One year I asked my Mom to get me a dog for Christmas.
I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but I must have been fairly young. Young enough that the memory of that particular Christmas is the only crisp one I have of that particular time in my life. You know how there are certain memories you have that are so bright and vivid that the minute you think of them you feel like you are there in the moment all over again?
Yeah, this is one of them.
I spent weeks leading up to Christmas bugging my Mother about whether or not she was going to get me a dog, and she never once denied it. She kept saying that I’d have to see what Santa left under the tree. I did whatever I could to pry the information out of her, but she wasn’t budging. She did, however, tell me that a few of my presents had to be kept over at my Grandparents house so that I wouldn’t find them before Christmas. I was convinced that this meant that there was a puppy over there just waiting for me, and I tried to find any excuse I could to get over there to confirm it. I suspect that if I was a little older and more savvy in the ways of getting around the city I’d have walked or ridden my bike over for a surprise visit to Grandma and Grandpa, but that wasn’t happening. At this point in my life I had become the master of finding and secretly opening my Christmas presents well before the day arrived and my Mother wasn’t having any of that, so they remained under lock and key over at the Suermann residence until after I went to bed on Christmas Eve.
When I got up on Christmas morning I scurried out to the tree fully expecting to find my brand new puppy curled up and sleeping amidst the presents. Alas, all that was there was a pile of decidedly non puppy-shaped boxes. I frantically started shaking boxes, convinced that my Mother had somehow decided that putting my new puppy in a box was a good idea and that he was suffocating, but after scattering presents all about the room in desperation I had to conclude that none of them contained a living creature.
I was crushed.
I started sadly opening my presents. I’m sure I perked up at a few of them, but I can honestly say I have no recollection of what any of them were. Until, that is…I opened up a box of dog biscuits.
Dog Biscuits! Why on Earth would Mom be giving me dog biscuits?!?! Unless, that is….
I looked at Mom for some clue. Some hint that my suspicious were correct. Her smile revealed nothing.
I kept opening presents. Faster now. Seeking more confirmation that there really was a puppy in my future.
Another box contained a leash.
A third contained a collar.
This was all the proof I needed! There was a puppy in my future! I was sure of it!
When I finally had opened all of my presents I turned and looked at my Mom. She stood up and announced that there was, indeed, one more present that I was getting and that she was going into the garage to get it.
I was practically vibrating with excitement. I was already cycling through names that I was going to give him. Spot? Rover? Buddy? I decided I should calm down and see him first before I made that decision. Besides, maybe he already HAD a name.
The garage door opened, and as my Mother came through it I could hear her voice ringing through the house…
Why is Mom making barking noises???
Shouldn’t my puppy be doing that??
Mom walked into the living room and in her hands was a fluffy, adorable…
She got me a god damned plush animal.
As the realization of this joke dawned on me my Mom and Sister erupted into tumultuous laughter. This was clearly, to them, the funniest god damned thing that had ever happened in their lives.
Me? I was kinda crushed.
In retrospect I can see the humor of the situation, but at the time it seemed pretty hurtful to me. I know that it wasn’t intended to be, and I am POSITIVE that my Mom made sure to get me lots of awesome presents to compensate for the fact that she played this joke on me, but I have no memory at ALL of what those presents were. All I can remember of that day is the abject disappointment I felt when I realized that I had gotten all excited over nothing.
I kept that dog, though.
Named him Beelzebubba.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I still have him somewhere. As I sit here thinking about it I can’t recall the last time I saw him, so I may have decided it was time for him to move on. In any case, I had him well into my adult life and whenever someone saw him I got to relate the story all over again, usually to the amusement of whoever was listening. He may not have been a real live dog, but he did manage to bring some joy into lives. And, to be honest, a few years after I got him and the pain of that initial shock wore off I would actually smile and chuckle whenever I picked him up.
He was a good joke…and maybe not such a horrible gift after all.