A Box Full of Love

By Linda O'Connell

A Box Full of Love

Even when I was a married mother of two children, my mom was like a spy in the sky. It was difficult to pull a fast one on her, but one Christmas, I succeeded.

Our house was on a residential street. Mom lived a few doors away, on the second floor of an apartment complex. Her kitchen window allowed a clear view to our house. She always knew when her grandchildren were playing in the yard, and she was fully aware of when I came and went. If she couldn’t reach me on the telephone, she’d walk down the block to visit and inquire as to where we had been. She wasn’t so much a pest as she was inquisitive, and she wanted to be in the know.

Despite her nosey nature, Mom was a great help. She babysat anytime we needed her. She visited daily, and often washed my dishes at a time when my hands were the only dishwasher in the house. She helped me fold laundry as we talked about the kids, old memories and good times. We enjoyed one another’s company, and we looked forward to Nana’s visits. She always came bearing a sweet treat for me and my little girl and boy.

So, I wanted to do something special for her at Christmas. Mom did not know that my brother, who lived out West, was coming to visit, and we planned to surprise her for the holidays. How was I going to sneak him in my house without the “investigator” gawking and catching us? How would I keep her away for an entire day? How could I sneak him into her apartment?

I went to a furniture store and found a large empty cardboard box that a stove had come in. That would work perfectly. I stashed it in the garage and instituted my plan a week in advance. I constantly complained about her small, apartment-size stove. “Mom, how can you possibly cook with more than one pan on this stove? It’s way too small.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” she said.

“Well, I’ve been thinking maybe you need a new stove. Wouldn’t you like a new stove for Christmas?”

She got all flustered. “Oh no, this stove came with the apartment. I don’t need a new stove. Buy yourself something. Or something for the kids. Don’t spend that kind of money on me.”

I worked my angle for five days. When she came to our house, I pointed out the benefits of my large cook top. She said, “That’s fine for a family, but my stove works for me.” Then she changed the subject, clearly aggravated.

On the day my brother, John, came in from Nevada, I had to sneak him through my back door. I was Mom’s only form of transportation other than a city bus. She called to ask me to take her to the grocery store. I told her I was busy baking Christmas cookies on my nice big stove.

“Now, don’t start on that,” she said.

“My neighbor, Rose, is here, and she says she’s going to the store; she’ll be glad to take you.”

Mom walked down the block swinging her purse, her dark bouffant hair as big as cotton candy. Rose met her outside and hustled her to her car. I waved from the porch, and told her I’d bring her homemade cookies later.

My brother and I made a beeline to Mom’s apartment with the stove box. I entered through her back door and set it up in the kitchen. When Mom came in with her groceries, I was waiting in her living room.

“Here, let me put these away for you, Mom. I baked you some cookies. You always do so much for me. I want to help you. I have your Christmas present in the kitchen. It’s from me and John. He paid for half.”

She looked puzzled and tried to nose her way into the small kitchenette as I set her groceries on the counter. I blocked her way.

“Why don’t we make a phone call first to John in Reno, so he can share in the joy of listening to you open your gift from us? I have a long distance calling card, so it won’t cost you anything. Sit down there on the couch.”

Holding the receiver button down, I pretended to dial the dozen digits on my card. Then I talked to my brother who was in the kitchen squatting in the box with her extension phone.

“Hi John. I’m here at Mom’s, and she’s about to open her gift from us.”

I handed her the living room phone. She had a typical conversation, inquired about his well being and thanked him. She told him he shouldn’t have spent any money on her. She asked him if he was planning a visit anytime soon. “I can hardly hear you. Can you speak louder?” she asked.

I said, “Mom, tell him to hang on; we’re going into the kitchen to open your gift. Keep him on the phone.”

She tried to be nice, but spilled her true feelings. “I hope you kids didn’t get me a stove. Your sister thinks I need one, but I don’t.” She looked at me and shook her head with a stern expression.

As we walked into the kitchen, Mom gave me the evil eye when she read the word “range” on the box. She shook her head and hissed, “This is too big for my apartment.”

I took the phone from her and said, “John. Hold on while she rips this box open. It’s all taped up.”

I spoke into the phone. “Mom’s complaining about what we got her, but once she sees it, I know she’ll really like it.”

She ripped the packaging tape and lifted one flap and then the other. My brother jumped up with her extension phone in hand, and we shouted, “Merry Christmas, Mom!”

Wide-eyed and speechless, she looked from one of us to the other. Her eyes welled with tears. She cried, “You stinkers, you both got me. Merry Christmas to you!” That was one year the surprise was on Mom, and I finally pulled one over on her.

