Tell Me a Story by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson

MIRANDA'S WINDOW (an original tale)

One cold winter day, Miranda sat with her school friends and listened to their teacher telling holiday tales. Mrs. Jones told stories of Chanukah and Christmas and Kwanzaa, and as she talked, Miranda felt her face growing hot with excitement. She couldn't wait to go home to see the twinkling lights on the tall pine tree. Or maybe there would be a menorah with eight candles burning, or her mother dressed in colorful Kwanzaa cloth.

Miranda didn't care which holiday her family chose to celebrate. No matter what, there would be a feast of feasts and gifts, of course. The house would smell like cookies and roasted turkey and pine. Miranda closed her eyes, imagining it all.

At the end of school, Miranda was so excited that she raced home, but when she opened the door, she saw only her quiet house. There were no lights or trees, no bells or candles, no cakes or pies, no elves or reindeer.

She ran to her room to see what was there, but the room looked exactly the same: her single bed, her striped bedspread, her drab pink wallpaper, her little lamp and desk.

At supper, Miranda was quiet until she couldn't stand it a second longer. "Will Santa and the reindeer visit this year?" she asked.

Her father laughed. "We don't celebrate that nonsense here."

Her mother frowned. "We don't have money to waste on silly holidays, Miranda. Your father and I both work very hard."

Miranda knew better than to cry. Her mother didn't like children who wept. Her father cautioned her never to whine. So she smiled, and a few minutes later, she began to yawn. "I'm tired," she said. "I'm so tired."

So her parents sent her off to bed, just as Miranda hoped they would.

In her room, she lay on her bed and closed her eyes. Before long, she sat up and shook her head. "I'm not tired at all," she said, and she turned and saw a faint outline on the wallpaper beside her bed. She had always imagined (or were those dreams?) that their little house had other rooms -- big rooms and small ones, rooms beyond the rooms they lived in.

Miranda then saw a slender tear in the shape of a box on the smudged pink wallpaper. She leaned in close and ran her finger along each line, and as she did, the tear grew deeper and sharper. The square, Miranda saw, was shaped just like the window she had always imagined having in her room.

She looked closely. She hoped she might see something behind that window. But she saw only the wallpaper and the outline of a window. She thought for a moment, and finally she decided, why not? Why not try to lift the window? She placed her little hands on the bottom tear and lifted. To her astonishment, at the bottom of that square she saw a crack of light shining through.

She lifted the window higher and higher, and she opened what turned out to be a big window. And outside she saw a field of pure white snow.

Miranda shook her head. "Am I dreaming?" she said out loud, just to make sure. She looked at her teddy bear curled up on the bed and asked, "Is this a dream?" He shook his head -- or had she dreamed that? But she wasn't asleep, so she couldn't be dreaming.

She looked out at the snow, and as she stared, a team of reindeer trotted into view. They dashed through the snow. Miranda heard the bells around their necks jingling and jangling and remembered her teacher's story. "These must be Santa's reindeer!" she told her bear. "I've got to go see them."

She ran to her closet and pulled out her snowsuit and boots. She dressed as fast as she could and raced back to the window, and she climbed right through.

She stood in the field of snow, snowflakes falling all around her, reindeer dancing. In the distance, she heard someone calling, "Ho, ho, ho!" Suddenly, Santa was there, smiling at her.

"You found the window!" Santa bellowed happily. "We're so glad you found the window!"

Just then, a flurry of elves surrounded Miranda. They clapped and cheered, "Miranda! Miranda!"

"It's the Imagination Window, Miranda," Santa said, very gently. She looked at him, confused.

"When you climb out the window, you find all those things you have imagined."

"Like Christmas trees?" Miranda asked shyly, but Santa nodded, and just like that, a stately pine tree with tinsel and bells and a star at the top appeared before her.

"And menorahs?" she asked, and there was a Chanukah menorah with eight glowing candles.

"What about the kinara?" she asked. And a kinara with its seven candles appeared.

"My family doesn't celebrate," Miranda began, but Santa interrupted her. "Show them how," he said and handed her a sack.

"Take this home, back through the window," Santa said. "And come back anytime."

Miranda was breathing hard as she climbed back inside, pulling that heavy sack behind her. The wind was blowing hard. Snow was drifting into the room. As much as Miranda didn't want to, she closed the window. A moment later, her room was toasty warm.

"Did I dream that?" she asked her bear, but the bear nodded toward the window, and when Miranda looked she saw that sack filled with gifts on her bed -- gifts for Miranda and her parents and her friends and her teacher. As she admired the ribbons and wrapping paper, she knew that this wasn't a dream.

In the morning, Miranda showed her parents the gifts.

"Where did you get those?" they asked.

"You don't have any money," her mother said.

"Is this some kind of trick?" her father asked.

Miranda smiled and shrugged. "With a little imagination, anything is possible."

Then she kissed her parents and said, "Happy Holidays!"