T is for Christmas Towel
I have, if I may be less than modest, a knack for figuring out what my Christmas presents are. I can analyze the size, shape, density, and all-important “sound” of a wrapped present to narrow down the possibilities, and I’m not above trying to read through unusually transparent wrapping paper or poke my finger into the corner of a gift bag. I don’t know if this gift comes from nature or upbringing, but my brother’s got it too.
We’ve been known to rent out our services to our cousins at Christmastime, and to thank people for what they were giving us before we opened the present. (At least we’re still polite.)
Our mother, on the other hand, believes strongly in the sanctity of Christmas surprises. There’s a general sense that it’s OK to know you’re getting a book or a CD so long as you don’t know which book or CD, but if she thinks of a surprise present, it had darn well better stay a surprise until we open it on Christmas morning.
This led to a sort of Christmas present arms race while growing up: She was always devising new strategies to make noisy presents quieter and quiet presents confusingly loud; we were developing ever more sophisticated methods for keeping up with her. (One year my brother couldn’t decide if a box that rattled was full of Legos or K’Nex, so he got out his own boxes of each to listen and compare acoustic signatures.)
One December, she decided to wrap almost all of the presents inside thin old towels, and then inside other boxes. Unbeknownst to her, the towels she was devoting to her cause were the same towels I liked to use to dry my hair. For an entire month I had to choose between too-small hand towels or too-large bath towels, vaguely wondering why my favorite hair towels were never clean. On Christmas morning, I opened my first towel-swaddled present and shrieked in delight – not because of the gift, but because I had the towel back. (Now I can’t even remember what the gift was, although I’m sure that I liked it, too.)
She never made the mistake of using those towels again, although she remarked that perhaps in future she wouldn’t buy us Christmas presents at all – she would just confiscate something that we often used, and give it back to us for Christmas.