"I won't do it!" thirteen-year-old Olive Belden cried, and stomped her foot. "You can't make me!"

Diana Belden felt her dove of peace mantle slipping as she took in the stormy expression of her eldest child. "Yes, you will. And no, I won't make you." She paused, and fixed her incredibly stubborn, incredibly loving daughter with a penetrating look. "You'll do it because it's the right thing to do."

Olive collapsed on the couch, her eyes as stormy as her Aunt Trixie's had ever been. Diana relaxed, knowing that, just like her aunt, she'd come around. In her own time, of course, but she'd come around.

"But it's ugly!" Olive protested.

Diana eyed the garment that lay discarded on the arm of the couch. "Well, you do know that Great Aunt Alicia doesn't see very well anymore now that she has cataracts..."

"That explains the colour," Olive said dourly.

Well. Yes. Diana couldn't help but agree that the glaring orange was an interesting colour choice. To say nothing of the mint green trim.

"Do we really have to take a picture?" she asked forlornly.

"It took her hours to make you that sweater," Diana said softly. "And she thought of you every minute she spent knitting it."

Olive hung her head, her straight blonde hair concealing her face. "I really don't want to."

"Why not? It's just one picture that we'll send to Aunt Alicia, and then you'll never have to wear it again."

"You just don't understand," Olive said with a sigh.

Diana cocked her head to the side, and then sat down beside her daughter. She smiled softly, lost in thought for a moment, before speaking. "Did I ever tell you about the year that your Grandma Lynch decided to have a Victorian Christmas?"

Olive shrugged one shoulder and glared at the room.

"No?" Pulling a photo album from one of the many bookshelves in the room, she paged through it until she found the photograph she was looking for. "Take a look," she said, sliding the album onto Olive's lap.

Olive huffed out a put-upon sigh and rolled her eyes, but eventually deigned to look at the photograph. She glanced at the picture, and then pushed the album away. "A picture of relatives from a hundred years ago?" she questioned. "Why are you showing me this?"

"Take a closer look," Diana suggested, sliding the album back.

After a moment's hesitation, Olive did. "No way," she breathed, glancing from the photograph to her mother, and then back again.

"Yes way," Diana quipped. "You recognize your Grandma and Grandpa Lynch, of course. And there's Uncle Larry, Uncle Terry, Aunt Jenny, and Aunt Mandie," she said, pointing out each person.

"And there's you," Olive said, pointing. "You look..."

"Hideous?" Diana supplied, grinning. "Oh, yes. I certainly did."

"I wasn't going to say hideous," Olive protested, still staring at the photograph, "but..." She frowned. "Why are you all wearing the same clothes?"

The memory had lost its bite, but she grimaced slightly anyway. "Grandma Lynch thought it would be fun if we all dressed the same."

"Aunt Jenny and Aunt Mandie look fine," Olive said. "And Uncle Larry and Uncle Terry aren't so bad. I mean, those pants are a little odd..." She squinted. "Are those parrots on their shoulders?"

Diana smiled. "Let me tell you a story."

Early December...

Fifteen-year-old Diana Lynch whirled around the family room, laughing in delight as her younger brother Terry at last mastered the rhythm of the waltz and succeeded in completing the dance without once trampling her feet.

"See?" she said, collapsing on the delicate Louis IV period sofa. "You can do it!"

"Well, sure," Terry agreed, dropping to a seated position on the luxuriously carpeted floor. "But why would I want to?"

"You know perfectly well why," Diana scolded, lifting her hair off her neck for a moment before sliding an elastic off her wrist to secure it in a high pony tail. "Mother is insisting on a Victorian Christmas this year, and thought it would be fun if we all learned how to waltz."

"You're just hoping to talk Mart into dancing with you," Larry said slyly, popping a chocolate treat into his mouth.

"I am not!" she protested, flushing, but her words were drowned out by the exclamations of her twin sisters.

"Mart wants to dance with us! He told us so!" Jenny exclaimed, her lower lip sticking out defiantly. "And Mummy says we can have new dresses for Christmas, and everything! And we'll keep the house decorated until Di-Di's birthday so that we can have a big dance, and—"

"Jenny!" Larry and Terry shouted. "It was supposed to be a secret! Remember?"

The two sets of twins turned to stare at Diana, whose eyes were wide with surprise. "Really?" she squealed. "Mummy and Daddy are letting me have a Victorian dance party for my birthday?" She bit her lip in excitement. She loved parties, and she loved dancing, and this was going to be the best birthday ever!

Larry rolled his eyes. "They've even been making sure that all of the Bob-Whites know how to dance. And helping them find the right clothes." He wrinkled his nose. "You don't think Mummy will make us wear suits, do you?"

Di clapped her hands together and spun around the room again, taking two of her siblings by the hands and forcing them to join her. The children laughed with her as her contagious good cheer spread. "Oh, it's going to be lovely!" she said. "And it's only a month away!"

January 3rd simply could not come quickly enough this year.

Christmas Eve...

