The familiar queries began about a week ago with Chase asking what he might be getting for Hanukah this year.  My familiar response was that I wasn’t telling.  He then went to Plan B which was to suggest a game where he would guess what he was getting and I would let him know if he was correct.  When that attempt failed he told me that I didn’t even have to respond to his guesses.  He would simply make a guess and I could say nothing.  The kid was getting desperate, but I would not cave.  So he moved on to Plan C —  snooping.

As my fellow Jews know, Hanukah is rather ridiculously early this year.  It begins tonight and ends next week.  The calendar sent us into a buying frenzy as we realized over Thanksgiving weekend that we had less than three days to get our act together.  It is amazing what you can do in an evening when properly motivated.  However, we did not have the luxury of time to get everything wrapped and properly hidden away.  In fact, presents are still arriving via UPS on a daily  basis.  When they do, we are quickly stowing the gifts in various places around the house where the boys generally don’t go.  Some gifts are stashed in places where I don’t go.  I’ll send Dave to get them when the time is right.  But a prying 11 year old will apparently go anywhere. And I’m pretty sure Chase uncovered some of his bounty.

On Sunday night he wandered into my office with a half smile:  “Why do you have all those bags in your closet Mom?”

Indeed there are a ton of shopping bags in my closet, mostly filled with dry cleaning, good will, and more shopping bags. (You women know what I mean when I say I have bags of bags right?)  But I also buried a few gifts among the regular household items, thinking that a son isn’t likely to go searching through his mother’s dirty laundry.  Epic fail on my part.

I resisted the urge to jump up from my desk, inspect the hiding place for Dorito-laced fingerprints, and water board my kid, making him tell me exactly what he saw.  Instead I remained calm and replied that I had a bunch of goodwill clothes ready to go to the thrift shop.  We stared at each other for a moment – Chase with his satisfied grin, me with my poker face, both knowing exactly what had just happened.  And then we moved on.

This Hanukah season, Chase will learn a very valuable lesson:  You need to let surprises happen.

I’m not planning on returning the gifts he uncovered, or torturing him by waiting until the last night to give them.  This is a lesson that requires no effort on my part whatsoever.  This week he will open exactly what he discovered in my closet, and if memory serves, he will miss out on the joy of the happy surprise.

I know this because when I was a little girl, I too snooped for my Hanukah presents and one year, I hit the mother lode.  I found everything and knew not only what I was getting but what my sister and brother were getting as well.  But the thrill of this discovery wasn’t worth the unexpected ennui (and a tad of guilt) I felt each night opening a nicely wrapped package knowing what was inside.  I got many of things I wanted that year but it was probably my most disappointing Hanukah ever.  And I never snooped again.

Of the many nice gifts Chase will receive this year, I hope the one he will remember most is the lesson, passed down from one generation to the next and guaranteed to last longer than anything hidden in my closet. 

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