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No Peeking · 21 December 2006

I can tell it is Christmas time because of all the unwrapped presents in our closet. I go in there each day and see the bags with my jacket on top of them as if I can not see what is under there. But it would not really matter if there was anything hiding the presents or not. I would not look. And maybe there is some genetic memory that prevents my children from looking too. You see, I peeked at a present long ago and have not even shaken a Christmas present since.


Christmas has always been a time of giving and sharing. It is a time of spiritual reflection and renewed good will towards all. But when I was a kid, Christmas was just a time of giving and receiving presents. My brother, Russell, and I would get up early in the morning and wake everybody else up. Sometimes we were subtle about it whispering loudly and shaking toys. Sometimes we were not so subtle. We would get up our younger brother and sister and then we would all go into Mom and Dad’s room and say that it was time to get up. Even if it was only six o’clock. Or earlier.


It was great to get up and open our presents. We would take turns and watch each others eyes light up when we got some neat present. And when we were the givers, our eyes would light up too. Even though I am not the best gift giver in the world, I love it when I do choose the perfect gift and see the excitement and gratitude in the face of my loved one. I love to have that same look on my face when I open presents too. I love the surprise and pure joy of getting something wonderful.


When we were little, I did not really understand that the surprise and joy of getting presents had something to do with delayed gratification. The waiting and wondering was almost as sweet as unwrapping that perfect present slowly but surely. I remember seeing my brothers’ and sister’s faces as excited as mine when I opened my presents. They would wait with the same anticipation as I had as I was ripping open the wrapping paper to see what was inside. One year, that pure joy was replaced with an unpleasant knowing.


I had wanted something so much that I could hardly stand it. I was pretty sure that one of the presents that was wrapped and placed under the tree was it. It seemed that every day I would press the paper tight against the box to see if I could read the label. Mom or Dad would tell me to stop and so I did not get the chance to really see if it was what I had wanted so badly. In years past, they had double wrapped presents so that we would not peek. But that particular year, they just used thick paper.


One day, I got a little bolder than just pressing the paper to the box. I actually peered into the end of the box by moving the wrapping paper apart just enough to see inside without unwrapping the present. It was exactly what I wanted! I was so excited that I was ready to open the present right then and there. But Christmas was still days away. I knew I would be getting what I wanted but I had to wait. And wait. And wait.


Finally, Christmas came. To my horror, knowing what the present was took most of the fun out of opening the present. I took far more pleasure opening “lesser” gifts. The much anticipated “big” present was a letdown. The game was fun to play once it was out of the box but just knowing what it was made it less of a joy to unwrap. I had spoiled my own Christmas. Or at least that one present.


I do not know if my kids do not go looking for unwrapped presents because they have heard that story or because they know it from some shared genetic memory or maybe because they have already gone through the same experience. Whatever the reason, I do not worry too much about the unwrapped presents in our closet. I know that I for one will not be peeking to see what my gifts are. I already peeked once and that was enough for a lifetime.

© 2006 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 21 December 2006 in The RiverCurrentNews

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