Trina Machacek: Christmas surprises and me

Trina Machacek

Trina Machacek

It’s December. Christmas is sneaking around. Gifts are bought and hidden. Gifts are joyfully wrapped, placed under trees like doggie treats that are not to be sniffed at, shook, or chewed on.

Those whose names are written on little name cards taped to the secrets inside are told, “Don’t touch!” Oh, the surprises of Christmas. But! Yes, a jingle belled “but.” Here’s my story about Christmas surprises and what I learned one Christmas long ago.

As kids my brother, sister and I were quite a handful more than once, I am sure. No less in summer as we zipped around the neighborhood at full throttle but at Christmas we tested the waters of kid-dom. A lot. I was lucky to land in a family that celebrated all things Christmas.

We of course knew of the reason for the season but in reality, we were kids, and it was all about the presents most of the time. Oh, the puppy dog eyes and bemoaning of, “Can’t we open just ONE present?” was said over and over again. To no avail I am happy to say. Because I love surprises.

I was probably about 8 when this happened. I think my family knew, without really saying, that this would be the last wahoo, Santa magical Christmas. I probably knew “the secret” of Santa but I liked the feeling and still went with it. My parents did the magic of Christmas as we opened our gifts very early Christmas mornings.

We kids’ eyes popped open around 4 a.m. and we jumped on parents who I am sure had not been to bed very long. They always had the tree lit and where there had been like 10 presents when we finally went to bed on Christmas Eve, on Christmas morning gifts had exploded in the living room and it was amazing every year.

Then this happened teaching me a lesson I carry with me to this day. Me 8, brother 9 and sister 13. My sister was so grown up, wore makeup and everything. That’s important because that is where the mirror came from for this story.

It was a week or so before Christmas and it became necessary to herd the kids into a bedroom as my parents got tired of too much hide the presents and decided to stuff us away while they brought Christmas into the house for at least some secrecy. So, into a bedroom we were diverted. Surprises were heard being crinkled and giggled at as my parents’ brought treasures into the house. Then my sister had the idea of spying. She took one of her little make-up mirrors and slid it under the door and watched the show in the hallway. Oh, we thought that was the coolest idea.

She reported bags, clothes, and boxes she couldn’t really identify but reported on each thing she saw. On one trip I think my dad saw a reflection and he burst into the door just as my sister scooted away. In his most dad voice he boomed, “You three kids get up there and sit on the bed.” We were not to move a muscle. I can just imagine the six wide-open eyes he must have seen.

Of course, as soon as he left the room my sister was back at the door with her spy glass. The next thing that came down the hall was a doll. For me. She was, as reported by my sister spy, three feet tall, wearing a red jumper and had on black shiny Mary Jane shoes. Oh, my stars I was beside myself waiting to meet her. Secrecy was sworn and kept of all the things seen under that door.

Christmas Eve. Again, the lamenting of three children, “Pleeeeese can’t we open just one?” was met with the ever famous, “No.” Excited I went to bed with dreams of that doll dancing in my head. Parental magic happened as we slept and soon 4 a.m. and the promise of Christmas was there for us to see. Lights, music, total Christmas. It was magical. Except… I saw the doll standing next to the tree and I loved her yes. As young as I was though I was deflated by not having the total surprise of seeing her there in all the enchantment of Christmas. I already knew she was there. I will never forget the letdown of not being surprised.

I can honestly say to this day I love the giddiness of surprise. I always joke and play of wanting to know what’s under the tree or what’s coming for birthdays, I am a girl after all. But my heart will always want that surprise. Always. Merry Magical Christmas to you and yours.

Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her books are available online wherever you buy books or email her at to buy signed copies.


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