The giant crate sat in Hutch’s living room for a week before Christmas. His parents sent it to him and told him two things -- not to open it before Christmas, and to make sure Starsky was there when he did. He couldn’t help being curious about it.
Starsky and Hutch had worked Christmas Eve and returned to Hutch’s place to start their celebration after their shift. They were off the next day for the first Christmas in years. Late in the evening, they were sitting on Hutch’s couch, staring at the crate.
“Maybe it’s a bathtub,” Starsky mused.
“Nope. Not big enough,” Hutch responded.
Hutch reached for the cup of eggnog Starsky was drinking, took a sip and passed it back to him. He tilted his head to one side and said, “Needs more brandy.”
“Nah. ‘S perfect, Blondie.” Starsky was right. They were both plenty toasty.
“Inflatable raft?” Hutch asked.
“Why would your parents send you an inflatable raft? Besides, ‘s too heavy for that.”
The crate had been a source of nearly endless speculation since it arrived. Although they were both trying to be nonchalant, they were dying of curiosity. What good detective could resist a mystery? Hutch leaned over and looked at Starsky’s watch, seeing that the time was just past midnight. “It’s Christmas,” he said.
“Wanna open it, or wait till the morning?” Starsky asked.
“What do you think?” Hutch asked as they looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes.
“I’ll get the crowbar,” Starsky said as he jumped up and went for the tool he’d left leaning up against the doorframe.
Between the two of them, they pried the crate apart and stood back to stare. The crate contained a beautiful wooden box, the size of a blanket chest. When they dragged it out onto the floor, they were amazed by the weight. The oak box had a curved top, iron fittings, and was intricately carved with dragons and vines. Hutch opened the heavy lid and they looked inside. The cedar tray in the top of the box held a card addressed to Hutch. He took it out and held it in his hands for a minute.
“Well, open it, Hutch,” Starsky said eagerly.
“I don’t know what to make of this. It was my grandfather’s chest. I don’t know much about it, but....”
“Maybe the card explains,” Starsky reassured him.
Hutch carefully opened it and pulled out a Christmas card. Inside, he found a letter from his parents and two tickets to Honolulu. They were planning to renew their wedding vows for their fortieth anniversary and they wanted Hutch to be there. The other ticket was for Starsky. The note said they knew that neither their son, nor his partner had been on a real vacation since Starsky recovered from his shooting. That was their Christmas present to both of them.
“It says they’ve already arranged everything with Captain Dobey. My parents were married on Valentine’s Day. We’re supposed to meet them there that weekend. Dad says they got married in Minnesota in February and this time he’s going to be warm.”
Starsky was stunned. He’d never been to Hawaii. “Wow! They want me to go? Are you sure?”
“Yep. The note says to tell you they insist if you put up a fuss.”
Starsky laughed. “See, I told you they love me more than they do you. What about the chest? That’s kind of a big envelope for two airline tickets.”
Hutch handed Starsky another piece of paper and asked him to read it to him while he looked in the chest. He lifted the tray off the top and started to dig through the odd collection inside. The chest included a quilt, several carved wooden gnomes, an inlaid wooden box, and a carved pipe. The only other items were a cable knit afghan and a Norwegian-looking sweater. Hutch sat looking at the objects, lovingly touching each one. They had all belonged to his grandparents.
Starsky read the note from Hutch’s mother. “Ken, these things and the chest belonged to your grandfather. Of course, you know that. What you don’t know is that he wanted you to have them. When he died, you were in college. You didn’t have anywhere for these things and we knew you’d want them when you were older. To our embarrassment, we forgot about them until your father was cleaning some things out of the attic. We decided they would make a nice Christmas present from your grandfather. We’re sorry it took almost two decades for you to get them. Your dad’s grandfather made the small box and it was meant to hold the pocket watch you already have. When your grandfather immigrated to the United States, great-grandfather Hutchinson gave him the watch and the box. You probably didn’t know that your grandfather made the large chest when he was a young man in Norway using traditional Norwegian wood carving tools and techniques. He gave it to your grandmother as a wedding present. I hope you will cherish it as much as he did. We love you, son. Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in Hawaii. Give our love to David. Mom and Dad.”
“Wow!” Hutch said.
“Yeah, wow,” Starsky echoed.
“I always wondered what happened to these things. My grandfather loved them so much.”
“Did he wear that sweater?”
“Yeah. My grandmother made it for him. He was a little bigger than me, but I don’t care. I’ll wear it anyway. I think she made the afghan and the quilt, too.”
They sat and enjoyed looking at the chest’s contents. Then, they exchanged their gifts to each other and settled down with another cup of eggnog each. Both of them were getting sleepy, and Hutch announced he was done and was going to bed.
Starsky was planning to sleep on the couch, and he had something to say first. “Um, Hutch?”
“What do you think of those wooden gnome things?”
Hutch chuckled, knowing where Starsky was headed. “They happen to be a traditional fixture in Norwegian homes.”
Starsky snorted. “Traditional, huh?”
“They are pretty creepy, aren’t they?” Hutch asked. “I never liked them much.”
“I wouldn’t want them looking at me in the dark,” Starsky said with a sly smile.
“Okay, they live in the chest,” Hutch said as he put the little statues back in the chest and closed the lid.
“Thanks, Hutch. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, buddy.”