The Unwrapping – A Christmas Story by John C. Mannone

One Christmas morning, I remember the soft-needled pine towering, as if through the spackled ceiling, its angel brushing the clouds.

Boxes lay in toppled stacks around its trunk. My little sister and I hunted for our gifts by scratching glitter from the name tags; I helped her read. We ripped into the slippery paper covering huge boxes first; we laughed and threw bows at each other. When she found her pink and yellow paisley tea set, she stopped searching and sat down to play, offering some imaginary tea to her imaginary friends. I found a Pogo stick in the corner with my name on it.

Dad showed me how to use it as a lever. I slipped the stick over the corner of one box and under another that I couldn’t quite reach. He said, “Use it like a fulcrum.” And so I up-ended the bottom box to expose what was hidden underneath. There, lay trestled, a Lionel train set I had wanted for such a long time!

Mom smiled, too. She sang as she fashioned on her new sweater—the one Dad said she saw (so wistfully for) in the thick Sears & Roebuck catalog—the one that’s midnight blue with snowflake sequins. Dad gripped his present—a Black & Decker drill and dremel tool—his firm-jaw smile reflecting off dangling bulbs as big as moons.

But there was yet another pile of gifts to “unearth.” It was deep and seemingly tough to uncover, but it would prove no challenge for my brand new yellow bobcat Tonka toy. I straddled the shiny metal and sat on its leathery seat, then pedaled to the pile of gifts. The bucket clawed and shoveled boxes and one-by-one, I lifted and moved them to the side.

Finally, into the soft shadows of the last few, we all stared at a most unusual gift—wood & painted clay figures that looked real and alive, the sheep, too. The little one, with his hands outstretched to us, lay in a cradle of straw. His clear onyx eyes shined as if still wet with tears.

The pine boughs jostled for a moment, in a breath of wind. I felt the whoosh on my face… and the unwrapping of my soul.

John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Wordgathering: Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, Poetica: Journal of Contemporary Jewish Writing and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as Celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, Dwarf Stars and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s the president of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild and a retired professor of physics in east TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

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