Memoirs of My America – Ignorance is Bliss

I am amazed by the things that my children don’t do, that I did. Especially over Christmas. I was one of six children, and we were thick as thieves. If something entailed sneakiness and trouble, we jumped in, and we never spilled the beans on each other. It was a code of secrecy that we didn’t have to pledge, we just knew. I’m sure it had to do with the Survivors on the Island theme we were convinced we were living.

Though we were always fortunate enough to have a home and food to eat, the rest of the extra things in life that make it nice, were a bit dicey.

There was never an overabundance of much. We had what we needed, nothing more. Easier said than done, for a child: adequate but nothing unnecessary. With all those commercials on TV during Christmas?

It was the time of only three television channels, and so the toys that were advertised for Christmas were on heavy rotation. Worse than a first year resident at a teaching hospital. Only three channels to watch, and GI Joe, Malibu Barbie, and Snoopy’s Sno-Cone Maker sponsored every kids show, every night, every day up until December 25.

My siblings and I licked our lips as we sat ten inches from the TV screen, watching the deliriously happy boys and girls having the times of their lives playing with the toys that we could almost feel in our hands. We wanted these things in such a way that we had ourselves convinced that the universe owed them to us after the hours of commercial watching we had tallied up.  Surely the time we had spent in front of the television was proof enough that we were the most deserving recipients of these Hasbro marvels.

One rare Saturday morning in December, we were left home alone with my two teenage sisters.  Being a Saturday morning, they were in the basement imitating Cher’s every move as she tossed back her hair and belted out ”Half Breed” on Dick Clark’s American BandStand. The Dick Clark Show was the 1960′s version of YouTube tutorials on “how to dance like Fergie.” We knew the house upstairs would be ours for the next hour as the teens seriously worked on their floor moves so they could kick ass at that Friday night’s CYO dance. 

I don’t know who had the idea first, but before you knew it, my siblings and I decided to unwrap the presents that were under the Christmas tree in a way that no one would know we had been there. It was deliberate work, the likes of which you see performed in Mission: Impossible movies. The precisely slow peeling away of the tape, a millimeter at a time, so we wouldn’t tear the paper, stopping only every few inches, to let out our held breaths. We allowed ourselves one gift to be unwrapped apiece.

We knew that under that wrapping paper, there would be the GI Joe, the Barbie, and the little ones’ Snoopy Sno-Cone maker. Oh, what a beautiful Saturday this would turn out to be!

Remember I mentioned that we had adequate money for the basics of life, and no more? Then  you know where I’m headed.

Yes, the carefully peeled open gifts revealed such exciting contents as: flannel pajamas for me, a warm hat for my older brother, boots for my little sister, and snowpants for my younger brother.

Oh, the disappointment that left us speechless. We began to sew up the prematurely opened gifts, a process that went much more quickly. We all had the burden to bear that was greater than any punishment we would have received. We knew what we were getting for Christmas, and it wasn’t what we wanted.

And, worse yet, we had to act happy about getting it. Ignorance would have been bliss. We could’ve spent the next two weeks in sweet hope and expectation. 

 To this day, when my youngest clumsily whispers in my ear, “do you want to know what we got you for Christmas?” I much too quickly answer “No! No! Don’t tell me! I want to be surprised! Don’t tell me…don’t tell me. Don’t even drop a hint…I don’t want to know… I don’t…”

“Sheesh, mom, alright. We won’t tell you,” he walks away while rolling his eyes. “Dad, what the heck is wrong with mom? She gets all freaked out when we ask her if she wants a hint about her Christmas presents.”

Oh, kids, I think, you don’t even know who your mother is…  



Alexandra is an overanalyzing, oversensitive mother of three boys who somehow found herself named as BlogHer ’11′s Voice of The Year for Humor. She has been a mother since 1994, which means she hasn’t been right about anything since. She blogs of the sweet and the funny while trying to go unnoticed in her small town. You can find her at Good Day, Regular People. Did we mention socially awkward? We should, which is why the internet was made for her.


