The Lost Christmas Gift
A Short Story written by
Lisa A Fallon
It was the beginning of December, a severe snowstorm was predicted for the end of the week, and she sat there at her makeshift desk contemplating what to plan for the holidays this year.
I’d better get started on planning the menu, sending out Christmas cards and Christmas shopping before the snowstorm hits, she thought to herself.
While sitting at the kitchen table she used as her makeshift desk, she started thinking about her Christmas pasts.
Everyone used to come to their house for Christmas. She had the most room, her kids were still small, and it just made sense to have everyone there. She didn’t like bringing the kids out on such an important day. The kids were so excited with the magic of Christmas, she didn’t want to take them away from all the magic she created for them every year.
Christmas was always such a special holiday for them. Getting the Christmas tree was an all-day event. Picking out the perfect tree, cutting it down, and having hot chocolate before driving home was such a fun day trip for their little family of four.
Decorating the home for Christmas was such a treat every year. The lights were hung on the house outside and the day after Thanksgiving they would turn them on. The whole neighborhood and family would come to have a lighting celebration party. Christmas season had begun, and you could feel the excitement and magic in the air!
She planned the same menu every year with everyone’s favorites. And they all looked forward to it. She often wondered why they didn’t make the dishes during the year, as they were all their favorite dishes. But of course, she realized that they wouldn’t be special anymore if they were made all the time. Even though the number of people coming for Christmas had severely downsized, they were still her favorites, and she had every intention of making them. Even if it was only the four of them again this year. Drifting backwards to memories, everyone in the family came to the house back then. Everyone would bring a dish to contribute, and it was festive and magical, and everyone got along. Great memories she thought about as she wrote down the groceries she would need to get at the store. She wrote down gift ideas and sorted through her Christmas card list.
She used to send out and receive so many Christmas cards, not so much anymore. Had everyone simply lost the Christmas spirit? It used to be so nice to hear from so many people at the end of the year. Making home-made cards and sending them out every year was such a joy. She thought to herself why have so many people lost that joy?
There was only that one year they decided to go out to another family’s home for Christmas. The kids were still young, and it wasn’t far to go, so she made an exception that year. That was the only year they didn’t stay home and the only year where there was a huge snowstorm on Christmas Day. Would they get one this year? Only time would tell. No more traveling though she thought, only the four of them from now on. The kids were grown, and Christmas wasn’t as magical as it used to be when they were little.
Even though she teared up thinking about past Christmas memories to herself, she was going to make it extra magical this year. Her daughter was coming home to stay for a week. Her husband who was serving in the army had been deployed to Germany until the following March. So, she wanted to make it extra special for her daughter. Getting a bit carried away this year with planning inside decorations, she vowed to never watch another Christmas decorating tutorial again. This vow was much to her husband’s relief and gratitude.
She had cleaned out and donated so many Christmas decorations last year, that she vowed to not over do it again and cleaned out her stash. Only to have replaced it all and more this year. She convinced herself and reassured her husband that it was pure joy for her daughter’s return, and she wanted to make this year extra special to justify all the purchases. The Amazon delivery person was her new favorite friend. It looked spectacular, she thought to herself as she admired her work.
None the less, the tree was up. The decorating had commenced, and the menu had been fully planned. The only thing left to do on her list was to address and mail out the Christmas cards. She liked to get them mailed out early. She knew how slow the mail could be and she liked to be the first one sending them out every year.
Would she hear from more people this year? She hoped so. Every year the list grew smaller and smaller, and her family ties grew smaller and smaller. Even her own siblings were so wrapped up in their own lives that they rarely spoke or spent time together, especially during the holidays. She was the one who always planned past Christmas get-togethers. As her children grew up, her family ties became more distant. Oh, they still talked on occasion, and it was especially hard to get along the year their mother passed away. She suffered from brain cancer and towards the end she didn’t recognize anyone. She died on New Years Eve and that was the last year anyone in the family celebrated the holidays together.
This year would not be any different, she thought to herself. Receiving a Christmas card from just a handful of them would be the only communication between them again that year. Not that she didn’t try to mend things with them over the years, but any relationship that seemed to be mended would just be lost again. One of her mother’s last wishes while she was still lucid was for her to be healthy and to stay connected with her siblings. It had been a year since her mother passed that New Year’s Eve.
Remembering the past is not going to get me anywhere today she thought, as she addressed the last Christmas card to be mailed. I’ll drop them off at the mailbox on my way to the grocery store this afternoon she thought.
