Area 52 HKH

Christmas Hiccups

by Orrymain

URL: http://area52hkh.net/aso/orrymain4/christmb.php
Summary: A Christmas hiccup or two interrupts the family's holiday meal.

Christmas Hiccups
Author: Orrymain
Author Email: marciastudley1@comcast.net (Feedback welcome)
Author Website: http://orrymain.com
Category: Slash, Drama, Holiday, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating: PG-13
Season: Beyond the Series - December 25, 2016
Spoilers: None
Size: 34kb, ficlet
Written: December 25-28, 2016
Summary: A Christmas hiccup or two interrupts the family's holiday meal.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
Notes:
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their "silent" words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~

Christmas Hiccups
by Orrymain

Jack and Daniel's brood reluctantly left their new presents behind to sit down at the hospitality table. The family rarely had breakfast on Christmas morning. The excitement was usually too high with the kids focused on their gifts. With a dozen children, it took time for the family to dig through all of Santa's presents. That's why brunch was usually the first meal on Christmas day for the Jackson-O'Neills.

Though still somewhat distracted, the children were hungry and so dug into their food eagerly. Everything was happy and joyful. Then Ricky slurped down his drink too fast and began to hiccup. This brought on a round of laughter from everyone, including the nine-year-old Spitfire.

"Hold your breath, Ricky," Chenoa instructed. "That always works for me."

The boy took a deep breath and held it as everyone watched. He wobbled in his chair and began to squirm from his task. Finally, he let out a big exhale. He smiled, until he hiccuped again.

"I'll get a lemon for you to bite on," Aislinn offered as she stood and headed for the refrigerator where some lemons were stored.

"That won't work," Jenny refuted. "Ricky, pull on your tongue."

"What? Na-huh," Ricky said, refusing his twin's suggestion and hiccuping two more times.

"Just eat a spoonful of sugar," Brianna suggested.

"Are you Mary Poppins?" Lulu giggled in jest.

"Not even close," Brianna replied, "But that's what Mrs. Miller used on Calvin last week and it worked."

"I've read that vinegar stops the hiccups," Jeff chimed in.

"Vinegar? By itself?" Ricky whined. "No way, Jose."

"The sour taste reportedly stops the hiccups," Jeff explained.

"Jeff, *I'm* the one tasting the vinegar, not the hiccups," the Spitfire argued, earning a few laughs of agreement from his siblings.

"Aunt Janet gave me peanut butter when I had the hiccups once at her house," Jonny interjected. "She said that by chewing and then getting the peanut butter off my teeth and tongue that it interrupts breathing and swallowing. The hiccups go away."

"Did they go away?" Aislinn asked as she returned to the table and placed a lemon in front of her younger brother.

"No, but the peanut butter tasted good," the oldest Munchkin laughed.

As the suggestions kept coming, Jack and Daniel listened attentively, curious to hear what other solutions their children would come up with to solve the problem. Neither parent was concerned about the situation. Hiccups were a part of life. As Little Danny suggested to Ricky that he should tickle his soft palate with a cotton swab, Jack casually stood up to get more coffee.

"You want another cup, Danny?"

"Thanks, Babe," Daniel responded while handing his coffee mug to Jack.

Jack started to walk away, but looked over his shoulder for a moment as he echoed, ~Tickle his soft palate?~ With a shake of his head, he headed for a coffee refill. ~Haven't heard that one before.~

"We need a straw," David remarked, getting up from the table and heading for the kitchen. When he returned with the straw, he placed it in Ricky's cup and instructed, "Put your fingers in your ears and gulp down your drink through the straw."

"Huh?" the Spitfire questioned.

"Plug your fingers and chug-a-lug," David repeated.

When that didn't work, Jennifer offered, "Sheila swears by the upside down method."

"What's that?" Brianna inquired.

"Well, what she does is fill a glass about halfway with water and then she lies down on the corner of her bed. She takes a couple of gulps, without spilling, and sits up. If it doesn't work the first time, she does it again. She says they always go away. You could do it on the couch, too. Just lean over the side."

"I think we'll pass on that one," Daniel interrupted, not because it might not work, but because he feared the water would end up on the carpet.

"Ricky, eat the lemon," Aislinn urged.

