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Present Peeking

December 14, 2011

Did you ever peek at your Christmas presents? Come on, be honest with yourself. You don’t have to tell me, but please do be honest with yourself. Anything else would just be silly, wouldn’t it? Why lie to yourself about a thing like that? Anyway, in all your growing up, did you peek one year (or more!)? I mean, did you learn your lesson not to peek? Or did you just keep peeking year after year? Did you know where your parents hid them? Under their bed? In their closet? Somewhere else? Were your presents in a good safe hiding place? Or were they really easy to find? Were they in the same place every year or was it a challenge to figure out a new hiding place each Christmas season? At our house, the Christmas presents were always under our parents bed, along with all other things we weren’t supposed to know about. And they were in bags with each kid’s name on them, so I guess it made it pretty easy for custom peeking.

A friend of mine recently told the story about how she peeked at her Christmas presents one year. She said it ruined her Christmas. Why? Because all the presents were unexciting to her and so she had to go through the wait and all the motions knowing she wasn’t going to get any nice surprise. And she didn’t get anything she liked, just as she knew she wouldn’t. Would it have been better for her to hope for something wonderful and then just be disappointed? Maybe. I sure don’t know. I never peeked. No, really, I never did. I didn’t want to spoil my surprise, and I didn’t want to be naughty either. Long, long ago, I thought that Santa always knows.

Another friend was saying that he peeked for his presents every Christmas as a matter of course. No shame. Not at all. It was just part of Christmas for him. He thought that’s just what kids did. Peeking was all a part of the process. He wanted to know what he was going to get, then he knew what he was going to get, and he wasn’t surprised with anything he got. He just liked it that way, I guess. I don’t get that, but that’s just me. I preferred the anticipation. Like I said, I never peeked.

Another guy I know said he and his brother peeked together. Many years. One Christmas, this guy knew that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, so he went and bought what he wanted, and he put it in the mix. I think he even wrapped it up himself. And when he opened it up Christmas morning, he acted all excited and surprised. Well, he was thrilled to get what he wanted. His parents were a little surprised. I guess they each thought the other one bought it for him. Or, come to think of it, the story was that someone anonymous had dropped it off at the front door. Yes, this friend had even done all that himself to make sure he got something he wanted.

There was one year that I got exactly what I wanted. You see, we had a wish-list jar. We were supposed to put all our Christmas wish ideas on slips of paper in that jar. So, one year, instead of putting in a bunch of wishes, I decided to put my one wish on many slips of paper to drive the point home that all I wanted was that one thing. I had actually been asking for that item for years, I had given other smaller cheaper menu items as alternatives, but now I was determined to try as hard as I could to get the one thing that I truly wanted. Well, that persistence paid off and I did get it. And, can you believe, that forty years later, I still have that special treasure? A little worse for wear, but still with me. And that’s no mean feat. I’m sure that everything else I had accumulated at that point in life must be long gone, and then some. But that one thing I had set my sights on so firmly, that I finally got, was fully appreciated and has been well taken care of all these years. Yes, I was ecstatic that Christmas. That gift was one of those unforgettable things. Even if I hadn’t been able to preserve it, I would still remember it just as well.

Oh, did you want to know what that special gift was? Well, I wasn’t going to tell you. But, maybe I will. I just know that some of you will be dying to know. I hope you won’t be disappointed when I finally tell you. Okay, here goes: the long wished-for Christmas gift to me from my mom was… drum roll please… a real, honest-to-goodness pair of ‘Indian Moccasins’ in golden buckskin colored moose hide suede with shiny glass blues and white seed-beads with white rabbit fir, made by a Canadian ‘First Nations’ woman. (In the USA, we would say ‘Native American’. I would prefer to tell  you her tribe, but I never knew if she was Cree, Blackfoot or from another tribal nation in that area.) And yes, they still fit just right, but I only wear them on snow because I don’t want to wear them out. They were and still are the most comfortable and warmest things you can imagine. Even in fifty degree below winter weather up there in Northern Alberta, with added wool socks, they kept my feet toasty warm. But, I digress, I think.

Back to the present peeking stuff. When I was around the age of twelve, my mother had so many children she didn’t know what to do. She always went crazy with the shopping for Christmas, buying at least ten or fifteen presents for every child. I’m not saying that they were great presents, because mostly, they weren’t. They were generally from the bargain tables and sales racks and so forth. The emphasis was typically quantity over quality. Maybe that’s why I was never really tempted to peek. I preferred to hope.

Anyway, as I was trying to say, my mother had so many Christmas gifts that needed to be wrapped, that she didn’t know what to do. And so, since I was plenty old enough to wield a pair of scissors and a roll of tape, and I was the oldest daughter who tended to take over a good deal of the motherly duties anyway, I was put in charge of all the gift wrapping in the family. And so, I quickly became a power wrapper. I can’t vouch for how pretty it all ended up. Like my ‘cooking for an army’ (because I started cooking for the family at that age too), my wrapping became the same way. I’ll call it the ‘military wrapping’ technique. It was very utilitarian. But, after almost countless hours of quick-style wrapping, I got the job done. None of the kids would notice anyhow. They just wanted to get to their goods. All that paper would be ripped to shreds by the end of it all.

And how did I wrap my own gifts, you might wonder? Well, I didn’t. Of course I was told not to peek at my bag of gifts. And tending to be the honest trustworthy type, of course I complied with that order. You see, my gifts were all in one bag, with my name on it, under the bed. I knew it. My mom knew it. And we both knew that I could choose to peek, but I would spoil any surprise. No matter that my sister and I generally got a lot of the same things, but just in different colors. Once I was the wrapping guru of the family, I always had a pretty good idea what I might be getting. But still, I did not wrap my gifts. That would have just been wrong on so many levels. That wrapping task was left to somebody else. I’m not sure who wrapped my gifts. I wrapped everybody else’s. Yup, my mom drew the line there. She could have someone else do that. Being that it would have been so very easy, did I peek at my gifts then? No. Never. I just never did. I didn’t want to know until Christmas morning. I wanted to wait and see.

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