Nestled beneath the branches of the big blue spruce were packages and presents of all shapes and sizes. Some were wrapped in shiny foil and others in brown paper tied with brightly colored ribbons of red and green and gold. Scattered among the gifts were baggies with tissue spilling out the top and smaller trinket sized boxes hinting at the hope of big things coming in small packages. Each one had been shaken and squeezed in a vain attempts to figure out what was wrapped inside. A good guess could be made for some but most would have to wait until the grand unveiling on Christmas morning.
The wait had been long – nearly a month already – and I could hardly sleep the night before. We went to bed early on Christmas Eve thinking that the sooner we could get to sleep the quicker the morning will come, but it didn’t really work out that way. I spent an hour or two tossing and turning; listening to the house quiet down and thinking about the day ahead. The rest of the night was spent waking every half hour or so and checking the clock to see if it was too early to get up. At around five in the morning I decided that I had been in bed long enough and could wait no longer. This was it! The time had finally come! Christmas morning was here at last!
I stumbled down the hallway with sleep still in my eyes and into the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on, then on to the den where the big blue spruce with all of the presents was waiting. No one else was awake yet so I reached behind the end table to plug the tree lights in, hoping to sit and look at the tree and all the gifts one last time before everyone else woke up. I am usually the first one up and this is a once-in-a-year moment and it lasts for a very short time. All too soon the neatly stacked presents will become a massive pile of torn paper and scattered bows and empty boxes. I cherish this calm before the storm.
The lights came on and as I turned to sit on the sofa I saw something unbelievable. There was not a single present under the tree! Each and every package was gone! There were no big boxes, no baggies, and no trinket boxes. I looked behind the tree and behind the sofa and found nothing. What was going on? I walked back down the hallway and peeked into each room on my way and even went into the garage…but they were nowhere to be found! I came back in the house thinking I must be missing something or someone is playing a terrible joke on me. Rubbing my eyes, I walked back to the den hoping I had just not seen the gifts. No such luck…they were indeed all gone. I stood there for a moment in disbelief and then slumped down onto the sofa, nearly in tears, wondering what in the world could have happened. Did someone break in during the night and steal everything…surely I would have heard? Nothing was open…I could not go out and replace anything at this time in the morning. Maybe the Grinch is real…and we’re all just Whos living in Whoville ending up singing that silly little song?
I lifted my hands to my face and leaned my head back rubbing tears out of my eyes, dreading the sound of little feet running down the hall in rapt expectation. Through my fingers I caught a glimpse of something high up in the brightly lit branches of the tree. I stood up and noticed an ornament that I had not seen before with a bright little gold card attached with a red ribbon. I took a few steps forward and leaned in to see what it was – a long rusty old nail. Real tears began to flow as I realized that not all of the gifts had been taken away. I reached out my trembling fingers, opened the little card and read….
I woke with a start, sitting straight up in my bed! I looked at the clock to see what time it was and it showed 6:30. It must have been all a dream, I thought, at the sound of little feet running down the hallway and giggles in the air. I sat for a moment then put my slippers on and wrapped myself up in my robe and made my way down to the den. I was the last one awake and the unwrapping had already begun. My wife handed me a cup of coffee and I smiled a sleepy smile, reached down and tussled each of the kid’s heads then glanced over at the tree and spied an ornament that I had not seen before. I took a step forward and squinted as I leaned forward. There, hanging on the tree for all to see was a long rusty old nail with a red ribbon and gold card attached that read:
“The greatest gift you will ever receive was hung on a tree for all to see.”