The Christmas Mission.

We stared up at the trapdoor in the ceiling.

"No way," The Snitch said. "We need a ladder. No way I'm letting you boost me up."

"Come on," I replied, from atop the chair. "Don't be a butthead. I won't drop you."

"Uh uh. Go get Houdini if you want to, but I'm not climbing up on your shoulders."

"He'll do it -- you know why? Because he's not a chicken," I said. "But you're still helping us. You can hold the chair steady or something."

"What do you need me for?" he asked, his suspicion evident.

"If you help, then you can't tell on us," I said. He knew it was true, and reluctantly agreed.

I went to find Houdini. Time was running out.

I found him downstairs watching The Flintstones on TV. "Hey, mom and dad are out and I'm gonna stand on a chair and then you have to stand on my shoulders and look around in the attic," I said.

"K," he said, not looking away from the TV. "It's almost over, I'll be there in a second."

He didn't even ask why, he just agreed to it. That's what I liked about Houdini -- he was always up for anything regardless of the consequences. I left and went back upstairs to the hallway, where The Snitch was standing with his flashlight in hand. "I got this," he said, holding it up.

"Cool," I said, dragging the chair a little to the left so it was directly under the trap door. I climbed up on the chair again and yelled, "HOUDINI! COME ON!"

He pounded up the stairs and stopped when he saw me standing on the chair. "What's in the attic?" he asked.

"Our Christmas presents," I said. "We already checked mom and dad's closet, and there was nothing in there. This is the only other place they could be. "

"K. Boost me," he said, taking the flashlight from The Snitch and shoving it in his pocket.

"Climb up on the chair," I said, turning and holding on to the chair back. "Then get on my shoulders, and we'll see if you can reach the door."

Two seconds later, he was sitting on my shoulders and I was standing up on the chair. I was trying to look up, but it was difficult with him on my back. "Can you reach it?" I asked.

"Yeah, just barely," he said.

"Push the trap door open then grab on to the edge," I said, knowing that the "door" was really just a piece of plywood lying loose in a frame. "If you can get a good grip on the edge, pull yourself up and stand on my shoulders."

He did it easily, and before I knew it, he was standing on my shoulders with me holding his legs, his head and the top third of his body sticking into the attic. The Snitch was holding me steady on the chair.

"See anything?" I asked, wincing under the weight of Houdini's sneakers, which were starting to smash permanent converse all-star imprints on the tops of both my shoulders.

"Let me turn on the flashlight," he said, pulling it out of his pocket. A pause. Then, "Nope."

"That's impossible," I said. "Look in the back."

"I think I can pull myself up," he said, and before I could tell him not to, he pulled his entire body up into the attic and disappeared.

"How's he gonna get down?," the Snitch asked, voicing exactly what I was thinking.

"He'll have to hang down and then I'll get under him again," I said confidently, having no idea.

"Anything?" I yelled up through the dark hole.

Houdini poked his head down and said, "Nope. Nothing."

"Crap. OK, come down," I said. "Drop you legs down through and get back on my shoulders. Then drag the door over."

He dropped through the hole like a spider monkey out of a tree, and I barely got under him in time. He was facing the wrong way, hanging on the edge of the attic door frame, but at least he was standing on my shoulders. He moved the door most of the way over the hole, then without warning slammed down so he was sitting on my shoulders backward, giving me a face full of Houdini crotch.

"Jeez! Get the door closed, will ya?" I yelled, barely keeping my balance as I tried to avert my face. If it hadn't been for the Snitch steadying my legs I think we both would have been on the floor in a pile.

"Where else can we look?" I asked, not thinking I'd actually get an answer.

"What about the crawlspace in Dad's office?" Houdini asked. I had forgotten all about that.

"Let's go!" I said. We put the chair back and ran downstairs.

Getting into the crawlspace was more complicated than it sounds, because it wasn't just a simple crawlspace. It had a door that had a desk in front of it. The left side of the desk was supported by a chain, and operated like the flip up section of a bar that allows the waitresses and bartenders to get behind it. This section of desk blocked the crawlspace door. We couldn't just move all the crap on the desk and flip it up to open the door, because it would be obvious someone had been in there. We had to keep track of where everything was so my father didn't know we were snooping around.