"And really suck in the juice," David added, having used that solution with some success for himself over the years.

"Nothing is working," the hiccuping Spitfire sighed.

"I still say you should tickle your soft palate," the middle Munchkin advocated.

"*Grrrrrrrr - got ya!" Jack shouted, having sneaked up from behind and successfully startling his son, not to mention several of the other children who weren't paying attention to him.

"Daaaad!" Ricky complained, until he realized his hiccups were gone. "Wow. Thanks, Dad."

"Anytime, Son," a smirking Jack responded. Sitting back down, he quipped as an aside to his husband, "Works every time."

"That's nice, but where's my coffee?"

"Oh, sorry about that, Angel. Be right back," Jack begged pleasantly, getting up to retrieve their coffee refills that he'd left on the counter.

With Ricky's hiccups gone, the family focus began to switch, except for one final query and answer.

"Why do we get the hiccups?" Lulu asked.

Little Danny answered, "Our diaphragm muscle spasms, causing our vocal cords to shut like a snap, and that makes us hiccup. It's very normal. We hiccup on average five times a year."

"We do?" Jennifer chuckled. "I don't remember hiccuping that much."

"It's an average, Jen," Little Danny reminded.

"But why do we hiccup?" Jenny asked.

"We eat and drink too fast," the child prodigy answered simply.

"Can't argue with that," Brianna replied. "Put food and drink in front of us and it's like we've never seen it before."

"Hence, the hiccups," Daniel said, concluding the hiccup chatter successfully as the children began to talk about Santa's late night visit.

It wasn't long after that when there was a knock on the door. Though five different children jumped up, they were quickly detained.

"I'll get it," Daniel advised, suspecting the person at the door was an expected visitor. He glanced at Jack, who smiled in return. He, too, had a good idea who it would be and what they were bringing. "Sit down," the archaeologist instructed the standing children.

====

"Merry Christmas, Mrs. Valissi," Daniel greeted as he stepped onto the porch and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Merry Christmas, Daniel," the senior citizen returned with a huge grin. "Here it is."

"Jack and I really appreciate your baking this for us," Daniel stated as he took possession of the two large round trays. "We wanted to try it ourselves, but we didn't have the time, and I don't think we would have succeeded."

"I was happy to do it," the neighbor responded. "I put everything inside, just as you requested."

"Would you like to come in and join us?"

"Thank you, Dear, but Evan and Robert have a surprise for me, but I don't know what," Mrs. Valissi advised with a happy giggle.

Daniel knew that the joy of having her son and his partner in the United States for the holidays was the best present possible for Mrs. Valissi. Mother and son were extremely close and while both often visited the other, there was something extra special in being together at Christmastime.

"And, Daniel, I love my fleece onesie," the woman added with a happy chuckle. "It will keep me warm for many a night," she noted. "It was very kind of you and Jack."

"Jen mentioned you wanted one, and, uh, she picked it out," Daniel admitted shyly.

"It's the thought that counts, and I'm so happy we're friends. Happy holidays to all of you," Mrs. Valissi said, giving Daniel a gentle hug before heading home.

====

"To be specific, the vagus nerve gets irritated," Little Danny stated as his younger father reappeared. "It's really long, and it goes down to the diaphragm."

"Are we talking hiccups again?" Daniel inquired as he carried the covered trays to where his husband was seated.

"We were," Jack confirmed. "Success?" he asked his lover.

"Smells like it," Daniel answered from the aroma coming from the trays.

"It smells good, Daddy. What is it?" Jenny asked.

"Mrs. Valissi brought this over for us," Daniel answered as he unveiled the food items and carried one of the trays to far side of the rectangular table where Jonny, Jeff, JD, and Brianna sat, while the other stayed at the head of the table near Jack and the twins with the rest of the children in between the two groups. "This is banitsa."

"It's a Bulgarian dish," Jack pointed out. "Who can tell me where Bulgaria is located?"

"I know where it is," a happy Chenoa answered eagerly. "It's by the Black Sea."

"That it is," Jack confirmed.

"It's surrounded by Romania, Greece, and Turkey," Jenny added as she called up an image of a European map she'd reviewed as part of a geography lesson not too long ago.

