When Abby and I were little, our dad would give us each a five dollar bill to purchase Christmas presents for the family. This meant buying three different presents: one for the other sister, one for Dad and one for Mother. We would spend hours oohing and ahhing over all the possibilities until we had narrowed it down to just the perfect present.
One year, I was at one of my favorite shopping destinations, Walgreen’s. I wandered up and down every aisle searching for the present that would take my breath away. Lo and behold, the next corner I came to the Holy Grail of candy, in my mind: an entire box of chocolate covered cherries! I was in awe of the thought of an entire box of delectable treats and grabbed a box and ran to the cash register to pay. I was so pleased with my purchase and thought about those chocolate delights as I continued shopping.
It was as if they were calling to me and since I had never had one, I felt in some way that I was deserving of at least sampling one. Well, one cherry led to another…and then another… and before I knew it, I had consumed the entire box! Now I was in a panic. What could I do about the dilemma of having spent all my money and not having enough gifts?
When we returned home I thought and agonized over what to do. Then, miracle of miracles, I remembered seeing Mother’s stash of cigarettes in a cupboard. Aha! She loved to smoke and seemed to be a bit more mellow when she did. Perfect! I grabbed two packs of Pall Malls from the cupboard and scurried off to wrap them up and put them under the tree.
On Christmas morning, Abby and I ran out to the tree eager to open our presents. We tore through all of them and then…it was reckoning time.
We gave our specially selected presents to our parents and waited for them to open them. When Mary got to my gift and began unwrapping the cigarettes, her face turned Christmas red and began her annual Christmas fit.
How could you? I paid for those cigarettes. I was looking high and low for them and you had them all along. What kind of a present is that? Wrapping up something I already had?
Uh-Oh! In an ironic twist, Mother’s annual “tradition” of pulling the “Mary Switcheroo” (her little game of “hiding” our toys several months before Christmas and then gifting them back to us on Christmas day as though they were new to us) had unexpectedly turned around on her.
At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about the twisted annual tradition of our mother, where she played the title role in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
But as I look back, I feel that both she and I learned a valuable lesson that Christmas: payback is a bitch!