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By Staff | Dec 22, 2017

“The waiting,” Tom Petty sagely observed, “Is the hardest part.” This sentiment rings especially true when you’re a kid at Christmastime.

Any child worth his or her pocketful of pebbles has perfected the art of gift guessing. This activity often involves substantial stealth and subtle subterfuge.

For instance, a kid may come home from school one day during the Yuletide season to discover that there are some colorful new packages beneath the Christmas tree. One’s first impulse would be to rush in and examine each box using the tried and true investigative method known as “shake, rattle and squeeze.”

But this would likely elicit a reprimand. “No, no, no!” chimes an authoritative voice. “You can’t open anything until Christmas! And no peeking!”

The agony of being denied even a cursory inspection is exquisite. What is an impatient child to do?

One solution might be to create a distraction that will temporarily divert the Sauron-like gaze of the parental eye. Say that a child is dying to inspect a wrapped box that seems to be screaming, “I’m that personal jetpack that you’ve always wanted!” A savvy youngster might create a distraction by pointing out the window and declaring, “Look! It’s Taylor Swift! And she’s having a lightsaber fight with Beyonce!”

The parent will instinctively run out into the street, whipping out their cell phone in the hopes of getting a video that they can sell to E!. The child will thus have several minutes to shake and squeeze Christmas presents.

There is a downside to this, of course. Most kids have developed a finely-honed feel for packages that contain deeply disappointing presents such as socks or underwear or a DVD of the presidential debates. Seldom does the child’s gift radar light up with something that he or she really wants, things like the keys to a new Mercedes or shares of Apple stock.

When our two sons were grade schoolers, they, like many kids, couldn’t wait to see what was in the packages under the Christmas tree. My wife and I had to watch them constantly to keep them from sneaking peeks. I doubt that a security system similar to that of Fort Knox could have kept them away from the pile of presents.

One Christmas morning when the boys were youngsters, we gathered around the tree to open our gifts. Finally! I couldn’t wait to find out what was inside that mysterious package addressed to me, the one that was the same size and weight as that spiffy new impact wrench I had pointed out my wife every time we visited the farm supply store.

As was our tradition, we let the boys open their gifts first. They displayed a marked lack of enthusiasm regarding their presents. My wife and my unbiased opinions were that they were receiving some excellent loot and should have been as happy as puppies in a chew toy warehouse.

My wife quizzed them and they quickly came clean. “We waited until you and Dad were gone and opened our presents and wrapped them back up,” they admitted as they hung their heads. “We’ll never do that again! It took all the fun out of Christmas!”

Patience is a virtue, and I was never a very virtuous child. I lived in constant fear of landing on Santa’s “naughty” list.

The Christmas when I was nine, Santa brought me a 1932 Ford coupe hotrod. Not an actual automobile, obviously. The car came in the form of a model kit that made a joke of the phrase “some assembly required.” We’re talking more assembly than a million-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Undaunted by the sheer scale of the task, I plunged boldly into the build. In my mind’s eye, I could see the Ford tooling slowly past a crowd of onlookers, its engine emitting a lazy “blub, blub.” The driver would suddenly floor it and the engine would bellow with raw, nitro-fueled power. The Ford’s squealing tires would create a cloud of burned rubber the size of a thunderhead.

The assembly instructions proved nearly impossible for an impatient boy to follow. I did my best to wade through such gobbledygook as “attach left-hand induction snaffle housing (part # 30725-D) to the grommet transducer spindle (part # SK51923-W)”. Before long, the model kit was transformed into a conglomeration of glue gobs and random plastic car parts. It looked as though a miniature automobile salvage yard had been hit by a glue bomb.

But one good thing came of the experience: I learned that patience is indeed a trait that one should cultivate. I just wished that there was some way to speed up the process.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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