On Christmas Eve, my sisters and I would unwillingly go to bed, urged by the television newscasts reporting the sighting of Santa Claus over some state or province. Fearful that Santa would pass us by if he came to our house only to find us still awake, we allowed ourselves to be tucked in. Once securely in bed, we nodded off quickly, exhausted from the thrills of Christmas.
On Christmas morning, we found piles of presents under the tree. Colorfully wrapped gifts with bright ribbons and bows dazzled our eyes and thrilled us to no end. Where are mine? Here, this one’s for you. How come Dad only got socks?
Clearly the gifts were from Santa. Our parents never went Christmas shopping and never wrapped presents.
As I grew older, after I learned that the gifts were from our parents and not from Santa, I sometimes wondered when my parents went Christmas shopping and marveled at the fact that they could buy and wrap Christmas presents without my sisters and me knowing anything about it. This was the Great Christmas Shopping Mystery.
Our parents never left my sisters and me alone. They rarely hired a sitter. So, when did they do the Christmas shopping?
While we were toddlers, our parents took us Christmas shopping with them. We were thrilled to wander the aisles of toys and grew impatient when our parents would linger in the clothes aisles. While one parent kept a watchful eye on us, I suppose that the other would buy our presents and clandestinely store the gifts in the trunk of the car. There were times when the entire family would go shopping together during the holiday season and return home with apparently nothing but a box of chocolate covered cherries and a package of ribbon candy.
As we grew older, this trick would still have worked. But, by this time, Mom worked from home and would have had no difficulty getting away for a few hours to shop and wrap presents while my sisters and I were at school. Remembering how efficient and responsible our mother was, her Christmas shopping was probably completed weeks before Christmas.
But, if she had purchased our gifts so far in advance, where did she hide them? The attic? The basement? Under our parents’ bed?
One year, we found out when my younger sister “accidently” found the Christmas presents one year, hidden in the front hall closet, just off the dining room. Usually, that closet held nothing but my parents’ coats and some clothing. Exactly what my sister was doing in the front hall closet when she found the presents was somewhat suspect.
Nonetheless, we feigned surprise when we opened our gifts on Christmas morning. Indeed, we had not found all the gifts, so our mock wonder was required for only those few gifts we had seen, and even those gifts we had discovered were delightful to finally receive.
Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 19.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko