72: Pajama Party

72: Pajama Party

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Pajama Party

You know children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers.

~John J. Plomp

Every Christmas Eve, Mom let us open one present. I always hoped that the one I got to open would be a book, or maybe a toy, to keep me occupied the next morning until everyone else was awake.

But no, every single Christmas Eve it was the very same thing: pajamas!

When Mother handed each of us the selected gift to unwrap, she knew exactly which present held each kid’s nightwear. But how did she know? It just couldn’t be a coincidence!

At first I thought maybe she was stacking the gifts in a certain area under the tree to make sure all four of us got new PJs when it was time to get ready for bed. So one year I mixed up the placement of all the presents. No change. The girls still got nightgowns, the boys still got action figure designs, and it was all still flannel.

The next year I ruled out the color of the wrapping paper, since everything was wrapped in different designs. So I examined the tags of every package. Written on each tag was one of our names and a funny-looking squiggly design. Some squiggles looked like an exclamation mark with a twist. Some looked all loopy and flowery.

Two days before Christmas, I saw that there was one package for each of us with the same specific matching design on it. And that year, those were the very packages we got to open! It must have been some kind of secret code!

Try as I might, year after year, I couldn’t make any kind of sense of the squiggles. By my junior year in high school, my problem-solving skills had sharpened somewhat. Christmas Eve I asked Mom if I could be the one to select our “night before Christmas” gifts to open.

“Okay,” she said slowly, “but I have to approve your choices first.”

I quickly picked out all four presents. She smiled. “You know which ones, but you’re not sure why, are you?”

I agreed that that was the case.

My senior year in high school I took several secretarial preparation classes. I didn’t want to be a secretary, but I wanted to be sure my typing and other skills would serve me well in college.

Mid-December rolled around, and suddenly the Christmas code made sense. I picked up package after package from under the tree and knew exactly what was inside.

Smugly, I went into the kitchen and confronted my mother. “The jig’s up, Mom,” I told her. “You’re going to have to stop writing what’s inside the presents on everyone’s gift tags.”

She looked up from her cookie icing, tilted her head and said, “And why’s that?”

“Because...” I smiled and stole a frosted cookie from the racks, “...I’m taking shorthand this year, and I’m at the top of my class.”

Her eyebrows nearly hit her hairline and she jumped to her feet. “Janet Marie!”

There were no more squiggly marks on package tags after that day, but I still got a new nightgown to wear on my last Christmas Eve at home. Marked in bold blue felt pen all across the red and green wrapping paper, it clearly said, “PJs for Jan.”

~Jan Bono

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