Des Moines, Iowa, 1932 — — "Mom! Dad! Look!" Maria tapped the pet store window. Maria had begged her parents to come to see something special. She tapped the window again. "Wake up, Buttons."
A white puppy yawned. Light from the street lamp reflected in his two small dark eyes and small black nose.
"I named him Buttons. Guess why."
Mom and Dad shook their heads, "Tell us."
Maria's eyes shone as if she knew the best secret in the world. "His two little eyes and nose look like buttons. See… his two black ears match them."
The wiggly puppy yawned again and wagged his small pointed tail. He whined and scratched the window.
"I can hardly wait for tomorrow. I visit him every day to and from school. It's like he's mine. I wish he were for Christmas, more than anything!"
Mom and Dad looked at each other. Mom said, "Maria, please remember he may not always be here. This is a pet store, and stores sell things."
"He's not a thing! He's my puppy!" She could see sadness in her parents' eyes. Quickly Maria added, "It's fun to pretend."
It was the Depression and things were hard all over. Money was scarce. Both parents had worked hard to earn money for their family. Dad lost his job, when he stayed home for his arm to heal. At night Maria and her brother overheard her mother whispering, "Don't worry. You couldn't help your arm getting crushed."
In her pocket, Maria felt the dime she had found. She thought, "I'll save my money, but how will I get more?"
The next day Maria had a plan. After school, even before petting Buttons, she ran to Ed in the pet store.
"I want to buy Buttons," she declared.
Ed reminded, "We sell pets, not buttons."
"Oh," Maria replied, "I mean the white puppy with two black ears. I named him Buttons." Maria told him the secret why. "I have ten cents to start. Some people buy things with credit. I'll collect things like bottles for a down payment to get him– if no one buys him first."
Ed looked at her anxious eyes. "OK, if no one buys him first."
"Buttons," Maria pet his wiggly body, "someday you will be my really own, not just pretend, puppy."
Maria collected all the bottles she could find in the park and the alley behind her apartment house. She kept a secret record on a sheet she signed with Ed. Every day she visited Buttons and told him, "Someday you will be my puppy."
Other puppies left the window. Each time Maria breathed a relieved sigh. Buttons was still there. The day before Christmas when Maria looked, she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Buttons was not there. Maria ran to find Ed.
"He went home early," Polly said.
"What about the white puppy with two black ears?" Maria asked.
"He took the puppy," Polly answered.
"But I was keeping a record for him. I offered to bring money whenever I could, but Ed said it would be OK." Maria tried hard, but a tear ran down her cheek.
"I'm sorry," Polly consoled.
Maria ran home and slammed the door. Mom was home early and asked, "What's the matter?"
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she told about the secret record. "Ed said it was OK."
Mother left the room and came back with a box with holes in it and a big red bow. "A man from the pet store left this."
Maria heard a little whine. She rushed to open the box. A note fell to the floor. Maria read: "A white puppy with two black ears shouldn't be alone on Christmas. He needs a home. Merry Christmas. Ed."
Special thanks to Veronica Walsh for this week's illustration. To see more of her work, visit veronicawalsh.net.
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