From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Father of Fortune

Once again, the Christmas season was upon us. And once again, my daughter Tania was asking, “What do you want for Christmas, Dad?”

“The usual,” I replied. After twenty-three years, she knew that this meant boxer shorts and some happy socks, the kind that help that tender old bunion. These were Christmas rituals for me.

In the small town of Peterborough, Ontario, where we lived, life had a certain rhythm, and the festive season was full of ritual. After living in Calgary for many years, I had returned to my hometown to be near my own aging dad, and life took on a fairly predictable sort of rhythm. But this particular year, my daughter, Tania, and her young husband, Barry, changed all that.

Every day for two weeks prior to Christmas, unable to contain her excitement, she repeatedly said, “You’ll never guess, but you’re going to love what we got you for Christmas!” The girl was relentless in her teasing and her quest for my reaction. She was determined that I should be impressed.

Now, I’m no Scrooge, so please don’t get me wrong. I’m simply one of those individuals who’s been around for some time and who’s gotten a bit cynical and hard to impress. I must admit, however, that it was fun to watch and listen to her excitement and enthusiastic teasing day after day. Her joy and anticipation of my reaction to this special gift was contagious. By the morning of Christmas Eve, I had become more than a little curious.

At 11:00 A.M. on the 24th, my wife and I were asked to join the kids for some last-minute shopping. We elected to opt out. My wife wanted to finish up her own festive preparations, and old Dad, well, I just wanted a cold beer and a snooze. Four hours later, the kids were back at the door, shopping mission completed.

“We have your gift out in the car, Dad,” Tania exclaimed, “and it’s getting cold!”

We were then not asked, but ordered to vacate the premises. No, not just to another room, but upstairs and out of sight with an emphatic, “No peeking!” command. Heck, my old army sergeant was gentler. “Get out! Get out!” Tania ordered.

So, obediently, we retreated upstairs.

The minutes passed in that odd kind of anxious, wondering, quiet anticipation that makes butterflies in your stomach. We strained our ears but couldn’t hear anything.

“Big deal,” I grumped to myself. “I’m still not impressed, but I’ll play their silly game.”

Then we heard them hollering, “Okay, you can come down now!”

Descending the stairs, we were directed into the front room where the surprise Christmas gift was waiting to be opened. Immediately, my excited daughter said, “No waiting until Christmas morning. Open it now!”

“Okay,” I said. “This is highly irregular, this is breaking the ritual . . . but what the heck is it?” I wondered out loud. The three-foot-square, irregularly shaped lump over by the tree was smothered under blankets. Out came Tania’s camera, and the guessing game started in earnest.

“Maybe it’s a pinball machine,” my wife offered.

“No, no,” I said. “It’s gotta be something perishable, otherwise they wouldn’t have been so anxious to bring it in out of the cold. Maybe it’s a crate of Florida oranges, or maybe it’s a puppy!”

By now, my daughter was about to explode with excitement, and I, too, had passed the stage of mildly curious, feeling somewhere between inquisitive and demanding.

“What on earth can it be?” I asked as I felt the lumpy object, looking for a clue. My daughter sharply rapped my knuckles with a classic, “Da-ad!”

Finally, we arrived at the unveiling. “Okay,” Tania instructed us, “on the count of three both of you grab a corner of the blanket.” She stood by with the camera, and even though I was trying my best to remain unimpressed, I’d by now reached an emotional state ranging from paranoia to frustration. My heartbeat sped. My wife and I lifted the blanket in one fell swoop, and the gift was exposed.

The next few minutes were a blur. My heart pounded. The blood rushed to my head. My stomach contracted. My mind jumbled. Overwhelmed with astonishment, I thought, I can’t believe my eyes! Perhaps I am delusional! This is just not possible!

The flash of my daughter’s camera went off when, rising up out of that heap of blankets and wrapping me in an enormous bear hug was none other than my six-foot-two, one hundred and seventy-five pound first-born son Greg, home for Christmas for the first time in nineteen years!

Ted Bosley

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners