I tip-toed into my parent’s room. I’m not sure why I was worried about being quiet. My two older brothers were off doing something with their friends and my mom and dad had left to pick up milk and bread from the store and wouldn’t be back home for at least another 15 minutes. I had the run of the place.
In any event, I slipped into their room as quietly as I could, being sure to step over the two squeaky floorboards that announced your arrival anytime you stepped foot in the room.
I looked first under their bed and found nothing but a pair of my mom’s old shoes and a slew of dust bunnies. I then went to their closet. The room was small. If my mom was going to hide any Christmas presents in the room, the choices were pretty limited: underneath the bed, the closet, and maybe an old chest, but that was it.
I slid back the closet sliding and smiled. I had hit payday.
The Christmas hiding place
Two large shopping bags lined the floor. One bag had a couple of shirts and socks. I didn’t even rifle through them, I would see them soon enough. The other bag had a present, a little larger than a shoe-box, that had already been wrapped. I picked the gift up and shook it. It didn’t make much of a noise, no rattling, nothing. I wondered what it could it be.
I was 14-years-old, too big for kiddy toys, but not yet an adult. I was starting to get into music, mostly stuff that my brothers had turned me on to, groups like the Eagles and Journey, and had asked my mother for a small cassette player to use while I did my homework and hung out in my room. I had been asking my mom for the player for months. This had to be it. The box looked about the same size of the player I had seen at the store, but I couldn’t be sure.
I shook it again. Nothing discernible.
A turn to the dark side
I laid the present back where I found it and considered my options. I looked again around the room. What did I think I would find? A security camera?
Oh, heck I thought: I was home alone, no one would ever find out, why not? I picked-up the present again and gently picked at the tape on one side. It slipped open without any problems. I picked at another piece and the paper ripped, but only slightly.
I rolled my eyes at my rookie mistake, but pushed forward. In my head, I saw our local cop leading me out of the house in handcuffs, my mom in tears, and my brothers shaking their heads in disappointment. I was throwing everything away for a life behind bars, but I didn’t care. I pulled the paper back to see what my mom had gotten me.
Yea, baby, come to poppa
I almost let out a scream. My mom had listened. She had really listened to me. She had gotten me the cassette player. I knew it was expensive and we didn’t have a lot of money, but I was still bursting with excitement. I immediately put the present and wrapping paper back together, making sure nothing was out of place with the present or the room, and raced back to my bedroom.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed, smiling from ear-to-ear. I was getting a cassette player. I made a mental list of the cassettes I was going to buy: Van Halen, check; Billy Idol, check; Foreigner, maybe; The Cars, we’ll see. How little old me, with no job and very little cash, was going to pay for those expensive cassettes escapes me now, but I was still making plans.
A flurry of excitement
Fast forward to Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to open my presents. I ran to the tree to my designated spot. I looked over my small mound of presents. My mom used the same wrapping paper for everything under the tree so it was hard to tell where my cassette player might be located, but I was confident I would find it.
One of the first presents I opened was one of the shirts I saw in the bag. I made sure to make a big deal of the gift, thanking my mom for getting the shirt in my favorite color. She seemed happy. I congratulated myself on being so magnanimous.
After a few minutes, though, I still hadn’t come across the player. I reminded myself that it might not be in the pile. She might carry it out later from her room, wanting to make a big deal about the special gift.
At that moment though, my oldest brother opened one of his presents and pulled out my cassette player. I looked at my mom. Surely this was a mistake. Any minute now she was going to step-in and tell him that he had mistakenly opened one of my presents.
I waited, but nothing happened. She was all smiles. He was all smiles. Where did that leave me?
Holding out hope
I knew the likelihood of her getting two was pretty small, but I told myself no problem, maybe she got special deal, buy one, get one free. I raced to open my final two presents. They were nice presents, but no cassette player. The cassette player I thought was mine, was actually my brothers.
Of course I moved on, I would buy my own cassette player a few months later, but the experience taught me two very valuable lessons.
First, I learned that my gut instinct had been correct, she liked my brother more than me. (Okay, okay, I’m joking and my mom would tell you that she loved the three of us equally, but I still had my proof.)
And more importantly, I learned that peeking and a life of crime do not pay. No more peaking for me!