This year, instead of doing a large family gift exchange with my husband's side of the family, it was decided that everyone would share some favorite memories from Christmases past. So, I'm going to share my memories here.
I don't recall any amazing memories from Christmas times as a child, but that's not to say it wasn't wonderful. In general, it was a fun time with family and new toys. For years and years my sister and I would wake up in the middle of the night to hang a secret Christmas banner we'd made in the days preceding Christmas. We'd sneak out to the living room and ever so quietly climb up on chairs and furniture to tape our grand "Merry Christmas!" banner with exquisite holiday artwork to the wall. We always loved to observe my parents surprised expression at 5:30 AM upon feasting their eyes on our glorious homemade decor. "Oh, Wow!" they would comment, robes wrapped snugly around with eyes squinting in the brightness of the fully lit house. Teresa and I were always a lot more awake than they were (OK - until Teresa became a teenager and, much to my horror, found sleeping in to be just as nice of a Christmas present as anything wrapped under the tree). "Did you make this?" they would ask us in feigned utter confusion as they took the opportunity to wake up a bit more by pausing and staring at the wall. As I recall, there were some years which we fully took credit for the hanging artwork, but other years we played along with the whole Christmas charade and claimed Santa must have hung it.
After my parents had their coffee in hand, the moment we'd been waiting for for at least a month or so was finally at hand: present opening time! Most of the gifts were things we wanted or loved, but none stands out so much to me now as the SpyTech toys we received. With all of our favorite TV shows being spy shows, my sister and I could desire to aspire to nothing more than a top American spy. Through the years, our television line up included such programs as Scarecrow and Mrs. King, McGyver, Mission Impossible and Get Smart. We were simply fascinated with this idea of having a secret identity which nobody but you and the government new about, and going on undercover missions to ensure the continued peaceful existence of our fellow Americans.
I remember having opened all of my presents one year and being relatively satisfied with my haul, when my dad uncovered a present tucked under the tree skirt. Had it not been for his observant spy-type eyes the present would have gone fully unnoticed! "Oh look! There seems to be a couple more presents here. . " he commented as he handed Teresa and I each a couple more gifts. As we tore into them, I couldn't help letting out a few shouts of sheer sugar and commercialism induced delight. SpyTech! We knew just what they were the moment we opened them!
Over the years that followed, my parents were graced with my eavesdropping on their conversations from a distance via my handy spy- microphone. I was always hoping to catch some juicy bit of truth (maybe that they were really Russian spies, or that Teresa and I were really princesses adopted from a war torn country and whisked away to safety), but instead found out nothing of any consequence. More disappointing than my parents rather predictable existence was my sister. I remember ever so quietly opening my bedroom door and pointing the spy microphone at her door - hoping to catch something secretive happening. When after a minute or two, I heard nothing, I tiptoed over to her door and again pointed the microphone at her door. Nothing. Eventually, I wedged the spy microphone under the door and at last could hear something every so often: the page of a book turning.
Another exciting SpyTech toy we got was a fingerprinting kit. I used it to "lift" fingerprints off of various household items: glasses, the remote, the sink. At first, it was quite invigorating to be able to match prints; "So Mom was drinking out of THIS glass!". When I realized this information was of relatively useless to myself or anyone else in the family, I resorted to collecting fingerprints simply for the sake of getting in plenty of practice before my career with the CIA began.
The message rock was probably the most annoying, perplexing and comical toy of any of the SpyTech toys we received. It was a rock with a hidden door underneath it that could be used to place secret messages or valuable items (like stolen diamonds!). The rock could then be situated outside or in any sort of garden setting (NOT near water or rain), and when someone blew the corresponding whistle, the rock would begin beeping to alert one's fellow spymates of the location of "the rock." This was great fun; we'd hide acorns in it or messages (such as "Hi") and then strategically place the rock and blow the whistle so the other one could locate the rock and it's valuable contents. When the rock was not being used, it was stored in my closet with the rest of my toys. While I thought the special whistle the rock came with was the only sound the rock would respond to, I came to find out otherwise. At night while laying in bed, periodically the rock would randomly begin its neurotic beeping. At first I thought my room was haunted, and then I thought my sister was playing mean tricks on me. One night I finally got up to investigate and found the rock and whistle unmoved in my closet. Strange. . . When I climbed back in bed and began coughing some from a cold, the rock went off again. It then struck me that the rock went off whenever someone made a pitch similar to the whistle's. After that, I noticed it going off when there was seemingly no noise, or when there was a large crash (per say the shelves falling in my closet) or when the dog barked. . The list went on.
From hanging banners in the middle of the night, to unwrapping tools for our future trade, spy work was an exciting part of Christmases past for me. While I didn't end up becoming a spy (at least not yet. . and not that you know of. . ) I still get quite the thrill out of anything which might be distantly related to spying (per say, listening to and occasionally randomly dropping in on the conversations of fellow drivers on the road via my parents' handy walky-talkies - this done during our recent trip back from North Carolina for Christmas. . . )