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Gift of the Fab

I’m the kooky lady who hides gifts — in pockets, slippers, even in the fridge


I hide gifts.

I’m the kooky lady who has hidden earrings in my mom’s jacket pocket, a photo mug in my bubby’s sweater drawer, a mini chocolate bar in my daughter’s loose-leaf cover pocket, and my pièce de résistance, a bottle of Japanese cherry blossom hand lotion in my sister’s produce drawer.

Wait. Just remembered the time I hid a fridge magnet in the toe of my friend’s slipper. Maybe that was my pièce de résistance.

Nah, the lotion in the drawer, hidden by the leafy celery stalks. That was cuter.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter what was the best hiding place I ever found for a surprise gift. What matters is that I gain much satisfaction from choosing the “perfect for you” trinket for those whom I love. Hiding it, instead of giving it to the recipient, just ups the fun factor.

In my humble opinion, handing a friend a gift and simply saying, “Got this for you, enjoy!” is bor-ring. Hiding it in her glasses case and then watching her shock as it tumbles out onto her lap — that’s way more thrilling.

I’ve been hiding small gifts and notes in my parents’ home for many years now. I don’t visit often enough and when I do, I know they feel bad about me leaving so soon. Rather than leave them bawling for their dear sweet middle daughter, I leave little Post-its around in funny places like in the caddy of Keurig pods or hidden in the third tissue from the top of the box. I especially like to find my mom’s little spiral notepad and flip a few pages forward and leave a “Peshie loves you!” message for her to see in a day or two.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like getting gifts too. No need to put that box of hot chocolate bombs back on the shelf; I’ll accept them gratefully. I just like to give more than I like to get. And I like to give via unconventional methods.

That time I hid the Japanese cherry blossom hand lotion in the produce drawer? That was quite the momentous occasion. First, I had to sneak it into my sister’s home without her seeing it. Then I had to wait until she left the kitchen so I could hide it. Then I had to act dismayed that she was giving me a Chanukah gift and say, “Oh no, I have nothing to give you in return!” with a straight face. Then I had to wait a really long time — six full hours — from when I left her home until she found the lotion. And, frankly, she only found it after six hours because my nephew thought the whole thing was amusing, and he wanted her to just find it already, so he sped things along by requesting a tossed salad.

But the deceit and behind-her-back maneuvers were all worth it when she called me laughing so hard she was gulping for air, to tell me how astounded she was to find the lotion, nice and chilled, in her fridge.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a great big TEE-HEE.

Yup, I’m the hider of gifts. Which is why the following tale, in which my role in life experienced a switcheroo, is so remarkable.

One night I woke up and stumbled half asleep into our master bathroom.

There she was. Sitting bold as brass on the toilet tank. Staring right up at me. With a smug grin on her face.

Like, whoa.

Like, wow.

Like, oh my goodness.

My long-lost friend. My old beloved pal. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she looked just the same.

The same ash blonde hair curled out at the bottom and held back by a ribbon headband. Still the same pale blue eyes and delicate features. My goodness, she still fit into the same blue-and-white-striped knit dress.

Last time I’d seen this little friend was at my grandparents’ apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 35 years ago. I’d changed since then; she hadn’t. In fact, she’d aged far better than I had.

She lived in my grandparents’ apartment, right there in their bathroom. She always greeted us sweetly when we’d come for our visits, smiling with that painted grin on her face.

She sat in regal splendor on their toilet tank, and her full knitted skirt hid a spare roll of toilet paper.

(Background tidbit of info: The ladies of Harrisburg loved to knit. How they loved to knit. Afghan after afghan, mitten after mitten, scarf after scarf. When all the afghans one could possibly need were made and used or gifted, the ladies moved on. They knitted pot holders and they knitted lovely dolly dresses perfect for imitation Barbie dolls to wear and hide extra toilet paper rolls. A bit of style. A bit of kitsch. A bit of fun.)

I loved that doll. She always smelled so clean and good, like bars of ivory soap and Bubby’s Chanel loose body powder.

And here she was in my own bathroom. How had she gotten there? Was it just a similar doll? Had my husband ordered it from me on a secondhand website? But she looked just like the toilet paper doll of my childhood.

For a split second I wondered wildly if my bubby, who had been niftar many years ago, had come for a visit. I could sense her presence. I picked up the doll, adjusted her ribbon headband and smelled her. She still smelled so good.

How had she just appeared?

But wait a minute! My parents had come for a visit. I hadn’t seen my mother go up to the top floor of our home where our bedroom is located, but perhaps she’d come and hidden the doll? My parents were sound asleep in the guest room. I couldn’t disturb them. Solving the mystery would wait.

Meanwhile, I took that doll to bed with me, not caring that it was a strange thing for a woman in her forties to do. I slept well that night.

The next morning when I met my mom in the kitchen, she had a decided twinkle in her eye.

“Did you put a doll with a knitted skirt like Bubby Goldberg had in my bathroom?” I breathlessly asked her.

She nodded, laughing.

“Yup. I found it in the garage. We must have put into storage there when my parents moved from Harrisburg to Brooklyn. I knew you’d appreciate it. When you were busy brushing Pinny’s teeth last night, I snuck it into your bathroom.”

“Oh, Ma. I love it. She smells just like she used to. I love her so much that I took her to bed with me. Thank you, thank you!”

And so it was that my role of hidden giver was usurped by my mom. I was happy to hand over my unofficial crown. She deserved it, after all those hidden notes in her Keurig pods. She’d surprised me and made me so happy. Hiding that doll made my lotion-in-the-produce-drawer scheme yawn-worthy.

Touché, Mommy, and thanks.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 741)

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