Our Christmas Secret

Our Christmas Secret

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Our Christmas Secret

Admitting errors clears the score and proves you wiser than before.

Arthur Guiterman

It was Christmas Eve when my sister and I decided to open our presents before our mom got home from work. She usually came home about an hour after we got home from school, which we thought was plenty of time to sneak a peek at the gifts under the tree. Since my sister was older, and that put her in charge, she opened the first gift while I was ordered to stand guard at the big picture window in our front room. I was to report any suspicious activity or persons, namely our mother.

I was so excited that I could barely stand still. I also couldn’t keep my eyes on the window very long. My head moved from the window to my sister and back to the window again. I felt like I was watching a Ping-Pong match.

“All right!” my sister shouted. She pulled out a jewelry box. “You know what that means, don’t you?”

I jumped up and down. “Yeah, it’s my turn!”

“No,” she said. “It means that there must be some jewelry under here.” I watched my sister rummage through the presents under the tree trying to find one she thought was small enough to be a necklace or earrings.

“Hey, that’s not fair!” I whined, stomping my foot.

“Are you watching for Mom?” is all that she said. I couldn’t do anything except stand guard as she opened present after present. Finally, when my sister’s curiosity was satisfied and she had finished wrapping her last present back up, we traded places.

My heart hammered so hard that it felt like my chest was moving in and out. My sister reminded me to be careful so I wouldn’t tear the paper, and to wrap the present back up the same way that I had found it.

After unwrapping a few presents, I found it faster to open one end of a present and peek inside. “Cool! Mom and Dad got me headphones for my stereo!”

I pulled the headphones out of the box and was about to put them on when my sister shouted, “Quick! Wrap it back up! Mom’s coming!”

My heart hit the floor along with the headphones when I heard what sounded like glass crushing. I knew it was my mother coming down our gravel driveway. My body was as frozen as a snowman.

“Come on!” My sister’s face was as white as the paint on the wall.

I shoved the headphones back in the box but my hands were shaking so much that I tore the paper trying to wrap it back up. My sister was yelling at me, which only made my hands shake more. I heard the jingle of keys and the doorknob rattle. I thought I was going to wet my pants! My heart pounded harder as I tried to get the tape to stick.

“Just shove it under the tree and put some presents on top of it!” my sister shouted as she ran to stall my mother.

I had just finished burying the package with my headphones in it when my mother came into the front room. I jumped up and said, “Hi, Mom!” She smiled at me and said, “Hi,” back, but didn’t appear to suspect a thing. My heart began to slow as I took a deep breath. That was close. Too close!

On Christmas morning, my sister and I smiled for pictures and gave award-winning performances when we opened our presents—again. “Headphones!” I exclaimed. “Thanks, it’s just what I wanted.” After everything had been opened, my sister and I looked at each other, and our eyes met. Our secret was safe, but somehow Christmas morning didn’t feel the same.

My sister and I never opened our Christmas presents early again. I don’t know if it was that opening our gifts for the second time just wasn’t as much fun as the first time, or if we came too close to getting caught and didn’t want to think about what our mother would have done to us.

I also learned something that year about my mother. I found out that she wasn’t as dumb as I thought she was. Maybe it was the lack of squeals on Christmas morning or the torn wrapping paper that tipped her off. For some reason, all of the packages for our birthdays, which she usually hid at the top of her closet shelf, never appeared. I never did find out where she hid them.

Lori Menning

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