by Megan Bundy/Staff Writer
The Christmas Riddle
Photo Link: https://www.freepik.com/premium-photo/footprint-horseshoe-snow_26228376.htm
I remember waking up in the early morning on December 25th, Christmas Day, and not hearing anything. No creature was stirring, not even a mouse, which was unusual in our rather busy house. I creaked open the door and carefully tiptoed out of my room, making sure not to disturb my parents and brothers, who at the time I assumed they were still sleeping. I peeked over the stair railing and saw it—the bright, glimmering Christmas tree, and below it a few presents just for me.
I excitedly called out at the sight before shutting my mouth with blight, whipping around carefully to see if anyone had heard my cry. But no one had stirred in response, which left me with a feeling of unease. Had they been particularly sleepy this morning? I would find out later, I thought, and with mischief I scampered down the stairs to the tree, smiling at the beauty with glee. I waited for a moment to see if any noise had come from my parents’ room, and when none had I grabbed a shiny red present and sat down. I shook it carefully, hearing a jingling of bells inside. I gave it a strange look, shook it again, and decided to open it.
My hands carefully unwrapped the bow on the present, and I set it aside to rip off the wrapping paper. After I tore it off, which the tearing of the paper was quite loud, I stopped for a minute to listen for someone, but no sound came. I looked back at the present and opened the box, seeing a pair of silver jingle bells on the bottom. They ringed again, causing me to pick them up and look at the note on the side. The note read “To find the greatest gift of all, bring these jingle bells to a one-horse open sleigh, and complete all the tasks given to you before the light of day.”
My curiosity was piqued, so I went off upstairs to grab my boots, gloves and coat, nearly knocking into my toy wooden boat. I slipped them all on and ran back downstairs again, exiting from my front door. The grandfather clock down the hall had read exactly 5:00 AM, and the sun would not be rising for at least another hour. I was determined to find the greatest gift, and I would have to use all my grit. I carefully stepped down the porch steps and walked down towards my neighborhood sidewalk, careful not to talk.
I searched around town for a one-horse open sleigh. I had found a two-horse open sleigh and even one with three, but I hadn’t found one until I saw a tree. Beside it was the sleigh I had been looking for! I raced for it happily, but saw nothing inside or beside it until I noticed a note. I grabbed it and read it, and it said “Ride back home quickly with the sleigh, and deck the halls of your rather bland abode.” I gave the note a weird look, thinking that my home must be already gorgeous enough for the holidays, but I hopped on the sleigh seat and waited for the horse to take me home. With a neigh it started off on its way.
When I had arrived back home, I thanked the horse for the ride and ran inside and through the house to our garage, looking around for a big, cardboard box with a ton of Christmas decor inside. I picked out garlands and extra little toys and trinkets to place around. I found it so strange how no one in my family had taken time this year to decorate abound. I thought that maybe the reason was from all the work my parents have been doing this season.
I carefully decorated the stair railing with green garlands with red bows and added the Christmas village to our entertainment center. I hung up some more lights around home, hoping to raise the Christmas spirit and get closer to completing my tasks. After I was done, I let out a contented sigh, but wondering if the notes were just a lie. No other note or sign had been given to me, and I was left without glee without my family’s company.
“I wish my family was here with me right now,” I told myself, sadness filling my heart. For the first time in a while, I realized how much I missed them when they weren’t around. I felt so alone. Then, the grandfather clock down the hall had chimed 6:00 AM and I saw a slimmer of sunlight appearing over the horizon out the window. Grumbly, I stumbled back up the stairs to my room, quickly falling asleep on my bed.
I woke up, some sunlight streaming through my window. I rubbed my eyes and looked outside again, seeing lots of snowfall outside with some barely noticeable horseshoe prints on the snow. Excitedly, I remembered that it was Christmas morning, and saw that it was 8:00 AM on the alarm clock next to my bed. I jumped out of bed, racing back to the stairs, but stopped at the top suddenly.
“Mom? Dad?” I called out, walking downstairs and looking around. I called out for my brothers as well, but to no response. Disappointed, I walked back over to the tree, noticing how there were more presents than earlier this morning. A small one, tucked away, caught my attention. I kneeled down and saw that it was for me, ripping it open. Inside was another note. It read “You already have the greatest gift of all.”
As soon as I finished reading the note, I heard my family open their bedroom doors and come downstairs excitedly. I turned around and smiled at their presence.
“You’re already up!” my brother commented.
I shrugged. “I’ve been up. I went all over town trying to find the greatest Christmas gift of all!”
My dad gave me a strange look. “What do you mean? We would’ve known if you had left the house, silly. You were sound asleep this morning for sure, unless you jumped from your window!”
I tried to process this for a moment. I then concluded that I must’ve been dreaming of my adventure this morning, since finding a random horse with a sleigh by a tree would’ve been pretty strange. However, it didn’t explain the horseshoe prints this morning or the notes. I shrugged it off. “I guess I must’ve been dreaming of it!”
My whole family laughed with me about the idea, and I felt truly warm and happy the first time this holiday season.
“Let’s open up these presents!” My mom exclaimed. We all gathered around, laughing and talking, and I continued to feel the warmth in my heart, realizing that it isn’t all about the presents, the decorations, or the mood you were in. I truly did have the greatest gift of all—a loving family, just for me.