I grabbed a pencil and pad, making a mental note of its original location. While The Snitch and Houdini waited, I sketched the desktop and the placement of everything on it. The stapler, the hole punch, the stacks of papers, the telephone -- all documented. When that was done, we moved it all and swung the desk up, which allowed us access to the crawlspace door. I motioned for Houdini to make like a good soldier and take a peek while I held up the desk.

He crawled in with the flashlight and I heard him say, "WOW!"

"What?" I said, "Did you find something?"

"Yeah," he replied. "Tons of stuff. But it's all wrapped."

I was afraid of this. "OK," I said. "Don't touch anything. Just look. Do you see anything on the wrapping paper? Initials or anything?" My mother would always put our first initial in some inconspicuous spot so she knew who was supposed to get what on Christmas morning.

"Yeah. I see one that has a K on it. Can I pull it out?"

"No, we have to keep track of where everything is. If the pile gets messed up, Mom will know. Just take the easy ones off the top. If that one's on top, hand it out."

I turned to The Snitch. "Go into my room and pull out the bottom drawer of my dresser," I said. "Pull it all the way out, then lift up the bottom and bring me the box underneath."

He took off to get it and I managed to get the desk section to stay up by itself so I could grab the presents that Houdini kept handing out the door. "OK, that's enough," I said when there was no more room to stack. "C'mon out."

He backed out of the hole and sat up. A moment later The Snitch came into the office with a skinny cigar box.

In the box was The Kit.

The Kit consisted of: A single-edged razor blade, about 4 different types of tape -- gloss, matte finish, skinny, wide -- even a small roll of masking tape, because sometimes my mother ran out. The kit was used once a year to open, examine and then re-wrap Christmas presents.

We carefully examined the presents one by one, deciding which side to cut. It had to be the side where the paper was loosest, otherwise you ran the risk of tearing it when you tried to re-wrap. If you did it right, you could cut the tape, carefully open the flap, look to see what the gift was, then tape it closed again. I fancied myself quite the Christmas present surgeon.

We opened almost all our presents, except for the ones we deemed too hard to re-wrap, taking care to re-tape using the same type and width my mother had initially used. Unless you looked with a magnifying glass, you wouldn't know they had been tampered with. As Houdini was backing out of the hole after putting the gifts back in their places, he jostled something and the desk section came smashing down on his back and head.

"Ow." he said. That was it. A 4 foot long, 30-inch wide hunk of 3/4 inch plywood had just bounced off his melon, and all he said was "Ow." The kid was indestructible.

We got the desk fastened back in place like it was supposed to be, and referenced our drawing to make sure everything was back where it belonged. Lastly, the pencil and pad went back to their original locations.

There was only one more thing to take care of.

"Let me see your surprised look," I said to The Snitch. If anyone was going to crack under the pressure it was going to be him. "Christmas morning when you open that radio you always wanted, what are you going to do?"

He said, "WOW! A radio! Just what I wanted!" and his face lit up. Not bad. A little cheesy. Not Oscar worthy, but not bad. I turned to Houdini.

"That G.I. JOE in there," I said. "Pretend you just opened it up. Act surprised."

He gave a performance that would have made Jimmy Stewart proud. In fact, I think an angel may have lost its wings that day.

I'd like to tell you my parents never caught on to our little mission, but to this day, I'm not really sure. Maybe The Snitch let something slip, or maybe we weren't as careful as we thought we were, but the following year all our presents from my mother and father were stored at the neighbors house until Christmas morning. Maybe it was just my mother's intuition -- I don't know. We never got in trouble for it, so I prefer to think of it a Christmas Miracle.

So anyway, Merry Christmas everyone, since this is probably my last post for the year unless something crazy happens. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, enjoy your time with your family and have a great holiday season. And here's a tip: Watch your kids closely when they open their gifts on Christmas morning. If they hold that smile a little too long, or glance at each other for no apparent reason -- start looking around for the razor blades and tape.



  1. Anonymous12:45 AM

    I have a son and already, i can see him following in your deviant footsteps. It is impossible to hide anything from him; especially if it is edible or can be played with. And he is not yet even 2 years old.

    Merry Christmas JV. Be blessed.

  2. Anonymous1:03 AM

    Wow, sometimes you really make me wish I had siblings.
    But then I remember how I got all the gifts and never had to share money or toys or anything and it goes away.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Anonymous2:39 AM

    merry christmas alla my prezzys r at my uncles

  4. You had a "Christmas kit" too?
    Here I was all the time thinking I was the original Christmas sneak.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed this story of Christmas, and presents and sneakiness and siblings and oh yes, yoot.