About this writer

  • Linda O’ConnellLinda O’Connell is a seasoned preschool teacher and award-winning freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. Her prose and poetry have appeared in books, magazines and anthologies. As Linda waltzed through the decades, she discovered her age of elegance was in her forties, but she isn’t complaining. Life has been an adventure. Linda resides in the Midwest but her heart and soul hang out at the beach.

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59 Responses to “A Box Full of Love”

  1. Pat says:

    I’ll bet your mom felt she’d received the best gift ever! What a delightful memory, Linda.

  2. Alice says:

    How clever! I’m still smiling. Linda, I always enjoy reading your stories because I’m guaranteed a laugh somewhere along the line!

  3. Erika Hoffman says:

    Very suspenseful! You create excitement by your narration. A sweet tale.

  4. Rose Ann says:

    What a great story! I’ll bet it was your mother’s favorite Christmas present: the gift and the “making” of it! Have a wonderful holiday.

  5. Rose Anne, the effort that went into Mom’s surprise gift was worth it when we saw her smile, shock and surprise. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Sioux says:

    Linda–What a sweet (and funny) story. This is a way of keeping your mother near you–in spirit–and that’s especially important around the holidays.

    Thanks for sharing this memory. It brings back memories of my mom and dad…

  7. Deb Marshall says:

    Your story brought back memories of so many Christmases with Mom and Dad—and made me smile. Thank you for the many gifts you give to us through the stories you write. May your holiday season be filled with love and joy.

  8. Oh, Linda, you sneak! But I know your mom loved that gift–and I loved it, too!

  9. Shannon T. says:

    Great story Linda. You bring it to life and make you believe you are sitting in the kitchen, watching, waiting, wanting more! Amazing the stories and memories we hold DEAR. keeps them alive. Keep then coming!

  10. Tracey says:

    Great story! You are a wonderful writer & have the ability to make someone feel they are a part of your story. Looking forward to your next writing adventure.

  11. What a great surprise for your mom! And you tell it in such a delightful way!

  12. Claudia says:

    What at great story! I know it was as much fun for you and John to pull off as it was for Mom to get the surprise! That is what holidays are for–memories.

  13. Jean says:

    Wow! Great story, even better hijinks!

  14. Wow! what a great story. I felt as if i were there Waiting with anticipation to see her surprise. Thanks for the great read. Looking forward to more great stories from you.

  15. Diane says:

    I can just picture you all doing this and my Aunt’s surprised look. Great reading Linda. Great memories and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you and your family.

  16. Dianna says:

    Lovely holiday story, Linda!

  17. Jacquine says:

    Great story. It is always nice to read true stories that are so heartfelt and sweet.

  18. Carol Sestric says:

    Mom surprises are the best. Loved it.

  19. Theresa Sanders says:

    Oh, I love this story, as I love them all, Linda. What a wonderful surprise for your mom — but the best thing was the love you all so visibly displayed. Thanks for a perfect bit of holiday cheer to brighten my day!

  20. Well I really loved that heartwarming story. One you will never be sorry about one day in your life. And I know your mom had to just love that. Very sweet!

  21. What a great story! I’d say your mom had a few pretty special gifts.

  22. Susan says:

    Oh Linda, that was a super story. You sure pulled one over on your Mom that Christmas! She didn’t even know what was “cooking!” ha! Susan

  23. Val says:

    That was perfect! You had me thinking you were going to sneak John into your house in the stove box, and your mom would accidentally see her “gift” being moved in. Bravo! The phone call was a nice touch.

  24. Beth Holbrooke says:

    Loved your description of a funny sentimental Christmas memory. Your stories always put pictures in my mind that seem very real. That’s great writing to me! (I’ve never seemed to be able to shake off my mother’s “need to know”!)

  25. Donna Volkenannt says:

    Linda, what a funny and heart-warming story. I love it!

  26. Lee O'Donnell says:

    Great story, Linda! Made me think of my Mom! Thanks for sharing!

  27. Ellie says:

    I can picture the moment leading up to the big surprise–the anticipation being a gift in itself. This kind of present that you gave your mom–priceless, and much better than a new stove! You’re a great storyteller, Linda!

  28. Peggy says:

    Very nice story. You always have a good story to write.

  29. Linda, what a delightful story! That was the best Christmas present ever, as any mother would agree. Thanks for sharing it with us. Merry Christmas!

  30. Bruce says:

    Heartwarming story. Kids don’t do things like this anymore.

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