It must have been the boots.
On December 28, we celebrated Madison's Christmas—another floating holiday  for our family. This year, I decided it was time to recognize the fact that my daughter is now 20. Even though she still loves her animated Barney, given to her 16 Christmases ago and still working, I thought it was time to update her image—and wardrobe.
For years, I had yielded to practicality with elastic-waisted pants and velcro shoes. Alternating between catalogs for the very young and the very old, I was able to keep her outfitted in functional, but boring attire.
This year, I pushed away from the keyboard and decided to shop locally. Pat, our nanny of 19 years, ventured out with me early one morning to beat the crowds. Shopping from the wheelchair in a crowded store often drains my holiday spirit. But the store was almost empty so we had time to look at the latest trends.
Beyond an updated hat, scarf, and gloves, we picked out black jeans with a studded belt, a royal blue metallic sweater dotted with fuzzy hearts, and hot pink bedroom slippers covered in peace signs. The jeans were "stretchy" and had hidden side elastic panels. Although Madison has mastered zippers, she has trouble with buttons sometimes, often pulling the entire pant down, still fastened. Elastic, hidden or not, was still a good feature.
As we were loading up the cart with a few more goodies, I spied the boots.
"Pat, check these out," I said, pointing to the display.
The Ugg-like boots were just the right height.
"I think she can pull these on and tuck in her jeans," I said. "And look at that shine!"
Layers of silver sequins covered every inch of the boots.
"What a hoot!" I said, adding them to the cart.
We prepared for her visit down to the minute. She was on her way to a six-day Winter Camp, her special New Year's tradition. When she stops by en route, it is a short visit, mostly determined by her mood and the circumstance.
This year, I was expecting 10 family members. All knew the flexibility required to attend. "Be here at 10:45 am," I told everyone, "but she may be ready to leave at 11:00."
Since no one delivers her expected welcome-home pizza that early, I had it delivered the night before. I had taken a risk and ordered a new family favorite--gourmet cheese with fresh garlic, tomatoes, and basil. As I heated it on Friday morning, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. What if Madison didn't like it? I did have a few slices of plain cheese pizza frozen, I thought. But when I checked, I was wrong.
I had no pizza Plan B.
Brian, my son-in-law, arrived early and helped me prepare.
"Let's cut it up for her," he said when I shared my concern. "Maybe she won't notice the difference."
He snipped the pieces, placing them on one of my Spode Christmas Tree china plates.
"Should I give her a plastic cup?"
"No, I think she can manage the small Spode glass," I said, thinking I had several more if she dropped it.
I heard the back door open.
"Look who it is, Brian. It's Madison! Come see me, Missy!"
And she barreled around the corner of the doorway, boots blazing.
"Madison, you are adorable!"
And she was.
I had sent the boots along with the other open-ahead presents to her residential home. She arrived, decked out, practically strutting in those boots.
"Madison, give mommy a kiss." and she did, grinning more than usual.
"My, she's happy," I said to Pat.
"Yes, she is. She's been great, singing and laughing since the minute we picked her up."
Black jeans, blue sweater, and the silver boots seemed to elevate her mood. She grabbed her Barney and plunked him down beside her at the table. Then, she dug into the pizza, asking for more twice while drinking three glasses of milk-- without spilling a drop.
"Time for presents, Madison," I began, hoping we could open at least one or two before she bolted for the door.
This time she seemed to enjoy the process. Unlike every other Christmas, she sat still with me until we opened all of them.
One was a special surprise from her dad and step-mom--a fun-fur designer vest.
"Let's put it on, Madison." And I helped thread her arms through the sleeve openings.
She stood up and showed us her outfit, posing for the camera. What a diva!
She sat back down and played a bit more with her Barney before Pat reminded us it was time to leave for camp.
"I can't believe how long she stayed focused," I said, watching her hug each family member good-bye. "It's her best Christmas visit ever."
"Bye-Bye!" she boomed in her best Barney voice, "See you later!"
And she sashayed out the door.
The diva had left the building.
It must have been those sequined boots.