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Wednesday, January 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: This holiday game no longer rings true

Ring-and-run with young Stephen, Julia and Jonathan. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
Ring-and-run with young Stephen, Julia and Jonathan. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I grew up sandwiched between two brothers, Jonathan and Steven. Aside from throwing the occasional couch off the roof of a college dorm, they were pretty tame. They never told crass jokes, lit their farts on fire or tortured me by holding me down and tickling me until I cried uncle.

Our sibling relationship wasn’t perfect, of course, but we had tons of fun together as kids. And now they’re all grown up, both wonderful husbands and fathers, one running his own law firm and the other in management at an international construction equipment company. We all turned out! It’s a miracle!

My kids asked me this week about my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood, and I instantly thought of one thing: ring-and-running with my brothers. A ring-and-run is where you creep up to a neighbor’s house, leave a plateful of treats on their doorstep, ring the doorbell and then run and hide – hopefully within earshot so you can hear their delighted cries of surprise when they open the door.

My family was next level when it came to ringing-and-running. Our signature was “The 12 Days of Christmas,” where we’d lavish treats on one family for a full 12 days in a row leading up to Dec. 25. Now that I’m a busy mother, I honestly don’t know how my mom managed to pull this off.

Baking a treat every day, packaging it in an adorable manner, bundling up all my kids and then heading out into the freezing cold every night for almost two weeks – the very thought makes me curl into the fetal position and hum.

We learned pretty quickly that when you’re ring-and-running the same family every night, they start watching for you so they can catch you in the act. One year, in order to avoid getting caught by our highly suspicious friends, my dad went to their house in the middle of the day while everyone was at church and rewired their doorbell.

He concealed a wire around their doorjamb and over their driveway so we could ring it from a hiding spot along the side of their house. Our friends were absolutely flabbergasted each night when they threw open the door immediately after hearing a ring and found no one.

Our level of commitment to a successful ring-and-run knew no bounds. When little brother Steven was about 11 years old, we sent him up to a friend’s door to make the drop. His usual technique at that particular house was to ring the doorbell, sprint across the front lawn and then jump into a bed of soft bushes next to the street where he was completely hidden from view.

One night, he hurdled the bushes a little too enthusiastically, completely missing them and landing instead on the hard asphalt right between where Jonathan and I were waiting. Steven whimpered and held his arm while we shushed him so he wouldn’t give away our location. The mom of the household was a nurse and could’ve treated what we later found out was a broken arm, but the thought never crossed our minds.

Sadly, it seems like ring-and-running is a dying art. Doorbell cameras make it almost impossible to spring a proper surprise, and people are too suspicious now anyway. A few years ago, we left some treats on the doorstep of my son’s best friend. We could see they were home, but no one answered.

I sent the kids up to ring the bell a second and third time. Finally, the door flung open and we heard, “Go on, Buster, get ’em,” followed by a big dog bounding out onto the porch. My kids quickly gave up their hiding place and explained what we were doing. Needless to say, our friends were horrified that they’d sicced their dog on a bunch of kids trying to surprise them with cookies.

But so it goes these days. Doorbell cameras, super-cautious neighbors – they may be great for safety and all, but they sure do put a cramp on some serious Christmas fun. If you hear a knock at your door in the next few days, maybe peek out a window before setting the German shepherd loose. You never know what fun might be on the other side.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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