63: Sibling Secret Santa

63: Sibling Secret Santa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Sibling Secret Santa

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

~Thornton Wilder

It was Christmas of 2006 and once again we were planning our Sibling Secret Santa. My six-year-old brother Eric wanted to be included this year, despite the fact that his eight older brothers and sisters always gave him piles of gifts. Participating in Sibling Secret Santa meant he would receive only one gift.

The rest of us, who ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-seven, warned him that it would be his only gift to open Christmas Eve — a fact even some of us “adults” struggled to accept. Eric assured us that he was okay with this but we didn’t believe him. My oldest sister had picked his name from the hat and decided to have a little fun with it. Our mother was famous for painting a piece of wood with a cheesy saying and giving it to us as a “present.” So my sister gift-wrapped a wooden sign that read “God Bless America” and placed it in the pile for Eric. Hiding in the back bedroom was his real gift — a new bicycle.

During our annual Christmas Eve party, the nine of us gathered as we always did in the living room with A Christmas Story playing on the TV in the background. We all expected Eric to be disappointed by his wooden “gift.” Some of us sat on the floor, some in chairs dragged in from the kitchen. Eric sat on the couch sandwiched between his two older brothers, giddy with anticipation. One by one we opened our gifts from our Secret Santas: new clothes, glassware for our houses, and other thoughtful and fun items.

Finally, it was Eric’s turn.

We handed him his gift and waited for the meltdown. A six-year-old used to receiving stacks of toys and treats on Christmas Eve would no doubt be disappointed with a piece of wood. He began to recklessly tear though the snowflake paper, tossing shreds to each side. I will never forget his adorable little face as he unwrapped that painted sign and smiled bigger and brighter than I’ve ever seen. He beamed as he held the sign up, proudly showing off his gift to his brothers and sisters. I realized then that this little boy didn’t care what that present was; he was just so happy to be a part of our Christmas tradition.

I was so proud to be a part of my family at that moment and I was reminded of how important our family traditions were. And I’ve never seen someone more appreciative of a gift — that is, of course, until his new bike was wheeled out!

~Jamie Kopf

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