What is your favorite holiday memory?
My family has always done holidays right– building anticipation in the weeks beforehand by hand crafting decorations, planning elaborate menus and practicing special recipes. Christmas, with its built-in month of anticipatory madness (aka “advent”), has always been my favorite holiday. By December 1st, we’ve already started practicing Christmas carols on cello and piano in November, “auditioning” recipes for the annual Feast of the Seven Fishes, and stockpiling our DIY cabinet for hand-embellished ornaments and cards.
One of my absolute favorite Christmas memories happened probably over twenty years ago, but I can conjure up snapshots and soundbites like this was yesterday.
I was somewhere between 5-7, making my little sister between 2-4. We were finally an age where we could both really appreciate the magnitude of giving presents and keeping secrets. THIS Christmas was more than a rush of sugar and pine and wrappings and ribbon, because this Christmas, WE were giving Dad a present. And this was not just any present, this was a BIKE. So. Epic.
Once we got the new bike home, there was the issue of hiding a full, adult bike from my father. There weren’t many places in the house or garage that were guaranteed black-holes of attention, but my long and cluttered closet hid the bike perfectly. Mom, my sister and I had very serious discussions about secrets, and presents, and what it means to keep presents a secret, and so on. Naturally, having a secret bike in my closet made my sister and I absurd and giddy (our normal state, but it was compounded by the deliciousness of our secret).
One afternoon, I decided that it would be brilliant to tell Dad that we bought a SECRET present for him, and it was in my closet!! (to get him extra extra psyched for Christmas morning!). Obviously, this piqued his interest. Not wanting to be left out of the exchange, my sister chimed in, “and it’s NOT a bike!”
Silence. I may have been new to this secret thing, but I had a pretty good idea that we had just spilled the beans.
My Dad replied, “Well, if it was not a bike, then what is it?”
AHA, I knew the answer to this one- say anything but the word BIKE! So naturally I replied, “A cow.”
My sister embellished, “A purple cow.” (Purple was the color of the bike, so it seemed the most obvious color for the cow)
My Dad looked mildly surprised, which I interpreted as surprise at the fact that I had been successful at hiding genetically-modified livestock in my closet. In order to keep up our elaborate ruse, we dashed off to go “feed the cow,” an activity we started doing several times a day until Christmas eve in an effort to convince Dad that he would actually discover a purple cow in our living room on Christmas morning.
I have no idea what else happened during that Christmas, but for the first time in my life, I fell in love with gift-giving. My sister and I, in the mutual sharing of a secret that one of our parents didn’t know, developed a nearly telepathic bond that we still have today. (We’re awesome and creepy like that) We were so incredibly excited to see Dad’s face on Christmas morning… This may be a bold statement, but I think we discovered the meaning of Christmas that year.
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