A Christmas lesson learned the hard way

This is the time of year that Mark is always warning me against looking at our bank statement.  He is afraid that I will see a transaction and it will give away whatever he has purchased for me as a Christmas gift. God forbid I should walk in when he is in the middle of wrapping something, “You’re going to ruin the surprise!” he will yell.

When the UPS man brings a box he races to make sure I do not see the shipping label and then will look at me suspiciously and say, “You looked, didn’t you!” and I just shake my head.  How many times do I have to tell him that I have no desire to ruin a Christmas surprise? No desire at all.

I might have shared this before so forgive me if this is a repeat and Dad, if you are reading I would like to apologize, in advance, for being a brat.  I learned my lesson though. Thoroughly.

Let us travel back fifteen 26 years ago ( I think ) to when I was a grade schooler.  I would really appreciate it if you just pretended that was fifteen years ago, consider it a Christmas gift to me. {snort}

Like lots of kids, once I knew the real goings-on of Christmas I was determined to locate the stash of gifts that I knew had to be around the house somewhere.  My sister and I would sneak into our parents room and look in their closet, search in the basement, look under furniture but it was not until I was probably ten years old (around that age, I cannot recall exactly) that I had the forethought, and the upper body strength, to pull down the stairs to the attic and look up there for gifts.

That year was the first that my parents trusted me to “watch” my sister while they went out to run errands one afternoon and Erica and I used that time to snoop.  When I pulled down the foldout stairs and felt the cold air rush down from the attic I was shivering with excitement. And a little bit of fear.

My sister waited at the bottom while I carefully climbed up the shaky ladder and when I spotted the stack of wrapped gifts I inhaled excitedly and called down to my little sister to come and take a look.  She slowly worked her way up the steps and eventually we were both precariously perched on the very top rung, trying to avoid touching the yellow insulation (that stuff is itchy!) as I carefully moved each gift and read which of our names were on the boxes.

Eventually, my sister got nervous and told me that we needed to get back down and close up the ladder before Mom and Dad got back but I was mesmerized by the colorful packages.  With my left hand tightly gripping one of the attic beams so that I would not fall I allowed my right hand to slip under the crease of paper on the side of one of the presents.

Very gently I tugged the tape loose from the paper and slowly pulled back the wrap until I could see what was underneath.  It was for Erica and I was a good enough girl to not call down what I had discovered but I had to know what was in the boxes that had my name on the tags.

One by one I loosened up the sides of each beautifully wrapped gift and delighted in everything that was for me. I was so excited, so many of the gifts were exactly what I wanted.  After awhile, I got greedy and even peeked at all of the rest of Erica’s presents as well but she never asked what her gifts were and, to be honest, I am not even sure if I told her what I was doing up there when she was down the ladder in her room.

I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning to play with all of the things that I knew I was getting and even had a hard time sleeping, on Christmas Eve, because I was so happy. However, something strange happened on Christmas morning.

My sister was the first to open a gift on Christmas day and even though I knew what all of her gifts were she did not and she was nearly bouncing with the anticipation of what lay before her.  As she opened her first present her eyes were filled with glee and she was genuinely surprised at her gift.  As mom or dad handed me my first package to open I knew what it was and as it touched my hands I felt…sad.

It was something I wanted, no doubt it was true, but I had taken the joy out of the moment by peeking ahead of time and suddenly realized that I had to fake being surprised.  I wish could remember how old I was exactly.  Old enough to know that I needed to fix a certain expression on my face to avoid be caught in my Christmas treachery.  I slowly opened the gift and tried my best to force a look upon my face that matched the genuine one that my sister had displayed moments earlier.

This took place over and over again.  My sister would be bouncing with anticipation for her turn to open something and I sat there slowly realizing that I had ruined my own Christmas by being a spoiled, nosey brat. There was not a single present that morning that I did not know about in advance. I had to fake my emotions the entire time.

