Anticipation: A Memory (Rolf Olson)

When the base of the tree would begin to fill with presents over the course of December, my brother and I always kept an eye out for one from our great aunt Judy.  She lived in the mythical land of Seattle which we had heard of in stories of our much older brother Jeff’s legendary trip to the World’s Fair.  We just knew that Aunt Judy sent the coolest gifts.  In her wisdom our mother never loaded these much anticipated presents under the tree until late in the month.  I think I was ten years old and my brother twelve the year she placed Aunt Judy’s box under the tree the second weekend in December.  Of course, Mom lectured us on leaving the packages alone and that we shouldn’t even shake them because there might be something breakable in there. Still, Great Aunt Judy’s present seemed to call to us every time we went by the tree. Mom had placed it in the very back, under the south living room window.  It seemed to catch the afternoon sun on purpose every day after we came home from school.

Finally, we could stand it no longer.  Neither Paul nor I can remember whose idea it was, but both of us thought it was brilliant.  We could get the present out from behind the tree, carefully snip the tape on the seams, carefully unfold the paper, and slide the box out of its wrapping.  So we did just that one afternoon while Mom was at work (Dad was always gone during the week on various construction jobs out of town).  We thought we did a great job of covering our tracks, making the tape look exactly right, and getting the package in exactly the same spot it had been before.  Fast forward to Christmas Eve.  The dishes were done, the home Christmas program was finished, “Silent Night” had been sung by all of the relatives.  Finally, it was time to officially open Great Aunt Judy’s present, a pair of walkie talkies we had been desperately wanting.  My brother and I called on all of our acting skills as we opened the package and “Ooooo-ed”  and “Aaaaah-ed” over the gift.
Our mother just looked at us, shook her head, and said, “Opening it early took some of the fun out of tonight, didn’t it?”

She was right, of course.  We had also denied ourselves a week or more of added anticipation that would have made the opening even more fun.  We never peeked again at a Christmas present.
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