In my lifetime, I have gathered enough Christmas recollections to form a walkway to the moon and back. However, every year, when the holiday rolls around, I travel back in time to one of my favorite Christmas memories, which is as humorous to me today, as it was when it happened to me as a child.
The Christmas Coat Caper
Two weeks before Christmas, my sister and I, who were ten and eleven, and naughty, came up with a plan to hunt down our Christmas gifts, which my mother may have hidden in our home. As soon as my mom left for work that day, the search was on. My sister (the ingenious one) suggested we avoid looking in the obvious places because Mom was on the ball and knew the first place we would look would be her bedroom closet.
The two of us, who were crafty ourselves, in our minds anyway, searched every nook and cranny in the basement first, but failed to locate any gifts. With flashlights in hand, we scoured all the closets throughout the house and began to feel a little panicky when our search brought us nary a single Christmas present. I reassured my sister, that although we had not been very good throughout the year…we had not been very bad either. She agreed and we went back to the business of locating the gifts we so richly deserved.
We looked behind and under furniture and even ventured back down to the basement and peeked in a dark, spider-infested crawl space under the den and in the boiler room, as well. I have nightmares to this day about the boiler room because I walked into a gigantic web complete with a gigantic spider and baby spiders. No doubt, the neighbors heard me screaming that day! The entire trauma I endured and still no gifts did I find.
Desperation set in as the two of us lifted mattresses, sofa cushions and hamper lids. I know, I know, how crazy that sounds…hamper lids. Note the word “desperation,” though. I had the sickening feeling my mother somehow discovered I was reading her racy novel “Valley of the Dolls,” which she kept hidden under her bed and where I would hide to read her book. Good grief Christmas was looking rather dismal at that point.
I nonchalantly asked my sister if she knew what “Valley of the Dolls” meant, suspecting she may have ratted me out because she did stuff like that to me all the time in her effort to make Brownie points with my mom. She had no clue what I was referring to, so I felt secure in the fact that my mother was unaware I was indulging my senses in her mildly indecent paperback.
Anyway, when all our efforts were exhausted, I decided the gifts, which I had to believe existed, were probably stashed in the obvious place after all… my mother’s bedroom closet. As I made my way by flashlight over shoes, luggage and boxes in my mom’s huge closet, I reminded my sister why I should always be in charge of these endeavors. She simply did not have the smarts that I had. I wanted to search that closet first, but listened to the genius instead. Oh, the time we probably had wasted.
Sure enough, in the far back of the closet, there was a small stack of beautifully wrapped presents and much to my delight, there was two large, long boxes wrapped identically in shiny silver paper with red velvet bows, one with a gift tag bearing my name and the other with my sister’s name. We had gone this far and there would be no turning back; we decided to open the two big boxes.
With sharp scissors, we carefully scored the wrapping paper on one end of each box. Helping each other, we slid the boxes out of the paper and whipped the covers open. We saw two of the most beautiful winter coats we had ever set our eyes on. We put our Christmas coats on, zipped them up and headed outside to test them out in the cold and snow. We could not contain our excitement.
We paraded around the yard, rolled in the snow and admired ourselves in the glass of the front door. Having so much fun in our new coats, we lost track of time and realized Mom would be due home from work any time. Our coats were wet from the snow, but, no matter, we had to get them back in the boxes and in the silver paper complete with new pieces of tape.
I had just minutes to spare when I shoved the two presents back into the hiding spot and slammed the closet doors shut. My sister was so nervous, she had to avoid talking to my mother because she was afraid she would blurt out the terrible thing we had done. I threatened her with everything I could think of so she would be too scared to blow our cover.
Two weeks passed without incident and on Christmas morning, my mother proudly presented us with the two big boxes. She was so excited and obviously, so was my sister and me. In my guilt, I made a huge commotion about the gorgeous silver wrapping paper, all the while, watching my sister, who in her guilt could not bring herself to open the present.
At my mother’s urging we cautiously opened the boxes. The moment, when, we were going to give an Academy Award performance, we were horrified to see…the two geniuses had put the coats back in the wrong boxes. I had my sister’s coat and she had mine.
My mom let out a gasp, flew off the couch and charged at my sister and I, yelling, “Wait one minute girls!” We froze as she grabbed the coats looked them over and said, as she handed them back in the right order, “I have no idea how I did that. I guess I mixed your coats up when I was wrapping them.” “I hope you like them,” she said beaming with pride.
Mom…if you are reading this over my shoulder from the other side…I am sorry I always let you believe you made a mistake concerning the coats. I swear, too…we never did anything like the Christmas Coat Caper ever again. Merry Christmas, Mom!