She liked to get in and out of the grocery store because she always ran into someone she knew, and she could never make it a quick trip. This day was no exception. Everywhere she turned she knew someone and started up a conversation. How is your family? What are your Christmas plans? Have you finished all your Christmas shopping yet? The questions seemed to be endless.
She thought she was good to go, when a tap on her shoulder turned her around to face one of her mothers’ old friends. “Oh, darlin” she said, “this year must be really sad for you without your mom here for the holidays.” “It’s hard every day without her.” I said back to her. Shedding a tear in the grocery store of all places was the last thing I wanted to do, but there I was tearing up in the middle of the aisle next to the cranberry sauce, facing a woman who knew my mother all too well.
“It will get easier,” she said. “Just keep up the Faith and remember all the great holidays you had with her.” “It was so great seeing you and Merry Christmas.” She told me. And just like that I was left in the middle of the aisle with a cart full of groceries by myself and a complete mess.
Well, that was definitely not the grocery trip I had intended to make, she thought to herself on her way home. The weather predictions were right for once that day. The air was becoming colder, and flurries were in the air. She was glad she went out when she did minus the conversations she had. As she was putting away her groceries, she thought about what her mother’s friend had said to her. It will get easier she thought. Time to focus on her daughter’s visit and get her stuff organized. Only 4 more days until she arrived and then the celebration would start. She could hardly wait to see her daughter again.
She was exhausted. All the planning and organizing for her daughter’s arrival and all the prepping for Christmas dinner was exhausting. She went to bed that night feeling so tired and so excited at the same time. It didn’t take her long before she fell fast asleep holding the hand of her husband of 35 years together. They held hands together every night before falling asleep. It was such a comfort to her this night as she drifted off thinking about how much she missed her mom.
It was two days before Christmas and the day had finally come for her daughter’s arrival. Her flight was coming in late that night, so she was glad she had another full day to get things a little more organized before they picked her up at the airport.
She brought the presents she had wrapped the day before downstairs to place under the Christmas tree. Beautifully wrapped presents she thought to herself. I must save the wrapping paper this year. Her mother used to do the same thing every year. She would recycle the paper every year and wrap the next year’s presents with the same paper. It was genius thinking really. Saving the planet and saving money to boot. What a great concept.
Oh, was she ever getting distracted thinking about the days to come this year and thinking about her mother and her childhood Christmases. Her mother made them so magical for her and her siblings. Even though there were the five of them, she knew each of us so individually that she knew exactly what we all liked and wanted for Christmas every year. The traditions she made and celebrated every year were the same traditions I still practiced with my own children to this day.
She would always save the best present for last. It was always something she had hand-made for us. She was a seamstress and she loved making us clothing and pillows and even stuffed animals. One year, we all enjoyed getting our favorite stuffed animal. I received a stuffed dog she had made me that year. I remember bringing it to Girl Scout camp the following summer and having all my bunkmates sign their names on it for me. I cherished those summer camp memories that year. The first week I was so homesick I cried for five days straight. But none of my pleas for wanting to go home worked. My Mom said to stick it out, that I would make great memories and have a ton of fun. And the head camp counselor said the same thing much to my displeasure.
Feeling sad, alone, and homesick, I ventured off for a walk by myself. I was trying to compose myself and I really wanted to stop crying in front of everyone like a big baby. I felt better after walking through the tall trees that all looked like Christmas trees to me, when I spotted something sitting on a branch in one of the trees. It looked like it was a very small animal at first, but as I got closer to the tree and looked inside, I discovered that it was a little stuffed bear. Just sitting there on the tree branch all by itself. I wondered where it came from out in the woods, and who would have left it there? I took it back to the camp tent with me and showed it to my friends. It must have been a sign for me to take him with me I said, because I feel one hundred percent better now since I found him.
I did hang in there and my mom and counselors and friends were right the following week was the best ever and I was glad I stayed and stuck it out. My little new friend bear stayed with me the whole time, and when it was time to go home, I packed him up and took him with me to his new forever home.
I missed that little bear. He had been lost for quite a few years now. He was lost one Christmas years ago, and I never found him again.
I hadn’t thought about that little bear in a very long time. He gave me the courage and strength to cope being so far away from home that one summer at camp and as I grew up whenever I had to leave home again, he would always come with me. When I went off to camp again the following year, he came with me. When I went off to college, he came with me. When I got married, he came with me on my honeymoon, and he stayed in my home on top of my dresser for whenever I needed him again.
