The List


My brother at Christmas

Although I loathe admitting it, when I was a young girl, I was sometimes referred to as sneaky.  This isn’t an adjective I am proud to have had my character associated with, but I’m willing to suffer the embarrassment for the sake of the story.

There were several reasons I was labeled as a wily one.  One of them was my practice of parking myself in a room full of adults with my nose in a book, while my ears were fine tuned into their conversation.  I got away with this at my grandparent’s house more easily than at home because Granny had a hard time finding any fault with her darling grandchild.  Perhaps I would have never been discovered if I didn’t have a penchant for repeating the information I gleaned from these conversations.  You would think I would have learned after one spanking, but alas, it took a little longer for me, hence the other adjective used to describe me at times; hard-headed.

Anyway, the stealth that I used to take the most pride in came at Christmastime.  My parents didn’t pretend there was a Santa and no, I don’t feel the least bit of injury or remorse at that.  We always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve.  Mom would start putting gifts, beautifully wrapped and laden with ribbons and bows, under the tree as soon as we put the tree up.  This was advantageous, because it gave me plenty of time to pursue my quest to discover the contents of anything tagged, “to Lisa” prior to Christmas Eve.  My siblings were in on this, but to my knowledge they never told.  If memory serves me correct, I may have even talked them into doing the same, once or twice.  I do remember Mom threatening to take everything back if I did try to ascertain contents.

This wasn’t a task that could be done in haste.  I had to ensure that gifts were unwrapped and re-wrapped without tearing the paper or causing the tape to wrinkle.  Since mother was very much aware of my propensity for chicanery, she checked these things out.  Since it did take some time, I often had to do this in one of the few times we were left home alone.  Otherwise, it was early in the morning or very late at night.

One day, even though it was forbidden, I was digging through one of my mom and dad’s bedside drawers and unbeknownst to me I was about to hit the mother lode.  Nestled near the bottom of the drawer was a note pad that I had seen my mom writing in only the night before.  Why was it in the bottom of the drawer?  What secrets would my eyes feast upon if I could sneak that out and take a better look?  Now wasn’t the time though, I decided, as one of my siblings looked around the corner already giving me that, “what are you doing on mom’s bed” look.

See, my mom was funny about one thing and that was her bedroom and yes, even her bed.  I honestly don’t remember ever seeing that bed unmade and once it was made, you were not allowed to wallow on it and mess things up.  There was always the comforter and pillows with shams and she liked it looking just so and sweaty, dog smelling kids were not allowed on it.  We were always taught that you didn’t go into your parents’ bedroom without knocking, you never brought friends in there and it wasn’t a place to hang out.  It was mom and dad’s private domain and that was to be respected.  When I was actually allowed to stay with other kids, I was shocked at how they would barge in on their parents and it always made me uncomfortable.  However, I digress.  My point is, I shouldn’t have been in there anyway, so why was I and why did I just slam that drawer shut?  I made some excuse and left the room, with full intentions to return at a more convenient time.

When the time came, I made my way back to the drawer and this time, the notebook was right on top.  I opened it and to my surprise, I saw “the list”.  My precious mother, in all of her love and wisdom, kept a list of what she bought each of us for Christmas and how much it cost.  It occurred to me upon further investigation, this was so she would spend approximately the same amount on each of us.  Within a 10 second perusal, I knew everything under the tree, without un-wrapping the first thing.  I didn’t know how I felt about this, but it wasn’t particularly good.

I don’t remember when I ever admitted what I had found or who I told first.  I do know that finding that list, in mother’s beautiful cursive, lovingly taking care to be fair to her children, did something to me.  I’ll never forget that moment.  I won’t pretend that I mended all of my ways immediately, but change was underway in my little 12 year old heart.  The story became a familiar one in our home and we laughed about it in years to come, but honestly, it still makes me feel yucky.   I did learn something else though.  When I became a parent, the list was hidden better and the packages were excessively wrapped and taped.

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