When I was a kid I sneaked into every one of my presents. My parents wrapped them up nicely and put them under the tree, and one by one I’d unwrap just enough to see what was in the box. I think I did this because I was impatient and an immediate gratification person.

The down side of doing this is that on Christmas morning you never have a surprise. You know what everything is in every box. I’ve talked to other people who have done the same thing, and all of us feel like it’s a compulsion. We just can’t stand not knowing what is on the other side of that paper.

When I was around eleven years old, my brother, who was fifteen, had been seeing a girl on occasion. She wasn’t very pretty, and had a little bit of a bad reputation. He was fairly secretive about his visits with her, as if he didn’t want anyone to know.

Just before Christmas, a present appeared under the tree out of nowhere. I was extremely curious about that one because it didn’t have a name on it and wasn’t wrapped in Christmas paper; it was just in a taped up cardboard box. Plus it was tucked way in the back of the tree, as if someone was trying to hide it.

I was about to do a little investigating when he pulled me aside and said, “You can’t tell mom and dad about the present under the tree. It’s from Jaynie, and I don’t want them to know I’m seeing her. Please help me keep it hidden from them.”

I looked up to my brother so much. We were close because we’d hang out together when he wasn’t doing anything else. We had a high jump and pole vault pit in our back yard that he’d built, and our friends would come around and try to out jump each other. I was the highest girl jumper, and he was the highest pole vaulter. We were both pretty athletic, so we were always doing outdoor stuff together because kids were outside all the time and we played with whoever was available, and if that was your sister, it was better than nothing. Anyway, I looked up to him, and when he asked me to keep an eye on that present, I was all over it. I kept it hidden out of sight, and if my friends asked about it, I told them it was a secret and no one could even touch it. I was a bully so nobody messed with that present.

Christmas morning I was a good actress and looked surprised when I opened all my presents. When we were all done, and my parents went about their business, my brother looked from side to side to make sure they were gone, then he reached for the present while I stood lookout. “What’s in it?” I asked when he grabbed it. He handed it to me and said, “I’ll keep watch, you open it.” I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to tear into a present, even if it wasn’t mine.

I scratched off the tape holding the box together and pulled up the flaps to find  something I’d never seen before. It was a red piece of wood on a couple of roller skate wheels.  I handed it to him, “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a skateboard,” he said. “You sit on it or stand on it and ride down hills.” Then he said, “And it’s yours, not mine.”

I thought I’d heard him wrong. “Why would Jaynie get me a present?” I asked. “She didn’t,” he said. “I got it for you.” “But why did you tell me it was from her?” “Because I wanted it to be a surprise, and I knew you’d sneak into it if you thought if was for you.”

I learned a lot of things that Christmas morning. I learned that surprises are way, way more delicious than sneaking into presents. I learned that my brother, who only had the money he earned delivering papers, had used some of his own cash to buy me something wonderful because he liked me and for no other reason, and I learned that a skateboard was the grandest present an eleven year old girl could ever hope to receive.

I think that may have been the first year a skateboard was ever sold anywhere in US. Seriously, no one had ever heard of them. And it looked just like a sanded board about six inches wide with the front and back barely rounded, and two sets of metal wheels underneath. He could have made it himself except it was painted red and had professional lettering on the top. Unlike today’s skateboards, it didn’t rock side to side so there really wasn’t any way to steer it. I never stood on it, but I sat on it and rode it down hills in the street or parking lots, leaning back with my feet held up, gathering speed and wearing down the soles of my shoes to stop. It was great fun.

So next time you’re tempted to sneak into anything, I hope you’ll remember my story and just hold off. You’ll be happy you waited – because someone who loves you is going to be delighted when they get to see your genuine surprise.