Posted 11-28-2004 at 06:53:55
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I hope you all know that I neither expect you to read these stories nor to comment on them. So don't feel bad about not commenting, you're not going to hurt my feelings. I don't always feel like reading long posts either. So, they're here for the ones who want to read them and those who don't, no offense taken.
It was mid-December of 1971 when my sister Judy came to me with stunning news. Being only one year younger than me, we tended to think alike and basically were mere steps away from being able to read each other's minds. We communicated with looks and when it was necessary to use words, those words were few and far between.
"Guess what I found." She whispered, eyes sparkling with mischief.
I only had to look at her to know that she had found the hiding place for Christmas presents that had yet to be wrapped. I got a knot in my stomach. I knew I did not have the control to not take advantage of this information, and even though there was still time to tell her that I didn't want to know where this secret cache was, what came out was...
"We'll have to wait 'til mom's not here."
She nodded briskly. Mom obliged us less than an hour later by announcing that she had to run to the grocery store. Judy and I sat at the end of the couch, thighs touching, pretending to be engrossed in Gilligan's Island while Mom got ready to leave.
"Do you girls want to go with me?" She asked, pausing in the doorway, her purse and keys in hand.
"No!" We said in unison. And then. "There's an after-school special coming on that we want to see." I explained quickly. Mom had that look about her that said that she knew something was up, but didn't know what it was. She gave us one last lingering look and then she left.
We waited until the car cleared the garage and then we were off; down the hall to our parent's room. The sanctum-sanctorium. The Holy Land. The Fort Knox of 2635 Florence Street. Crossing the threshold into that room without permission was tantamount to sneaking into Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, which is a secret military facility about 90 miles north of Las Vegas where it is reported that alien artifacts are stored and guarded. I expected at any moment for alarms and whistles to go off, armed men to come rushing in from all directions, and arrest us and take us away to prison. Needless to say, my heart was in my throat. I don't think either one of us could have pulled off this daring breach of security on our own, but by working as a team, we girded each other and managed to make our way across the linoleum floor to the closet.
"Open it." I said.
"Nu uh! You open it." Her eyes were popped out so far that I marveled that they didn't simply fall out on the floor.
I reached for the knob.
"What if she forgets something and comes back?" Judy asked suddenly. I paused in mid-reach. Up to this point, we could have come up with some kind of explanation for being in Mom's room, but if we were caught with the closet door open, it would be over. I wondered briefly what the punishment would be for 'Christmas present peeking', and shuddered.
Before I had a chance to reconsider our actions, Judy grabbed the knob and the door swung open. She was like that, Judy was. Never knew what she was capable of until she did it. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
As soft evening light spilled into the closet, a veritable treasure trove of bags and boxes and rolls of unopened wrapping paper were exposed.
"Wow..." I breathed.
"Told ya!" Judy giggled.
"How...?" I began.
"I dropped a quarter and it rolled under the door. I had to open it to get...."
"Where was Mom?"
"In the garage doing laundry."
We were both shaking like leafs, but that didn't stop us from poking and peeking and prodding to our little heart's content. We found the box that contained a new pair of western boots for Daddy. We found the box that contained a new Mrs. Beasley doll for little Dianne. We found the box that contained a new model car set for my brother Larry. It was obvious who many of the gifts we found were for. But not all of them. We didn't know who the new record player was for. We didn't know who the bath salts or the new sweater, doll house, slippers, robe, "Operation" game, or the roller skates were for, and the list went on and on. Suddenly the glaring flaw in our daring plan was revealed to both of us. We knew what was being given, but we didn't know who it was being given to!
We hastily rearranged everything the way we'd found it and beat a hasty retreat. The subject of the pilfered loot did not come up again until Christmas Eve when it was clear that both of us had sorted through the gifts in our minds, and decided what we expected would go to whom. Judy piled into my bed at around ten p.m., as she was known to do when she had something on her mind, and whispered...
"The doll house has to be for me!"
"Yes! I'm the one who loves music, so the record player has to be for me. And the skates are for me too. It's the nightie that's for you, and the sweater and the slippers and the bath stuff. You're the girly one, I'm the Tom boy".
We discussed all the presents and eventually worked it all out in our sneaky little minds to suit us. All things considered, we thought we had it all sorted out, based on our personalities and the way Mom's mind worked.
We never really figured out if Mom was actually on to us, or if we were just that stupid, because Christmas morning, things couldn't have worked out more backwards. I sat and watched with a sinking feeling as Judy opened the new record player. She also got the skates, leaving me with bath salts, doll house and a frilly sweater and fluffy slippers and robe. By the way mom's left eyebrow was cocked while she sipped her coffee, I suspect that she put two and two together and figured out that we had snooped, and being Mom, this was her way of putting us in our place.
A lot of Christmases came and went after that one and I can honestly say that I was never again tempted to raid the 'present' closet. Being that we were raised to share, I got to use the roller skates and Judy just about took over the doll house, which I imagined was the way it was meant to be to begin with, but we didn't own these things, which basically set us up for a year of being forced to get along as we each had to ask the permission of the other in order to use them. So our little foray into the forbidden had cost us in more ways than one and Mom came out on top, as usual. Her consolation prize? A peaceful year with two girls who got along terrifically well.