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The Slice: Presents accounted for masterfully

Sun., Dec. 8, 2013

Let’s talk about holiday gift secrecy protocols.

Here’s how one family handled it long ago.

“Back in the late ’50s/early ’60s, Jean and I came up with the best possible hiding place for our kids’ Christmas presents,” wrote Jim Roeber.

They had five children. The oldest was about 10. There was not enough closet space to accommodate all the loot.

“So we ‘hid’ the presents right under the Christmas tree in the living room.”

OK, you’re thinking there’s nothing creative about that. But read on.

The Roebers knew that if a child realized a certain package was for him or her, that kid could scrutinize the gift box until some of the mystery evaporated. So the parents employed a system.

“It was simple,” said Roeber. “As presents were bought and immediately wrapped, each was assigned and tagged with a random number from 1 to 100 and piled under the tree. No ‘To’ or ‘From’ names – just a number.”

There’s more.

“The rules were simple, too. The kids could squeeze, shake, sniff, heft, et cetera, but they couldn’t tear the paper. Then on Christmas morning, with the kids helping, the master list was brought out and numbers were converted to names.

“You can imagine the shrieks and groans when a present one of the kids was sure was his or hers (and they were even sure what it was) turned out to be for someone else and a totally different kind of item.”

The Roebers sometimes added a degree a difficulty to the guesswork. “We did, on occasion, introduce some false rattles as presents were wrapped – just to confuse the nosey.”

I like that system. I’d just worry that the master list might fall into the wrong hands.

Then, of course, there’s always the suspicious wrapping-paper tear inevitably blamed on a pet. But at the Roebers’ home, the sneak in question still wouldn’t know the identity of the recipient.

Today’s Slice question: People in what jobs hear the greatest volume of inane commentary on the weather?

Write The Slice at P. O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email John McTear once did such a good job of teaching the family dog to fetch the newspaper that the pooch started collecting papers from throughout the neighborhood.

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