    Happy, happy to you and yours!

  6. My mom's favourite refrain was "I am not as dumb as you wish I was," hence, my brother and I were usually too scared to pull stunts like raiding the gift cache.

    One year I took a chance--the fact that they were unwrapped and "hidden" behind some sweaters in my parents' closet shows just how strongly my mother believed in our fear of getting in trouble...

    Christmas morning, all went as planned (we pulled believable "surprise faces" and everything)...but I hadn't counted on some of those gifts being for my brother's birthday a couple weeks after Christmas. When he didn't receive everything as per my report, he asked "where's the GI Joes' truck?"

    Needless to say, the snooping was pinned on me, and I had all my presents taken away until January 1st.

  7. That was a great story, JV. And you know what? I've already caught my 5 year old son AND MY HUSBAND snooping in the presents, at different times of course. After my son snooped, I moved everything. He went back to the original spot to look again, started crying and said all the presents were gone. So I told him that since he was nosey, I gave all the presents to other kids who didn't have any toys. He would have to wait and see if Santa thought he deserved anything for Christmas. OMG he bawled and bawled. That was mean of me, right??
    Merry Christmas to you JV

  8. An excellent story, those deceptive little miscreants! I'm getting a lockbox for my future children. Merry Christmas!

  9. Merry Christmas, JV! Hope you have a good one.

    Once again, you have entertained me more than most movies today with this post. Thank you for that.

  10. Anonymous9:51 AM

    JV great story as usual.
    Have a Merry Christmas and Peace to you also, you little sneak.

  11. I love your family posts, JV. I was hoping you'd come up with a great Christmas story about you and your brothers, and you didn't disappoint.
    You guys remind me of my twin brother and I back in the day!

  12. I never snooped as I love to be surprised, but this story was great!

  13. Anonymous10:32 AM

    What a great memory!

    I've been picking through (OK, actually devouring) your archives, and I'm wondering - what will the pooping Santa friends come up with this year?

  14. Anonymous11:20 AM

    so as everyone always says another amazing post, i have to say that i never quite pulled off the christmas sneak peek but I didnt have as a good a team as you, my sister was like a wussier less cooperative snitch, and even if i had nothing to do with her getting in trouble, Merry Christmas to you sir i know that with post like these we all will have a christmasjust a little bit merrier (sp?)

    ps if you get a chance and havent been deffinatley checkout the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

  15. Aw, Merry Christmas to you and yours, JV!

    My kids know exactly where I hide the presents. And they know exactly what'll happen if they go poking around in there. Mwahahaha!

  16. Great story, Johnny. As kids, we certainly did out share of snooping around, but nothing compared to your level of subterfuge; the Macgyver of Christmas Past.

  17. Merry Christmas! Just stumbled across your blog over at humor-blogs.com and i'm glad I did. Keeping me entertained while I hide from the family! I would love if you would check mine out as well when you get a chance

  18. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Damn, you are good JV! I was almost always too scared to actually snoop for the presents...

    One year (I think I was about 5-6), I knew something was "up" with regards to a present for me (father hiding out in workshop, mom hiding out in sewing room, much whispering), so I conned my little brother in to telling me what was going on. It turns out my dad was making me bunk-beds for my dolls, and my mom was making matching bedding.

    My little brother felt guilty about telling me and squealed to the parents, who were very disappointed in me (disapproving looks and the like)...

    I felt really bad afterwards, and it was almost disappointing for me to already know what I was getting before I opened my gifts on Christmas morning, so I never had the inclination to "snoop" again.

    Yeah, they got to me early with the guilt... works on deterring children from doing a lot of things you don't want them to...

  19. I've been playing catch up on all your posts since the JC Penny pass along and my favorites are your stories of your brothers.

    When I read about Snitch and Houdini I'm hearing the narrator from A Christmas Story. You rock. Merry Christmas JV. You always entertain.

  20. Anonymous2:28 PM

    Great story! =)

    I am one of those readers who found your blog through the JCPenny catalog post; got the link through a mass email from a friend. I've been reading ever since but never commented. That JCP post still makes me laugh even now! Just would like to take this time to wish you and your family a happy holiday!

