This story began several years ago when the UPS truck pulled up to the curb at our house and we wondered what Brown was going to do for us. We saw the driver struggle with a huge carton the size of a big-screen TV. He maneuvered it to the front porch and left it leaning against the door. I went outside to look at it.
“Who’s it for?” Mary Ellen asked.
I checked the label and it was addressed to me, but those stickers can be misleading. Some of our credit cards are in my name, some are in Mary Ellen’s, so when a delivery is made, we are not sure who ordered it and who the gift is ultimately for. If the wrong person opens it, well, there goes the surprise meant for Christmas morning.
“It says it’s for me,” I told her, “but I have absolutely no recollection of ordering anything so big. Maybe you ordered it, Mary Ellen.”
My wife thought for a moment, and so began the weirdest conversation in our 40-year marriage.
“Dick, I know what it is. It’s that special item I mentioned two months ago that I wanted for Christmas. You said you found it in a catalog. Don’t you remember? I am so excited! Thank you.”
“I have absolutely no idea what it is. Can you give me a hint?”
“No, I can’t give you a hint. That would ruin the surprise.”
“Ruin the surprise? The gift is for you! It’s supposed to be your surprise. But you already know what it is. I’m the one who doesn’t have a clue.”
“It doesn’t seem right to tell you. That’s not in keeping with the spirit of giving, Dick.”
It was driving me crazy that I had no memory of what I bought her.
“Is it a high-tech item?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said.
“Do you plug it in?”
“Is it artwork?”
“No, not even close. But I don’t want to play anymore. If you guess it, I’ll have nothing to look forward to on Christmas morning. I want to see the expression on your face when I open it.”
Later that morning, when Mary Ellen went out grocery shopping, I opened the box. It was a really neat present. I’ve never been happier with something I bought my wife. Before Mary Ellen got home, I resealed it, then gift-wrapped it and placed it under the tree. Of course, now we both know what is in the package. It will still be a surprise on Christmas morning — as long as we can both keep a secret.