  1. These childhood memories are so fun to tell. And I hope I never ever forget them. Happy Holidays to everyone. And especially to you, Jacki…thank you for all you do for us, bringing laughter into our lives. The importance of humor, you know it.

    Thank you, J. You are the best.

  2. I didn’t realize how “deprived” of toys we were until I got a good luck at other kids’ mountainous piles of presents. But as a TV junkie, I certainly knew what to long for. An Easy Bake Oven topped my list yet never arrived. And I wanted a rock tumbler (it should come as no surprise that I was a weird kid) but my folks wisely didn’t bring one into our one-bedroom apartment. Neither we nor the neighbors would have gotten any sleep. I did have the snow cone maker and can feel the scrapey (is too a word) vibration the handle made now as I think about it. I’ve bought it for a few kids’ birthday gifts, but know I’m really buying it for their parents to have a “blast from the past” moment. Did you have a Lite-Brite? They had to be pretty cheap because we had one. That’s another sense memory — pushing the pegs through the black paper.

  3. I love reading your childhood stories, Alexandra. Even if you were just a little bit naughty :)

  4. haha…nice…i once tried to sneak in to see if santa had come…this was a no-no in our house and took quite the skill to get down the hall passing my parents room…i was all set though and turned the corner to be confronted by a ghostly image wobbling through the center of the room…i ran screaming all the way to my bed…

    the next day my brother got one of those inflatable punching bags…it had a glow in the dark superhero on it…yep…busted….

  5. My Goodness, what an awful child you were. No wonder you only got pajamas. I, on the other hand, would never dare to peek at my presents. And for my reward, I got a G.I. Joe. Which I immediately dressed up in Barbie’s clothes that my Sister got.
    Love ya!
    Merry Christmas your Highness!

    • The stuff of memoirs, Mark.

      That is fantastic.

      Have a wonderful Christmas with your beautiful family, sweet friend.

      Thanks for the love in 2011. What a pleasure to meet you.

  6. I am curious to know what Baby E would think of this behavior!

    • I read it to him and he couldn’t believe we were ever alone.

      He’s never alone….

      BUt he loves my stories….all 3 do.

      Kids love stories about their parents…just thrills them.

      Have a wonderful holiday, and thank you for always being so cute with your comments.


  7. I giggle at the realization that these people do not know me outside of mother. They do not know that I was 2, then 8 and 11 just like them. They do not know that nothing they do will surpass some of the things my sisters and cousins did (or surprise me). They will likely never know about mattress fires, swallowed pennies, or arms stuck in city drain pipes. And don’t you tell them.

    • What a wonderful comment.

      Our children really don’t know us, do they?

      Delicious secrets…but spill a story once in awhile, right?

      They love it.

      Merry Christmas, wonderful lady!

  8. I think we all have that sort of memory! ….except my parents caught us just as my sister yelled, “SNEAKERS?!” We had to sit and wait until after lunch on Christmas day to unwrap our presents!

  9. Once I remember sneaking a peak at the bags in my mother’s closet the week before Christmas. I was delighted to see a drawing kit that had something to do with fashion.

    Imagine my disappointment when that gift ended up with my sister’s name on it.

    Now, I don’t peek. Ever. I like my disappointment to be fresh. :(

    Fortunately, my boys are the best present givers.

  10. Oh the guilt! And the disappointment. I’m so tense right now, just thinking about you having to carry that around for weeks.

    I love the reminder that our kids barely know us. They spend SO MUCH time with us, filling us up or sucking us dry…and yet, we are strangers to each other in many ways.

    • You know, Liz, as the kids here get older, I think, there is so much you don’t know…and it feels strange

      I am their mother, but they don’t know the person I am…

  11. Reading this makes me feel like I was a child without remorse. I REGULARLY cataloged the contents of the foot locker in the attic where my parents stockpiled gifts. Like, once a month, and weekly after Thanksgiving. I think I was so dry-eyed about it b/c as youngest of three, I was disabused of the Santa Myth early on by my older sibs. So it was really just a question of supervising my parents. THen again, they never gave me snowpants.

