Friday, December 9, 2016

Guessing the Christmas Gifts

Years ago, I was at my sister's house celebrating Christmas. We began exchanging gifts, and she had her three year-old son bring a present to where I was sitting. As he handed me a large, square box wrapped in Christmas paper, he said, "Here's your present. It's a basketball." And, of course, that's what it was.

Why do we wrap Christmas presents? We wrap them so the person receiving the gift doesn't know what it is. There's that element of surprise when someone opens a gift, not knowing what it might contain. A wrapped Christmas present is the great unknown.

Some people see this unknown as a challenge. They feel they must know what each present is before they unwrap them. They'll study the wrapped present. Feel it. Shake it. Squeeze it. Maybe even sniff it. To these people, no Christmas present is a successful Christmas present unless they know what it is before they unwrap it.

My brother-in-law was one of those people. He had an uncanny knack for announcing what each gift he received was before he opened it. He would hold the wrapped gift up to his face, as if mentally connecting to it, then say exactly what the present was before opening it. It used to drive my sister crazy. She began wrapping the presents in elaborate and creative ways in an attempt to confound him, but he would still usually announce the gift correctly before opening it. We never knew exactly how he was doing it. Was he carefully unwrapping and re-wrapping the presents? Was he doing detective work by checking out credit card statements and looking at receipts? However he did it, he was good. (And my sister enjoyed playing the game with him.)

Not everyone likes to play that game, though. For me, Christmas is stressful enough without having to figure out how to hide presents, or wrap them creatively, or try to keep secrets from my wife. Once, early in my marriage, I made the mistake of telling my wife what a present was before I unwrapped it. We were rearranging the gifts under the tree and I picked up a present wrapped for me and said, "Oh, here's a pair of jeans for me." I wasn't really trying to guess what it was, I just picked it up and it was obvious, so I said it out loud.

Nice jeans!
After that, my wife and I came to an agreement. Neither of us would try to guess what we got each other. It's like we tell our kids, we "get what we get and we don't throw a fit." For us, it makes for a more pleasant Christmas morning if we are surprised here and there, and it makes the preparation for Christmas easier, too. If I really wanted to know what my wife got me, I could just look through at her Amazon account, or look through some of the boxes in our hiding area. (We both hide gifts in the same place. We just leave them in boxes and trust each other not to look.)

It helps, too, that sometimes I'm not very bright. One year my wife got me the DVDs for the first nine seasons of the show Smallville. She wrapped each season separately, sometimes in different shaped boxes. And I was so dense that, even though I had already unwrapped Seasons 1-3 and Seasons 5-9, I was still surprised when I unwrapped Season 4. (My brother-in-law would not only have known he was getting all nine seasons, he would have correctly predicted which season was in which box.)

So, this Christmas I'm not worrying at all about figuring out what gifts I'm getting. I'll get what I get. And I'm also not worrying about trying to hide what I get for my wife from her. What I am worried about is trying to figure out what to get her. That's stressful enough.

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