by J.J. White
Enjoy this sweet Christmas short story by mystery author J.J. White.
It had been a Daley tradition dating back four generations. Christmas morning, each child received three identical gift boxes from under the tree. In two of the boxes were practical gifts such as socks or underwear, but the third contained that special present the child had asked for from Santa and wanted more than anything in the world.
Annie watched proudly as her four-year-old, Elizabeth, excitedly dragged each of her gift boxes out into the middle of the family room. Annie remembered when she was her daughter’s age and had felt the same excitement, though she had to fight her brothers for floor space. But Elizabeth was her only child and had the floor to herself.
If her daughter chose the right gift box, the special one, then she would get to play with the present before breakfast. However, if it was the one with the socks or underwear, then Elizabeth would have to wait until after church to open the other two. It seemed cruel to Annie now that she was an adult, but tradition was tradition.
Annie’s parents had come to celebrate with them since her husband Tony was still overseas with the military. His tour of duty would still go on for six more months and Annie and Elizabeth missed him terribly. There was a melancholy feel to the festivities.
Elizabeth had wanted a pink bicycle for her special present. She had cut out a picture of it from a magazine and shown it, what seemed like a million times, to her mother, her grandparents, and the Santa in the mall. Since Annie’s parents took care of the gift boxes this year, Annie suspected one of them held a picture of a pink bicycle.
Elizabeth looked over to her mother and then to her grandparents.
“Go ahead, dear,” her grandmother said. “Choose one.”
After some pondering, Elizabeth attacked the middle gift box, Christmas paper flying everywhere. Once opened, she reached inside and removed a slip of paper. She handed it to her mother with a frown.
Annie read it aloud. “It says, ‘Go open the front door, Elizabeth.’”
Elizabeth looked puzzled. Her grandmother said, “The present wouldn’t fit in the box, sweetheart. Go open the door.”
Elizabeth walked over, reached up for the knob, and turned it with both hands. As the door opened, she screamed, “Daddy!”
It was Tony, dressed in his desert fatigues, smiling almost as much as Elizabeth. Annie’s heart pounded as Elizabeth literally jumped into his arms. Tony smothered his daughter with hugs and kissed her forehead. Before Annie could join them, he stepped back outside and then came back in dragging a small pink bicycle.
Annie couldn’t stand it anymore and ran to Tony. She wrapped her arms around him and Elizabeth. He pulled Annie close to him and as her tears stained his uniform, she wished he’d never let go.
Annie turned to her mother. “How did you know she’d choose the right one?”
“Oh, that was easy, sweetheart,” her mother said. “All three boxes had the same note.”
Check out more Christmas short stories in our Terrific Tales section, and watch for more to go up between now and Christmas!