17 Papa's New Pants
Papa saw purple pants at the market. He told the shopkeeper, "We're having a picnic tomorrow. I must have those pants."
When Papa tried them on, the shopkeeper said, "A perfect fit. A little long, but don't worry. They need to be shortened only the length of a thumb."
Papa paid for them and went home. He asked his wife, "Can you hem my new pants before the picnic tomorrow? They need to be shortened only the length of a thumb. I'd do it myself, but I make such a mess when I sew ."
Mama said, "Can't you see how busy I am? If we're going to have a picnic, first I must bake the cakes. Then I must cut tomatoes and cucumbers for the salad."
I can see how busy you are. Papa sighed. "I'll ask Nina."
He found his oldest daughter going out the door with her satchel . "Nina, can you shorten my pants for tomorrow? They need to be cut only the length of a thumb."
Oh, Papa, Nina said, "look at this list Mama gave me. First I must go to the baker's and order fresh pita for tomorrow. Then I must buy drinks at the grocery store. Ask one of the twins."
The twins were in their bedroom. Margot was braiding Becky's hair.
Can one of you fix my pants for the picnic? asked Papa. "They need to be shortened only the length of a thumb."
We want to look pretty for the picnic, Becky said. "When Margot finishes my hair, I'm going to braid hers."
Max tugged at his father's sleeve. "Let me shorten them. I know what to do."
Nonsense, said Papa, laughing. You're too little."
Papa was disappointed he wouldn't be able to wear his new pants to the picnic. He went outside to water the garden.
Max lifted the pants off the hook. I'll show Papa that I'm not too young. After measuring the length of his thumb, Max cut a purple strip from each leg. Snip, snip. Then he folded the cut edges inside and stitched them with thread from Mama's sewing box. When Max hung the pants back on the hook in Papa's bedroom, he thought they looked as good as new.
Papa is going to think we're selfish, Margot said to her sister. "Why don't we take a rest from this braiding? You hem one leg, and I'll hem the other."
Each girl measured the length of her thumb. Snip, snip. Off came a purple strip from the left leg. Snip, snip. Off came a strip from the right. They folded the rough edges under and, with purple thread from the sewing box, hemmed the pants.
Don't say a word! said Becky. "It will be a surprise."
When Nina came home from shopping, the pants were back on their hook. I hope Papa didn't think I was rude, rushing off like that. I can fix them now. Nina measured the length of her thumb. Snip, snip. When she finished hemming the pants, she returned them to Papa's room.
After everyone had gone to sleep, Mama put the last of the food in the refrigerator. She sat down to rest. Poor Papa, she thought. I'll fix those pants so he can wear them tomorrow. She snipped and stitched until the job was done.
When Papa woke up in the morning, he saw his new pants and sighed. Maybe no one will notice they're a bit too long, he thought. He pulled the pants on. What's going on here? He wondered. The family found him standing in front of the mirror.
Papa, what happened to your pants? everyone asked.
I just took off a bit, Max said.
You? Papa asked us to shorten them, the twins said.
You also shortened them? said Nina. "So did I."
And so did I! Mama said, suppressing a laugh.
Oh, Papa, what will you do? Nina cried. "We can't make them longer."
Papa laughed so hard that tears rolled down his cheeks. When at last he could speak, he said, "Nobody wanted to disappoint me. What a great family I have."
Wait, said Margot. "I have an idea. If everyone helps, we can have those pants ready in time."
Max ran for the sewing basket. The twins measured and cut. Mama hemmed the left leg, Nina the right. When they finished sewing, Mama said, "Go try on your new shorts."
Papa went into the bedroom to put them on, then came back out.
Max said, "Shorts are great to wear to a picnic."
Perfect, Papa agreed.
(By Lila Julius)