One childhood Christmas memory involves top-secret, covert operations. No, the CIA didn’t recruit me as a miniature spy. Still, I did take part in undercover intelligence gathering.
In those days, the Barry home had two firm rules concerning December 25. One family policy stated each person could open only one gift or one stocking before eating a proper, nourishing breakfast. (As you might suspect, the children of our home didn’t author this legislation.) The other rule stated no child (there were four) should wake up Mom or Dad before 6:00 a.m. (Of course, the powers that be never explained why on earth parents would want to sleep on Christmas, of all possible mornings. I mean, good grief, it wasn’t as if they had stayed up late doing something, right?)
Of course, between those two rules were loopholes permitting plenty of nocturnal action. No edict declared we kids had to remain in bed until 6:00. Thus was born the solemn Christmas Eve pact between my brother Ray and myself: “If you wake up first, wake me up. If I wake up first, I’ll wake you up.”
That’s exactly what we did. Each year, whichever of us awoke first would rouse the other. Then, quiet as pajama-clad spies, we crept from our basement bedroom to reconnoiter. Thanks to miniature flashlights, we didn’t stub our toes in the dark. More crucial to the op, our penlights cast enough glow to read tags on all the loot piled under the tree. Making sure not to raise a commotion, we whispered back and forth the results of this fact-finding mission:
“Here, this one’s for you.”
“Wow, this big one’s for me! What could it be?”
“Here’s one for Carol. Girl stuff. Push it into the corner.”
After we’d read the tag on every gift and done a lot of guessing, we’d pad back to our beds and yearn for morning. Once the clock reached the magic hour, we woke up the whole house!
Ray and I forged our pint-sized pledge decades ago, and of course we don’t live in the same house anymore. But to this day, even from hundreds of miles away, it’s not unusual for one of us to email or text message the other a Christmas Eve reminder: “If you wake up first….”
Rick Barry is author of The Methuselah Project. Read my review.
Visit Rick Barry at RickCBarry.com