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Secret(ish) Santas

Both girls are looking forward to
Christmas with unbridled glee. I always love watching them as the
holidays approach, and each year seems to get better for me; the
older they are, the more they seem to “get” Christmas.
This year, they’re not just excited about receiving gifts,
but about giving them as well.

Maddie, especially, has become aware of gift-giving in the family.
She made her gift for Cora – a real treasure box filled with
real plastic gems – several weeks ago, but still
couldn’t resist when she was out working a craft fair
recently and found a beautiful doll made from recycled neckties. So
she had to buy that, too. Then the girls and I were out recently
and they discovered the perfect gift for Daddy, which I won’t
print here because he dutifully – I mean, eagerly –
reads this blog daily. But it was their idea and they are quite

And then on Saturday while driving in the
car, Maddie said, “Mommy, I have a friend at school who told
me she really likes Starbucks, so can we go there some time and get
a gift card for my friend?” Now, Maddie knows Starbucks
because it’s become our place to go and hang out when she
needs some decompression, and she can order her hot cocoa and lemon
pound cake like a seasoned barista. So I understand that it’s
on kids’ radars. But still, I was surprised that she had a
friend who likes it so much a gift card there would be appropriate.

“Which friend at school is it, honey? We might already have a
gift for her,” I said. Maddie looked away shiftily in the
rearview mirror. “Um, I can’t remember her name –
I don’t remember who it is. But I really want to get a card
for her.

“And Mommy,” she continued casually, “I’d
like Daddy to help me wrap it, ok? I mean, you’re a really
good wrapper and stuff, but I’d just like Daddy to help me
with this one, ok?”

Ah. I see.

“Sure hon,” I replied nonchalantly. “That’s

Then Maddie turned to Cora. “Cora, don’t you have a
friend at school who loves Panera, who wants a Panera gift card for

Cora, being oblivious to the undercurrents, said,

“Cora,” Maddie hissed in what she fondly believed was a
whisper. “Just say you want to get one for a friend so we can
get it for Mommy for Christmas, ok?”

“Ok,” Cora loudly whispered back.

“So, Cora,” Maddie tried again, “don’t you
want to get a card to Panera for a friend? And have Daddy help you
wrap it?”

Silence. Then, “Maddie? Am I supposed to say it’s for a
boy or a girl?” asked Cora. Subterfuge has never been her
strong suit.

After the Keystone Kops worked out their gift card routine, I
circled back to Daddy’s gift. “Hey, girls, after we
pick up Daddy’s present, make sure you don’t say
anything to him about it, ok? Don’t even say something like,
‘Daddy, if you’re wondering what we did, we did NOT get
you a Christmas present, ok? And we DEFINITELY didn’t get one
from (fill in the blank), ok Daddy?’ So don’t even give
small hints like that. When you want to keep a present a secret,
it’s best just not to talk about it at all, got it

They both said yes, but I had my doubts, which proved to be
well-founded. Twenty minutes after we got home, Cora came sidling
over with a self-satisfied smirk on her face and said,
“Mommy, guess what I said to Daddy? I said, ‘Daddy,
don’t worry, we didn’t do ANYTHING today that we would
give you a hint about! Nothing that we’re keeping secret
here!’ Wasn’t I tricky, Mommy?”

“Yes, honey,” I said resignedly, “You’re
very sly.”

I can only hope they’re this bad at keeping secrets when
they’re teenagers.


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