The Next Best Present
By Ingrid Cliff
The Christmas lights danced on the face of the sleeping man, highlighting furrows of age and smudges of sorrow.
This was his first year without his wife … it seemed longer. Ginger always bought the presents, wrapped them with a beautiful bow, and laughed her tinkling laugh at protestations that he didn’t need anything. This year there were no presents … and no laughter.
A tear slid from his eye while he slept. Santa gently wiped it away. “Old friend,” he thought. “I wish I could bring her back, but there are some presents even I can’t deliver”.
The next morning, as I bustled around the room, waking the old man, I discovered a beautifully wrapped present under his Christmas tree. “Open it”, I said.
He gently undid the bow and peeled back the wrapping paper. As he ran his fingers over the blanket, the colour of chestnuts, he said softly to himself, “I always said her hair was softer than cashmere and her hugs warmer than the warmest blanket”.
I wrapped the blanket around his thin shoulders, enveloping him in its warmth. And I swear I heard tinkling laughter as he quietly stroked the cashmere.