Monday, May 03, 2010


Lilly's birthday present. It's NOT a surprise.

When it comes to gift-giving surprises there are two kinds of people: 1)Those who will go to great lengths to NOT figure out what gifts are being amassed or plans being laid for them and 2)The criminally insane.

Guess which one I am? Once when I was seven, I accidentally saw the doll bottle my brother John bought me for Christmas (he hid it in MY closet for crying out loud) and I can honestly say I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was wracked with guilt. I could not look him in the eye until Christmas morning when I unwrapped it and declared very unconvincingly (I am a terrible liar too) "Thank you! What a surprise!"

So I was more than a little taken aback to learn relatively recently that both my girls possess criminal minds. They will go to great lengths to figure out what their gifts are. In fact, one of them confessed that a few years back they actually UNWRAPPED a Christmas gift under the tree while Jeff and I were out to dinner. Of course, then they had to wrap it back up which was a problem because Grace wraps gifts very well and I, well, I don't. So after she re-wrapped it, Lilly had to tell her it was too good and she had to do it all over again only messy.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that they differ so drastically on this topic from me. It may be in their genes. I remember that my Grandma Zimmerman, quite possibly the sweetest, kindest person I have known in my life, exhibited these tendencies. In the last few years of her life she started opening her Christmas presents a week early. It gave her a great guilty pleasure to do this and she giggled like a school girl at the shock on our faces when she confessed to doing this.

Lilly's birthday is next week and she's been pestering me for days to tell her what I'm getting her and I just keep shooing her away. I refuse to tell her. I mean, we just can't do that--can we?

You know, when you think about it, people do go to ridiculous lengths to keep birthday secrets. I am reminded of my friend Sondra who once planned a 50th birthday surprise party for her husband. After weeks of finding her having surreptitious phone calls which ended when he came in the room he confronted her. Was she having an affair? No, no she denied it but did not reveal what was really going on. Why, I asked her, didn't she just tell him, for the sake of her marriage, that she was planning a birthday party? "What?" she asked in horror, "And ruin the surprise!"

I thought about that and the whole keeping it a secret thing (I'm in general NOT a fan of keeping anything a secret) so when Lilly pestered me for the umpteenth time last week I finally said, "Okay fine. You really want to know? You really want to ruin the surprise?" and she said yes and I told her. And nothing happened. The gift police did not arrest either of us and the world kept spinning.

Strangely she has shown no regret or remorse for having finagled this info out of me. In fact it seems to give her great pleasure to be able to enjoy the knowledge of her gift before she actually has it. I guess it's like knowing the sex of a baby (something I refused to find out--go figure)--while it does take a small element of surprise out of the event it hardly makes the baby any less of a gift.

So maybe it's okay that Lilly knows she is getting a new outdoor bunny hutch and that she's running around making plans for where to put it. And I guess the "I want to know what I'm getting now" gene skips a couple of generations.

As for me, I like to be surprised, so don't hide my gifts in my closet.


  1. Failed plans for surprises seem to be a major theme in your family. I remember an occasion with a brother tuirning fifty years old.

  2. Oh geez I forgot about that. I sent an email to one brother about a surprise but actually sent the email to the birthday brother. Yes, I am an idiot.

  3. I have an aunt who used to unwrap and rewrap gifts, so finally the only way for my grandma to thwart her was to keep all the presents locked in the trunk of her car!