The Present Counter

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with
gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Matt. 2:11, (NIV)

I rolled my eyes. Mom was at it again. My mother-in-law had a fixation with counting Christmas presents. Not only did she make sure that everyone in the family got the same number of presents but that the same amount of money was spent for all of them. My first Christmas in the family, she had given me a pair of pantyhose to make up the three-dollar difference between my presents and some of the other girls in the family. I felt this was ludicrous.

Now she was kneeling under the tree, counting the presents again into neat piles, trying to figure out whether everyone had the same amount. "How many presents are you bringing-one for each person, or two?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "I haven't even wrapped them yet."

"Well, I just need to know for the count," she said.

I rolled my eyes heavenward again. I couldn't believe this woman. The next year things were different. I had been in bed from complications of pregnancy, and my little sister had come to help out. She was going to be part of the Dillon Christmas. I knew she missed Mom and Dad, and I felt really badly that we weren't able to buy her a whole pile of presents. I was afraid she would feel really left out, going over to the Dillon Christmas, where everyone else got so many. Bruce and I had been able to buy her only two gifts.

Christmas Eve, as people started opening their gifts after dinner, I suddenly realized that Bonnie was opening gift after gift. Mamma-Jo had counted all her gifts as usual, and then gone shopping and made sure that there were the same number of presents for my little sister as there were for Bruce's sisters.

All of a sudden my eyes filled with tears as a great wave of affection swept over me. Instead of feeling angry and contemptuous at her present counting, now I realized that her present counting had been an act of love. I was so grateful to her for making Bonnie feel an important part of the family that Christmas. I never minded her present counting again.

--Sally Dillon