Why it’s a bad idea to peek at your presents

Thing 1 (the 10-year-old) was wrapping presents last night, and Thing 2 (the 4-year-old) kept trying to peek into the room to see what she’d gotten him.

“You better not do that,” I heard Thing 1 say. “Don’t you remember what happened to Uncle Joe?”

Clockwise from the back: Papaw, Mamaw, Joe and my dad.

Uncle Joe is Dad’s brother. Now, I don’t know whether Uncle Joe tells my cousins this story or whether he even remembers it (or remembers it the same way my dad does), but I grew up hearing about what happened to Uncle Joe, and I’ve told the story to my kids.

The story goes that when they were teenagers, Dad got Joe a watch for Christmas.

Dad will do anything he can to keep you from guessing what you’re getting for Christmas. He’ll take small presents and put them in big boxes — and throw something like a pencil in the box so it’ll rattle around and keep you guessing.

So, a couple days after Dad put Joe’s watch under the tree, he noticed that it been tampered with. Someone had obviously unwrapped it — and done a bad job of wrapping it back. Dad suspected Joe, so he decided to teach Joe a lesson.

Dad returned the watch, bought Joe some socks and underwear, put them in the watch box, wrapped it with the same paper and put it back under the tree.

When Joe unwrapped Dad’s present on Christmas morning, in front of their parents, Joe knew he’d been busted — and, as far as I know, he never got that watch.

One time, I asked Dad, “How do you know it was Joe who unwrapped the present?”

“I just do,” he said.

“Did he ever say anything to you about it?”

“No.”

“How do you know Mamaw or Papaw didn’t open it to make sure you weren’t spending too much or something?” I asked.

“Joe did it,” Dad said.

So there you go. “The Story of Uncle Joe and the Watch,” as we’ve come to call it, was a good lesson for me growing up, and it’s been a good lesson for Things 1 and 2.

They’ll shake their presents and press the paper against the box to see if they can see through it, but they know what could happen if they go so far as to peek — although, sometimes, we still need to remind them.