I read the story over lunch a few days before Christmas, and laughed out loud alone in my kitchen, as it brought to colourful life in my imagination, the hilarious scenario played out on the page in black on white.
A day or so later, I was talking to my son, and I said, "Pete, I have a gift I'd love from you this Christmas."
"Oh?" he said, surprised, I suppose, at my unusual boldness in asking. "What is it?"
"It's a story," I said, "And the gift would be that you would read it for me and the rest of the family, when we all get together for Christmas."
He agreed. asking only if he might get the story ahead of time to practice.
In the end, with all of the busyness before Christmas, he never did pick up the story to ahead of time, but on Boxing Day, when we all assembled to celebrate what was for some family members, "Christmas Version # 3," the bright-yellow-covered book with its coffee-stained pages was near at hand.
The house was fragrant with the aromas of Christmas dinner: roasting turkey, with a stuffing of bread, celery, onion and sage--and colourful winter vegetables: carrots, turnips and Brussels sprouts. The feast was waiting, with equally delicious options for the vegan members of the family.
But first all eyes were on the coffee table, piled with gifts wrapped lovingly into the night, in brightly covered tissue, with sparkly bows and decorations.
We did try to open the gifts one-by-one, slowly, so that each could be admired and acknowledged, but like a train leaving a station, the gifting, opening and thanking gathered speed--fed by a seemingly unstoppable force, until the flurry of flying paper, exclamations and laughter reached a sort of grand Christmas crescendo!
The careful wrappings of just moments ago were being gathered into clear plastic garbage bags, when I announced, "I have asked for a gift from Pete."
I had everyone's attention, so I continued, "The gift is a story I have asked him to read out loud. Your part in the gift would be to listen to it with me. But I'm not sure when would be a good time."
"How about after we finish our meal?" suggested someone, and to general assent, the tidying resumed.
The meal was everything I had hoped it would be and it seemed to be enjoyed to the full. No one had room for another bite. It was time for the gift I had been looking forward to for days.
Pete was sitting beside me at the head of two long tables that had been pushed together so that all 13 of us could sit together for the meal. I handed him my book, open to the story I wanted him to read.
Our youngest grandson, Josh, left the table to work on his new Lego project, promising he'd be listening, and Pete began to read.
The story captured everyone within its first few lines. Josh returned to his seat, his eyes dancing with humour as they locked on his dad's in rapt attention. Pete's deep voice broke with laughter at several points and I looked down the table at the faces of our family laughing out loud with him, not an ear-bud in sight, and I received my gift--my very precious gift: a moment of shared laughter; a Christmas memory made; a gift honoured by all.
And my heart breathed, "Thank you."