"Very good, Red," Jack praised. "Romania is to the north of Bulgaria and Greece and Turkey are to its south. As Noa said, the Black Sea is on the east."

"What about the west?" Daniel quizzed.

None of the younger children had an answer, not even Little Danny who frowned at his memory block. He felt like he should know the desired information, but at the moment, his mind wasn't cooperating in giving him the correct response.

David finally stepped in and answered, "Serbia and Macedonia are to the west of Bulgaria."

"I knew that," Lulu laughed. "Okay, no, I didn't, but I thought I'd pretend."

Lulu's levity earned her a round of laughter from her siblings, not to mention chuckles from her parents.

"So," Daniel began. "One of the traditions for Christmas in Bulgaria is to make banitsa. Uh, they can make it whenever they want, of course, but Christmas and New Year's Eve are the two big holidays when it's very popular to make it. While it tends to be a breakfast dish, it can be eaten at any meal."

Jack picked up the oration, talking more about the history and origin of the food, and just when Daniel was about to reveal something very special about the pastry-like item, he sensed something was off with one of the children.

Sure enough, Jonny sat back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, and complained, "We're supposed to be in recess. You're schooling us, and it's Christmas. That's not fair."

"Jonny," Jack chastised via his stern tone.

"When's the test? After we've learned all about Bulboria," Jonny whined, intentionally saying the country's name wrong. In mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear, "It's Christmas: time for Santa, not learning."

Jack began to pull back his chair, but Daniel reached out, stopping his soulmate with a touch on the thigh.

"I've got this," Daniel assured as he stood up. He walked over to the argumentative Munchkin's chair and reached out his hand. "Jonny."

Jonny sat his ground, not moving, causing his siblings to gulp in anticipation of what might happen in the seconds that followed.

"Jonathan," Daniel called out, flexing his fingers slightly.

"Ut oh," Little Danny whispered.

"Yeah, full first name," Ricky gasped.

"He's gonna get it now," Chenoa said quietly.

Jonny knew he was on the precipice of losing his presents, so he stretched out his hand until it was fully in his daddy's grasp. He stood up and accompanied Daniel, who led him upstairs to the boys' bedroom. Following his father's lead, Jonny sat down on his bed and waited for the fallout.

"Close your eyes and think about nothing," Daniel told the boy.

"Nothing?"

"Absolutely nothing. Go ahead, eyelids fully shut, and don't let anything stop you from thinking about anything."

Jonny did as requested, but soon he began to frown. His face went taut, and his eyelids fluttered in spite of his best intentions. He looked like he was about explode when he let out with a huge objection.

"Daddy, I can't think about nothing. Nothing is always something."

"Really?" Daniel paused and went about his task in another way. "Jonny, don't think about Bogey."

"Huh?"

"I hear him moving around," Daniel told his son. "He's climbing up to be closer to the basking light."

The boy, whose sandy hair was darkening some as he aged, looked over at his bearded dragon's cage and saw his daddy was right. The lizard was climbing up some of his rocks to get closer to the light that would warm him.

"He must be cold," Jonny surmised.

"But don't think about that or your certificate on the wall."

Jonny swallowed hard as he automatically turned to look at the framed object. He was proud of the certificate that Colonel Vincent Giardini surprised him with at his last gun lesson at the Stargate Command firing range. Jonny first began his gun and weapon studies with Giardini five years ago. At age ten, he was now an expert on several weapons. More than most children and even adults, his respect for the power of gunnery and knowledge of arms safety was high. The certificate reflected that fact and included an image of the boy's last shooting report showing he hit the target dead center with every shot.

"Don't think about me, either."

"Daddy, what are you doing?" the confused boy inquired.

"I don't want you to think about anything. Don't let your mind focus on anything."

"But I already said I can't think about nothing. There's always something to think about."

"No, you need to not have anything in your mind. That's what you want. I mean, uh, it's what you said downstairs."

"I didn't say that."

"Yes, you did. Maybe you didn't say it the way I am right now, but your behavior and your refusal to participate in what the family was doing ..."

"It was a lesson," Jonny snapped.

"Maybe it was, but it was also a lighthearted discussion about a very special treat that Mrs. Valissi spent hours preparing for us. Is that how you thank her for her time and the love she put into the banitsa?"

