I hate surprises. Well, I love the idea of surprises: people jumping out and yelling, unexpected packages, etc. Getting to say such lines as, “Oh, my! You shouldn’t have!” and “Wow! I never expected this!” But the reality of it all…Nope, nada, not for me. If I think there’s gonna be a party, I’ll try to find out beforehand. If there’s a package, I’ve gotta at least shake it. Erynn thought it was normal to open “a present a day” for a week before Christmas. Even now, I’ve got to open at least one present a few days before Christmas! It got so bad for my folks while I was growing up, that my Mom and Dad had to become very sneaky and clever with wrapping my presents. Like the Christmas of my junior year.
The first week of December arrived, and because my Mom shopped all year, I knew all the presents were bought. And wrapped. And in the closet. I could almost hear them calling me.
“Shut up. I want to be surprised this year.”
“No you don’t. You really want to see us now. You’re an actress! You can ACT surprised! Come on”
“Shut up! Really! This year—
“Oh you shut up! Now, you can come now or later. Come now or later, noworlater, noworlater, now, now -- "
“Oh fine. I’ll just shake ya. I don’t have to open any more—“
“That’s right. Come on up and shakeshakeshake…..”
And so up the stairs I went, and into the closet. The packages were all there, wrapped and stacked: it looked to be three presents for each of us six kids. Mom and Dad always tried to make it even – in numbers and dollars!
Hmmm…so I shook the first one. “Oh, this is easy!” I informed the other presents, “It’s a skirt. Hmm….probably a homemade one, so it can’t be the biggie!” So I grabbed the next package. That’s when I realized it was the only other package for me. “Only two?” I asked the packages.
“Well,” a rectangular present for sister JoJo answered, “ maybe there’s something else in it.”
“Good thinking! Thanks boxy!” So I shook….and could hear something inside…something chainy sounding. “Piece of cake!”
“Ohh, I don’t think even your Mom would wrap cake—“
“Oh Boxy, I didn’t mean it literally—oh for Pete’s sake, what am I doing talking to a box?! But it’s obvious: It’s a jewelry box. And it must have an expensive piece of jewelry inside….”
I showed an amazing amount of restraint by not opening the box right there. Actually, it wasn’t that amazing, because my Mom had started using that cheap tape – the kind that tore the paper. The kinda tape that made it almost impossible for me to unwrap my presents. I could wait….after all, it was only 22 days….
22 days! Almost a lifetime. At least twice that first week I found myself answering Boxy’s call to come and shake it. Each week the call grew stronger and stronger, but amazingly, I remained strong -- and so did the tape. By the 20th of December I was shaking the box on a daily basis. (Yes, I know….I had it bad.)
Finally, Christmas morning arrived. I could hardly stand it as we went in a circle, each opening our first package. I, of course, started with the skirt – and yes it was a skirt – and yes, it was homemade. (Yes, you’re right: I am that good.)
The anticipation was almost too much to bear. By this time, I was convinced that the Hope Diamond, or its equivalent, was in that box. As the paper came off, yes, I was right again! Jewelry box! Score! Come to me Hope Diamond! Lifting the lid ever so slowly, savoring each moment, slowly, slowly, until the necklace was revealed. A very nice……but plain…….inexpensive……necklace.
“There must be something else,” I thought, panickedly looking in the jewelry box for something I missed, when I heard a square sounding giggle. Looking up, I saw JoJo opening “Boxy,” which turned out to be a very nice, EXPENSIVE stereo. “Got to be—nothing!” the thoughts flew through my brain. “Calm down, don’t cry,” I silently comforted myself, “after all, Christmas is for the little ones. Maybe there wasn’t enough money…”
“What’s wrong, Jay-ne? Why aren’t you opening a present?” Mom asked.
“Looks like I’m done.”
“Oh….I’m sure there’s a present left. Did you look on the backside of the tree?”
“Oh, it’s okay, Mom. I love the skirt. And the necklace is sweet….and thanks for the jewelry box.” But silently I pleaded, “don’t tear up, don’t cry – it’s okay…”
“Oh, Missy…I’m sure there’s another package. Why don’t you look again,” reassured my Dad.
“Really, Daddy, it’s okay! There’s nothing else under the tree….but I love my presents, really I do,” blink, blink, keep the tears from showing.
‘Oh, maybe I left it upstairs” answered Mom, quickly getting up, as if she suddenly realized how grossly unfair the number and dollar value was
(--helLO! JoJo’s stereo, Jason’s bike, need I say more? And all I’ve got is a stupid--).
“Let me go upstairs—“
And the dam burst.
“Oh Mom! Stop it! You know there’s nothing else up there! You know I’ve been up there for weeks! You don’t—“
But she ignored my cries, and up the stairs she disappeared. I knew she’d probably come back down with some trinket….some dumb gift put aside for those forgotten birthdays and events, some stupid—
But wait! Everybody was grinning….I mean everybody: all 3 brothers, 2 sisters and my Dad. What did they all know that I didn’t know? And Mom was coming around the corner, dragging something big…something she was still trying to hide. –something that couldn’t possibly fit in the trinket box--
“Jay-ne, we knew you’d know what this was as soon as you saw the box. And we know that you can’t stay away from the presents. Sooooo, we hid this package over at the neighbors house. It’s been there all month. Hope you like this….”
And as soon as I saw the box – as tall as my waist, and kinda slanty/square in shape…yes I knew. The tears welled up in my eyes…..and as my entire family cracked up, because they all knew that I knew that they knew that I had been shaking packages for weeks. So they all laughed…..I cried….
Yes…it was another "Christmas because Jayne cried"
because my mystery present was...
a new guitar.