It’s a big sacrifice to spend both holidays with your significant other’s family. Both she and Todd knew that, but with Todd’s busy holiday work schedule it simply made more sense to make the return to Todd’s parent’s house north of the city.
They arrived on Christmas Eve in an effort to follow the traditional schedule for Todd’s family: a dinner with his extended relatives, midnight mass, and a prompt 8 o’clock wake up for presents. But for some reason, this year danced to a different tune.
“Alright,” Todd announced to his family. “Who wants a Bloody?”
Christmas morning was as picturesque as picturesque comes. They received enough snow to ensure it was a white Christmas, and enough snow was still falling that it felt like a Norman Rockwell painting.
“I’m good with this beer,” Todd’s dad responded from his regular chair. “Can we get this shit over with? Never understand why we make such a big deal about the presents year after year.”
Todd’s mom looked towards his dad with a “Oh, honey, just relax,” look in her eyes.
“Babe?” Todd asked.
“Ummmmmmm…” she hesitated.
“I think we’ll both take mimosas,” Todd’s mom interjected before turning and whispering. “Don’t be afraid to open a bottle of champagne around me, honey. We’ve got plenty and it will never go to waste.”
Todd compiled the drinks on a wooden tray and brought them to the den where the tree was situated. It was illuminated with less gifts under it than most years – Todd knew that the older he got, the less presents he was likely to get from his parents.
“Todd,” his mom addressed him, “Will you play Santa this year?”
He obliged and promptly handed out the proper gifts to his parents. For his mom, a new food processor and a framed print of the photo they had used for their Christmas card. For his dad, he gave a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label that he’d received as a corporate gift earlier that year and a wallet that he knew his father would never use in favor of the wallet he’d carried since Todd’s childhood.
As the fire roared, she sat wondering when it was her turn to open her gifts. She didn’t want to show her eagerness and, instead, took numerous photos of everyone opening their gifts before dropping them in the “Todd Family Group Text” that she had set up earlier that night with all of Todd’s immediate family. Todd’s sister was spending Christmas with her husband’s family and had yet to FaceTime in, so she kept her in the loop by sending photos of everyone with their gifts.
“Todd, I think you know whose turn it is,” his mom said while walking towards the tree. Todd’s mom grabbed a gift and approached her and Todd as they sat with their hands interlocked on the couch. “This is just a little gift from Todd’s dad and I.”
She gently untied the bow that rested atop the visible apparel box. Opening it up and unstickering the tissue, it revealed a white pashmina scarf with her initials on it.
“Oh my word!” she exclaimed before standing up and hugging Todd’s mom. “I love it! Thank you so much.”
As she sat down with the scarf and pulled out her phone, she texted Caroline, “Welp, got a pashmina from Todd’s mom. I guess it’s still 2008 in this house,” while Todd opened the first of his gifts. Todd didn’t need a new putter, but a new putter he received.
Todd again turned to her – “Do you want to open your gift?”
Her heart skipped a beat. Looking under the tree, she didn’t see any unopened boxes, simply much larger boxes intended for Todd’s cousins and other relatives that would be opened later that night.
“Of course,” she whispered back. “But I don’t see it anywhere…”
Todd rose from the couch and disappeared to the kitchen. Her palms began sweating, only for her to wipe her perfectly manicured (and now sweaty) hands on the couch in preparation for Todd to re-enter the room. She looked to Todd’s mom and mouthed, “I wonder what it is” while Todd’s dad’s glasses sat on the end of his nose as he read the back of the Johnny Walker bottle.
Todd took slightly longer than she had anticipated which only built the anticipation up more. She could hear a rustling, as if he had his gift hidden somewhere in the kitchen. Returning to the den in his robe and trademark plaid flannel pajamas that he wore every Christmas since high school, she perked up on the couch. His hand behind his back, he approached her. Todd’s dad’s eyes shifted from his bottle to Todd, who situated himself on the edge of the couch.
“Okay,” Todd began.
“Yes?” she responded.
He brought his hand out from behind his back and revealed a small turquoise box. Her hands were now covering her mouth while Todd explained, “Now, I didn’t have time to wrap this so I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s fine!” she exclaimed while Todd began opening the box revealing something she hadn’t fathomed seeing in her wildest dreams.
“So,” he stuttered. “I know you have a pair kind of like these…”
While she was previously sitting up straight, she was now more slouched.
“…but you don’t have a pair from me.”
Her eyes glared down towards a pair of pearl earrings, slightly bigger than the ones she had inherited from her grandmother.
“I…,” she said, “I love them, babe.” She leaned forward to hug him and Todd’s eyes looked over at his dad who was laughing to himself in his chair with a pile of newspapers in his lap. His intention was to read the papers immediately following the last gift being given, but he instead stood up from the chair and walked towards the kitchen that Todd had just returned from.
“Todd, can I see you in the kitchen real quick? I need help lifting this turkey into the oven.”
Todd arose and assured her that he’d “be right back.” His dad stood at the kitchen island with his glasses again slid down on his nose. He waved one finger towards Todd and signaled him to come closer. With one hand on his shoulder, he brought him in and said, “Nice little charade there.”
“What charade?” Todd asked quietly.
“She thought you were proposing you, you idiot,” he said before stepping away toward the oven.
“Oh, shit,” Todd muttered with his hands on his forehead.
His dad turned around and laughed.
“Well, might need to start thinking about that sooner than later, champ. Next time, just wrap the damn present and put it under the tree.” .