Diana sat in the middle of a loveseat, flanked on both sides by her little sisters. Ostensibly, this was to prevent the younger girls from fighting and to keep them calm, but Diana was just as guilty as her younger sisters of fidgeting. She knew she was too old to be so excited, but it was Christmas Eve! And the amount of presents beneath the twelve-foot Christmas tree was truly dizzying. She knew that Christmas was about much more than just material gifts, but after so many years of worrying that Santa wouldn't bring her anything at all, she still felt a stab of excitement every time she looked at the bounty of gaily wrapped packages.

And they were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve! Again, she knew that she was too old to be excited about this, but she couldn't help herself. In elementary school, they'd often been asked to share their Christmas traditions with the class, and Diana had been fascinated by the notion of opening a present early, on Christmas Eve. Some students complained, lamenting the fact that they were only ever allowed to open new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, and that they were expected to wear said pyjamas to open presents Christmas morning, but she thought it was a lovely tradition. She hadn't had enough courage to ask her parents to consider doing the same the first year after they'd moved to their new home, and they'd been in Arizona the next year, but after they'd really settled into their new home and when the extra staff had been fired, she'd gathered her courage.

She remembered her father's jolly laughter, his strong hug, and the promise that, yes, she could most certainly open a present on Christmas Eve.

And here they were! She watched, a silly grin on her face, as her father riffled through the presents under the tree and pretended that he couldn't find any for the children.

"They're all for me?" he asked. "Amazing! I mean, I knew I'd been a good boy this year, but I thought that Santa might bring a little something for the rest of you..."

The twins yelled their outrage through their laughter, even the little girls knowing full well that their jovial father was anything but serious.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, lifting up another present and reading the tag carefully. "I believe that I may have found something. Santa must have left it accidentally. I certainly hope that it's not underwear..."

The little ones screamed with laughter.

"No underpants!" Terry yelled.

"Not unless they've got Superman on them," his brother quickly corrected him. "Those would be okay."

"It's not underpants," Mrs. Lynch said, shaking her head and smiling at the antics of her family. "Jenny, Mandie, why don't you open your presents first?"

"Hey!" Larry protested. "That's not fair! Why should they get to go first?"

"Someone has to go first," Diana pointed out. "And unless you stop complaining, I'm pretty sure that you'll end up going last."

Mr. Lynch laughed again. "If you don't stop complaining, you won't open any presents at all! Santa's a distant relative, you know," he said, patting his ample stomach. "We talk all the time."

"Dad!" Larry groaned.

Further complaints, however, were cut off as Jenny and Mandie tore into their identically wrapped packages.

"A dress!" Jenny exclaimed, surprising Diana. After she'd told her parents about the Christmas Eve pyjama present tradition, she'd been certain that that's what they'd be opening.

"Are you sure?" Diana asked "Maybe it's a fancy nightgown."

"Made out of velvet?" Mandie asked, sounding remarkably scornful for a normally sweet seven-year-old.

"And look!" Jenny cried, pulling the dress out of the tissue paper and standing up to hold it against her body. "It has ribbons! And lace!"

It certainly did, Diana thought, staring at what was very obviously a dress, and not a nightgown. The garment was curiously old-fashioned, and Diana realized immediately that they were to match the Victorian theme her mother had chosen for this Christmas. Her twin sisters would look adorable in them, she knew.

"Can we put them on right now?" Jenny asked, stroking her fingers over the deep red velvet.

With an indulgent smile, Mrs. Lynch told her, "In a few minutes. Let's let everyone else open their presents first."

Mr. Lynch delivered the next set of presents to the elder twins, his eyes twinkling merrily. The boys tore through the wrapping presents in seconds, leaving the floor covered in tiny pieces of paper and bits of ribbon and bow.

"What is this?" Larry asked, staring at the tissue-wrapped material.

"Take it out and see," Mrs. Lynch suggested, moving closer to them and holding up a camera to capture the moment.

"It's a suit!" Terry groaned. "I knew it!" He scowled at the package, and didn't remove the garment from the box.

Diana quickly averted her eyes from the brief flash of hurt she saw in her mother's expression, and moved to join her brothers on the floor. "Let's see it," she said, and tugged at the royal blue velvet. "Oh!" she gasped, staring at the unusual garment. It was like a suit jacket, but had more buttons and frills that she had expected. With growing excitement, she laid out the jacket, breeches, and white shirt. "You," she said, flashing her mother a quick grin before turning back to her brothers, "are going to be the most handsome pirates Sleepyside has ever seen!"

"Pirates?" Terry asked, brightening immediately.

"Pirates," Diana asserted. "Can't you tell? Isn't this similar to what Captain Hook wore in Peter Pan? Except better, of course," she added hastily.

"Do you think there's a sword in here?" Larry asked, quickly rooting through his own present.

"Probably not," Diana said, exchanging amused glances with her father, "but I'm sure that we could make some out of cardboard."

"That's a fine idea!" Mr. Lynch agreed, his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Do you suppose I could talk you into making one for me?"

"Sure thing!" the boys exclaimed, examining their new outfits with enthusiasm.

Diana sighed in relief. Crisis averted. At least for the moment.

"It's time for you to open yours, dear," Mrs. Lynch said, handing her a box considerably larger than what either set of twins had opened.

