Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, the year 2008

The pure sheer joy of a gift laden Christmas tree is almost more than some children can bear. Regretfully, I am one of those children.

If there is a gift wrapped under the tree, I cannot resist the urge to pick it up and try to decipher the contents simply by sight, touch, and sound. Is it solid? Is it soft? Does the weight shift within the package? Does it rattle when you shake it?

Doesn't really matter if the gift is addressed to me. If it's got shiny colored paper on the outside, I am dying to know what's on the inside.

And Santa Claus gifts, which in my family were left unwrapped? FUHGETTABOUTIT! As a kid, I snooped in closets and corners, under the beds, in the trunks of cars. Any place dark and removed could hold holiday treasures, and I was all about seeking them out.

Sometimes I crept down the hall as my parents slept on Christmas morning so I could check out the gifts unnoticed before the big reveal. That happened one year when I was about 7 or 8, and unfortunately, my greed got the best of me. Santa Claus had brought my little sister a record player, and I decided it should be mine. Instead of just switching the tag from one of my gifts with the tag from her gift, effectively "trading" gifts with her, I attempted to write, in cursive as Santa had that year, a new tag with my name on it. You can guess the outcome of that one. My sister still got the record player, and I got in trouble.

It seems like the following year was the year that my parents decided to close the hallway door into the den and hang a big string of jingle bells from the door. That year, those damn bells fell and alerted the whole family that I was on the prowl yet again. And yes, I think I got in trouble.

When we outgrew Santa Claus, my parents had to get creative when they wrapped and placed our gifts under the tree. If there was a gift with my name on it, I had no qualms about trying to read through the paper, lifting up a corner of the paper and peeking, or worst of all, the total unwrap/rewrap, all before Christmas Day. I wasn't so anxious about knowing the contents of the other gifts, but if they were clearly labeled for me, I had an odd obsession about knowing what they were before Christmas morning. My parents eventually learned that if there were to be gifts under the tree for me, that they better be disguised somehow.

One year my father devised a brilliant plan for labeling the gifts in code. He and my mom wrapped the gifts and put codes on the gift tags, rather than our names. The codes were all numbers and seemed to having nothing in common. Some were short, some were long, some even, some odd, starting and ending with every digit equally. Based on this evil system, we had no idea which gifts belonged together, and which kid would eventually receive them. I thought Christmas morning would never arrive that month!! Finally, the morning came, and my dad explained the formula, which involved something ridiculous like dropping the first digit, adding the next ones together, dividing by two and then multiplying by three. Whatever sequence of math tricks we went through eventually pointed to one kid or another, and that one was the winner of the gift. All these years later, I remember the frustration of lining those gifts up, side by side, to compare the tags to try to decipher the code.

Then there was the year they tried not labeling the gifts. As each package came out from under the tree, a parent would examine the gift and send it on to the appropriate recipient. That worked pretty well until we got to a flat box containing a teal colored button down shirt. Someone handed me the gift, I opened it and fell in love with it on sight. Unfortunately, that gift should have been my brother's. This was the 80s people. Don't judge us. Sadly, my brother lost a shirt that year, and I wore it for years and loved it every time I put it on.

Regretfully, my dear family filled MrG in on my Christmas escapades very early in our relationship, and he began to torture me about the contents of gifts under our own little tree. As he wrapped his gifts for me, he was all about adding items to the package to throw me off. A handful of dried beans add an excellent rattle to an otherwise silent offering. Bars of soap or cans of green beans totally skew the weight of a gift. And he firmly believes that little gifts do not have to be wrapped in little packages. I have no doubt that he will pass this wisdom on to LittleG, and a whole generation of children to come will be affected by my inability to keep my paws off the presents.

Several groups at work this week had gift exchanges, and I must admit that every time I passed someone in the hall with a gift in her hands that I had the unbearable urge to distract her, grab the gift, and steal down the hall to try to figure out what was inside. My mother's firstborn is naughty indeed.

I might just be feeling nostalgic because this year there are no gifts under the tree for me. MrG and I are doing an "us" gift this year, and I'm a little sad that there won't be anything for me to unwrap Christmas morning. At least there better not be, because we are spending a chunk of cash on a new camera. For what it's worth, I'm also a little sad not to be buying and wrapping a gift for him this year. So, it's not ALL about me. Really.

Besides that, we have two Christmas celebrations this year, as we always do. First, at my inlaws house, far, far away. Then, we will celebrate with my family in my brother's brand new house. It's always fun to spend time with our families of origin, but best of all, there will be gifts. And some of them will have my name on them! Just don't leave your tree unattended, family.....


Big Al said...


Chad and Mary Kate Martin said...

I TOTALLY see you doing this!! Crack me up!! This post describes exactly why we are friends --your enthusiasm, creativity, with a hint of ornery!

PS -- Chad's favorite is the green bean trick. Usually one present a year has veggies in it!

M--- said...

When I was young, my dad would always choose one gift (big, small, inexpensive, pricey, didn't matter...just one) that became The Torture. It was wrapped in layers and layers of paper. A layer of tape...all kinds of tape...electrical, carpet, double-sided, the kind with strings running through it. The rule: no scissors, knives, or other sharp utensil...only use your fingers and teeth if desperate enough to get through the tape. Then it was wrapped some more, put in larger boxes/containers and wrapped again so that it appeared as just another "ordinary" present. Needless to say, it would take HOURS to get through the unwrapping of presents. This was MY lesson to NOT open presents BEFORE Christmas!