Note: This is one of my new stories. It appeared on Solveig Werner’s blog on Sunday. Only a couple of my readers have made it over there to read it so I thought I would post it here. It is a rewrite of an old story; I changed the point of view and I think it’s a much better story. I hope you enjoy it.
Vince had hidden the package from his wife for over a week. He was so excited to finally be able to give her this special gift. He had been so afraid that she would find the package that he had asked his compadre, Roy, to keep it at his house for him. Roy had gladly taken the package home with him and his wife, Jenny had offered to wrap it for him, gladly agreeing to his idea for the wrapping of this special gift.
Finally it was Christmas Eve and his comadre and compadre had come to the house to make tamales. Before they left, Roy had found a way to get the package to him without Bea seeing it. Mission accomplished! When bedtime came around and all the kids were put to bed, Vince found a way to get the package under the Christmas tree without Bea knowing. He put it in the back of the tree where it was hidden by the all the gifts for the kids. He went to bed and then he got nervous. What if she didn’t like it? Maybe he should have taken her to the store to pick it out for herself. But he had wanted it to be a surprise. She loved surprises. She was like a little girl when he treated her the way she deserved and he realized that he didn’t always treat her that way. Life had been very difficult for them for the past eleven years since they had married. There had never been enough money and there had always been all the kids, one new one each year. They had seven in all and he was pretty sure there would be no more. At least he hoped because although he loved each and every one of his children, he also wanted to be able to give them all the things he had never had when he was growing up and for that, he needed to be sure there were no more. Seven was enough.
On Christmas morning, they managed to keep the kids out of the living room where the Christmas tree was set up in front of the big bay window. The older kids knew the rule, no going in to see the presents until their parents were up and said it was okay. So the older kids, all boys, made sure the girls stayed out. They were all crowding at the door to the living room anxiously awaiting their parents’ appearance so they could get to their presents.
When their parents appeared and gave them the okay, they burst through the living room door to see all the presents. There were so many! The gifts were passed around to the right owner and opened, one by one. Each package brought glee to the owner. As the gifts were opened, the large box at the back of the tree began to show. Each of the kids wondered if the package was for them. The older ones dared to look for a tag on it but didn’t find one. When the gifts were all opened, there was still the last one, a big square box wrapped in shiny silver paper and topped with a big fancy white bow. Who did it belong to? There was no name on it. Everyone had gotten their presents except one person. She didn’t always get anything for Christmas because of the money so she had learned not to expect anything. Surely this package could not be for her but for who?
Finally, Vince smiled broadly and passed the gift to her. She looked at him with a puzzled look. This couldn’t be for her. She knew there hadn’t been any extra money but he was pushing the box at her and telling her to open it. He looked so happy this morning and she was glad that he was happy and sober and hoped that it would last at least a while but she knew that on most holidays he would be drunk before dinner.
“Open it. It’s for you,” he beamed at her.
“For me? Really? What is it?” Her eyes were smiling at him.
“Just open it. It’s a surprise. I can’t tell you what it is!”
She took the box and held it for a minute, trying not to shake it. She said it felt light. Was it a dress or a blouse, she asked? He looked at her and just said, “open it!”
She carefully un-taped the wrapping paper, not wanting to rip it because she always reused the paper for gifts throughout the year. When the paper was off and carefully folded at her side, she lifted the top off of the box and found a lot of strips of newspaper. She looked at Vince with hurt in her eyes.
“It’s a trick! It’s a mean trick. There isn’t anything in here.”
“Look around. There’s something in there. It’s not a trick!”
She moved the paper around and found another box, also wrapped in the pretty paper. She opened it carefully only to find more newspaper strips. Not willing to believe either that there was a gift in there or that he would trick her like this, she moved the paper strips and found another box which was also wrapped and contained more strips of paper and another box. She kept going until she got to a very small box wrapped in shiny gold paper with a silver metallic bow almost bigger than the box itself. She carefully opened it and found another box in there. She looked at this box, which wasn’t wrapped. She held her breath. The box was from Kay Jewelers but she didn’t dare think it was actually a piece of jewelry. She lifted her eyes and looked at her husband with disbelief. Could he be mean enough to trick her and give her an empty box from the jewelry store? Her eyes filled with tears as she hesitated before opening the jewelry box. When she did, all she could do was look at the contents with disbelief and an open mouth. She looked at her husband and asked “How? How could we afford this? You have to take it back!”
“I am not taking it back. I saved up money for weeks; a few dollars each week. I paid for it. I didn’t get it on credit. It’s for you. You deserve to have it. I only wish I could have bought it for you when we married. Take it out! Put it on. See if it fits. They can fix the size if it doesn’t fit.” His eyes were also tear filled and his face was taken up by a huge smile!
The kids looked at the parents, not knowing what was going on, yet knowing it was something good. Their parents were happy. They weren’t fighting. They were happy and so the kids were happy, too. They watched as their mother took two rings out of the little black box. She took her silver band off and put the two new rings on. She looked at the rings and then waved her hand around so the kids could see. Her cheeks were wet but she was happy, not sad.
The kids asked why she had taken off her silver ring and she explained to them that the new rings were “real wedding rings” and the one she had taken off was a ring their father had made for her out of a silver quarter. And the kids remembered the summer day a few years before when their father had gotten the quarters and worked in the back yard all day long, tapping the middle of the quarters over and over again with a small hammer he had borrowed from a neighbor. It had been like magic to see the flat round quarters slowly turn into rings. He had made their mother’s ring thinner than his but they matched. And he had shown the kids how he had left the year on the inside of each band and how he had chosen a quarter with their mother’s birth year and one with his own birth year. Their mom had been wearing the band for a few years. Now they looked at it inside the little box the new rings had been in. Their mother held the box in her right hand as she looked at the new rings on her left hand. She got up and hugged their father. He asked her if she liked the set and if they fit and she assured him that they fit and that she loved them. Again she asked him if he was sure that they could afford this extravagant gift and he repeated that she didn’t have to worry about it. They were hers to keep. They were paid for. They didn’t owe anyone for them.
That was a happy Christmas for the family. They were all happy on that day. Happy and hopeful that their futures would be bright and happy. There were lots of tears that year as the kids were happy for their mom and happy that their father was in a good mood. They were happy it had been a very good year for their gifts but soon they ran off to play with new toys, leaving their mother and father to go on with their life together, thinking happiness was in the bag.