The Best Gift
Age Rating: 10 +
The old man reclined on his faux leather couch and flipped through the channels on his television. On the screen glowed pictures of happy families gathered around trees and children ripping open the elaborately decorated wrapping paper on the gifts, then hugging their parents in thanks. The camera did a close-up of a young boy's face, warm with happiness and love from his mother and father.
It made the man think of his own family.
He pulled out a picture of them and stared at it longingly. There sat his lovely wife, holding their son and a book and pointing at the camera. The son wore a startled expression: his eyes wide and lips parted ever so slightly. He was one year old in that photograph.
The man thought back to Christmas Day that year. He was so adorable; his wife woke their boy and carried him out to the living room with the Christmas tree and colorful presents under it. Old Christmas music sung by Frank Sinatra played softly in the background. They'd spend fifteen or twenty minutes opening everyone's presents, then sit on the couch to eat cookies and drink hot chocolate. He remembered the boy squishing himself between his parents and nibbling on a cookie. So innocent.
But three months later, his wife passed away.
The grief caused the man to lose his mind, and then to steal the innocence of his son two years later. He replayed the boy's terrible life over in his mind and cringed each time saw the picture of his terrified face, then pictured the boy on the couch once more. He heard the joyful laughter that, over the years, turned into painful heartbreaking screams and sobs.
Then the final memory of his son ran through his head; the memory of his now-fifteen-year-old voice telling him that he was running away. He didn't believe it until one day when he came home from work and his son wasn't anywhere in the house.
"I will get a hold of you again, maybe, one day, if I ever decide to forgive you." His tone was so serious, even a little frightening- nothing like the man had ever heard before.
Oh good Lord, he began to think, then finished the thought out loud: "Oh good Lord, please forgive me for what I've done to him."
The doorbell rang. He straightened out his clothes and walked to the door. Nothing but an empty, snow-covered driveway. He followed the footprints in the snow with his eyes out to the road, but didn't notice the person walking away from the house.
The brought in the small box on his front step and pulled off the ribbon after shutting the door. Inside was an elaborate pencil drawing of woman holding her black-haired, bright-eyed, smiling son, and a man holding both of them, all done in phenomenal detail. A full, happy family smiled back at him and made the man remember that photograph. It'd been taken the same year-but on Christmas Eve-as the one he'd looked at only moments before.
On the back of the drawing, the secret Santa left a message:
Thank you for sending me that stuff, even though it was just to clean out your basement. I found this picture taped in one of mom's sketchbooks. I hope you like it. I love you very much.
Love your son,
He stared at it for another minute or so, then framed and hung it on the wall. Tears leaked from his eyes as he thought about the other gift he received from his son:
This story sort of goes along with the poem "From a Father to a Son". Again, feel free to point out my mistakes!