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Monday, December 20, 2004

Confessions of a Christmas snooper

They get it honestly. I was the best of the best when it came to snooping for Christmas gifts. I shouldn't really care. After all, it's their surprise they've blown, not mine. But I am a little bummed and I think the boys sense they've let me down a bit. (Although that's not likely to keep them from snooping in the future. I know it wouldn't have stopped me.)

No one ever tells you how short of duration is the whole Santa Claus magic for parents. It can be as short as 8 or 10 years. And the age drops with each successive kid. Ryan and Patrick are, of course, on to the whole mom-and-dad-as- Santa scene. But keeping it real for Michael is proving to be a greater challenge this year.

That's because my snoopers obviously did not inherent my finest snooping quality — stealth! I had the ability to sniff out the most bizarre hiding places. I grew up in an old house (built in the 1920s) that had a creepy old basement. For several years, my parents took to hiding our Christmas gifts in a back storage room for which you needed a skeleton key to enter. It was sort of a crawl space, reeking of mildew. My heart pounded wildly whenever I turned the key, my overactive imagination sure that the basement troll (or my older brother) would pop out and frighten me. Did that stop me from snooping? No, sir.

We had a pop-up Starcraft camper that my dad kept in our equally creepy (and dark!) detached garage. One year, I found the keys to the camper in the junk drawer and decided to check it out. I crawled inside (since it was kept in its lowered position) with flashlight in tow and there I found the treasure trove of Christmas gifts.

I'm not sure if my parents knew of my activities. I believed that my movements were so stealth-like, with everything put exactly back in its place, that they never knew. After my boys' activity this morning, I'm guessing maybe they knew all along and just didn't say anything.

I'm not sure why I was compelled to snoop. I know that I'm not proud of my activities. My mom and dad always did their best to make Christmas special for us, despite some lean years. And they always succeeded. Looking back, my snooping leads me to believe that I doubted their ability to know my heart's desire, which is silly because they always knew.

And that's a little what I'm feeling today, that my boys doubted my gift-giving prowess. So I'm left today trying to figure out why I did what I did. And here's what I've come up with: I think on some level I don't like to be surprised. I like to be the one doing the surprising and I like to have all the information (it's the know-it-all in me).

Of course, I'm also sure there's a very big part of me that proudly (and perhaps wrongly) believes my loved ones incapable of surprising me. I fancy myself quite gifted at picking up signals whenever plans are underway. And maybe that's why my loved ones don't bother. I ruin their pleasure or they're afraid of disappointing me.

It's been a long time since my husband and I have exchanged gifts at Christmas. It's pathetic, I know, but we always seem to have a good reason. We're saving for a new house, renovating the kitchen, buying new furniture, carpet, TV, computer, bedroom suite, fill in the blank…. But while we were out on our annual shopping excursion for the boys this weekend (actually while we were sitting at the bar at the new Hoggy's at Crocker Park), we came to realization that we've got to change our ways — in many ways — in 2005.

Maybe it's a little early, but here's to a better year in 2005! And here's to learning how to enjoy life's little (and big) surprises.

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