Quite a few friends have posted on Twitter and Facebook this holiday season about how some of their young children have discovered presents that were placed for safe keeping in such seemingly perfect hiding spots that even a hobbit, wizard and team of dwarves couldn’t have unearthed them. These sneaky little tots have then, in heated courtroom style, brow-beaten their parents as to the origin of the found presents and what the early arrival of their most coveted toy means about Santa and his gift-giving practices. The best part is that this questioning has made the unsuspecting parents sweat through their reindeer-printed footy pajamas! I can hardly comprehend it. C’mon people! You need to think fast on your feet!
Remember when little kids were stupid and you could just tell them some precious, ridiculous lie about how Santa secretly delivered the present early because he wouldn’t have enough room in his sled on Christmas Eve? Happy with any explanation, they’d believe it and go on their merrily ignorant ways??? Ah, the good ol’ days, when parents lied to their kids for fun and could get away with it. It’s a different world we live in these days. Kids are slick! They’re paranoid and they ask follow-up questions! Parents need to up their game!
I started to think about all the times my parents probably lied to me, the biggest Christmas snoop of all, and got away with it. Well…until that fateful December when the facade of jolly old St. Nick came crashing down around me. It was Christmas of 1980 and I was 7 years old.
I recall, much like the weather here in Maryland these past few days, it was an unseasonably warm holiday. It was just a couple of weeks before Christmas. My best friend Lisa and I were taking full advantage of the weather (or my mother’d had enough of us in the house and sent us out to play in the yard), and we’d entered into a very competitive game of hide-and-seek. Back in the day, my family lived in a house that sat on three, partially-wooded acres of land. We had a small barn, pens for the livestock, a chicken coop, and a two-car garage…oh yeah…and an enormous Winnebago parked in the driveway that would’ve made Cousin Eddie pea-green with envy. The point is, there were tons of places where a 7-year old could climb, crawl, and squeeze into to keep her best friend searching high and low for at least 20 minutes or so.
While my bestie was hiding her eyes and counting, I surveyed my options and decided that the Winnebago was definitely my best choice for hiding. I quietly opened the side door of our “tenement on wheels” and stepped up into the living quarters. And that’s about as far as I got. The way I remember it, all these 33 years later, is that the inside of the motorhome looked like the pages of the Sears-Roebuck Christmas Catalog had come to life right in front of me in my driveway. Moments later, Lisa, seeing the door left ajar, thought she was about to spring on me and prove that I was the worst hide-and-seeker in history. But then, she too saw the mother load and climbed up beside me into the Winnebago. The two of us–we just stood there. Chins scraped the floor. Eyes grew wide as pies. I’m not sure how long it took for us to survey the inventory and take it all in– it was for sure the most toys either of us had ever seen in one place at one time outside of Toys-R-Us. It seemed like we gawked at the bounty surrounding us for an eternity, but it was probably just a few seconds. Then, the excitement built and gleeful screaming at octaves that only little girls can achieve began. Every present I’d ever wanted was there: Barbie dolls and Barbie’s motorhome, stuffed animals, board games and puzzles, books, a Snoopy Sno Cone Machine, clothes. In addition to everything my heart-desired, there was more… a baby doll carriage, baby dolls, a little scooter tricycle thing, a bicycle with training wheels.
Was this Santa’s workshop?
How did all this stuff get here?
I jumped out of the Winnebago and darted to the house, with Lisa on my heels, screaming for my mother.
Based on our ruckus, that I’m sure was approaching some sort of manic mental illness freak out, she came running to the kitchen certain that we’d either been set on fire or violently attacked by one of the roosters that usually roamed free in the yard (don’t judge me)! We began to tell my mother what we’d discovered, a la Columbus and the New World!
“Sweetie, sweetie. Listen to mama. Those presents are not for you, honey. No. No. You see, your daddy and I bought presents for some homeless children that are nearby. We wanted to make sure that they had a nice Christmas, too. But because they don’t have a house to live in right now, Santa can’t find them, so we are helping Santa.”
I remember feeling crushed, and I’m sure my mother tried to console me with something about not worrying because Santa would be bringing me and my two younger sisters presents soon enough.
And that was pretty much that.
A few days later, Christmas!!! Hooray!!! Santa came!!!
AND…so did the entire contents of our Winnebago!
The Barbie doll…and her bright yellow motorhome!
The stuffed animals… and the puzzles and board games!!!
The Snoopy Sno Cone Machine!!!!
I looked over at what my sisters got… My younger sister got a bike with training wheels and a new baby doll with a carriage. My baby sister got a scooter tricycle thing and some stuffed animals.
And then the jig was up!
My mother must’ve seen my eyes scanning each and every item and each corresponding lightbulb flicking on in my brain because just as I was about to shout something along the lines of “WAIT A GOD DAMN MINUTE!!!!” she whisked me from the room and we had the Santa talk. I was also forbidden from ruining the Santa magic for my two younger sisters. Once she was sure I was ok and not likely to expose her and my father as the liars they were, I was allowed to go back and play with all my new goodies.
And she heard me exclaim, as I ran out of sight…
“You and daddy are stupid and this wouldn’t have happened if you’d just locked the dumb door on the motorhome!!!”
Truer words have not been uttered, my friends!
So, my learned advice to all you parents of the new millennium…be prepared! Be smarter and sneakier than your kids! Remember, these are little people who leave the womb with the innate ability to figure out your smartphone pass codes and the know-how to download apps! So if you can’t outwit them in the house, leave the presents in an offsite location…and for God’s sake put that shit under a real lock and key until Christmas!!!