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Thursday, December 04, 2014

A Mostly Embarrassing Christmas Tale

Dan Walsh 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.


  1. I have to say, you tried very hard, brother Dan and for that you get an A+ for effort. It's so true, trying to find that perfect gift is impossible at times. Men are harder to buy for than women, I believe. If you have any hints for men's gifts, I'll be glad to hear them. I'm going to give Bill your latest book for sure.

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    2. Not sure if Bill's like me, but I find it hard to buy things for myself that aren't necessary. Hobby things. Problem with that is, my wife and kids wouldn't know what those things were, so they'd pretty much have to ask me (sometimes I'd wind up buying them for them, for me).

  2. LOL ... LOVE that story, Dan, and I agree with Donna above - A+ for effort and love! :)

    Well, you asked, Dan, but you may be sorry given my penchant for verbosity!! One Christmas when I was engaged to my husband, he gave me a watch, which I absolutely hated! Now, it wasn’t his fault because God knows I am one of the most particular people on the planet when it comes to watches—they have to be digital, waterproof, have a day and date window, a second hand, have both silver and gold metal on it so I can wear it with either gold or silver jewelry, and a stretch band skinny enough to fit my wrist. Yeah, you get the picture—NOT easy to find, especially with numbers big enough for someone with poor vision.

    So I faked it, of course, thanking my then-fiance husband and telling him how pretty it was because he was just so darn proud of his gift (and it was pretty, of course, just not what I wanted!!).

    But I didn’t “fake it” with God, oh no!! I went straight to His throne in prayer and BEGGED Him to help me love this watch. I even went so far as to write the prayer request on a piece of paper and put it in my Bible so I could pray it every day. Which was fine … until my husband used my Bible a few years later and found the note.

    “You don’t like your watch??” he confronted me with hurt in his eyes.

    “What are you talking about?” I asked, somewhat confused.

    He held up the note. “You told God you hated it in this prayer note I found in your Bible.”

    Gulp … oh-oh … BUSTED!!! So I gave the love of my life my brightest smile and a quick kiss and said, “Oh, that was then, babe, but this is now, and today I absolutely LOVE it!"

    And you know what? I did!! ☺

    Hugs and a happy, healthy, and holy holiday season to you and yours!

    1. I LOVE that story, Julie. Funny the places we go trying to love (and trying not to hurt) the ones we love.

  3. Hi Dan, I too am married to a Dan and on our fifth Christmas we were fortunate enough to be staying in Minnesota with Dan's parents (we live in California, but his job required that we spend six months in St Paul).

    We had spent the previous year rebuilding an old farm jeep that had obviously been used for everything from herding cows to jumping ravines; it was in really sad shape when we brought it home. It was finally finished, except for the KC fog lights that he wanted to mount on the front bumper, but had talked himself out of; too expensive, the money could be better spent elsewhere, etc..

    Perfect. Every Christmas I tried to find that special gift that Dan would love, and this year I would finally succeed. He would be so surprised.

    The week before Christmas I took my mother-in-law to do her shopping, and I was going to buy Dan's gift. When I told Mom about the lights, she asked me to let her get them for him. I so much wanted to say 'no way!', but she begged and pleaded until I gave in.

    I don't even remember what I got him that year, but I do remember his reaction to the fog lights. Unfortunately, I also remember my reaction, and it wasn't exactly filled with the spirit of Christian love and Christmas joy.

    To say I was upset wouldn't come close. I was angry with Mom and resented that, even though he loved the gift, it wasn't from me. I would probably have pouted the rest of the night, but Dan followed me into the kitchen when I went to replenish the cookie tray. When he kissed me and thanked me for the fog lights, I didn't know what to say. I knew Mom hadn't told him. He grabbed a cookie and said, "How else would my sixty-eight year old mother know about fog lights?".


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