  21. Hey, JV! You guys were devious little buggers! The bravest I got was searching for my mom's list. As there were 4 of us, she used to write down what she'd gotten us, mostly so she didn't mix up my brothers' presents. Happy Christmas and New Year to you and yours! :)

  22. Merry Christmas, Johnny!

  23. How come you got such fun siblings, and I got the demon seeds from hell? Why?

    As always, I loved the story, JV!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

  24. My kids are still pretty innocent - or totally incurious. They seem not to realize the present pileup in my closet that starts in Oct and continues until Christmas.

    When they do start to peek, I probably won't try too hard to thwart them. Ruining their own surprise is its own punishment. Ask me how I know ;) I didn't have a kit, but my mom put the presents out under the tree as she wrapped. It was too easy to unwrap / rewrap things while she was at work. I don't do that sort of stuff anymore. Nope. Not me.

    Merry Christmas!

  25. I work for a moving company and in all the surveys I did before Christmas I got to survey about a dozen 'stashes' of presents! Its a great job for the voyeur in you.

  26. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Does the child looking for the stash of presents reliably happen on the Christmas after they've stopped believing in Santa Claus? Or can they still believe in Santa Claus but still want to find the stash of presents that are from mom and dad? And if they find that stash and then end up getting from Santa Claus exactly what they had earlier found in the stash, wouldn't that then destroy any remaining belief in Santa Claus? My oldest is only 6 so it hasn't become an issue yet, but I would imagine that the two events coincide fairly closely. I would imagine that second and third-born children stop believing in Santa a lot earlier than their oldest sibling because of these exact kinds of escapades. How does that make you feel, you monster?!

  27. EB -- No, Houdini still believed. The Snitch may have, but I can't remember. Santa's presents were always stored somewhere off-site, and my father would get them after work while we were all at grandma's house on Christmas eve before he headed over.

    Then he would put them -- unwrapped -- under the tree after we went to bed. I would say we probably believed in Santa longer than our friends did, since my father went to great lengths to keep the myth alive. He would even put reindeer hoof prints on the roof.

  28. Anonymous7:06 PM


  29. Well, at least y'all were in cahoots. I hated it when "the snoop" screwed up my Christmas' by unloading the secrets on me. I like some surprises.

  30. Johnny, belated Merry Christmas to you! I'm curious... how did your dad make reindeer hoof prints on your roof?

    I snooped in my Christmas presents one time and one time only. I was six and found one of those huuuge Hershey's milk chocolate candy bars that Mom had bought for my grandpa. It was a tiny chocoholic's dream, lemme tell you. I ate that entire thing while sitting in Mom's closet on the floor. Then I broke out in hives all over my body including my scalp! I was miserable and it took roughly 3 seconds for the folks to figure out what made me so sick. I still adore chocolate but only in moderation after that incident.

    Thanks for sharing your great story... you should've gone to work for the FBI or CIA!

  31. What a great story! My sister and I were too scared to sneak. But one christmas morning, while my parents were still eating breakfast, we were allowed to go see what was in our stockings. Well, we got bored with the stockings pretty quickly, and decided to each open one small gift. Right after we opened them, my Dad came walking in the family room, and we had to throw them under the couch. We never got caught, but we never did it again, either!

    Hope you had a merry Christmas!

  32. I'm impressed with "the kit" but I knew I wasn't alone in my Christmas present opening/rewrapping expertise. It was like a game every year to discover my presents.

    Sadly, I'm in my 30's and I still do it with the gifts from my husband. He hates it! I love it! It's like an evil game.

    hee hee!

  33. Hee! I didn't have a kit but I was laughing over the description of the wrapping paper and which was the best spot for unwrapping. My mom got wise to me and became tape happy. I think she once used an entire roll of tape on one present. Thanks for the memories!

  34. too funny... as usual! Great post! Hope you had a Merry Christmas (with no peaking!)... I can only remember peaking one time... and it was not gifts from our parents, but gifts from our oldest sister - which always proved to be the coolest gifts anyway!? So - we crawled under her couch in her bedroom and found two wrapped boxes... both the same - one for each of us! We went through a much less involved ritual of carefully unwrapping the boxes to discover two Barbie's... (SawEET!) We wrapped the boxes back up, tip-toed off to our room and practiced that surprised look of joy! It was all going according to plan until I unwrapped my box (before my sister unwrapped hers) and I cried out, "OH - I wanted the BLONDE one!!!?" Yeah... good times, good times!

  35. JV - you're awesome. LOVE the stories!

  36. Hey, JV, came back to read comments since nothing is new. OMG, I got all warm and fuzzy when I read how much trouble your dad went to for the Santa thing. That is very sweet. He must be a great dad.

