December 20, 2013: The Year Matt Spilled the Beans

The year we were busted.
Cousin, Adam, is nestled in the middle.
I have always enjoyed the joy of a great surprise. Growing up, I would often asked to be surprised with gifts rather than having each present chosen to my specifications. Unwrapping a pink flowered robe on Christmas day, knowing my mom had picked out this retail treasure just for me, was bliss.

My brothers, on the other hand, did not buy into my naive wonderment. Their Christmastime goal was to uncover every hidden treasure and unwrap in advance of Christmas Day. And no matter how hard I tried to resist their Grinch antics, I would ultimately cave. I was a willing participant in a trio of holiday hi-jinx.

The year of note was during our pre-teen years. Old enough to babysit ourselves, our parents would leave us alone when they would go out. During the holiday season, they were gone most weekends socializing. The minute Mom and Dad would walk out the door to go out to dinner or to a holiday gala, we three kids would begin tearing the house apart; scavenging for our Christmas gifts.

The boys had talent. The knew the exact spots in the cellar and closets where Mom would hide our gifts. Not trusting us completely, Mom would wrap them as an added safeguard. She hadn't a clue that our skills were superior to what she gave us credit for.

The year was 1975 and the gifts for that year included matching motorized remote-controlled snow mobiles for my brothers, a desk organizer set for me, and a Detroit Lions helmet for Matt. We found them buried in a storage closet and tucked away further in stored luggage.

As Mark carefully maneuvered the butter knife to release the scotch tape on the wrapped packages, we were thrilled with our finds. The boys spent the night motoring the mini-snowmobiles around the house. I marveled at my flowered desk set as I carefully arranged it future placement on my desk.

The big surprise was Matt's helmet. He was a huge Lion's fan and had asked for everything Lion's. As he perused the JC Penny's Christmas edition catalog, he would earmark every item that displayed the coveted Lion logo. His expectation was an embellished sleeping bag or bean bag. The helmet with leather football was a complete score.

An hour before Mom & Dad's expected return, we carefully re-wrapped our gifts and returned them to inside the hidden luggage. And then we went to bed like sleeping angels. Just like Mom and Dad instructed.

When Christmas Eve arrived, my brothers and I were brimming with excitement. Our family tradition was to go to my grandparent's farm on Christmas Eve. As we sat eating our luncheon meal of hamburger steaks with baked french fries, we began quizzing Mom on when we were going to open our Christmas gifts. The timing of this event varied from year to year.

As Mom refused to commit to any time other than our least desired time of Christmas morning, Matt blurted out our well-kept secret.

"PLEASE can we open our gifts after church tonight!!! I want to take my new Lion's helmet to Grandpa and Grandma's."

Mark and I were speechless as Mom turned to face us with her hands firmly planted on her hips. After a moment of silence with her glaring stare, she spoke.

"Well, I guess you just spilled the beans."

This very accurate assessment of the situation was followed by a complete drilling by her in finding out exactly what other gifts we had found and opened. Mom was not pleased.

We were not allowed to open gifts that year until Christmas Day. By that time, Mom was happy again with our wayward ways forgiven. Until slip up #2 revealed itself. As Mark opened his remote controlled snowmobile, a butter knife fell out of the box. We had not properly destroyed the evidence.

This time Dad roared with laughter. Mom couldn't hold her death stare and joined him.

We still talk about the year of the butter knife and Matt spilling the beans. The following year, Mom locked all our gifts in her cedar chest. We never did find where she hid the key.

Matt with his new football on Christmas Day 1975

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