“The Christmas Box” is one of my absolute favorite stories to read around Christmas. I have made a tradition of reading it every December. I love how relevant it is to this day when people (or in the case of the story, dads) chose work over family and how it can affect family life and how important it is to focus on our family and make sure that we spend time with them and not with work (or, at least how to balance work and family better).
In the story, Rick is working on getting his suit business up and running but it’s taking up more of his time than his wife would like. They also live in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with their four-year-old daughter. While looking in the paper, Rick’s wife Keri notices an ad for a caretaker for a widow. Keri and Rick interview with the woman and get the job. While moving in, they store some of their items in the attic and Rick notices a box with a carving of the Nativity on it. He pushes it out of his mind and focuses on moving and getting back to work.
Later, Rick starts having dreams with an angel and music. One night he wakes up from one of the dreams and he realizes that the music is still playing. He follows it up to the attic and notices that the music is coming from the Christmas box that he had noticed when they moved in. He opens it and the music stops playing. Inside are letters. They seem to be love letters but he doesn’t know who they’re for or who wrote them.
During the time that they’re living there, Mary takes on the role of grandmother to Jenna, Rick’s four-year-old daughter, who comes to adore Mary. Mary realizes the impact that Rick working all the time has on Jenna (and on his wife) and tries to help Rick notice it as well. In order to help Rick along, Mary asks him what the first gift of Christmas was. Rick doesn’t understand it at first and thinks that Mary’s asking about the gifts from the wise men. Mary asks Rick to think about it and he says that he will.
Eventually, Mary ends up going to the hospital and doesn’t have much longer to live. Rick learns from Mary’s groundskeeper that Mary once had a daughter who had died when she was very young and that the letters that were in the Christmas box were written by Mary to her daughter. Through this story and reading the rest of the letters, Rick finally understands the answer to Mary’s question and he starts spending more time with his family.
Like I said in the beginning, this is one of my favorite stories to read at Christmas. The frustration of Rick with work, the heartache of little Jenna, the love of Mary for her daughter and for this little family, the memories of Christmas that they share in the story, it’s all so real. There are very few books that can capture that much emotion. Especially in a story this short. It’s not very long, only about twelve chapters or so. But in those twelve chapters, you manage to get frustrated, upset, and feel love all at the same time.
So, if you’re looking for a new book to read this Christmas season, pick up a copy of “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans. You won’t be disappointed.
P.S. It’s also a movie. Which I have seen, but not recently enough for me to compare the two. I’m not intentionally leaving that out, I just need to watch it again in order to make sure I compare them properly.