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.