"No, but ..."

"What are you going to say to her when she asks how you liked it? 'Sorry, Mrs. Valissi, but my parents wanted me to understand what banitsa was and I chose not to pay attention and eat any?' Is that what you're going to tell her?"

Jonny sighed, not having thought about things in that light. Still, he felt tricked and it was Christmas and he didn't want to learn anything over the holidays. He wanted a gigantic recess, as promised by his homeschooling dad and daddy.

"Now, let's try it again. Just stop thinking," the father instructed.

"Why do you want me to stop thinking so much?"

"Because if you do think, you'll learn something."

"Huh?"

"Jonny, we learn constantly. Everything we say, hear, see, do, no matter what it is, we learn from. Life is learning. Maybe it's a fact: banitsa is from Bulgaria. Maybe it's a feeling: hugs feel good. You watch Bogey climb up the rocks, so you know he's probably cold. If he does it too often, you check the temperature and see if you need to make an adjustment so Bogey doesn't get ill. You've learned. You look at your certificate and it reminds you of what you've achieved. It reminds you that you can do anything you set your mind to. It's something tangible you can hold in your hand and say, 'I did this'. You learned that practice and devotion to a passion leads to success."

"I did do it, and I always remember my promise to Charlie," Jonny stated about his vow to never touch a gun again without the permission of his parents.

"Dad and I are very proud of you and how you've kept that promise and the way you've been a leader for your siblings."

"I'm glad."

"The point is, Jonny, that everything you do, everything that happens to you, is something learned, whether you use it now or later. Yes, this is Christmas. Yes, we said no lessons over the holidays, but lessons happen everyday. We take you to zoos, museums, science fairs, and all over the world, and when we do, you learn. What you learn can vary, but you learn. We all do. We go on family digs or to an Air Force event so you can experience for yourself things that Dad and I love and value in our lives. What you take away from that is up to you, but you learn, about yourself, about us, and about your future. You learn from watching us and being a part of our professional worlds.

"When you spend time with Tootie," Daniel continued as he referred to Jonny's unofficial-but-longtime girlfriend, "you learn about the Olivers. They have a different heritage than you do, right?"

"Yes, and they experience things differently. I've seen it, Daddy. It makes me sad sometimes."

"I know, and that's wrong, isn't it, that some people view the Olivers differently than they do us, or the Millers."

"I learn a lot from Tootie. She's strong, Daddy."

"Very strong," Daniel agreed. "And what about Dad?"

"Dad?"

"We all know how he acts when he claims not to be paying attention, but trust me, Son, Dad listens to everything."

"He's not a dumb general," Jonny agreed, using a phrase often said in the family when discussing their older father.

"He's an expert in covert operations, and that means he has to pay attention to everything, and he has to know a lot to survive in some, some very dangerous situations. If he doesn't absorb his surroundings and whatever is happening, if he doesn't *learn* on the job, it costs him and others their safety, if not their lives."

Daniel saw Jonny was soaking in his words. He had another comment about Jack that he felt might sink in with the Munchkin.

"And think about this. You and your siblings are very intelligent. That's not a secret around here and I do want to say that Dad and I have been very pleased with how all of you act, here at home, and when you're with others. I've never seen any of you talk about ..."

"Our smarts?" Jonny chuckled.

"Something like that."

"We don't think about it, Daddy. Everybody's smart with what they know, and we all know different things."

"That's right, but what I want you to think about are your lessons, our classes. Who teaches you about the world, history, math, English ... who's your teacher?"

"You and ... Dad!"

"Dad," Daniel repeated with a nod and piercing eyes. "It's how Dad likes it, but in our home, sometimes we focus too much on certain people ..."

"You and Little Danny," Jonny opined.

Daniel didn't really acknowledge the truth of his statement. He didn't want to influence or sway whatever his son felt about the individual family members.

"The point here is that Dad plays a role, which we've talked about for years, and which you understand, and he doesn't like to make a big deal out of his IQ. I won't tell you what that is, that's for him to share or not, but he's as intelligent as any of us. He simply chooses a different path for how he shares his ... smarts. He's always learning and he's always paying attention, even when he claims not to be doing so."

