By Christmas Eve, there’s only one very special ornament yet to be added to our family’s tree. The glass Christmas Pickle waits in its box on the mantel until all the children go to bed. “You’d better go to sleep,” we say after they’ve helped put out the milk and cookies, “or else Santa will have to skip our house!”
After we’re sure they’re all asleep, we tiptoe back downstairs and bring out the presents from their secret hiding place in the cupboard under the staircase—the kids would never think to look there! We carefully arrange our gifts for them under the tree. There’s one wrapped in bright green paper and ribbon left over on the mantelpiece. It goes with the pickle; whichever child finds the pickle wins the prize.
“Where should we hide it?” I wonder aloud. We both circle the tree and look for the perfect place, nowhere it would be spotted immediately, but somewhere it can still be found with a little effort. Finally, we settle on a little hollow in the branches just low enough for all the children to be able to reach it and tiptoe back upstairs to bed.
In the morning, we were awoken by little hands tugging on our sleeves. “Mom! Dad! It’s Christmas, wake up!” We both slide out from under the covers and into our slippers and follow the little ones downstairs. As soon as they see the tree and all the presents underneath from us and from Santa Claus, their eyes light up. I tell them to each pick one from their pile and take turns opening them, one at a time.
A half hour later, there’s one present left under the tree, wrapped all in green. “Who’s that one for?” they ask. “Well think about it,” I remind, “who was the special present for last year?” Realization dawns on their faces—we do this every year, but they still forget to look for the pickle in all the excitement of Christmas morning, at least until someone reminds them—they dash off to search high and low on every branch of the tree, behind every ball and bauble… “Mom, Dad, look! I found it!”