A Game of Dad-and-Mice

{ The lovely and talented Green Study recently hosted a Christmas story contest on her blog complete with prizes.  It was a gutsy move, as she announced the contest right as most people in the blog-o-sphere were finally abandoning their computers for a few days of holiday cheer and dealing with visiting relatives.  I’m certain there weren’t as many entries as she had anticipated.  As proof of what must have been a sparce turn-out, I was able to score 3rd place (1st place would have required at least two less entries).  My prize booty included a generous donation to the Red Cross made in my name, and a snazzy postcard featuring the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  More importantly, I snagged a few new followers, which are worth even more than postcards in my book!  To those new followers and anyone else who may have already seen this post, I apologize for reposting it here.  For the rest of you, here’s a little Christmas story to make you glad it’s January. Also, Green Study was nice enough to come up with the title of the post for me, so you’ve already read the best part.}

Shake the box all you want.  I hope you don't mistake the sound of those little pie tins rattling around for Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots! (Image from theblaze.com)
Shake the box all you want. I hope you don’t mistake the sound of those little pie tins rattling around for Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots! (Image from theblaze.com)

There was a magical time when I believed in Santa.  It was too long ago for me to recall.  In retrospect, I was such a scaredy cat as a child, I was probably terrified of the jolly fat man.

I come from a family of four boys – each of us only separated by a year or so from the next oldest or youngest.  Since we were so close in age, if one of us found out anything juicy, we’d all know within minutes.

Once we discovered that Santa was actually Mom and Dad, everything changed.  From my parents first unexplained shopping trip after Thanksgiving until sometime Christmas Eve, there was an elaborate game of cat and mouse between us boys and Dad.  I’m sure my long-suffering mother played a role, but we knew that Dad was the strategic mastermind.

The game was simple.  Dad hid our presents until he and Mom had a chance to wrap them.  Then he had to re-hide them until Christmas morning at 2 A.M. when we’d finally be asleep, and he could put them under the tree.

The re-hiding of the wrapped presents was critical, as my brother Chris had nearly psychic abilities of interpreting the contents of a given box merely by shaking, listening and smelling the wrapping paper.  My approach usually involved a slight corner-tear and then clumsily covering my tracks with scotch tape repairs.

Dad had relatively few options for hiding anything, as my brothers and I had the run of the house, and there wasn’t a single locking door.

My parents’ closet was the first place to look.  Between Dad’s sports jackets, garish wide ties and Mom’s “stuff”, there wasn’t much room.  As the only female among us, Mom’s clothing items defied more description than that.

The attic was prime hiding real estate as was the spider-filled closet under the basement stairs.  Due to my lack of bravado, both were good choices.  Still, the lure of toys-to-come could overcome my fear of tarantulas and man-eating, dusty boxes from Nanny’s house.

One year we stumbled onto the motherload.  There were piles of bags from toy and department stores.  We couldn’t believe it!  The old man had really slipped up this time.  There wasn’t even a hint of wrapping paper.  My brothers and I strategized on how best to unload the bags without leaving clues.  We carefully lifted out the first item – an EZ Bake Oven!?  Beneath that was a doll.  We glanced at each other as we slowly realized that these gifts weren’t ours.  We put the girlie gifts back and left, confused and defeated.

We later found out that a coworker of my Dad’s had a bunch of daughters who were probably looking at our baseball gloves and GI Joes a few towns away with similar confusion.  The two evil geniuses had conspired to hide the booty at each other’s homes.

We’d made a classic blunder and under-estimated our opponent.

Dad seemed especially jolly that Christmas morning.

38 thoughts on “A Game of Dad-and-Mice

        1. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

          You’re still upset about the barn boots aren’t you? I specified “taxi-cab yellow”, it wasn’t my fault they sent you “pond algae green” ones. Take it up with Amazon – they have a pretty good return policy. At least I tried!

  1. With a newborn I’m having to confront the Santa Question. I never believed in Santa and I think it served me well except for believing that all people are cruel and selfish and that nothing matters…

    And that was truly ingenious of your parents.

    1. On the one hand, fooling your kids is kind of fun. I know someone who had their kids believing that ice cream trucks sold only brocolli, for years. On the other hand, you’re inadvertantly teaching your kids that grown ups lie, especially if it benefits them. That last part may not be true, but supposedly the Easter bunny says it is, so I won’t dispute it.

  2. Congrats on the win Point! I am laughing out loud at the tearing and re-taping. I spent years mastering that talent. But in all honesty, just the thought of the look on your faces at the sight of an Easy Bake Oven is magnificent. Great story indeed!

  3. Congratulations on the win…your parents were pretty clever. I wrote a post last Christmas about finding my present early and how that ruined my joy that year.

    The whole Santa thing is bewildering to me…on one hand it gives kids a little fantasy and magic to believe in…on the other hand it is a lie perpetuated by adults. I did not tell my children about Santa, but others fed them that line, so I found myself helping them write letters and leaving out cookies. I used the letters as shopping lists and ate the cookies myself after they had gone to bed. Win-Win.

  4. Offering my congratulations on your win, too. Nice story! There were seven kids in our family so hiding presents in the house was not an option for my parents. They were kept off premises until we children were snug in our beds. No fun at all!! 😉

  5. I never believed in Santa so it boggles my mind that my own kids still do, at 3, 6, and 9 (this month). Like you, we also searched for our presents. However, my parents returned them one year when they found out. So, after that… we learned to get better at sneaking.

  6. Great memoir story!

    I never used to try and find the presents when I was a kid, I much preferred the surprise. I genuinely don’t know whether my kids have ever found any stashed presents, if they have, then they’ve done a good job of not leaving any tracks.

      1. Yes, I added the ‘-Jane’ bit to my display name on my gravatar profile because that’s the name on my blog (although not in the URL), and it’s the full name I use for any writing and acting I do, so I was trying to keep things all uniform, but since I changed it, those blogs that only require moderation the first time someone comments keep thinking I’m a new commenter! I didn’t think just changing the display name would make a difference, but apparently it does.

  7. Congrats, Dave. Great story. Clever dad you had. We found our gifts one year in my parents’ closet and I remember my mom was pretty steamed (don’t blame her). I am kinda hoping my son finds his presents this year as he’s ten and still believes in Santa. I think this is the year someone has to break it to him before he winds up in therapy.

    1. The whole believing in Santa thing is a pretty big thing, which I hadn’t given much thought to. Once we found out the presents were hidden in our house, Santa didn’t matter anymore. I don’t recall feeling betrayed by the adults who had perpetrated the lie. Then again, it was along damn time ago.

      1. I don’t remember feeling any betrayal, either. I think I took it fairly well. Maybe it was because my older brothers were sitting on my head and farting at the time they told me Santa was our dad so I had other issues to deal with.

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