You know that tingly, burning sensation you feel when a top secret surprise is unraveling long before its supposed to? It's the same feeling I felt as a kid when I knew I was caught in a lie. There must be some kind of chemical released in the brain that shouts, "SCRAMBLE! DO WHAT YOU CAN! THERE'S STILL TIME. KEEP WEAVING FABRICATIONS."
A couple months ago, I found a used surfboard here in Utah for $75. It was a long, foam board--perfect for beginner surfers. I sent my husband up north to check it out. He told me it was in nearly perfect condition so we bought it for Garrett's birthday. Troy wrapped it in a giant blanket and hid it in our garage. Then we bought a van, Troy rearranged the garage, and there wasn't really room for the surfboard. We moved it to our utility closet. My grand plan was to put a big bow on it and have it leaning against the hallway wall when he woke up on his birthday--a mere two and a half weeks away.
Well, shortly after we bought the board, Garrett declared that he wanted one for his birthday. I explained that they are expensive, that we have no where to use one in Utah, and that we really wouldn't want to strap it to the roof every time we drove to California.
"I know!" he shouted. "It can stay at Grandma and Grandpa's house!" Wise beyond his years, that one. I'd already asked my parents if they could possibly store it for us. With that problem out of the way, we focused on the TOO EXPENSIVE. Meanwhile, the board lived happily in our closet where Garrett never (NEVER EVER EVER NEVER!) goes because he's convinced that's where monsters live.
Then, as luck would have it, our A/C went out. We had to pull the board out of the closet so the repairman could work on the A/C and, honestly, it was becoming difficult to find places to store a nine foot surfboard. It was still wrapped up in a blanket so we ended up sticking it alongside our guest bed. We're leaving on a camping trip on Saturday so I have all of our gear piled high in the same room. It just looked like it was something for the trip.
While our A/C was out (for four straight days and nights during record setting heat) we all moved in to the basement. The boys slept on the floor of the office and Troy and I took up residence in the guest room. We kept pillows piled on top of the surfboard and our little grom was none the wiser.
But yesterday the stars collided, the secrets tumbled, the luck ran out. I was putting some of our food together in the basement when Garrett followed me in. I wasn't thinking. It didn't cross my mind that the pillows were all up on the bed now, instead of guarding the prized present. My back was turned.
"Hey mom, what's this?" he asked. I swiveled toward him, expecting him to be holding a tent stake or a can opener, maybe his father's ax. (Although really, my first clue should have been the "what's this?" part of the question because our very own Huckleberry Finn has known for years what ALL of our camping equipment is.) There he was, standing up against the board, with his finger on it.
My brain sent copious amounts of whatever chemical screams, "LIE! LIE! LIE!" straight to my mouth and I started scrambling as calmly as possible. I steadied my voice. I acted nonchalant. Lesser performances have received Oscars, I tell you. But the difference is, they had a better script. I had nothing.
"It's just a board," I fidgeted with some cans of food, acting intensely uninterested. "We put it on the top of the car so that our roof bag has something to sit on. It makes everything more sturdy when we're driving."
It might have worked on the four-year-old. "Well, but, it's shaped like a surfboard. And it feels like a surfboard."
"Buddy, I'm trying to pack up. Leave it alone. It's just a board to put on the roof of the van," I replied, nonchalant like on the outside, dying a slow death on the inside.
"Then let me see it," he said. "Because it goes to a point at the end. Like a surfboard. And down here I think I feel fins. Like a surfboard. So just tell me the truth. You bought me a surfboard for my birthday."
At that point I knew that the damage was done. No amount of redirect was going to fix this situation. I just knew I couldn't "give" him his birthday present without his daddy so I did the only thing I could think to do. I lied some more.
It really is just a board. Blah blah blah. Daddy knows more about it than I do. Blah blah blah. You'll have to wait until he gets home. Blah blah blah.
Well, his father wasn't home more than ten minutes when he suddenly yelled, "Oh! I have to ask daddy what that board is for!" Thankfully, in those ten minutes, Troy had the opportunity to move the board from the guest room to the boys' bedroom.
"Hey daddy?" Garrett yelled from downstairs. "Where are you?"
"I'm in your room," Troy called down. Garrett took the stairs two at a time.
"There's a board down in the basement," he said just outside his closed bedroom door. "What is it--"
He'd thrown the door open and come face to face with his very own surfboard. The very breath was stripped from his lungs as he stared at it.
He hugged it. He ran his hands over it. He grinned from ear to ear. He hugged me. He hugged his dad. He examined it. He declared his undying love. He held it.
He made grand plans for it. Plans that involve getting up at the crack of dawn while we're beach camping so that he can, "catch the best waves before everyone is on the beach." We asked him if he was sad that he'd only be getting a few small presents on his birthday since he found his surfboard. "I'm too happy to be sad!" he replied.
Later, I didn't know where he was. Matthew was playing outside and the house was quiet. I called for him. "I'm in here," came his voice from the bedroom. "I'm just staring at my surfboard."
Last night, as I tucked him in, he propped himself up on his arms. "Wait a few minutes to turn out the light. I just want to look at it a little longer."
I can't think of a present, in the history of nearly seven years, that has been so well received. Even if it was two and a half weeks early.