We got lots of Barbies and games (Hungry Hungry Hippo, hooray!-was that commercial not the best?) and my parents spoiled us as usual. I was still happy to have toys, and clothes and other things, don’t get me wrong,  but the joyful anticipation that was causing my sister to bounce and smile was not there for me. Not at all.  Quite frankly, it sucked.

There was still hope that Christmas, for me, I believed.  We were going to a friend of my Dad’s a day or two after Christmas and I had overheard my Dad tell my Mom that they had bought Erica and I each a gift.  I was so excited. Finally, I was going to feel what was missing, due to my own greediness, on Christmas morning.  All day long I was anxious to go and visit these folks so that I could get my unknown gift and to this day I believe that God wanted to solidify the lesson I had taught myself that year.

Because when I opened up the gift that had my name on the tag, the one that was supposed to be the only surprise I would see that year, inside was Hungry Hungry Hippo. The game that I already had received, that I knew about in advance, and my parents were giving me the hairy-eyeball, trying to convey with their expressions, “Don’t you DARE say that you already have it, say THANK YOU, Melinda Sue. say THANK YOU and be quiet”

So I did what I did on Christmas morning at my own house. I plastered the fake smile on my face and told them “thank you” and died just a little bit inside.

Never EVER again did do something so sneaky.  I do believe that I still searched for the gifts a year or two after that fateful Christmas (under your waterbed, right Dad?) but no way in heck was I about to try and look under the wrapping paper again.  I completely understood then the magic of gift-giving and receiving from that year on and have no desire, to this very day, to try and “figure out” what my gift might be. No peeking at packaging labels, or shaking boxes for this lady, no way.  In fact, when I was pregnant with Connor, I would not let them tell me the sex of the baby at the 20 week ultrasound.  I considered his gender to be the greatest surprise gift ever.

And it was the best surprise gift ever!

Slight tangent here:

(When Connor was wrenched from my body on July 11,1997, I lay on that operating table listening for two things. First, of course, the sound of his little cry and second, the declaration of whether it was a boy or a girl. And just to torment me, because he knew of my “Hungry Hungry Hippo” story and how I was so into the surprise of things,  Mark was standing there as they slowly pulled him out, one body part after another coming into view, and with a smile on his face he said…

“It’s….It’s……………………….(my heart was racing with anticipation with each long pause between his words)….a………BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”   Talk about a build-up and let down all in the space of 10 seconds! So mean, I tell ya.)

So have you ever accidentally, or deliberately, ruined a surprise for yourself before? Do you do a good enough job of hiding the gifts from your kids? Because they look for them, trust me! What is the greatest surprise gift you have ever received?

Here’s to wonderful Christmas memories!








5 thoughts on “A Christmas lesson learned the hard way

  1. Well, I’m glad you learned your lesson, young lady ;D I kinda sorta ruined my Christmas present last year, but not on purpose. My Hub isn’t the kind for surprises, so I had no idea he could be so sneaky – I had an all day OB appt in Cincinnati in early December last year, so my Hub was home with the boys, getting them to school and what-not. Weeks later – Jacob received a mid-term report and he had an unexcused tardy on it. So I’m thinking my Hub slacked off and had gotten the kids to school late, when in reality, he had taken the boys to get their pictures taken while I was busy with the doctor. So I understand about the let-down of a ruined surprise. Of course, Hub kept rubbing it in that I had ruined the surprise, but oh well. It had been a good surprise!


  2. Amy, I did something like that once. Cant recall what it was now. Hmm. But Mark was being sneaky and I called him on it and pushed and pushed until he finally had to tell me about whatever surprise it was and I ruined it 😦 I just thought he was being shady! lol

    Glenn, now doesn’t that feel better? lol {weight lifted}


  3. HaHa Dad. No way, there is, like, a 20 year statute of limitations on punishment for such infractions! I am free and clear-both parentally and conscience!

    Love you!


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