Joe Nation wrote:
...I did sneak around some more. (Nobody's perfect)...
You did?! JOE! Go to your room right now!
I was the oldest of three, and the best hidden present finder. For one thing, I could reach top shelves in closets and farther under beds than the other two. And I was sneakier. Mom and Dad left me in charge of the other two when they had to leave the house. My younger siblings thought I was too bossy (ha!) and tried very hard to stay out of my sight. This meant I pretty much had free rein to explore every single inch of the house alone.
I knew about the standard hiding places in our parents' closet, the high cabinets in the kitchen, and the trunks of their cars. I usually knew what presents we were getting, although sometimes I wasn't sure if one would be for my sister or for me. But the year I was in 8th grade, there were hardly any presents in the usual spots. That could only mean one thing. They must have chosen a new spot.
The search was on!
It took me almost a week, but I finally found it. There were presents hidden in the front hall coat closet usually reserved for guests' coats, the film projector, the folding screen, and all the reels of family vacations and Christmases past. This closet always smelled a little funky, so I usually avoided opening the door. Aha! They knew that!
It took me less than five minutes to rifle through the sacks and identify all the gifts. Except one. There was this really awful big white and turquoise woven basket-type purse. Obviously, Mom must have bought it for one of her friends, or maybe her sister. Yeah, that must be it. She always said her sister didn't have much taste. This thing was truly ugly. It even had nailhead trim. Ugh! I shoved it back in its sack and chuckled, wondering if I'd be able to keep a straight face when my aunt opened it.
So Christmas Eve came, along with the traditional exchange of gifts with the relatives. That was funny...my aunt didn't get the ugly purse after all. I guessed my mother must have bought it for some friend of hers.
On Christmas morning, we all ran downstairs to see what Santa had left. Of course I knew the truth about Santa by this time, but I still had to play along for the sake of the two younger ones. Yes! There were all the presents I expected, but...what in the world? There sat the ugly white and turquoise purse under the tree.
I got this awful sinking feeling. So just to be safe, I said, "Hey, Sis! Look, Santa brought you a purse!" And I quickly handed it to her.
But Mom intervened. "Oh no! That's not for her! That's for YOU!..."
My stomach turned over. This couldn't be happening! What would my friends think if I showed up at school with such a Godawful thing? My reputation would be ruined! Nobody would ever speak to me again! Of course I would never be allowed to leave it at home...Mom would make sure I used it. Gah! My life, as I knew it, would soon be over!!! Oh God, let me die right here and now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mom continued, "...and it's not a purse, dear. It's a sewing basket."
Slowly, I picked up the hated thing as if it might bite me and unlatched the top. Sure enough, inside were trays for buttons, compartments for thread, cushions for needles, and pockets for other sewing necessities. Just like Mrs. Johnson, my Home Ec teacher, said we would all need next semester.
Slowly, I began to breathe again. I smiled weakly at my mother, and quickly put the basket back under the tree. For a brief moment, I considered asking Mom if I could exchange it for another in a different color (even though she knew I loved turquoise.) But I didn't. Because in addition to the shock, horror and revulsion I had been feeling, I was now feeling another emotion. Shame.
I never did replace that ugly sewing basket. I am 57 years old now, and I still have it. It's on a shelf in my closet, and I bring it out occasionally when I have to repair something or replace a button on one of Hubby's shirts. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of how I felt back then. My mother, now gone for 15 Christmases, bought me something she was sure I would like and would use. And I, by being sneaky, had ruined the whole thing.
That was the last time I ever looked for hidden presents.