...from my childhood.
Every Tuesday night for as long as I can remember my Mother went to Aerobic exercise class from 7 to 8pm. She used to boast that she was the oldest woman in her class, but by far not the slowest and certainly not the heaviest! I was proud of her for keeping such a tight guard on her figure, but it was in this tight schedule where my mischievous mind got me into trouble.
You see, it was Christmas time and my Mother was an excellent gift giver! She had the talent to listen when you thought she was not, to see what you wanted when you looked at something and the special sense to just know that you would love something even if you had never seen it! Sadly though, she was horrible about hiding our wonderful Christmas loot. Instead, she would return from her shopping voyage and stack the bags of decadence in her closet for all to see. The higher the pile stacked as the days passed by, the louder the gifts would call out to me and one night, it was just more than I could bare!
I conceived a plan. A plan that would unfold on that very night; Tuesday night, when Mom was in her Aerobic dance class. She would never know because I would have more than enough time to note exactly how the bags were stacked, how each item was placed in its own bag and most importantly, I would have the time to relish in the luxurious booty that was to be mine!!!
Dinner was uneventful, but seemed to drag on for an eternity. I ate fast. Why couldn’t everyone else? When asked about my day, my answers were short and to the point. This was not a night for lectures or deep discussions. Finally, I asked to be excused and almost made the mistake of saying that I had homework to do. That SURLY would have given me away!
I tried to busy myself. I picked out my wardrobe for the next day. I played my records. (Those are really large black CD’s for those of you who are of the younger generation.) I even started to read a chapter in a book. That was useless though. I must have read the same sentence 5 times without digesting what it said, until FINALLY, I heard the magic sound! I heard the back door shut! I jumped up onto my bed and carefully pulled back the curtain just in time to see Mom walk into the garage wearing those ugly white exercise tights! VICTORY! I thought. My heart raced as I stared to un-hatch part two of my plan.
I took a deep breath. I did not want anyone to suspect that I was up to anything, especially my pesky brother. I confidently walked out of my room, across the hall and placed my hand on the cold doorknob of my parent’s room. I turned the knob and stepped inside. Three steps and my confidence disappeared. There he was. My Father was sitting up in their bed, a bed that was directly across from Mother’s closet, the safety deposit box of all of my treasures.
Dad, looked up at me from his book and over his reading glasses. Scattered and at a loss for words, I made it seem like I was in there to visit with him,
“Hi Dad. What are you doing?” Whew! I kept my voice slow and steady.
“ I am working on a research paper involving (blah blah blah…tumor…blah blah blah…brain….blah blah blah….) It was the stuff only Brain Surgeons talk about on a regular basis.
“Oh, okay. Well, I am going to go and take a bath. I love you.” Foiled! My whole plan was foiled!
“ I love you too.”
Retreating out of the hot zone, a sulking discouraging feeling settled over me as I proceeded to do what I said. Without a thought to my actions, I ran my bath water, gathered a towel, undressed and slipped into the water all the while trying to figure out a plan B. Then it hit me! I raised up from my bath so fast, gallons of water followed me and fell to the floor. Mother did not have time to finish the laundry. Therefore she had not finished putting away all of the clothes and I now had an excuse to get into that closet. My mind was racing! Dad would be so involved in his project that if I went in and out of the room a couple of times, he would stop noticing me.
“That is it!” I thought. “So simple it is utter genius!”
I almost ran back into my room with a towel on my head. I dropped my belongings on my bed and went to the laundry room.
“YES!” There it was. A full basket of clean clothes waiting to be folded and put away. I dumped the basket, folded each item and separated them into different piles. I threw my brothers clothes carelessly onto his bed and then took about a quarter of my parent’s items. I was exactly right. The first time I walked into their room, Dad took full notice.
“I’m sorry Dad. I didn’t mean to disturb you. I was just putting the rest of these clothes away.” After all, I was not such an obnoxious child that I never helped out. He thanked me and went back to his work.
I left the room, went back to the pile of clothes to choose a few more. Waiting the appropriate amount of time, again I went back in. I was right. Dad did not even make eye contact with me that time and I knew the time was right to make my move!
