Jean smiled as she locked the door behind her and walked to her car with a jaunty step, her brown curls dancing. She was glad to see that her husband had thoughtfully cleared the driveway this morning before he‘d left for work.
Her next door neighbor stopped shoveling his sidewalk to lean on his shovel and yell across the yard, “You look mighty happy today, Jean. Did Santa already come to visit you?”
“No, Mr. Stone, I’m just excited to go shopping for Christmas cards for the very first Christmas since Lee and I got married. How many Christmases have you and Mrs. Stone been together?”
“Lemme see; must be about 46 or 47 now. You know Elsie keeps up with that kind of stuff. You ladies are the ones to take care of remembering dates and getting cards, kinda like secretaries.”
Jean laughed as she got in her car, but she couldn’t help wondering if Lee thought of her as his secretary. She was fortunate to find a parking place close to the entrance to Brown General Store and hurried straight to the wide array of boxed cards.
There were so many to choose from that she hardly knew where to begin. She knew they couldn’t afford the big glittering cards and walked right past those. She thought the ones with pictures of old-fashioned sleighs in the snow and beautifully decorated houses were pretty, but they weren’t what she wanted. Next, she examined some with poinsettias and brightly colored birds, but they didn’t strike her fancy either.
She skipped over the boxes that had reindeer and Santa Clauses, even one with Mrs. Santa, to look for a section that appealed to her more. “Ah,” she said to herself, “this is more like it.” Here were boxes with Baby Jesus in the manger, as well as some with angels and shepherds and the magi.
Suddenly, she spied a box with the picture of a Bible, opened to the Christmas story. The Bible was lying on a white cloth with rich red and green trim. The verse inside spoke of God’s love in sending His Son into the world and contained a wish for a blessed Christmas. Jean knew instantly that this was the right card with the perfect message for her and Lee to send to family and friends.
All the way home and while she prepared meatloaf and potatoes for their dinner, she hummed Christmas carols. She hoped Lee would like her choice of a card. She could hardly wait for him to come home. When he came in, he grabbed her and hugged her, putting his cold cheek next to hers before giving her a lingering kiss. “Mmmm, something smells good,” he whispered in her ear. “Is it just the cook?”
“Sit down at the dining room table, Silly,” she said, “while I go get our dinner.” When she came into the dining room, she noticed the box of cards she’d bought were sitting in the middle of the table. She wondered how he’d known they were in the closet. Setting down the bowls of food, Jean gave her husband her sweetest smile before he took her hand and asked the blessing. Then she looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to tell her how he liked the cards. All through the meal, he laughed and talked with her, but he never mentioned the box of Christmas cards, sitting there like an elephant in the room, and neither of them glanced that way. Not even when they cleaned the table together and put the dishes in the dishwasher, did Lee say anything about Christmas cards.
Jean could feel her lips quivering as she stormed into the bedroom. “Well, if that’s the way he wants it,” she muttered to herself, “that’s the way it will be!” When she flung open the closet door to put her apron away, she saw it-- the box of cards she had bought, exactly where she had left them. She picked them up and held them close to her with one hand as she brushed tears off her cheeks with the other.
The bedroom door opened, and Lee came in, holding the box of cards that had been on the table. When Jean handed her identical box to him, Lee burst out laughing and pulled her and her cards into his arms. “I wanted to do something for you, Sweetheart, to show how much I love you,” he said. “Looks like I picked the right cards…and the right girl.”
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