Diana unwrapped it slowly, drawing squirms of impatience from her younger sisters as she meticulously folded the wrapping paper. Larry and Terry would have teased her as well, but they were already fashioning makeshift swords out of discarded wrapping paper and attempting to duel. She bit her lip in anticipation as she drew the paper away from the fabric. Jenny and Mandie's dresses had been perfect for the little girls, and Larry and Terry's suits were darling. What had her mother found for her?

At first glimpse, her dress appeared to be identical to her sisters'. But that couldn't be right, she told herself. Surely her mother wouldn't choose to dress her in a garment designed for a seven-year-old. She unfolded it carefully, holding it in front of her.

"Isn't it perfect?" Mrs. Lynch said, clapping her hands. "Ella was very pleased with how this turned out. She had to adapt the pattern, of course, because it was geared for children's sizes, but we were both quite happy with the results. What do you think, darling?"

She swallowed. Hard. "It's beautiful," she said, staring at the high neck and long sleeves. Beautiful for a  seven-year-old, she added silently.

"Daddy and I have our costumes, too," Mrs. Lynch continued, apparently oblivious to Diana's lack of enthusiasm. "We'll all wear them for opening gifts tomorrow morning, and for Christmas dinner. And I thought I'd have Harrison take a picture of us. We can use it for next year's Christmas card! Won't that be lovely?"

Diana winced. Wearing the dress would be bad enough, but photographic evidence of wearing the dress? Out of the question! And for that photographic evidence to be used as Christmas cards next year... She bit her lip, and wondered why she had ever suggested opening a present on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning...

Diana stared at herself in the mirror. She hadn't thought it possible, but the dress looked even worse on her than it had in the box. With a cry of disgust, she threw herself down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling. It seemed like only days ago that her mother was purchasing inappropriately sophisticated formal dresses for her. How had they come to this?

"Diana? Are you ready?" Mrs. Lynch called through the door after rapping lightly. "The twinnies are starting to get impatient..."

With a heavy sigh, she dragged herself off the bed. After one last look in the mirror, she threw open the door.

And promptly burst into laughter.

"Well!" Mrs. Lynch said, smiling indulgently. "You didn't think I wanted to be left out of the fun, did you?"

Diana stared, unabashed. Since coming into money, her mother had indulged in the latest styles, the best fabrics, and classiest wardrobe possible. Today, however, she was dressed in a dress identical to the ones her daughters wore.

And it was not particularly flattering. Diana had always considered her mother beautiful, even more so when she wasn't run down by worry about making ends meet for a family with five children. And she was still beautiful, she realized, looking more closely. But today, her beauty lay in the sparkle of her eyes, instead of the usual perfect fit of her clothing.

Which taught Diana everything she needed to know about how to look more attractive in her own ridiculous dress. With a bright smile, she gave her mother a kiss and hurried down to join the rest of her family for what she was certain was going to be the best Christmas morning ever.

"You really do look beautiful in the picture, Mummy," Olive said, staring at the photograph.

Diana shrugged one shoulder. "I was happy," she said simply.

Olive eyed the ugly sweater still lying on the arm rest of the couch. "I still don't want to wear it," she said.

Diana cocked her head to the side. "Hmm... I may have an idea."

Twenty minutes later, Olive and her two brothers were posed in front of the Christmas tree with their parents, and all five were wearing the worst of the worst, the loudest of the loudest, the most hideous of the hideous sweaters that had ever been knit by their well-meaning relative.

"Do you really think Uncle Brian, Aunt Trixie, and Uncle Bobby will accept the challenge?" Olive asked, proudly straightening the lines of her orange and green sweater.

"To compete for the absolute worst Christmas photo card to send to family?" Mart asked. "Oh, you'd better believe it. And just think, they have just as many sweaters to choose from as we do."

Olive grinned. "We can so take them."

The timer on the camera beeped, and a bright flash of light filled the room. While her younger brothers and father scattered, discarding their sweaters immediately, Olive lingered.

"Did you ever have your Victorian themed birthday dance party?" she asked, joining her mother in rearranging the ornaments on the Christmas tree that had been disturbed while the family had arranged themselves for the photo.

"Oh, yes," Diana said. "And Grandma Lynch was good enough to go to Ella Kline and have her whip up a new dress for me. I can only imagine how much it must have cost to have a gown made that quickly!"

Diana flipped through the photo album until she found a picture of the Bob-Whites, all dressed in Victorian finery.

Olive's eyes widened. "Is that Dad?" she gasped, pointing to a picture of a young blond man who looked exceeding uncomfortable in striped breeches and a ruffled jacket. When her mother nodded, Olive clamped a hand over her mouth.

"Oh, Mummy," she said, eyes dancing with mischief. "Don't you think it's time we had a Victorian Christmas? Ooh! Or maybe..." she paused. "Renaissance!"

Diana's eyes lit up. "Definitely!"

Author’s Notes

This is a birthday gift for Mary N (Dianafan), January 3, 2013.

Images obtained via from Google searches (except for camera, which is from Microsoft Clip Art). No rights are claimed and no profit is being made!

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, January 2012.

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