Posted on December 17, 2004 at 6:06 am

When it comes to Christmas, I’m a terrible snoop.  I’m not sure that my mother, who may very well read this, knew this while I was growing up, but by Christmas morning, I had already seen just about every one of my presents.  So needless to say, I had pretty much figured out the whole Santa Claus thing by the time I was 6, although the gaggle of Mennonite kids who lived next door to us in Salem, Oregon took great pleasure by initiating my disillusionment.

It was an impulse I tried to contain, but like my compulsive behavior in general, I could never resist the glimpse of a Nordstrom bag with a pink box peeking out of it from under a pile of dirty laundry in the back of the guest room closet.  Or the siren song of a partly-assembled Barbie Dream Kitchen from the crawl space of the garage.  Or the very cross-country skis I had been hoping for lying in wait in the locked ski-doo trailer over at the neighbor’s house.

As a person dedicated to acting like an adult as often as possible, I have resisted the snoop impulse during my marriage for the most part.  My husband has a territory mapped out in the house into which I dare not go, described by Electronic test gear and audio parts dating from the early part of last century.  It is a forbidding perimeter, and even though I know that somewhere among the bins of resistors, cobalt transformers, piles of  6L7 Raytheons and Western Electric vacuum tubes may very well lie the fiber equivalent of the treasure of Sierra Madre, I let it go.  I have been richly rewarded over the years by many satisfying surprises.  I find the experience almost pleasurable, not knowing what’s in the box.  And even though I haven’t had the opportunity to prepare, to practice the exclamation of surprise in the mirror or the appropriate spontaneous outburst of happy (because you have to be pleased, no matter what is in that box, it was a heartfelt gift and done out of love) I manage to actually be convincing in my delight.  But it’s always good to be prepared, just in case the box holds back issues of House and Garden from 1950’s (which for some reason my husband believes I consider to be the Holy Grail) or anything red (lovely colour, just not good on me). 

So imagine how provocative I found this comment coming from a little girlfriend of the Divine Miss C :"I know what you’re getting for Christmas."
Oh? I said, trying not to sound too interested.
"Yeah,  It’s at our house.  The UPS guy brought it to our house and my Dad hid it in the garage."
So my thinking runs like this: It’s over at the neighbor’s.  It’s big enough that he doesn’t think he can hide it here.  In spite of the constant parade of Ebay boxes that pass through this house he thinks that if I saw the box I’d guess.  Or it’s in a box that is a dead give away.  Or maybe it’s a drum carder (!) or a spinning wheel (! ! !) .  Or maybe it’s just a box from Amazon.  With a Nicki Epstein or a Lucy Neatby book in it!

Now my kids are not snoops.  Miss C sat at the counter for dinner last night for 20 minutes before I realized that the lavender sock I’m hoing to have done for Chrsitmas was planted six inches from her plate (yeah, that’s what my kitchen looks like).  Now lavender socks don’t necessarily cry out to be noticed, and I’m sure that if I waved a Paul Frank Barbie under her nose that’s she’d notice.  But for the most part I don’t have to bother with the whole sneaking-the-bags-into-the-house-from-the-car-and- stuffing-it-under-the-bed routine.  I can walk right by them with shopping bags bristling from both hands and they’ll barely notice.  Maybe, if I make a sudden movement, I might catch their attention: "What’s in the bags?"
"Uh, what bags? Oh these? uh, groceries."  Yeah, groceries from the Gap.  But they buy it, so credulous a pair of kids have I managed to participate in the raising of.  The youngest one doesn’t care about anything unless it’s shaped like a train, and then it doesn’t matter if it’s wrapped or not, he suspects to the point of hysteria.  Now that’s MY child.

So what’s over at the neighbor’s house?
You’ll have to wait and see.  Just like me.

On the other hand, maybe I need to borrow some sugar. . .