Their closet was overflowing with gifts and I couldn’t wait to rummage through them all. My parents had left me home alone with my younger brother, just a toddler back then, and they never locked their bedroom door. In fact, my dad made a very strong point to tell me to stay out of their bedroom while they were gone. As if that kind of direction doesn’t clue a nosy kid into the whole gig, I had also taken note of my older brother’s advice that morning: GO INTO MOM AND DAD’S CLOSET WHEN THEY’RE GONE. THAT’S WHERE THEY HIDE ALL THE PRESENTS.
Well, TWIST MY ARM!!! I WANNA SEE ALLLLLLLL THE PRESENTS!!!
I instructed my little brother to stay downstairs because I had some serious snooping to do. I didn’t tell him that, of course, but my mind was on one thing and one thing only – FIND THE PRESENTS!!!! I didn’t have to search for too long. As soon as I opened up my folks’ closet door, the heavenly spotlight from above shone down upon the heap of goodies and the angels started to sing “Haaaaaaallelujah! ”
It was magical!
Inside the closet I found a denim jacket (mine!), a walkman (mine!) and a pair of Fisher Price rollerskates for beginners (for the little brother). I actually had the nerve to unwrap some boxes so I could take a peek inside and, depending on whether I thought I’d like playing with it or not, some unwrapped gifts were tried on for size or played with to test out the fun factor. With as much skill as I used to unwrap the presents, I was able to quickly rewrap them and leave no trace of me behind.
I had become the ultimate Christmas Snoop.
My time was running out so I started putting everything back in the closet the same way I’d pulled them out. Ever played Tetris with ribbon adorned packages while trying with every ounce of your dishonest little being to place all the boxes back in their proper place? IT’S NOT EASY! But as careless as I was being at that moment, I did still have enough wits about me to know that Mom would notice if anything was slightly off. I couldn’t risk it. I could not risk getting caught! That would mean losing everything. Everything! The denim jacket, the walkman, all of it. Nope, it had to be put back together perfectly. Nobody could know. I stepped back from the closet, admiring my gingerly constructed tower of gifts, and quietly closed the closet doors. Not a single soul would find out. Not a single soul would ever know.…
“Ooooooh, I wanna play with the rollerskates!!!”
Oh, crap. I forgot to lock my parent’s bedroom door!! And holding a 2-year old back from his rollerskates that were just discovered in such a deceitful manner did nothing to quell the guilt I’d already started to experience right before I started reloading the closet. I. WAS. SO. SCREWED. Stupid conscience.
”Oooooh, when can I play with my rollerskates??????????”
Uh…what was I supposed to say? I had to save my ass here and put all of my trust in my little brother to not snitch on me and give up our special secret. So I did what any big sister facing a lifelong grounding would do: I threatened him.
“You can only play with them after Christmas, but you have to promise to NOT SAY ANYTHING or I’ll take them back to the store if you tell on me!!!”
I made him promise not to tell. Like cross-your-heart-hope-to-die promise. And then I closed the bedroom door and went downstairs to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with my little brother. ‘Cause I’m a good sister. And, honestly, I was kissing up to this 2-year old who practically held my life in his sticky, gooey kid-hands.
When my parents walked through the door later that afternoon I tried my best to act like nothing was wrong, like nothing had happened, like I’d never rummaged through their closet or, heck, even walked into their bedroom and very obviously gone against their rules. The guilt was really getting to me. But I didn’t fess up and I didn’t crack under the imaginary pressure. Not then, at least.
Only when my brother blurted out, “I wanna play with my rollerskates!!” did I panic, whitefaced-pale and entirely convinced that I was the worst daughter and sister in the world. My parents looked directly at me like I’d committed the worst crime imaginable, something God wouldn’t even forgive me for, and their mouths hung open in shock (disappointment?) while their eyes simultaneously shot fire-laser-deathrays straight through me.
“What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DOOOO??!!! What happened?” Dad’s red and angry face scared me the most.
“I WANT MY ROLLERSKAAAATTTEESSS!!!”
“Did you go into our bedroom? DID YOU?????”
My clever and witty response?? I said, “No?” complete with the question mark and my very obvious lack of realizing that I’d just been busted.
My mom and dad threatened to take back all of the presents that were in the closet including mine, my younger brother’s, and my older brothers’. Their excuse was that I’d already spoiled the surprise of Christmas. Even if my brothers received a gift that they’d never before seen, the guilt of knowing that I had seen it spoiled the surprise for me, too. But they didn’t do that. Oh, sure, they led me to believe that they’d returned every last gift, even the ones that Santa was storing in their closet for safekeeping, although Christmas morning was just as magical as every other year before. I got to keep my denim jacket and my little brother finally opened his skates.
Within an hour, he was asleep on the living room floor, his hands clutching a musical lamb and his feet weighed down by his Fisher Price rollerskates.
(There is a photograph of this…the brother splayed out all over the floor with his eyes closed, mouth open, and an angelic face that shows no remorse for ratting me out.)