Daniel saw an awareness in the little general and believed the point had been made about learning. He still had a couple of things to say, though.

"Look, sometimes we can clear our minds, for the right purpose, such as reducing stress or lessening pain. You've heard of Yoga and other types of meditation. Teal'c uses meditation every day, and I've used it sometimes."

"It's the principle of the thing, Daddy," Jonny finally admitted. "I know we should pay attention all the time, but it's learning overload, especially when we were promised a holiday recess."

Daniel paused as he took in his son's argument. Jonny had a point, to a point. He rubbed his son's cheek in empathy and spoke again.

"Son, you know how it was for me growing up. After my parents died, all I had were books. I put everything I had into learning everything I could: languages, linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, cultural history, Egyptology ... anything and everything I could. Until I met Dad, and actually for a time after that, what I centered on was education. Even when I married Sha're, most of my time was spent learning about the Abydoians or trying to decipher the information in the Cartouche. That's not what I want for you or your brothers and sisters. All I'm saying is that you're right, in a way. Learning ... overload as you call it isn't always a good thing. It saved me, but I wish now that I'd had a better balance, and that's the balance Dad and I try to use with the brood."

"You said no lessons over the holidays," Jonny reminded. "Dad was quizzing us. That's like homework." He sighed, "I like to learn, Daddy, but sometimes I just want to play and eat."

~Gawd, he definitely has Jack's genes.~ Daniel smiled, nodding as he replied, "Okay, parents make mistakes, too. Maybe we should have waited until our next lesson to remind you about the banitsa and then learn about it, but oftentimes, Jonny, the best time to learn is when you are faced with the subject, when you're ... in the moment. That said, you're right about the quiz. We should have thought more about our presentation and discussed this learning opportunity with all of you."

Jonny's grin was huge. He felt like he'd just done battle and come out the victor.

Daniel sensed the emotion of winning from the oldest Munchkin and stated, "Jonny, just because Dad and I may have erred a bit by including a ... well, we'll call it a quiz, that doesn't excuse your attitude and behavior. You disrupted our family meal and that made all of us feel bad. More to the point, Son, you were rude when you had other choices. You could have brought up your concern about the quiz without being negative. Dad and I always listen, don't we?"

"Yes," Jonny readily agreed, believing that to the depths of his soul. ~I don't always like what they tell me, but Dad and Daddy are the best listeners in the universe.~

"Okay, then. Let's see if you've learned anything from our conversation."

His daddy's last words were a challenge, and Jonny knew that. He had to think hard in the short walk back to the hospitality room. His fathers would both be paying close attention to him and so would his siblings.

~And I'm the leader,~ Jonny recalled as he returned to the table, immediately noticing that all eyes were on him.

Daniel calmly returned to his seat, near Jack, and privately communicated, **We made a little mistake, Babe.**

**We did?**

**Listen,** Daniel encouraged with a slight nod toward the oldest Munchkin. **Jonny will explain.** Silently, he added, ~I hope.~

Still standing and with his hands on the top of his chair, Jonny spoke, "Well, first, I'm sorry I interrupted Christmas. I should have been more polite about it, but I was upset because Dad and Daddy said we wouldn't have any school over the holidays, but they were giving us a lesson about the ban-whatzit."

"Banitsa," Little Danny corrected.

"Yeah, that," Jonny affirmed. "They were wrong to have school when they aid they wouldn't."

"You should have told them that nicely, Jonny," Little Danny opined. "We can tell Dad and Daddy anything. They won't get mad."

"I know," Jonny sighed. "Anyway, Daddy was right, too. He reminded me that we're always learning, even when we don't think we are. Dad, I want to know about the Bansmacallit, but I don't think you should quiz us about Bulgaria when you said you wouldn't. That's what I think." He sat down and repeated, "I am sorry and if you want me to go to my room and spend the rest of Christmas alone, I will."

"Jonny Jackson-O'Neill, you'll do no such thing," Aislinn admonished. "You said you were sorry. We believe you. Don't we, brood?"

"Absolutely," Jennifer responded as did the rest of the family with one type of acknowledgement or another.

"Dad, are you mad at me?" Jonny asked contritely.

"No way. Daddy and I made a little mistake. I understand that now. We're sorry."

