It was Christmas Eve, and Rusty, Deb and I planned to attend midnight Mass at St. William’s Church in Tewksbury. We would ride with the either the Connollys or the other good Catholic family, the Couillards. Our parents were already in bed for the night. Gifts were under the tree, and stockings, with oranges in the toes, were full and hung from the mantle.

On top of each of our stockings were similarly shaped gifts. We handled them: hard case for whatever was inside, barely a rattle of anything moving around in there from a good-hearted shake; not heavy at all.

Rusty taught Deb and me how to unwrap the gift. Great care had to be used when removing the Scotch tape. Lifting up any of the wrapping paper print with the tape would be a disaster, a sure “tell” of tampering. Tearing of the wrapping paper was another downfall to the wary eye of the parent who had painstakingly wrapped the odd-shaped box. Open-heart surgeons held less focus than we had. We opened one end of the gifts and slid the cases out.

TIMEX on each case!

Mine was a Cinderella watch, complete with a pink pleather strap, yellow gold-plated watch and, there on the face, was Cinderella in her ball gown. Karen, my best friend, would love this. I have no memory of Rusty’s or Deb’s watches.

What to do? What to do?

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You’re correct.

We rewrapped the empty boxes and put them into our hanging stockings.

We slapped those watches on and went to midnight Mass. We showed them off to our friends. We were dazzling, cool and impressive. We were quick to cover our wrists if a parent looked our way.

Afterwards, we crept back into the house. We took our rewrapped packages from the stockings, reopened them for the second time, replaced our wristwatches and, for the last time, rewrapped the gifts. Settling them back on top of our stockings. Wow.

Christmas morning came. We opened all of the big gifts. Mom gathered all of the paper. Dad smashed down all of the boxes. They would make a great fire later on.

The time came for the stockings. Dad handed them out. Deb and I took our cues from Russ. He did the whole shake thing, the weighing it in his hand thing. Holding his up to the light was a new one, but Deb and I followed right along. He was clever, opening the other end of the gift from the one we’d tortured the night before, lest weakened tape give us away.

We each ooh’d and aahh’d over our watch, helping one another getting those new straps to buckle. We raised our wrists so the lights from the tree caught the glass and shiny metal from our watches. Oh yes, we were convincing. We smirked at each other all day long.

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