The Shiniest Present
The Christmas treasure I thought I’d never find found me when I was a senior in high school. Our family was poor, but stable. Both Mom and Dad worked hard and saved hard to send my two older brothers on to college. My sister Ruthie and I knew better than to ask our folks for anything that might hinder those boys’ education. Anyway, they would have said, “You want? You work.”
But they always let us ask for a Christmas gift and tried their best to get it under the tree. For twelve years I gave them a list of five items. Every year, I started the list with an electric train and a watch. In my senior year I also included a new pair of wintertime gloves. Then a wallet; a store-bought wallet that wouldn’t unravel like the one I made at camp several summers ago. And finally, a new net for my basketball hoop. Those last three only cost five dollars each.
“Just get one,” I told Mom, “Not all of them.” I gave her the list and waited for Christmas.
My part-time, after-school job was at Maxwell’s Market, and I was usually home by 9:30—or else! If I had had a watch, I would have been home on time, every time. I once vowed I’d save up enough for a real nice watch.
Mom and Dad saw to it that I set aside a tithe and some savings, leaving me precious little spending money. But that year, I saved up enough to get Mom, Dad and Ruthie their Christmas gifts; little books full of inspirational quotes.
On Christmas morning Ruthie was up first and turned on the tree lights. She made just enough noise to get Dad up. He started some coffee. The two of them talked till Mom shuffled herself to my room and said, “Merry Christmas, honey. It’s time to get up.”
That year Mom and Dad put three gifts under the tree for me. Unusual indeed. The first, wrapped in “manly” paper, was a really nice pair of warm leather gloves. Then I unwrapped a new basketball net. I knew what I’d be doing later that day. And finally, a smooth, genuine cowhide wallet. I was pleased and liked it right away.
But I was also embarrassed. “Dad, you only had to get one. Not all of them,” I said. My parents were poor, yet here they were squandering all their money on me. But look! Ruthie got three presents, too! One was a little watch with a bright pink patent leather band.
“There’s one last present down here waiting for someone to claim it,” Dad said.
Huh? I hadn’t seen that down there before. “Ruthie,” he asked, “what’s it say on that name tag?” She looked at it and then looked at me. “It’s for you,” she said. “Here."
“But I already got… Where’d it come from?”
“Open it, honey,” Mom encouraged.
I peeled off the paper and discovered a brown plastic box, hardly big enough to hold a baseball. “Wha…?” It required some twisting and prying to pop it open. Inside was something shiny. “What’s this?” I didn’t recognize it because it was upside down. I had never received a shiny, upside down present before. I turned it ov… A watch! My eyes saw it, but my mind had to wait a minute to catch on.
A watch! They gave me a watch for Christmas! “I don’t think this is for me,” I said quickly.
“Yeah, it is!” my sister yelled. “I got one, too!”
“But Mom…Dad…” My eyes exploded with tears. “…this is a watch.” I lost all composure. Completely astonished and sobbing unchecked, I collapsed with my shiny gift clutched close to my chest. How could they afford this? Where did they get all the money? They already gave me three presents.
Dad reminded me, “Now you take good care of that watch and it will take good care of you.” Mom stood beside him, smiling proudly.
I don’t know if I was crying because I was so thrilled to have that watch, or crying because I was so proud of my hard-working parent’s extra income. They had just given me the shiniest present I ever got. I stumbled across the room and hugged my mom. Whispering quietly, I said, “Thank you.”
Copyright 2008 by Paul Nichols
Jesus: He became like us so that we can become like him. Merry Christmas.