Jan wasn’t all that close to her older brother Jon. Over the years she had tried to connect but he seemed uninterested in her and her life. Perhaps because she’s six years younger. Still, Jan was excited that he would be arriving soon to spend Christmas day with the family. They would give gifts to each other and then mom would serve her traditional rib roast and mashed potatoes meal.

Jan, a senior in high school, didn’t have much money to spend on gifts, but she always stressed over finding the perfect item for Jon, grandma, and each of her parents. She had a knack for finding thoughtful gifts that didn’t cost a lot of money. It was a little discouraging though buying personal gifts for her brother when she knew he would give her another stocking cap or something similar. It was simply the way he was. She envisioned him at Walmart the night before with his list of names. He probably walked up and down a few isles grabbing whatever caught his eye from the shelves without giving much thought to the recipient. But that was all right, she still enjoyed watching him open his gift from her.

Before long, she heard Jon at the front door. He immediately came to the family room where the elaborately decorated artificial tree was set up.

Jon was carrying a large bag, and loudly exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!” Then he took presents out of the bag and placed them among the gifts already under and around the tree.

Once they had all joined up in the family room and had greeted Jon, everyone sat down to open the presents. They followed their usual process of going around the room, each handing a gift to a family member. The recipient opened the gift, voiced a sincere sounding thank you, and then they moved on to the next gift giver.

They went around the group several times with everyone receiving some nice things. Then Jon held up a small present, “Oh hey, here’s one for Jan.”

Jan took the present from him, shook it a little bit feigning excited anticipation, and then tore into the wrapping paper. She was relieved that the box was too small for a stocking cap or rubber snow boots. Inside she found a box having a hinged lid. Jan opened it and was astonished to find a gold chain and locket. There was a good-sized sapphire, her birthstone, embedded where the locket connected to the chain. When she turned the locket over in her hand, she saw Love from Jon, engraved on the back. It was then that her eyes started to tear up. When she opened the locket, there was a much-reduced photo of the family inside.

“Oh, my god, this is perfect,” Jan said. “Thank you so much!”

“Yeah, welcome, you can change the photo if you want.”

“No, really, it’s perfect.”

The thoughtfulness of the gift surprised Jan, but a little later they were all shocked during the meal when Jon announced that he had been accepted as part of the next colonization mission to Mars.