All eyes were on Uncle Bob. Like a game of Russian roulette, Christmas gifts were distributed one at a time; however, one gift was the annual gagfift - fruitcake; an annually distributed by the previous year's recipient to another relative. Hardly anyone remembered from year to year who got the previous year’s fruitcake.
“Whew.” Bob breathed a sigh of relief as the paper exposed a box of automotive toys. Bob rebuilt cars and always loved what he called toys, or car pieces that made any given car special. “You’re next Sport.” Bob pushed a gift to one of the children and pointed the child in my direction. The children of our family had been the mules for gifts for as long as I could remember. Indeed, many years ago I carried gifts around to relatives, and this Christmas the annual family ritual was entering its centennial year.
My grandson slid a huge box toward me. I judged the box to be about three feet tall, as the youngster could barely see over the top. A couple of years ago the fruitcake was hidden between layers of newspaper and cardboard in a box so huge that it covered the back of the Christmas tree. I eyed the colorful paper. “There’s enough paper on this thing to wrap presents for everyone in town.” I was joking, but my humor was lost on the waiting crowd.
“Hurry up dad.” My youngest son was next in line for a gift and seated on my immediate right.
From across the room I saw my cousin pick up his camera and aim it my way. Surely, I was about to be awarded the annual fruitcake. I turned the box sideways, and then picked it up to shake it – it had bulk. While nothing rattled there was a certain weight to the contents. A ruse, I bet.
“Let me help you with the paper.” My son was reaching for the box.
“Get your hands off the gift; it’s my fruitcake, if that is what it is.”
While I was boring the relatives, the children were loosing interest in the distribution game, and my wife was collecting bows – bows which would reappear the following year.
“Okay, I shall open the box,” I announced, loud enough that most of the chatter stopped momentarily. I carefully slid my hand down the corner of the paper, it magically released; immediately, I recognized the champion paper wrapping techniques of my wife, every fold perfect, including hidden tape. While neat folds of paper came off the large white box, still the contents were not revealed. “Hmm, I have open the box too?” I tried to appear annoyed. I looked at the box. It was labeled “From the State of Washington.” I had to stand to open the top. “Good grief.”
I pulled back the taped cardboard flaps and pulled out a Styrofoam lid. Underneath I found the handle to a huge basket. I pulled the basket up out of the box fully expecting to see a tin of fruitcake staring me in the face when the basket was freed.
Finally, the basket and its contents exited the box. “Whoosh,” the suction against the plastic gave an indication of the compactness of the contents.
“Ooh,” voices around the room resounded.
I was holding a giant woven basket of wrapped fruit. Each item appeared to be polished and waxed but ready to be violated by a consumer. “Okay, who gave me this?” I looked through the paper and found the card.
I sat down and opened the envelop. The children had already pushed a gift to my son, who was going though the elaborate dance of opening the gift and thanking the person who drew his name. My wife came over and stood by my shoulder.
The card read. “Dearest, this was supposed to be a fruitcake, but not this year. I saw this basket and remembered how much you loved Washington apples. And it is fitting because God gave you fruit of the Spirit. The basket also contains a variety of nuts, and that again is a direct gift and meal from our Savior, and finally, so rich, and nestled within the package is a small bottle of wine, the sweetness of our life together.
“Whatcha think?” She nuzzled my neck.
She popped me on top of the head.
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