This month’s prompt: Home for the Holidays
Write about a holiday memory in 1,000 words or less, if possible. It can be fiction or non-fiction, and the choice of holiday is yours (fictional holidays are okay too). Perhaps you can invent an annoying relative. Maybe you knew someone who got an actual lump of coal in their stocking. Or there’s always the tale of Nilatir, Sword-Hero of Evinrude, and the Feast of Sam’x.
I discovered Santa’s secret when I was ten years old. It started when I was nine, though. At our neighbor’s Christmas party on Christmas Eve.
We lived on a quiet cul-de-sac. Every Christmas, our neighbors hosted a big party for everybody on the cul-de-sac. We all walked over, bringing a dish to pass. None of the food ever looked good to me though. It was grown-up stuff like cranberries and sweet potatoes and stuffing with weird things in it. So I ate chicken noodle soup instead. It was the only thing my childhood pallet would tolerate.
After dinner, all the kids played games while the parents talked about adult things. Politics. Gas prices. Tehran. Afghanistan. Around ten, my parents had to go home to get something. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t go with them. We lived just on the other side of the cul-de-sac, it was past my bed time, and I was tired already. I argued, but they went without me anyway.
When they finally came back and took me home, it became clear. Except for our manger scene and a few gifts from relatives, there hadn’t been anything under the tree when we left. Now, there were presents everywhere. It all fell into place then. This was why my parents wouldn’t take me home with them. They had work to do. I remember the moment clearly. A combination of A-ha! and Oh.
Fast forward to next year. My mother kept one room in the house as her study. She was studying accounting in college. I used the room for my homework too, but in the middle of December she started locking the door. When asked why, she dodged my questions. I knew what I needed to do. Using a straightened bobby pin and practicing on my bathroom door, I figured out how to pick the lock that night. She wasn’t giving me straight answers, I intended to find out why the room was locked.
The next morning, while she was showering, I picked the lock on her door. My senses buzzed, filled with excitement and the heady rush of doing something I knew I’d get in trouble for if anybody caught me. Stepping into the room, I wondered what she was hiding. Why was she suddenly locking this door? (I may have been clever enough to figure out how to pick the lock, but I wasn’t bright enough to deduce why she locked the door in the first place.) Then I saw it. Right out in the open, on her desk. The Santa wrapping paper, the bows, the tape, and two children’s toys. My toys. Or at least, they would be my toys on Christmas day.
Every day for the next week, I repeated the same ritual. Wait for her to shower. Pick the lock. Search the room. When I discovered the mother lode–piles of gifts hidden in the closet, already wrapped–I started peeling away the tape to peek at what lay inside. Some days, when my curiosity got the better of me, I would even check more than once. Just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything, or that she hadn’t brought something new to the room.
Christmas morning finally came. Filled with the usual excitement, I rushed downstairs and began tearing through my gifts. One by one, I opened them all. The long box–oh yes, this one has the Barbie I wanted. And that flat square one, that’s the new Peter Schilling album. I knew exactly what every box held. Every last one. With each box I opened, it became harder to feign surprise and excitement. Even when I forgot what was inside a particular box, opening it lacked the same magic. Rather than joy, I found only recognition. Oh, it’s that model horse. Oh yeah, the unicorn t-shirt. By the time I opened my last present, I’d had enough. I didn’t want to play with my new toys; I didn’t even want to be around them. My parents exchanged a look when I asked to go to my room, but didn’t comment. Upstairs, I threw myself on my bed and cried.
I finally understood Santa’s secret. It wasn’t about reindeer or elves or using parents to deliver presents to millions of houses in one night. It was the anticipation. The discovery. The surprise. I vowed never to peek at another gift for as long as I lived.
Thirty years later, I’ve still kept my promise. Now I hide the presents from my kids. But I’m smarter than my parents were. I booby-trap the room.
Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
orion_mk3 @ Excerpts from Nonexistent Books (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines @ Neither Here nor There… (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama @ Are We There Yet? (link to this month’s post)
AbielleRose @ Stained Glass in the Night (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion @ This is Life (link to this month’s post)
Domoviye @ Lets Get Happy (link to this month’s post)
Areteus @ Lurking Musings (link to this month’s post)
Alynza @ The Write Journey (link to this month’s post)
SuzanneSeese @ View of Sue (link to this month’s post)
robeiae @ The Ponds of Happenstance (link to this month’s post)
MamaStrong @ In a Mama’s World (link to this month’s post)
kimberlycreates @ kimberlycreates.com (you are here!)
darnzen @ Writely Done (link to this month’s post)
LilGreenBookworm - The Mayhem of Writing: SAHM-style (link to this month’s post)
AuburnAssassin @ The Word Busker (link to this month’s post)
Cath @ Cathsmith.com (link to this month’s post)
Diana Rajchel @ Diana Rajchel (link to this month’s post)
SinisterCola @ Gates’ Claptrap (link to this month’s post)