“Daddy, someone is pulling into the driveway,” Rebekah said.

Her voice shocked me awake like cardio paddles.

“Wha? Who? What’s . . .” I sat bolt upright.

The food, happy kid sounds and my faithful recliner had done me in. I’d fallen into the deep, dreamless sleep of the exhausted and now had to climb out of the hole I’d dug. My heart still raced from the shock.

“Someone just pulled in,” she said calmly, looking out the window. “It’s about time for them to bring food.”

Them? A nondescript car eased to a stop and sat motionless in the drive. No one got out.

“There’s a time? Someone does this regularly?”

“Oh sure,” she answered like it was routine. “Every night. That’s how all that food got in the kitchen.” At the mention of food, the other two kids looked up curiously.

“Oh.” Obviously, the food had gotten there somehow. “Right.”

Car doors had finally opened and someone was bent over, rummaging in the back seat. I pulled myself together and stood up. We lived in a quiet neighborhood off the main street. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had come to our front door.

“I hope it’s Buckeyes!” Sandy said. Until today I’d never heard the word.

“Pro’bly another chicken casserole,” Bekah countered. Billy made a face. The idea that he had an opinion about chicken casserole was another small change while we’d been away.

When the mysterious visitor stood back up, their body was blocked by a fully decorated, four-foot-tall Christmas tree! The tree with legs carefully made its way up the sidewalk. I hurried to the door to help.

“Wow. This is a surprise,” I called out. “Come in!”

Richard Gay’s head popped out around the tree.

“Oh!” He looked startled. “I can’t stay. This was supposed to be a surprise. I intended to leave this anonymously and sneak away before anyone saw.”

As he handed me the tree, I saw that the decorations were folded green origami shapes tied with red ribbon.

“This is from the Sunday School teachers,” he said. “We took up a collection.” Then he turned and hustled back down the sidewalk. I looked at the tree. It couldn’t be.

Money! The folded paper covered the tree from top to bottom. My mouth hung open until Richard opened the car door.

“Thank you!” I shouted out too late. The door slammed closed. “Thank you so much!” I said to myself as the kids crowded around. “So much,” I whispered as he drove away.

A chorus of questions and exclamations of glee filled my ears.



Reader’s Club Home Page Chapter 33: The Gift