My first attempt at flash fiction, written for the 12/26/13 Flashy Fiction “Boxing Day” prompt about an unnoticed Christmas present that was not opened:
The morning’s festivities ended the way they did every year. Opened presents suddenly took a backseat to refilled coffee cups and a waffle breakfast. I made a half-hearted attempt to get the debris field cleared before I joined in the kitchen madness. Other holiday obligations would make a full clean-up impossible until the next day.
First thing on Boxing Day, I was ready for action. My arms, already overloaded with boxes and bags, reached down for a piece of ribbon I spied behind the tree. I gave it a gentle tug and along with it came the present attached to the ribbon. My first reaction was one of panic. Who did I forget? Suddenly, my panic gave way to an entirely different set of emotions.
I stared at the package long and hard as my eyes widened and jaw dropped. I hadn’t seen a gift wrapped like that in more years than I cared to remember. The paper was cut so the design seamlessly continued around the box, with the ribbon a perfect complement to the paper and a gift tag fashioned from an old Christmas card. It wasn’t the wrapping, though, that caused my head to spin. It was the handwriting on the tag.
In the delicate penmanship she spent years trying to get me to emulate was the simple message: “Merry Christmas, Susan.” A flood of memories from Christmases past overwhelmed me. Where did this come from? My mother had been gone for six years.
I mentally retraced my steps from yesterday morning when I retrieved the presents from the upstairs closet. I used that hiding place for years, much as my mother had done. Maybe this was the last package she wrapped before her mind gave way to that devastating disease. It must have been hidden in that space for years before I grabbed it along with the others.
I held onto the gift for a long time. Tears for the loss trickled down my face. Then, ever so slowly, I felt my heart smile.
I never unwrapped the present. Instead, at the holiday’s end, I placed it in a box with all my treasured ornaments. What hid inside the box would never be as important as what the gift represented. It would be a tangible way for my mother to join me in celebrating every Christmas to come.
© Susan Schoeffield