Eventually he even went to be with my daughter. When she was hospitalized one year for pneumonia, he kept her company, when she went off to college he went with her, and when she traveled across company to be with her husband, he traveled with her. But he always ended up coming back to me sitting on my dresser waiting for his next adventure. How I missed that little bear. He gave so much comfort to myself and my daughter. He was a bond that we shared together.
I prayed that someday I would find him again, and everything in my life would be better than it was.
I woke up the next day still thinking about my childhood little stuffed bear refreshed and ready to start the day. My daughter had arrived, and we were planning our attack on making Christmas cookies that day. We decided to make four recipes of our family’s favorites. It was such a magical day, being reunited again and baking cookies together, I just knew Christmas day was going to be so special this year. She was so lonely without her husband that I wanted to make each day special for her, so she wouldn’t miss him so much. It would be the first year they would not be together for the holidays.
I asked her if she remembered the little brown bear I had found in the tree and let her borrow from time to time. She did, and every time she had him with her, good things would happen for her. She thought of how I had acquired him and how he had helped me through tough times over the years. She wondered how I had lost him in the first place. I really had no clue where he had gone. I thought again of my New Years resolutions I was going to make that year and thought about my mom and how she also would make everything right in the world.
The Christmas cookies were all baked, minus a few we had eaten with our afternoon cup of coffee. And we were ready for Christmas Eve the next day.
Christmas eve was always special for us. We would each open one present while eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate. Followed by singing Christmas carols. We always placed the star on the top of the tree on Christmas eve. It was another tradition handed down to our generation from my family.
The youngest in the family at the time was always the one chosen to place it on the top. After years had passed by and everyone was all grown up, we had taken turns starting with the oldest to the youngest. Now my daughter and son had the honor of placing it at the top together. It warmed my heart how close they both were. I missed the closeness of my own siblings this time of year.
As my daughter was taking the family star out of the box, she noticed a small little package wrapped up stuck at the bottom of the container covered up by an old tablecloth that was her grandmother’s. It still had a tag on it, and it simply said “to my daughter” in cursive handwriting.
“Hey Mom” my daughter said, “I think you forgot to put this present under the tree.” “It says to my daughter on it” she said. “It looks old and kind of beaten up.” she said. “Hmmm. That is strange.” I said. “I don’t remember hiding a gift in that box. We will just have to wait until tomorrow to open it though.” I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for you.”
After having the traditional Christmas eve dinner of take-out Chinese, everyone was tired and excited for the next day. Even though the kids were all grown up it was still a magical day for them. There was always still a present from Santa Claus for them both. Which was both embarrassing and exciting for them at the same time. After everyone had ventured off to bed for the night, a last look at everything was made to make sure the house was perfect. I finally drifted off to sleep without another thought of the mysterious gift my daughter had found and placed under the tree.
Of course, the grown-up kids were up first. My daughter had put a pot of coffee on, and my son who always slept in late, no matter what day it happened to be, was up with her. Pouring a cup of coffee as I walked into the kitchen, they both said in unison “Merry Christmas Mom and Dad”! “It’s so great to be here this year” my daughter said. And we hugged and drank our coffee together while munching on a Christmas cookie.
Making a second pot of coffee for round two, it was time to settle into the living room to open the presents. Excitement and anticipation were felt by all.
With the wrapping paper neatly stacked by the table for next year’s re-use, there were just a couple presents left to be opened.
As the mysterious present was handed to my daughter by her brother, she stopped and gasped as she looked inside the box. Without opening it any further she said, “Mom – I think this present is for you, not me.” She handed it over to me. As I reached inside the box tears started streaming down my face. I gently lifted out my little brown stuffed bear I had lost over thirty years ago. Underneath him was a Christmas card with a note inside handwritten by my mother dated a few months before she died.
It simply said, I found this little guy stuck in the bottom of an old Christmas storage box stuffed full of used wrapping paper. I wanted to wait until Christmas this year to return him to you. I snuck him into your box under the star where I knew you would find him. This will be the last Christmas I will get to spend with you, and I wanted to make it special for you, because I knew you would need him after I was gone. Merry Christmas my daughter. I love you. Love Forever, Mom
P.S. Make sure he doesn’t get thrown in with the used wrapping paper!
This is my little brown bear. The vest was the very first thing that my mother had shown me how to sew. This little guy is now fifty years old, and he still sits on my dresser waiting for his next adventure.