Saturday, December 13, 2008

Confessions of a Present Peeking Girl

I’ll just admit right up front: I am a present peeker. If I know a gift is in the house I will hunt it down and check it out. It’s who I am. It’s why, when expecting my child, I didn’t think twice when they asked if I wanted to know the gender of my unborn before the day of birth. Presents placed under my tree before December 25 now stand a chance of making it to the day without pre slit tape and paper but it is not easy to get my mind off that temptation. I come by this character trait honestly. I am a Harwood child. Growing up, the three of us (my older brother and younger sister) couldn’t wait until the December evening on which my parents would head off to bridge club. While they were off bidding and throwing cards down on tables, we were at home having a pre-Christmas Christmas. First we would hunt through the house until the hidden stash was found. Then we would gather the troops and go through the trove to discover what was in store. No room in our house was safe. We had picked up the skill of picking door locks using nails. We could get into Dad’s study, the canning room/bomb shelter. Even Dad’s hunting closet where the guns were locked up. After we had accomplished the stash preview we would then go to the living room and gather around the tree. Any presents that were already placed under were fair game. We would make sure we had sharp scissors and a roll of tape at hand. The only gifts that survived without preview were those where the wrapper had the nerve to tape the wrapping directly to the box. Those were considered too risky to remove without tell tale tearing. Even with all this hard work, Christmas morning would arrive and there were always some magnificent things that had slipped past our discovery. I suspect now that stocking stuffers travelled in car trunks (this I suspect because as a Mom I found it to be a reliable gift hiding place myself) and large ticket items, like bikes and skis were held at relatives or neighbors homes. Next door, the Baenen kids were conducting their own gift safaris and we would seek out each other to compare our finds.

We did this for years until we were taught our hard lesson. During the annual bridge night search mission we found the trove in the locked gun closet. Inside there were fantastic Barbie get ups including her Dream House and pink convertible. But most exciting was a multi-purpose game table which included set up for pool, ping pong, Skittles and other games. We danced and leapt and laughed and hugged each other. We could hardly wait for Christmas to get this set up and enjoy hours of loving interaction with each other. Between the night of the discovery and Christmas I remember day dreaming about the parties I’d have with friends over. I shared shadowed grins with my sibs when no one else was looking. We were extraordinarily well behaved and gracious leading up to the big day.

Finally Christmas morning arrived. As usual, we woke very early in the morning, anxious to get the unwrapping rolling. Finally, Mom and Dad were convinced it was late enough to get up (we usually woke around 4 or 5 am and tried to wait on working on the parents until at least 6). We came into the living room. Stockings had been filled. Under the tree a landslide of presents had appeared. Nothing quite as big as a game table but maybe there was a box with a clue as to where to find it? As was tradition, we took turns opening gifts, youngest to oldest rotation. I don’t remember much what I got that year, which is unusual. Mom loved to gift and her own children at Christmas were always well taken care of. But I had a Barbie convertible and game table on my mind. At last we made it through everything. I exchanged looks with my brother and sister but nothing could be said. We helped pick up the shredded wrapping paper, got dressed out of our pajamas and began our day. When lights finally went on around the neighborhood we headed outside to play in the snow. Contrary to usual behavior, the Baenen kids were not drawn out by our laughter and shouting. And so, when it seemed time was OK to knock on a neighbor’s door we went over to see if they could come out to play. We were invited in and there we found Stacie, Stephanie and Marty in the family room, intently playing a game of pool on their new game table. Our game table! Comparing notes later, they were all prepared to receive the gifts we had opened. They were present hunters too. We never went on our gift safaris after that. If our parents were going to switch stashes on us what good was that? We didn’t care what the Baenen kids were getting. I suppose if we were smarter we could have traded information with them but that wouldn’t be the same.

Recalling this incident I have a confession to make and will also reveal whether my dear sister is reading my Blog. Sis, do you remember the gifts we received from Aunt Sara? Do you remember the beautiful crystal glass ornaments we got one year? I hung mine up on the tree last night when Andy and I were decorating. We always got the same presents from her: you and I. I was always a little disappointed in that because, since you are younger than I, you were always before me in the opening rotation and I would know what my present was from her by what you had opened first. My gift snooping obsession was pretty bad and one year I must have had the opportunity to do a little peeking when everybody else was out. I quickly opened a few presents to me when nobody else was around. One of them was the gift from Aunt Sara. It was a crystal ornament and it must have broken in the shipping. The devil in me put an idea to switch the tag with yours from Aunt Sara. That way I had a chance that the one I opened wouldn’t be broken. So Christmas morning, you were consoled by Mother when you cried over your broken ornament. And yesterday I hung mine on my tree. Forty some years later. Still not broken. What a turd I am. I love you Sis, for loving me even though I am a present peeking, gift swapping turd. You do still love me don’t you?

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