I like practical jokes, and I also like to arrange unexpected situations just to see how people react. Many years ago, at Christmas time, one evening I said to my then wife, “Jeanne, I have an idea with the kids for this Christmas.” As in most marriages our personalities were different, and when I shared the idea she didn’t quite know what to think but agreed to go along for the ride.
On the subject of unexpected situations, my former wife and I had five children in slightly over 10 years. With five kids we could never afford an extravagant Christmas, but the kids never went without. Some of their gifts would include needed items like socks and underwear, but they usually received most of their wants. We were a close family, and that Christmas I wanted to add to the fun we always had together as a family. The closeness fed into the surprise I had for them, and their response.
As Christmas drew near, I told the kids they may not get all they wanted for Christmas, but their mom and dad did the best for them we could. I’d drop hints that what they would get was especially planned for them, and the more I played this game the more you could see their emotions go up and down. I asked Jeanne not to put some gifts under the tree, so it didn’t look as bountiful as in previous years. Again, she gave me that look but agreed not to. The kids would look at what gifts were under the tree, and ask which ones were the special ones. I told them they were too special to put under the tree yet.
Christmas Eve came and was our custom each opened one gift, and I sprinkled in remarks about their special gift they would get in the morning. They all went to bed not knowing what to think, and wondering whether to look forward to, or dread the next morning. After they went to bed we brought out all the gifts, except the special ones, and went to bed. Personally, I couldn’t wait until the next morning because it was set up as I planned.
Christmas morning arrived, and as usual the kids came in and woke us up. They, of course, had already checked out Santa’s gifts, and were hot to trot for the special gifts. I brought out a box with five individually wrapped gifts, and said, “I want all of you to open these at the same time.” I passed them out, and they opened them up.
When they looked at the gifts there was an awkward silence, then the oldest said, “Thank you, this is neat, I can really use it.”
The next oldest, our only son, said, “How did you know this is what I wanted, I never asked for it.” Slowly, the next three followed suit saying how much they liked what they had been given.
What had they been given? One received a broken brick, another some sticks, another some rocks, and the other two a combination of sticks, leaves, and rocks. What was unforgettable and why I had done all this was to see their response, before they realized their jerk of a father played a trick on them. Their first response was to thank us for the gifts. They didn’t throw them down, or show anger and displeasure. All they showed was a desire to not hurt their mom and dad’s feelings, and that meant a lot.
They are all grown now, with families of their own. Their Mother and I divorced but neither of us remarried, and our family is one again at holidays, birthdays and etc. It is not unusual at Christmas time for one of the kids to say, “Do you guys remember when we got the sticks and stones,” and we all laugh.
Memories and love are forever, give them a chance to flourish.