"We are," Daniel concurred.

"Except ...." Little Danny sighed.

"What is it?" Jack prodded curiously.

"I want to know about anything I don't know about," the middle Munchkin revealed, not that it was a surprise to anyone at the table. "Learning's fun, all the time."

~Geez, he's a mini-Daniel for sure,~ Jack thought with a smile on his face.

In that moment, just like the Grinch whose heart grew three times its size in a day, Jonny's mind opened up at least that much, if not more, in an instant.

"It was my fault, Little Danny," Jonny said. "I whined because I thought we were having class, but we weren't. Dad and Daddy were trying to tell us about the food that Mrs. Valissi made for us. She worked hard to make it for us, and I should have wanted to know everything about it. It's just like when they tell us about a dig or Dad helping the Air Force. I acted crappy."

Then Jonny had a bright idea, something to shift the mood and get the family back on track with all the goodness they were feeling before he acted out. It didn't matter if he had a bit of truth to his objection. He handled it poorly, and he fully understood that now. His parents always welcomed the opinions of their children and had he just asked about it politely, their meal wouldn't have been interrupted.

"Brood, meeting," Jonny ordered, getting up from the table and waving for his siblings to follow him to the front end of the recreation room.

--

"What do you think?" Jack asked his husband as the children got up to attend the impromptu meeting.

"Well, Babe, we share some of the blame for what happened. We promised no school and then we had school."

"Shouldn't have asked any questions?" Jack queried.

"Technically, but if I know your namesake the way I think I do, it'll be okay."

"Daniel, we've been educating the brood through daily life for all of their lives. This wasn't any different."

"Jack, when you were Jonny's age and in school, and the teacher said it was recess, how would you have felt if she, or he, suddenly called you back inside for a pop quiz?"

"I know exactly how I'd feel because it happened, once or twice, when I ..."

"Misbehaved?" Daniel smirked mischievously.

"No one's perfect."

"That's the truth."

Jack groaned, but nodded his awareness of the sentiment. Perhaps he and Daniel should pay closer attention to the timing and appropriateness of their unofficial daily lessons. He knew it was something they would both consider as they moved forward with the education of their children.

--

"Dinner looks great," Brianna praised as she sat down.

"I'm hungry, but I still have presents to open," a divided Jenny sighed as she approached her chair.

"I'm glad I told Chely I'd see her this afternoon instead of for lunch like we originally planned," Jeff spoke about his girlfriend who was home from Stanford for the holidays.

"Daniel, haven't we heard all of this before?" Jack asked his lover with uncertainty.

Indeed, the children were repeating their comments almost word for word as it occurred prior to the eating of their meal. In front of their parents, the kids recreated the meal, albeit at a quicker pace, right up to the point of the knock at the door.

The same children who eagerly jumped up to answer the door originally did so again, but when Daniel didn't react as he had before, they all stopped and stared at him.

"Daddy!" Jonny called out, a pleading in his eyes.

"Oh, yeah, uh, well," Daniel stammered as he stood up. He really didn't remember what he'd said earlier, so he simply called out, "I'll answer the door." Standing, he ordered, "Sit," to the standing brood, and went to the door. He waited, silently recalling his chat with Mrs. Valissi. When he thought it was time enough, he returned to the table, pretending to hold the banitsa trays and placing them down on the table, one at each end as before.

"It smells good, Daddy. What is it?" Jenny asked as she recalled her question from several minutes before.

Silence loomed until Daniel gave his husband a nudge and called out to him, "Jack."

"What?"

"It's your turn."

"My turn?"

"Bulgaria, Babe."

"Oh, my bad," Jack retorted. "Okay, kids, tell me about Bulgaria. What countries surround it?"

The kids answered as they did before, until the countries to the west were left.

"To the left of Bulgaria are ..."

Jack was cut off by his namesake who piped in proudly, "Serbia and Macedonia."

The entire family grinned.

"I love do overs," Jonny chimed brightly as he felt the happiness return to his family. ~Note to self: don't mess up like that again. It wasn't worth it.~

"Me, too, Sport," Jack responded, the special nickname telling all that everything was definitely okay.

Jack and Daniel spent a few more minutes talking about the people of Bulgaria before centering in on the special treat Mrs. Valissi prepared for them.

