Forgiveness at Christmas

We found the box at the very back of the bottom shelf of a basement storage area.

My husband, his brother and I were cleaning out the Smith family home getting it ready for sale. His parents had both passed on, and it was time to settle the estate.

“Wonder what’s in there?” we asked as we blew the dust off the unmarked cardboard box.

My husband pried back the cardboard flaps to find Christmas gifts from 1954, still wrapped. Labels indicated that the presents were for my mother- and father-in-law and the children of the family, but they had never been opened.

“Huh,” my brother-in-law said. “These must be from the year of “the falling out.”

The gifts were from family members that I had heard about but never met, because after “the falling out” the relationship had never healed properly and soon was irrevocably broken. “The falling out” in 1954 had obviously happened at some point between the delivery of the presents and Christmas Day.

“What did they fight about?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” my husband said.

We looked down on 57 years of festering resentment stored up in a dust-covered box. What’s more, the family had moved in 1965, so they had packed up this box and moved it from one house to another.

“What should we do with them?” I asked.

“It’s about time we opened them,” my brother-in-law said.

We found two shirts for my father-in-law, a dressing gown for my mother-in-law, and little shirt and pant sets for the boys. Of all the poignant moments we experienced when we cleaned out the house, that was one of the saddest.

So much waste. Wasted gifts. Wasted family connections. And we have no idea why.

This Christmas:

  1. Don’t let festering resentments linger in the basement.
  2. Don’t pack them up and bring them with you wherever you go.
  3. Not everything is easy to forgive, but if there’s a chance that, in 57 years, your children or grandchildren will ask, “What did they fight about?” and the answer will be, “I have no idea,” let whatever it is that you’re holding onto go.

6 thoughts on “Forgiveness at Christmas

  1. Maryanne

    Arlene, This is a lovely story and perfectly timed when Christmas seems to bring out the best and worst in people. Thank you for the reminder to forgive and move on!

    1. Arlene Post author

      Christmas puts pressures on us in ways that don’t happen at other times of the year. It’s not surprising that all that pressure creates both extraordinary and unfortunate reactions. We can try to aim for the extraordinary.

  2. Joanne

    Arlene, this made me cry, and feel hope at the same time. I have two brothers that refuse to talk to each other or attend anything that the other will be at. I have forwarded this story to both of them. I hope it gives them something to think about, and maybe one of them will take that first step of reconcillation. It won’t be easy for them, but I can hope. Thanks for this timely story.
    and Merry Christmas to you and your family. God Bless

  3. Kerry

    I remember this story. Bruce talked of it especially at christmas. His aunt and uncle arrived at the house and all was well, coats were taken off and hugs were given. Then he says he remember coming out of the room. With his mom about 30 minutes after they arrived. Mom said they put there coats on and left, never another word, and Bruce remembers them leaving. Said he never knew why and he always said you never hold grudges and always try try yo keep your family close.


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