is the award-winning and bestselling author of 12 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Dance
and When Night Comes
. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year. Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take long walks. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books
I have two Christmas novels in print right now (The Unfinished Gift
and Remembering Christmas
), and a 3rd one coming out next year, called Keeping Christmas
. But this post is not about my Christmas books (although as of yesterday, the first of the 2 titles I just mentioned was only 99 cents and the other was free). It’s about one special Christmas book I searched for far and wide to buy for my wife a few years ago.
To appreciate this story, I have to back up to the Christmas just before the one I’m referring to. The thing is, when you’ve been married to someone for over 3 decades it can be a tricky thing to find just the right Christmas gift, the one that will create that special moment on Christmas morning. The year before the year I’m talking about, I had hit it out of the park. The gift was so good, it made my wife cry (in a good way).
Funny thing was, she didn’t cry that morning when she opened the $250 emerald ring I had bought her. She liked it. Gave me a nice kiss and a hug. But she actually cried a few moments later when she unwrapped a $20 teddy bear I bought her. It wasn’t even on my Christmas list for her, just something I picked up almost by accident. I saw it on my way out of one store and bought it because it reminded me of a little teddy bear she had when we were first married.
Turned out, it really reminded her of the very same teddy bear she had but lost when we were first married (a bear her little brother had given to her when they were little). Which is why she cried. She couldn’t believe how thoughtful I had been to buy it for her. Needless to say, it was a significant Christmas moment.
In fact, as I went shopping this time, my goal was to repeat the experience and find something she’d like as much as she cherished that little bear.
I went out shopping a few weeks before Christmas, bought her a few things I had heard her express some interest in. But so far, nothing came close to that special present I had been searching for. Then I got an idea. Something I heard her mention last Christmas. She talked about this little Christmas Elf she played with every year as a child when they’d visit her grandmother’s house.
I remembered seeing it for sale somewhere. It was now a popular children’s Christmas storybook that came with a matching stuffed elf, called “Elf on the Shelf.” But every place I looked that carried it was out of stock. As Christmas Day drew near, I was becoming frantic. I should have ordered it online, then I’d already have it. But now it was too late. I thought I remembered her say that her grandmother read this book to her every Christmas for years, as she played with this charming little elf.
I had to find it. I had made her cry last year. I wanted to make her cry again (in a good way).
Finally, on Christmas Eve, I found one last Elf on a Shelf in a store, just a few hours before they closed for the holiday. I came home, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. I couldn’t wait for her reaction Christmas morning.
Well, Christmas morning came with all the joy and splendor (and egg nog) I had come to expect. Both our children were older, but they were still at home, and we’d had a wonderful time opening presents together around the tree. I had insisted Cindi open this “special present” last, and really hyped it up, knowing she’d be blown away when she saw what I had found.
That moment came. Cindi opened up my Elf on a Shelf. She smiled and said thank you, then set it aside. That’s it. No tears, no emotion at all. Just a polite thank you, followed by a bewildered look. I was stunned.
Finally she said, “Why did you buy this?”
I explained to her my frantic search to find this beloved Christmas book her grandmother had read to her when she was a child, and this toy elf. She laughed and said, “My grandmother never read to us as children. And the elf I played with was ceramic. I’ve never read this book before.”
She explained further, and I realized this was a simple case of me, the idiot husband only half-listening (sadly, as I do on occasion). Last year she had seen this “Elf On the Shelf” in a store and remarked how it reminded her “just a little” of the ceramic elf her grandmother let her play with as a child.
“Oh,” I replied.
The final humiliation came a few moments later when my son opened the storybook and said, “Dad, this Elf on a Shelf book didn’t even come out until 2005.”
So…now it’s your turn. Tell me about a Christmas morning moment you experienced that didn’t exactly turn out like you planned.