  37. Brilliant story, thank you for telling it, it brought back many memories of me and my brother doing a similar thing.

    And we still sit and talk and laugh about the times that we "ate the back" out of our easter eggs in the run-up to easter - and then the year when our posh aunt came around and my mother had forgotten to buy her daughter an easter egg so she gave her one of mine - one with the back already eaten out of...

    ...I'll save that story for easter then.

  38. I always took the peeking as a solo mission. I had no kit, but managed a stealth operation of present opening nonetheless. I had heard MANY stories of my older sister being caught years before my time wearing her Christmas gift. I took the warning to heart. I was never caught. Bwahahahaha....

    Hope you had a merry.

  39. Damn.

    I had forgotten.

    And now I know why my daughter wasn't quite as surprised as I thought she would have been this year. I put it down to having caught on about Santa.

    Now I think something more sinister.


  40. What little devious imps you and your brothers were. Are you sure you weren't the model for "A Christmas Story?"

  41. I love ur blog it cracks me the hell up man!!! I think the Christmas snooping is a part of our DNA my brother and I did the same shit. Snooping for presents sometimes leads to greater finds, like your parents extensive collection of porn on Betamax, or Hustlers......What kind of sick shit was going on at my house? Happy Holidays!!!

  42. FUNNY! My brother and I did some snooping one year, and told each other one thing...unfortunately it was the biggest present that we each got (a car stereo and skis) and we were kinda disappointed that we'd told. We never did it again! My oldest is 11, and I feel pretty happy that he at least fakes it if he doesn't believe. This is way longer than I ever thought he'd keep going! I do have to be sneaky though, and wrap the santa stuff in different paper, because he's questioned it. I think next year I'm gonna hide everything in our camping trailer and lock the door!

  43. BaseballMom, 11?? Wow. I found out the truth really late and I can tell you that you probably aren't doing your kid any favors at this point. He's probably already getting made fun of by his classmates for his stalwart beliefs.

  44. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Ah... I used a straight pin to slice through the tape. Got busted too, because I left the tape dispenser under the bed. Knowing what I was getting made Christmas morning a big disappointment and I never tried it again.

  45. Amazingly enough, we never searched for our presents. My little sister did one year at the urging of the neighbor kids and she never did it again because it took away the fun of being surprised. To this day I prefer to be surprised with my Christmas presents to the point where I won't let Mom buy me something if I'm standing there because even if it's June, I'll remember and some joy leaves Christmas.

  46. i don't even know you but i've been sucked into your fantastic blog a few months ago, and whenever i think of it i drop in to see what crazy funny stories you've written. this one was great. you've definitely been blessed with an amazing ability and talent to write. so thanks from a complete stranger for the "i'm bored at work, i wonder what that guy on that blog has been writing about lately" entertainment... and if you don't mind i think i'll post a link to your site on my own blog. not only for my own convenience, but i also feel compelled to share the laughs and entertainment with my friends. cheers!

  47. Great Story Man!! I agree, you three sound like the proto type for "Christmas Story"!
    I don't know when I stopped believing in Santa but it was early. I was a night owl and I vaguely remember catching my mom and dad wrapping, assembling and placing presents under the tree. I do remember one year, my brother (who was almost 3 years younger then me), making a comment about Santa being real and me looking at him in amazement that he still believed in that baby shit. He must have been like 5 or 6, so I was around 8 or 9. I remember saying "There is no Santa, mom and dad are Santa!" With the "you idiot" tone of voice that only the oldest, know it all, sibling can achieve, while my mom tried frantically to get me to shut the fuck up! He got so upset and cried so hard he had hiccups. I felt like a complete ass. My mom and dad spent the next hour taking turns trying to convince him that there was a Santa and convince me that they would throttle the living shit out of me if I said otherwise. I felt so bad I spent the rest of the day getting him to believe that the "real" Santa left our presents at Nanny's house, where we always went on Xmas day, and that was why the presents we got on Xmas eve where not from Santa. It took some fast talking and it helped that all the books say that Santa's presents show up under the tree on Xmas morn. It still tugs at my heart when I think about the look of relief on his little face when we got to our Nanny's house and saw the presents from Santa under the tree. I didn't even complain that he got more then me!
    I also got to spend the next couple of years threatening to kick the shit out of all the kids on our block if they said anything to him about Santa! LOL!
    Good Times!