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December 12, 2022

An Unexpected Christmas Present

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, including her latest, IT’S ONE OF US. Releasing on February 21st, this twisting, emotionally layered thriller explores the lies we tell to keep a marriage together --- or break each other apart. J.T.’s holiday blog post certainly doesn’t revolve around a lie, but rather a simple misunderstanding that all started when she found a book on her shelf that she thought had been misplaced. Her husband got an early Christmas present out of it!


As I was contemplating what to write about for this essay, casting about for Christmas memories that were book-related, my eyes landed on a slim volume on my bookshelf. Something about it seemed out of place. When I examined it, I was right --- it was a nonfiction title by my husband’s favorite author. Confused as to how it got mixed in with my black-spine thrillers (I shelve by color), I pulled it and left it on his chair, thinking nothing more of it.

Returning to my task, I started thinking about bookish Christmas memories. To my horror, I came up blank. How can that be? I’m a writer; I grew up with books --- everywhere, books.  I can envision the shelves in our house, which, during the holidays, were right next to the massive Christmas trees we used to get, hiking into the woods with axes and chainsaws to cut down the perfect --- extremely tall --- specimen. The angel who topped our trees was placed there by means of an extension ladder. Christmas in Colorado was always magical, especially for a little girl with a huge imagination. It usually snowed on Christmas Eve, and the Santa trackers were often concerned that Santa wouldn’t make it through the blizzards. (Reader, he always did.)

Christmas Eve was for my mother’s amazing homemade hot cocoa, roaring fires, footie pajamas, bayberry candles in honor of those we’ve lost and who can’t be with us, and the family piled on couches and chairs to watch all the finest Christmas specials, lined up back-to-back. “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” “Frosty the Snowman” (I hated that one, though, and still do. Frosty creeps me out.) “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” with the animagic romantic origins story of Kris Kringle and the eventual Mrs. Claus, and the Burgermeister Meisterburger and the Winter Warlock! (I’m dating myself here, but what can I say? My brothers and I especially loved the Burgermeister.) Reading was a solitary experience in my house, something for the family to do near one another, but not with. The “with” at the holidays was the watching of these Christmas shows, all of which were based on books or became books after the fact, of course.

To this day, Christmas Eve is filled with the same traditions. Holiday Episcopalian that I am, we go to church, and come home for the lighting of the candles and the watching of the Christmas cartoons.

Now. Back to the book I found on my shelf. When my husband commuted down the stairs from his office, I warned him I’d left a book of his on the chair. He picked it up, turned it over and said, “Cool! I’ve never seen this one before.” To which I replied, “Of course you have, it must have gotten mixed with mine in the move. It’s been on my shelf this whole time.” He shook his head and opened it to see a receipt. Barnes & Noble. November 21, 2008. And it struck me. I remember buying it. I’d seen the book on the shelf at an author signing. I grabbed it for Randy to give as a gift for Christmas, hid it on my shelf (because what better place to hide a book than on a bookshelf?) and then FORGOT ABOUT IT!

So an early Christmas present has finally been given, only 14 years late. As my darling Rudolph shouts at the end of his Christmas special, “Ready, Santa!”