MHH Column December: “Present” Tense

Surprise-surprise     I don’t mind telling you that I am an expert present hider. I mean I’m scary good at it. I’ll disguise the hottest gizmo of the year in a bright pink Victoria’s Secret bag, have my sons sign for their own gifts from the UPS man and then convince them that I ordered the complete series of Sex & The City on Blu-Ray. No one is ever the wiser.

I did not learn these tricks from my parents but because of them. My folks were not the brightest bulbs in the box when it came to hiding gifts. Every year they would take the day off work, do all of their shopping, hide everything in the attic and threaten my brother and I with bodily harm should we decide to do a little snooping.

“If you pull down the attic ladder, something will fall on your head and the surprise will be ruined,” my mother warned.

This statement was akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull as far as I was concerned. Exactly what would hit me? I wondered. Would it be the actual present or something else? (Visions of being pelted by Strawberry Shortcake haunt me to this day.) Would it require stitches?

For weeks, my brother and I watched as my parents journeyed to the attic pausing only to remove a ratty sleeping back from the fold out ladder. THAT was their defense? Amateurs!

It didn’t take long for us to spring the booby trap and do some “investigating.” To play fair, I didn’t want to but my brother made me join in for fear that if I wasn’t in on the caper, I would tattle on him. (He was probably right.) However, we were not prepared for the pre-wrapped booty that awaited us and left us as clueless as we were before.

“I guess we’ll have to unwrap a couple,” my brother said, picking at the tape of one package with his name on it. I demurred, after all I didn’t want to OD on my delinquency.

If the experience taught me anything, it was not to underestimate the curiosity of a child at Christmas time. The most innocent looking cherub can become as deceitful as the devil himself if they think that a sleeping bag may be the only thing stopping them from seeing their long-wished for Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. When it came time to hide my own children’s presents I not only hid them in plain sight, but when they weren’t looking, I removed them off property completely and took them to my mother’s house. I thought I was so clever, but it turned out I wasn’t the first person in my family to think of it.

“We used to do that with you kids’ presents,” my mom said.

Her words surprised me. “Really? When was this?”

“The year after you and Bruce climbed into the attic when we told you not to,” she replied.

“How did you know about that?” I asked, amazed by her admission.

With a bemused twinkle in her eye my mother said, “Because Julie, Santa knows EVERYTHING!”

Yes he does, Mom. Yes he does.



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