'A Birthday Basket for Tia'

STORY TIME

May 16, 1999|By Pat Mora

Editor's note: With the help and hindrance of her cat, Cecilia prepares a surprise gift for her great-aunt's 90th birthday.

Today is secret day. I curl my cat into my arms and say, "Ssshh, Chica. Can you keep our secret, silly cat?"

Today is special day. Today is my great-aunt's ninetieth birthday. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety. Ninety years old.

Chica and I walk around the front yard and the backyard looking for a good present. We walk around the house. We look in Mama's room. We look in my closet and drawers.

I say, "Chica, shall we give her my little pots, my piggy bank, my tin fish, my dancing puppet?"

I say, "Mama, can Chica and I use this basket?" Mama asks, "Why, Cecilia?" "It's a surprise for the surprise party," I answer.

Chica jumps into the basket. "No," I say. "Not for you, silly cat. This is a birthday basket for Tia."

I put a book in the basket. When Tia comes to our house, she reads it to me. It's our favorite book. I sit close to her on the sofa. I smell her perfume. Sometimes Chica tries to read with us. She sits on the book. I say, "Silly cat. Books are not for sitting."

I put Tia's favorite mixing bowl on the book in the basket. Tia and I like to make bizcochos, sugary cookies for the family. Tia says, "Cecilia, help me stir the cookie dough." She says, "Cecilia, help me roll the cookie dough." When we take the warm cookies from the oven, Tia says, "Cecilia, you are a very good cook."

I put a flowerpot in the mixing bowl on the book in the basket. Tia and I like to grow flowers for the kitchen window. Chica likes to put her face in the flowers. "Silly cat," I say.

Chica and I go outside. I pick flowers to decorate Tia's basket. On summer days when I am swinging high up to the sky, Tia collects flowers for my room.

"Here comes the musicians," says Mama. I open the front door. Our family and friends begin to arrive too.

I curl Chica into my arms. Then Mama says, "Sshh, here comes Tia."

I rush to open the front door. "Tia! Tia!" I shout. She hugs me and says, "Cecilia, que pasa? What is this?"

"SURPRISE!" we all shout. "Feliz cumpleanos! Happy birthday!" The musicians begin to play their guitars and violins.

"Tia! Tia!" I say. "It's special day, birthday day! It's your ninetieth birthday surprise party!" Tia and I laugh.

I give her the birthday basket. Everyone gets close to see what's inside. Slowly Tia smells the flowers. She looks at me and smiles.

Carefully, Tia takes the flowerpot out of the bowl and the bowl off the book. She doesn't say a word. She just stops and looks at me. Then she takes our favorite book out of the basket.

And guess who jumps into the basket?

Chica. Everyone laughs.

Then the music starts and my aunt surprises me. She takes my hands in hers. Without her cane, she starts to dance with me.

Excerpted from the book A BIRTHDAY BASKET FOR TIA, text by Pat Mora and illustrated by Cecily Lang. Text copyright (C) 1992, by Pat Mora. Illustrations copyright (C) 1992, by Cecily Lang. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.

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