The third time I entered, I silently just opened Mothers closet door and just slipped inside. With the most tender touch, I released the closet door knob and found a place to comfortably sit on the floor. Ever so softly, I pulled a bag towards me. Every crackle of the paper made my face cringe and I learned the art of moving at a turtles pace. The soft tissue made much less noise inside the bag. As I parted it and I could see a burst of color. It was cobalt blue!
“Oh – was it the cashmere sweater I had fallen in love with or maybe a beautiful silk blouse?” My heart was pounding so loud it dimmed the sound of the moving paper.
Looking closer, I was disappointed to see that the cobalt blue item was actually a new camera bag for Dad.
“Well fuey! All of that work for nothing!” I thought, “ but onto the next bag!”
Again I carefully pulled down another bag. This bag was large and had more than one item inside. “Maybe an entire outfit!” Again I slowly unfolded the top and started to open it. I could see an assortment of coordinating jewel toned colors and textures. Pants, sweaters, blouses and a stunning pencil skirt….MY FAVORITE!! I was so excited as I was pulling each item out of the bag, I actually forgot the most important thing…that my Father was just outside the door! I froze. I sat perfectly still and listened. I did not hear a sound, so I vowed to be more careful and continued searching.
The next bag was tossed to the side as it had something my brother had been whining for. The next was filled to the brim with new work clothes for my Dad. I was starting to get discouraged. Pulling down the next bag captured my attention so acutely, I had not noticed that my Father was standing at the opened closet door.
I almost jumped out of my skin as he spoke.
“What do you think you are doing young lady?” He stood there, right there in the only escape route, without an expression on his face.
Okay – so before I continue I want you to see my Dad the way I saw him. He was a big softy. I was his only little girl and I just knew he loved me best – as all little girls truly believe. He never laid a hand on me, but in the most stern way, he demanded respect and believe me, he got it!
I stood there motionless, heart throbbing in my throat so hard I could not breathe, still searching my possible options. There weren’t any. I had to just fess up and tell him the truth.
Lowering my chin and trying to escape his eye contact, I mumbled “ I am looking at my Christmas gifts.”
He stood there completely silent for an eternity. My eyes searched the floor, the walls, until finally I looked up at him. He was still staring at me. He stepped forward, turned around and shut Mother’s closet door behind him. My eyes got even wider. He walked closer and started to look over my shoulder as he said,
”What did she get me?”
I was stunned. I could not move. Who was this man?
He proceeded to sit Indian style on the floor and left me standing there for a moment while I realized I had just been pardoned from the biggest felony ever committed in our household!
I quickly sat down beside him and drug out every bag as we searched through the treasures together.
“Don’t look in that bag Dad, that is just some stupid stuff for Tom.”
“Okay – so where is mine?” he said.
As I passed him the sack containing the camera bag I knew he would love, I noticed the sparkle in his eyes. My Daddy looked as excited as a 7 year old getting his first new bike! I had to laugh out loud.
My laugh was shattered though. The closet door flew open at the exact second I realized I had lost track of time! There stood the real boss, my Mother!
“What are you two doing?” she exclaimed. She was squeezing the door knob so tightly I thought for a moment it was going to pop. I looked quickly at my Father for an answer, after all he was the smart one! He looked more at a loss for words than I.
Then my Mother started in on a lecture that did not stop until three Christmas’ later.
“I can’t believe, after all the time and work I put into shopping for all of your gifts, that you would go and spoil it like this for me. Do you know how much time and energy I put into all this? I swear, I should just take everything back. Yes – That is what I am going to do, just take every single thing back to the stores and you get nothing! Do you hear me? Nothing!!!”
By this time, Mother had entered the closet, grabbed the opened bags away from us and Dad and I had managed to wiggle our way around her and out the door. I can’t remember which one of us was moving faster but when we came to a safe place to stop, Dad asked,
“Wow, she is mad huh? Do you think she is really going to take everything back?”
I just shrugged my shoulders.
In the distance, you could still hear her yelling, even though she had long lost her audience!
(no - she did not actually take anything back, although she had me believing that she did until Christmas morning!)