"The first thing we're going to do is spin the two trays," Daniel told the brood.

"Why?"

"Luck of the draw," Jack said with a smile. "Spin 'em."

"But don't spin so hard that the trays fall off the table," Daniel mused as he smiled.

Happily, the children worked together to spin the trays until each came to a stop.

"Everyone take one piece," Jack told the children.

"But don't bite into it yet," Daniel added.

As she began to slice the pastry into pieces for everyone at her end of the table, Brianna laughed, "Why? Is there a treasure inside?" She saw her parents exchange a glance and, stunned, queried, "Is there?"

"A treasure inside the pastry?" an excited Jonny questioned, his eyes as wide as ever.

"There is something special about banitsas," Daniel responded, watching as Ricky carefully and slowly did the cutting of the banitsa for his siblings on his side of the long table. "It's a remembrance of the past and a hope for the future. It draws on the strength of a family and the unity of a nation."

"There's one piece for each of you. No trading or deal making. Take the piece in front of you," Jack instructed.

The brood took the piece in front of them, with Lulu assisting JD who wasn't quite five years old yet.

"Careful with your forks, but open up your pastry."

The kids shared fun looks that expressed curiosity, playfulness, and joy. Ricky finally took the plunge, his fork making a mess of his pastry in an instant. The others followed until everyone's pastry revealed its secret.

"It's a charm," Aislinn exclaimed as she reached in and pulled out the intricate pinecone charm.

"I have one, too," a happy Jenny called out.

"We all have them," Jennifer observed.

"Not me," a beaming Jonny related. "I have money!"

"It's a gold coin," Ricky observed as he snatched up the round object.

"Switzerland," David noted as he examined his coin more closely.

Each of the boys received a Swiss Helvetia 20 Franc gold coin. They were from different years, ranging from 1902 to 1941.

"I'm rich," Jonny spoke excitedly.

"Keep your money," Jennifer responded. "I'll take jewelry over coins any day," she mused happily. "This looks like fourteen karat yellow gold. Is it?"

"You got it, Princess," Jack affirmed.

"What's that?" JD asked, his finger pointing at the piece of foil inside his pastry.

"Open it up," Daniel urged.

With great curiosity, each child grabbed the aluminum foil inside their banitsa and opened it up to see a piece of paper with a message on it.

"Happiness," Aislinn read on her paper.

"Mine says, 'Joy,'. I like that," Jennifer commented.

Jonny gulped as he turned his paper around and showed that it read, "Peacefulness."

All the papers had simple words, all positive in nature, that expressed a feeling or adjective for the new year.

"It's like a fortune cookie," Little Danny stated, smiling when his paper said, "Compassion."

It was rather amazing how each 'fortune' seemed to fit its owner. Even Jack's and Daniel's were spot on with Daniel's reading, "Curiosity," and Jack's, "Playfulness."

"Daddy, what's this?" Jenny asked as she pulled out a twig-like object.

"That's a small dogwood branch. Notice the bud at the end," Daniel suggested. "Bulgarians include this in their Christmas' and New Year's banitsas as a sign of health and longevity."

"Eat up," Jack urged when the discussion ended.

"What's the white stuff?" Jenny inquired as she examined the interior of the pastry more closely before tasting it.

"Looks like white cheese," Brianna replied.

"It is," Jack confirmed. "Short list: eggs, whisked, and white cheese layered in phyllo pastry."

"And baked to perfection, thanks to Mrs. Valissi," Daniel added.

"Oh boy!" an excited Jonny exclaimed as he took three big bites of the banitsa, back to back. "It's ter-<hiccup>."

As the entire family, laughed, the Munchkin hiccuped again.

"Ut-oh," Jonny groaned as another series of hiccups began.

"I think this is where we came in," Jack quipped to the amusement of the children.

Christmas was back on track for the Jackson-O'Neills. Nothing, not hiccups or educational quizzes, could keep them down. Do over or not, Christmas 2016 was another joyful family celebration that would live on in their memories forever.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

Author's Note: Please feel free to email me with your comments or suggestions; constructive criticism, things you'd like to see, etc. A chronological listing of my universe is at http://orrymain.com

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