62. The Brown Pants

62. The Brown Pants

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Brown Pants

At Christmas play and make good cheer
For Christmas comes but once a year.

~Thomas Tusser

The voices from the playroom downstairs were getting louder, and I was now able to distinguish the words as I slid the lasagna into the oven. “Stop touching my stuff! Look what you did… you’ve wrecked it. I’m not giving you a doll for Christmas, Becki, I’m giving you brown pants!”

“What? No! I don’t want brown pants.”

Heavy thumping up the steps accompanied the heartbroken wail, “Mommmmy.” This argument would need to be settled.

My distressed eight-year-old daughter burst into the kitchen and stood before me. Her lower lip trembled and two big tears teetered on her dark lashes, ready to spill over. Words tumbled out.

“Mommy, Pete said for Christmas he isn’t gonna give me a doll, he’s gonna give me… brown pants!”

Her howling started in earnest now and I did my best to hide the smile that was threatening to escape. Apparently this was the worst thing that could happen to an eight-year-old girl. Brown pants. How did my son even think of these things?

Calling her brother upstairs, I waited for the explanation. He came into the kitchen with a huge grin on his face and I struggled to keep from responding in kind.

“Pete, why are you giving your little sister brown pants for Christmas?”

“Well, she keeps breaking my Lego buildings, and I’ve warned her over and over to stop.” With a shrug, he said, “I don’t know, it just came out.”

Our twelve-year-old son was somewhat of a Lego protégé, creating elaborate and intricate structures that astounded us all. They took him days to complete. His sister, seeking his attention, always got it by attempting to rearrange them. I took the opportunity to sternly warn her. “Becki, you must not touch Pete’s buildings. They take a great deal of work to make.”

With Christmas only two weeks away, she promised to obey, but her devastation over the brown pants was just too funny for her brother to ignore. Over the next few days he continued the horrid threat every chance he got, thoroughly enjoying her tearful reaction.

It was time to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Digging around in my husband’s closet, I found an old suit he had been hanging onto since the 1980s, with a perfect poop brown, pinstriped pair of pants — exactly what was needed. Finding a large box, I rolled them around an old wrench, wrapped the box in bright cheery paper, signed the tag “to Pete, from Becki” and stuck it under the tree.

For the next week and a half Peter shook, sniffed, and listened to that box, trying to figure out what was inside. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud and give away the surprise.

Christmas Day dawned crisp and cold, but the house was warm and cheery, with the crackling fire in the fireplace, the aroma of cooking turkey, and six excited children gathered around the tree sorting stockings that bulged with goodies. Peter could hardly wait to open his big, colorful present, but stockings were always first, then breakfast before presents. His excitement knew no bounds.

The time finally arrived for presents to be distributed, and like every other year, we opened them one at a time so that everyone could see and be properly thanked. Pete chose the one from Becki to open first.

We watched as he tore the paper off and ripped the packaging open. Staring into the box, his face was a picture of confusion and intrigue. He slowly pulled the pants out of the box. Holding them high, he looked at Becki with the strangest expression.

A great roar of laughter rippled around the tree as we all yelled out, “The brown pants!”

Enjoying the joke, Pete good-naturedly put them on and modeled them for us as we clapped and whistled. My mother especially found the whole thing hilarious, cheering Pete on with enthusiasm.

The next year, a strange box appeared under the tree, wrapped by a young boy’s hand, addressed to his grandma, and that morning we all laughed once more as my mother opened the brown pants and managed to model them for the family.

The following year they materialized again, this time finally given to Becki, now ten years old and able to appreciate the humor.

Those old brown pants have shown up under our Christmas tree now for twenty-two years, each time rewrapped in brightly colored paper and always surprising the recipient.

Our reaction remains the same as it was the first year, but instead of a family of eight, we are now a family of twenty-five enjoying this never-ending prank. We really need a bigger room now, and perhaps a smaller tree, but the same joy and laughter rings out each year when the brown pants are opened.

Life is short and the smallest joys can sometimes make the greatest memories. For our family, the brown pants have become a tradition, and each year the telling of the saga of the pants to the newest member seems to be a little embellished, but nothing changes the fact that something that once brought tears to a little face now brings warm laughter and Christmas cheer to a loving and growing family.

~Heather Rae Rodin

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