Recently, I read that 50% of all married women have mentally selected a back-up husband, for when things don’t work out with their current one. Then a few days ago, I discovered this image in a box at a thrift store. It was almost like wining on a game show.

.   –   .   –   .

Ellas Christmas GiftElla’s Christmas Gift

After Christmas dinner, the three couples prepared for what had become a new annual tradition. This year, it was Ella’s turn to ask the questions.

“Bachelor Number One,” Ella said. “Tonight, when I open your gift to me, what will I find?”

“Since I’m a man of mystery, I’d rather not say in this public forum.”

“In other words,” Ella said, “you forgot. Again.”

“That’s right! He forgot last year too,” Rachel, this year’s host and wife of Bachelor Number Two, said.

“No comment,” Bachelor Number One said.

“Yes! Yes he did,” Bachelor Number Three added. “I reminded you at work the other day, and you still forgot. My best friend’s an idiot.”

“Hey let’s play nice,” Rachel said. “Remember last year’s fiasco? Ella, go ahead.”

Bachelor Number Two,” Ella adjusted to a more comfortable position. “Same question.”

“Well, you’ll be amazed at the size of my bow.” The three wives giggled. Bachelors Number One and Three looked at each other, and One said “Here he goes.”

“When you grab my ribbon and pull hard,” Number Two continued, “you’ll find on the other end a big juicy — ”

“Stop! Stop!” Rachel screamed.

“Oh please let the man continue,” Delores, the wife of Bachelor Number Three, said.

“Lalalalalala, enough already, lalalalala…,” Rachel generated her own noise filter and stuck an index finger inside each of her ears.

“It’s getting a little warm in here,” Ella said. She fanned her blushing face with her fluttering hands. Rachel held her face in her hands.

“Bachelor Number Three, what about you?”

“Ella, in my gift, you’ll find a tiny box elegantly wrapped and placed inside a small box, inside a medium-sized box, inside a larger box, inside an even larger box, and inside a huge box. Inside the tiny box you’ll find a key, a key to my heart.”

“How sweet,” Ella, Rachel and Delores said, in unison.

“I married the wrong brother,” Ella said.

“Ella, stay in character. OK, you’ve heard from our three contestants. It’s time to make your choice,” Rachel said.

“Yes, tell us which bachelor stole your heart,” Delores said. “Take my husband, please. Get that man out of my house so I can have some peace.”

“Well, it’s a tough decision,” Ella said. “They all gave such wonderful answers this year, but I choose Bachelor Number, Number, Number … Three.”

Everybody applauded and congratulated Number Three.

“Ella, close your eyes. Number Three, step forward and give Ella a kiss on the cheek and introduce yourself.”

Ella closed her eyes and waited. Number Three leaned over as if attempting a kiss, all the while laughing and looking at Bachelor Number One.

Just before his lips made contact with Ella’s cheek, Number Three backed away and let Number One do the honors.

Bachelor Number One gave his wife a quick peck on the cheek. “Nice to meet you, Ella, my dear,” he said. He patted her on the shoulder, as he had done for forty-seven years.

Ella opened her eyes and looked up at her date. “Damn. You again.”

The place erupted in laughter. The bachelorette’s final words had become, over years of playing the game, perhaps most honest element of the annual Christmas tradition.

Ella grabbed her husband’s dangling tie and pulled him down for a better kiss.

“Rachel, what exotic fun-filled place are you sending my date and me to this year,” Ella asked.

“I’d settle for a brand… new… car!” The winning bachelor drew out each word like a television announcer describing the grand prize, and turned “car” into a three-second word.

“Wrong game show,” Ella said.

“You’ll be settling for a brand new wife if you forget to bring her gift to the party next year,” one of the losing bachelors said.

“Yeah, you might be going on that all-expense-paid love getaway solo this year,” the other said.

“Speaking of leaving,” Rachel pulled back the curtains to her large front window, “Doesn’t look like any of you will be going anywhere exotic, or otherwise, anytime soon,” she said. “It’s really coming down out there.”

The three couples watched the snow fall.

“Remember snow when we were kids,” someone asked.

“Yes. I do,” another answered.

“We’d sit in front of the window and just watch it fall.”

“And pretend that we were in a spaceship going up, and the snow flakes were stars.”

“We were space travelers, all warm and cozy.”

“I miss those days.”

“I wonder how many times like these we’ve got left.”

Nobody dared respond. The snow continued to accumulate. Just beyond the small front yard, a snow plow made its way down Main Street, metal scraping against asphalt, making its first pass of many.

“Anymore eggnog,” one of the bachelors asked.

“Sorry,” one of the wives said. “All out.”

–   .   –   .   –