    Have a WONDERFUL day tomorrow – Merry Christmas!

  12. LOL. I am pretty sure you were justifiably crushed. That’s why though I am ambivalent towards surprises. what if the surprise is surprisingly not what the other person expected?

    Anyway, wishing you and your family a merry Christmas. xxoo

    • Every time I go to your blog, I realize how much I enjoy your writing, your posts, your thoughts.

      I wish there were more hours in the day…

      Have a wonderful 2012. Thank you for coming by today…so I could visit back.

      It really always is a pleasure to read your words.

  13. The things we did as children… if our kids knew half of what we did when we were their age, I think they wouldn’t trust us with their lives ever again ;)

    I should print this post out and read it to my daughter as a cautionary tale. Hahahaha. Nah, she’s always been one for surprises–that girl has more self-control than her mama, that’s for sure!

    Seriously though, this would make a GREAT cautionary tale: “We all had the burden to bear that was greater than any punishment we would have received. We knew what we were getting for Christmas, and it wasn’t what we wanted.” I believe the same applies when it comes to God’s timing. Many times we ask Him for things and question Him when He didn’t bring it to pass soon enough. But the same rule is at work here. Most of the time, when we ‘forced’ things to go our way, we’d just end up with disappointment because it wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped either.

    Thanks again for the funny way you’ve shared your story and life lessons. They made me smile and at the same time gave me so much insight. Merry Christmas, dear friend. Much love to you!

    • I’ll bet your daughter would love a secret story from the vault this holiday.

      It is so fun for our kids to hear about us.

      My 9 yr old loves the stories of me the best…

      Have a wonderful, blessed 2012, Sweaty. I’m wishing the best for you, with love.

  14. Oh, Alexandra, my sisters and I have you beat. There was a locked storage room adjacent to our basement bedroom, and my sister and I climbed into our linen closet, up to the top shelf, and actually sawed through the sheetrock to sneak into the storage room and snoop on our Christmas presents. My parents were shocked and horrified when they found out aout it 20 years later.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. ~~Alexandra,
    I continually enjoy your childhood stories & wit.

    I have never unwrapped a gift, but I’ve done plenty of other naughy things.

    I shant admit them…. but

    Once my son ask (A teenager) … “Mom, have you ever smoked pot?”
    I hesitated. “Yes,” I said. “But I didn’t inhale.”

    Merry Christmas.

    • Thank you, Inner Chick.

      I just left a comment on your blog.

      I am so happy that I make you smile, laugh, snort. Just a bit of joy in your day, to help you forget about life for awhile.

      That is the gift of humor. We need it more than people know.

      Happy Holidays to you, dear lady…I’m thinking of you.

  16. Oh, Lord – that’s a worst-case Christmas scenario. BUZZKILL.

    I can’t imagine knowing all my gifts ahead of time – especially if they were sensible ones!

    It’s a miracle you don’t break into a cold sweat at the first Christmas carol of the season…

    Wonderful post, as usual.



    • Oh, you wonderful American. So sweet.

      What Christmas Carols?

      You mean, like “Adios Muchachos companeros deeeeeee miiiiiiiii viiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiidaaaaaa” and other melodramatic holiday dirges? To a Colombian, all of life is a stage, and every one of us, the main actor in it.

  17. This was a beautiful post, Empress.

    I brought Scotch to my wife’s family’s “yankee swap”. I had to pretend to be happy to take home a “healing pillow” smelling of ass cloves and a votive candle . . . knowing that someone else would get to enjoy a fifth of my own stock.

    • Oh, yeah.

      I have stories about that, too.

      We’d have white elephant swaps in grade school, and I’d see what would be opened and think, “they think ThAT”s a white elephant??????”

  18. My sister would always open her gifts early – which sucked, because we always got the same thing, only in different colors.

    It still pisses me off.

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