My Earliest Christmas Memory

Last night, we got the inevitable question from Chef Jr. Fortunately, his thought process got derailed pretty quick and the question didn't get answered (I'd thrown it back at him and got "I think he is and I think he isn't").

Somehow, the comment was made about big presents under the tree. My response was that sometimes good things come in small packages, so don't go for the big present first. Then, I told Chef Jr my earliest Christmas memory.

When I was a kid, we'd be woken up around 2 or 3am with the words "Santa was here!" We'd all race down the stairs to find the tree was hidden by all the presents. This is what happens in a house with eight kids. Pandemonium would ensue, with packages being opened rapidly, paper flying all over, and loud exclamations ooohing and ahhhing over newly opened gifts.

The first Christmas I clearly remember was when I was four. We lived in the big duplex in Rockville Centre. I came down the stairs that morning to find a child's cardboard storefront next to the tree. If I could find a picture of one, I would love to show it. It was set up like a grocer's checkout counter, complete with cash register. I could pretend I was selling stuff and ringing it up.

I describe the thing to the boys and Ed snickers that they had me pegged at four years old. Har har. I loved that gift . I remember I spent a good part of that night with my dad playing for hours with me in the chaos of post opening toy playing.

However, the thing that was hilarious and memorable about that Christmas was the other big gifts. Under the tree (rather, next to it) were two HUGE galvanized metal garbage cans. Like the one Oscar the Grouch lives in. They both had bows, one with a tag indicating that it was for my oldest brother and the second had a tag for Socrates. Those were the only gifts in that house for the boys.

Both of them were quite upset (let's see-I was four, so Socrates was 9 and Petey was 15). There was some sulking, some blubbering and a lot of confusion. This went on for about five minutes until someone suggested that they look IN the garbage cans.

A HA! There were presents in the cans. As many as the rest of us, though at that point, everything else had been opened by the rest of us in our package ripping open frenzy. It was probably better that way, they had all eyes on them as the opened those presents. The lesson I learned is that things aren't always what they seem. Oh, and that a garbage can makes a great gift!

Unfortunately, I told the boys about this last night. This means I'll never be able to trick them with that gift under the tree. If you're evil, you can hide the Wii or whatever big gift in a garbage can under your tree this year!


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