I think I need to take my boys in to get checked.
In the last week before Christmas, when I’d filled up all the good places to hide presents, I just started piling the shipping boxes that were still arriving right in the 8-year-old’s room. They weren’t hidden at all — just stacked at the front of the tiny closet, keeping the door from closing all the way.
As far as I can tell, neither of my sons ever touched the boxes — didn’t even pull back a corner of the one that was already opened for a quick peek. That can’t be normal.
Come to think of it, I don’t know where my head was when I let the little one wake up to that pile of temptation in the first place. May as well get myself checked when I take the boys in.
But I love my son’s simple answer when I asked him why he didn’t snoop, seeing how easy I’d made it.
“I wanted to be surprised, Dad.”
I want to be able to live in the present like that.
I spend too much of my life dreading this or looking forward to that. I don’t know that I’m content enough with what’s going on this instant to ignore the temptation of seeing what’s going to be under the Christmas tree for me in a few days.
I wasn’t when I was 8, that’s for sure.
Even this week, when I’m home with the kids for Christmas break, family time doesn’t have my full attention. Yeah, we’re all having fun with our new games and books, enjoying visits with friends and family, and watching movies, but a good chunk of my mind is usually somewhere else at the same time.
Am I ready for a big presentation that’s coming up at work? Are my Cub Scouts on track for their next badge? How the heck am I going find enough ushers who’ll be awake for early service on New Year’s Day — and why did I sign up to do that in the first place?
The important things nearly always work out. Worrying about it all, as Charlie Papazian tells us in “The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing,” is like paying interest on a debt we might not even owe.
And, as the lesson of the untouched boxes teaches, there’s something to be said for not looking forward to the good things too much, either. Those joys can be savored when they come. For now, savor this moment.
When my folks came to town for a few days this month, we said we’d plan next year’s big family vacation. But around the cooking and the visiting and all the pre-Christmas festivities, we never got past a fuzzy plan to see the Grand Canyon. I was kicking myself a little over the missed opportunity, but looking back now, I’m happy we soaked in all the good of that visit without getting bogged down trying to coordinate days off across at least three families.
Yeah, we need to spend some time making arrangements if those Cubs Scouts will earn any awards and the Espinozas aren’t going to be shouting at each other from opposite rims of the canyon. But the challenge is to give just enough thought to planning and then turn our full attention back to what’s in front of us.
There’s my resolution for 2017: As much as I can, look at the 365 boxes in the calendar as gifts piled before me. If I think one of them is going to start leaking or smelling funny without some attention, sure, I’ll take a peek and make plans to handle it.
Otherwise, I want to be surprised.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.