You know how the older you get, the more crazy you realize your family is? Yeah. It’s amazing to visit with other families and to see their dynamics and compare them to your own. I mean, I know there is no such thing as “normal”…but…
But first, some back story.
When my brother, John, and I were younger, we used to get so excited for Christmas. (Yes, I’m a recovering Catholic) Typically, the tree was decorated not too long after Thanksgiving and presents began to pile up under not long after. I mean, what 8-year-old can even HANDLE seeing a brightly wrapped present with their name on it and NOT try to snoop as to what it might be?
(sidebar: I’m not really good at acting. Once when I was 5 I found the Care Bear slippers I hadn’t ever mentioned to my mom in her closet and then proceeded to nonchalantly mention to her that I wanted Care Bear slippers. She obvi knew I snooped. Not smooth.)
So, my brother and I were young(ish) when we got the brill idea that we could actually open our presents without our parents knowing as long as we made sure the presents were wrapped back up as carefully as possible. I’m pretty sure this was John’s idea (in case you are reading this, Mom). We went ahead with our plan, armed with loads of scotch tape. It was like a CSI episode, which, I know didn’t yet exist since we’re talking late 80s here, people. DNA testing was not a thing yet, so I thought we were safe. I matched the sh!t out of that scotch tape making sure it looked like those gifts had never been opened. It was covert.
I’m nearly positive that my parents had our house under surveillance on closed circuit television because THEY. ALWAYS. KNEW. EVERYTHING. THAT. WE. DID. I’m talking everything. Anyway, my mom figured out that we’d seen all of our gifts (was it the Care Bear slippers that gave it away?) and although nothing happened to us then, we’ve been paying for it for the last 20 years. Let me explain…
I give you Christmas with the Schaals:
The scene: Christmas morning (like, 9am. Seriously). The tree is lit. Coffee is brewing. Brunch is served. Christmas music is playing. I’m already jonesing for my first alcoholic beverage just to “take the edge off”.
The presents are under the tree – without any gift labels on them. Except, of course, for the ones from me or my brother. Those have labels on them.
We are all sitting in the living room.
Entering the room is Pam Schaal, playing the role of “Mom”. She holds a sealed manilla envelope (think Ernst & Young at the Grammy’s) which she carefully opens to reveal THE YELLOW LEGAL PAD OF GIFTS. This is the master list that Mom consults before she allows anyone to open anything.
Mom: Who is going to play the role of Santa?
Mom: Johnny, can you find T-4 and give it to Jennifer to open?
Yes. Although there are no NAME tags on the gifts, there ARE in fact number/letter codes on EVERY. SINGLE. PRESENT. This is my mom’s way of combating the “my kids snooped and saw all of their presents” battle. The funny thing is that this shit has been going on for TWENTY YEARS. I’m 34. My brother is 36. We’ve lost all urge to “snoop” for presents…but, alas, our mother will not let this die. I digress…
John: (digging through piles of presents and visibly getting frustrated) Mom. I’ve got T-7 and T-11. Can she open one of those?
Now, instead of answering, my mother simply consults THE YELLOW LEGAL PAD OF GIFTS master list. After about a minute of scrolling:
Mom: No. She can’t open those yet. I need you to find T-4 first.
John: visibly sweating at this point JESUS CHRIST THIS SHIT IS GETTING OLD
And so forth.
Gift opening lasts about 6 hours and there are only 4.5 of us. (.5 if you count 1.5 yr old Vinny).
And you guys wonder why I drink so much.