Hang on.” Claudia started shifting the pieces around on the paper so her design would become more clear. “See, the pieces fit together like puzzles, so it is a puzzle but it’s also -”
“Oh, it’s us!” Stacey grinned and pointed to their initials on each of the pieces.
Claudia smiled back at her. “Yeah, and when you fit them together, they make a heart. I was inspired by those BFF necklaces where it’s two pieces for you and your best friend, but I have more than one best friend, so…” She trailed off and pink tinged her cheeks, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious in spite of Stacey’s clear enthusiasm.
“That’s wonderful, my Claudia.” Mimi praised. “I am so glad you girls have each other.”
“I love that.” Stacey told Claudia and gave her a one armed hug.
“It’s beautiful.” Mary Anne choked out, looking so happy she might cry.
“I’ll second them both.” Dawn added cheerfully. “Here’s to making our own rules and sticking together. Wouldn’t you agree Kristy?” She gently nudged Kristy with her elbow.
“Oh, yes! It’s amazing.” Kristy breathed out, looking very touched. She cleared her throat. “We could put that on stickers too, if you guys wanted.”
The group chuckled. Claudia was touched by everyone’s accolades, but she was still a little anxious about the attention and wanted to shift the conversation to something else. “I think for now let’s just put it on the tree when the glue dries.”
“Well, while we wait for that, this popcorn won’t string itself.” Stacey said, eating a handful before beginning to cut long pieces of fishing line and handing them to each of her friends.
When the decorations were all hung on the tree, they stood back to admire their handiwork. Bits of art supplies and discards lay strewn around them, but those could wait to be cleared away. Claudia took a minute to survey her friends. The girls all seemed warm and full from time spent together and Mimi’s delicious drinks. Glitter clung to everyone’s clothes and hair, making them look like they were decorated for the holiday season, too. Claudia concluded the club was making them feel sparkly inside and out. Maybe she would try to capture that glittery feeling with her next art piece about her friends.
“This is the best Christmas party ever,” Mary Anne declared, looking very content and misty eyed.
Claudia squeezed Mary Anne close. She definitely agreed. She was so glad to have found such good friends.