Every neighborhood has its resident curmudgeon, some dyspeptic homeowner whose job it is to yell at noisy children and call the police about dogs in the flowerbeds. In Amy's youth, that role had been played by Mr. Weaver, a bachelor living in the area's largest, finest house.
It was now a few days before Christmas, and Amy was shocked to see holiday decorations going up on the Weaver house. She approached a boy of about 20 who was stringing the lights. "Does Mr. Weaver still live here?" she asked hesitantly.
"Sure does," he said. "I'm just the hired help. Buck Anderson."
"Amy Silver!" shouted a familiar voice. Amy had to resist the childhood reflex to turn and run.
Edgar Weaver stood in the doorway, older now, and with an uncharacteristic smile. "Amy. Good to see you. Come step inside for a little Christmas cheer."
Amy's perplexed reaction made the old man laugh. "I know. Scrooge sees the light. But it's true. Couple weeks ago, I had this dream, like Scrooge, and it changed me. I've been sour and selfish for so many years. I thought Christmas would be the perfect season to start fresh."
Old man Weaver escorted Amy into a living room decorated for the season. Christmas carols played on an old turntable.
"My sister out in California always sends me a photo card of her family." He pointed to half a dozen cards hanging from the mantle. "A pretty pathetic collection of Christmas cards this year. But wait till next. I'll be a regular Santa. I'm already starting."
Edgar and Amy strolled to the kitchen at the rear of the house, where they found two young women and a man laughing and cooking dinner. "Amy, these are my nieces and my nephew. Three out of four, anyway. I haven't been in touch with any of my family in 10 years."
Amy was introduced to the jovial trio: Jonathan, Rhoda, and Ginger.
"I can't believe we live so close and we never got to know Uncle Eddy." Ginger gave the old man a hug.
Edgar almost blushed. "Right after my dream, I got in touch with everyone. Begged their forgiveness for my stingy, solitary ways. Then I hired Buck to help fix up the old mausoleum."
"Looks like a celebration," Amy said, eyeing the roast and the champagne bucket on the counter.
"We're celebrating our inheritance," Rhoda crowed.
"Yep. I changed my will," Edgar confirmed. "Everything split between my nieces and nephews. Amy," he added with sudden inspiration, "will you join us for dinner? Please. As an apology for confiscating your football. And your baseball. And..."
Amy accepted, on the condition that she be allowed to help cook.
"Great," Edgar said. "And while you're cooking, I'll finish trimming the tree."
Jonathan volunteered to help, but Edgar insisted on doing it alone. "Someone was telling me about their family tradition. The patriarch decorates the tree by himself, then gathers everyone together for a Christmas toast. A great idea."
Amy turned out to be the best cook of the bunch and before she knew it, she was alone in the kitchen, making the gravy and starting the vegetables.
After a few minutes, she began to feel uncomfortable. Here she was in old man Weaver's kitchen, cooking for a family of strangers. "Hello!" Amy turned down the heat and walked into the dining room.
A crash reverberated through the house, momentarily drowning out the carols. Something had fallen. Amy's first thought was the Christmas tree, and she headed straight for the living room.