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Hiding places

If you have children young enough to be curious about what Santa is going to bring– and that doesn’t necessarily stop when they stop believing in the old elf– you probably have devised some pretty good hiding places over the years. Kids can be pretty sneaky and, even if you never leave them alone in the house, they’re fairly adept at snooping around when you’re busy cooking supper or in the shower.
I confess, my older sister and I spent quite a bit of time checking out the back corners of closets, the bottom shelves of the built-in dish cupboard where seldom-used things were stored, cobwebby corners in the basement, and even the hay loft in the little barn. Once, we found a small stash of board games and jigsaw puzzles, but not quite knowing who they were for, we weren’t particularly gratified. And, I had the definite feeling Mother noticed our exaggerated expressions of surprise on Christmas morning and knew what we’d been up to. I also learned knowing what some of the presents were took a lot of the enjoyment out of opening them and left me feeling guilty and let down. I never again succumbed to the temptation to snoop.
I know my dad kept a number of things at his shop downtown where we would never have the chance to look for them and one Christmas Eve I saw him fetching packages from the trunk of the car. I hadn’t actually intended to snoop that night, but having gone to bed early on Christmas Eve, I had to get up and use the bathroom around midnight and just happened to look out the bathroom window at the right time– or the wrong time, depending on your point of view. I didn’t see what the presents were but I discovered one of the good hiding places. I made good use of that knowledge myself, years later, when it was my turn to play Santa.
I had a number of hiding places where my sons were unlikely to look, just in case they had the opportunity to search for Christmas presents. Since I was a stay-at-home mom, my kids were with me nearly all the time except for when they were in school or out playing in the neighborhood. They had practically no chances to do any in-depth searching and I hid most things in rooms where I would be aware of their activities. Toys, books, games, clothing, etc. were small enough they could easily be stashed in a drawer under the tablecloths in the dining room, the back of the top shelf in the bathroom closet, behind the cake pans in the pantry, or other limited but ordinary spots they wouldn’t think of as hiding places. Once, not being able to find a large enough space to hide an air hockey game (about the size of a very low coffee table), I ended up sliding it, in its plain brown cardboard box, under my son’s bed. I figured he’d never see it there because he apparently never looked under the bed, as evidenced by the accumulation of toys, books, candy wrappers and dirty socks. That presented me with another problem, however, how to get the box out of his room on Christmas Eve after he’d gone to bed. I solved that by boldly asking him to help me drag the box out from under the bed, telling him it was a gift for his dad. It apparently made perfect sense to my son, as he knew his father would never look there.
A much bigger challenge than discovering hiding places for gifts, was the idea of actually catching Santa in the act of stuffing our stockings and putting all those presents under the tree. My sisters and I came up with what we considered to be the perfect strategy. The house had a coal-burning furnace in the basement and the heat was carried through duct-work to the rooms on the first floor; kitchen, living room, dining room, play room and bathroom. Two bedrooms were located above the living and dining rooms. The heat went directly through grated holes in the first floor ceilings to the bedrooms. We knew we could remove the grate in our bedroom floor and see, pretty clearly, through the grate in the ceiling below where the Christmas tree stood in the living room. We piled our pillows on the floor around the hole in the floor and settled in to watch for Santa. We heard Mother and Dad talking and laughing somewhere below, probably in the kitchen, having a bedtime snack. When would they ever go to bed so Santa could come? The attic-like bedroom was chilly because the grate had been closed during the day to save heat. We pulled the heavy quilts from the beds and snuggled down, cozy and getting sleepier by the minute. The next thing we knew, we were back in our beds and Mother was there in her robe, saying we’d better get up for breakfast and see what Santa had brought. The grating was back over the hole in the floor and Mother and Dad never mentioned it. Sometimes I wondered if it was all a dream.