Christmas, Present

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Published by: Harper Collins
Release Date: March 17, 2009
Pages: 144
ISBN13: 978-0060565572


Laura and Elliott are celebrating their 14th anniversary when a terrible headache strikes Laura while their car is stuck in Boston’s Sumner tunnel. Within hours, it becomes clear that Laura will not survive the rupture of a major blood vessel in her brain, and she must choose how she will spend her last hours on earth. She chooses to do that not bemoaning her fate, but gathering around her those she loves — her three young daughters, her husband and her siblings — so that she can tell them not what she feels, but what she sees in each of them, giving each a legacy to which they can cling after Laura is gone. Part tragedy, but part hopeful story of the survival of the spirit, perhaps even beyond death, Christmas, Present is a story for any season, and caused me to ask myself, while writing it, what parts of my own life were the things that matter most, the gifts I had been given and could give.


“This richly imagined story will leave readers everywhere pondering the value of life’s precious moments.”

“No heartstring goes untugged in this slim but moving Christmas story …What easily could have become a quicksand of sentimentality is saved by Mitchard’s straightforward writing, which is poignant rather than mawkish, sometimes mordant and, despite the theme of the story, surprisingly humorous.”
Publishers Weekly

“A touching story …which reminds us all of the important things in life and relationships …a good holiday read.”
Wisconsin State Journal


For weeks, he'd pestered himself over the fact that he couldn't remember whether this anniversary was the fourteenth or fifteenth. He would later regret the silliness, the mulling. He might have spent more time with the girls, taken the week off from work, made enormous resolutions and gestures of consummate intimacy.

Still, even in hindsight, a fourteenth anniversary sounded routine, neither a rung on the ladder midway toward a golden sunset nor an observation blushingly fresh and new.

A fourteenth anniversary, like, perhaps, a forty-second birthday, didn't seem to demand so much commemoration.

But one more year would be a landmark! Somehow, to have survived in relative peace and periodic delight for a decade and a half -- through the arid, sandy-eyed numbness of sleep deprivation after the girls' births, the unexpected and brutal death of his mother, the long, anxious week waiting for the results of the withdrawal of a microscopic bite of tissue from Laura's breast, Annie's meningitis (ten days during which neither of them finished a single meal, together or separately) -- seemed to confer a certain status on this marriage. A marriage of substance, which few of their friends could boast. Fifteen years of marriage in full would cry out for a slam-bang celebration. A high school reunion equivalent, a renewal of vows with Laura at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather in Las Vegas, Prada boots, costing half a week's pay, or a (very brief) cruise to the West Indies.

He thought, by using a ruse, he might question his mother-in-law, Miranda, inventing some twaddle about checking Laura's sizes (men being universally forgiven, even coddled, for ignorance in such matters). But he could not frame a question that would elicit the date from Laura's cool and sharp-eyed mother. She was a busy realtor, a woman of few words except where they concerned post-andbeam construction or Carrera marble in the master bath. She would not burble forth, "And that was the last time Helen and David went anywhere together as husband and wife ... " or "I'd just bought that silver Volvo ... " or "Do you remember how adorable Laurie's sister Angela looked; she was only a junior ... " -- remarks that could be checked against a family timeline.

Their wedding album had been no help.

It was inscribed with their names, the month and day -- but, at Laura's behest, not the year. For the same reason, the photos all were in black-and-white. "Color makes pictures look dated. I want this to be always new," she'd said.

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