I let myself into the back door of the kids' house the other night only to have Pooh meet me in the hallway with great excitement.
"Googie!" he said. "We got you a jacket!" It took me just a minute to process this and to supply the missing context.
"Oh," I said. "You mean you guys got me a jacket for Christmas?"
"Yes!" he said. I was catching on fast now, enough so to suspect that Pooh had let a major cat out of a major bag. But he was looking at me with those irresistible blue eyes virtually sparkling with pleasure, and I couldn't help taking the matter further.
"Oh, that makes me so happy!" I told him. But this was my chance to learn more, so I asked, "What color is it?"
"Red!" he answered, pleased with himself for making his Googie so happy. Assuring him that I loved red and that it was my favorite color in the world for a jacket, I whisked him up to eye level for a much-deserved hug.
"Thank you so much! I can't wait to see it," I said, setting him down and making my way on into the house with a chuckle and a smirk. A great moral debate was already taking sides in my head. Should I tell anyone that he had let me in on the secret of my Christmas present?
Most certainly, his mama would not be happy that he had spoiled the surprise, so maybe I shouldn't rat him out. I weighed the pros and cons for an hour or so. Then, when Cookie and I were alone in the living room, I could resist no longer. At the perfect moment, when I had her undivided attention, I went in for the kill.
"I am so excited about my new red jacket," I said very slowly and very deliberately, without ever taking my eyes off her face. I wanted to see the reaction of every facial muscle. I wanted to watch her eyeballs bulge and her jaw drop. Yes, it is true: I have a sadistic streak.
There were three or four seconds of delicious confused silence as she came to a gradual grasp of the situation. I felt a little mean for setting her up like this, but not mean enough to exclude what I have to admit was utter jubilation. I had not experienced this much enjoyment at her expense in a long time. Ultimately we laughed, and another funny, sweet chapter went down in our book of family Christmas stories.
Later, as I was getting ready to leave for home, Cookie gathered up a boxful of wrapped presents for me to take so that they wouldn't have quite so much to bring to my house on Christmas Day. Shoving one particular gift at me, she said, "Here's your red jacket." We laughed again.
And so the red jacket sits under my Christmas tree, tempting me with each new day to unstick just one end of giftwrap and steal the tiniest of peeks. What could it hurt? After all, I already know what it is. What's more, today was quite brisk, and a new jacket would have felt pretty good.
But no--I think I will wait until Pooh is here to watch me unwrap it. I want him to see me try it on for the first time. It is our secret, after all.