Poking the Chocolates and Trashing the Tree

My mother was an elementary school teacher, now newly retired. And as an elementary teacher she received many, many gifts at Christmas time from her students. It was so much fun every year on the last day of school before the holiday break to sort through all of her loot with her.

She would drag what seemed like countless cardboard boxes into the house and my sister and I would help her dig through the stuff looking for buried treasure. Which, to us, was usually candy.

Every year we could count on at least two items being among the goodies: a box of high-quality chocolates and a glass Christmas tree full of Hershey Kisses. Finding these thrilled my sister and me, as we realized we could comfortably ride a chocolate wave all the way till Santa came.

However, along with the arrival of these treats came some… shall we say… behaviors that drove my parents nuts. The first one being that the box of chocolates, though stocked full of creamy, chewy goodness, was also full of a bunch of weird crap that neither my sister or I cared to ingest.

The fruity ones, nutty ones, coconut ones and bitter ones were all flavors that we’d just as soon gone without… but who the hell could tell what was what just by looking? There was only one way to separate the good from the bad. And that was to poke them. So we did. Or at least I did. I don’t know about my sister as she still—as of this writing—denies ever having done it.

When no one was around I would tiptoe over to “the box” (that usually sat in some communal area of the house) and carefully select a chocolate that looked promising. I dared not bite into it for fear of it being one of the aforementioned nasty-flavored ones. Instead, I took my thumb and poked the bottom of it until its guts began to squish out, indeed revealing what was hidden inside.

If I liked it, I ate it. If not… I returned it to the box and no one was the wiser. At first glance they still looked the same and when someone picked one up only to discover the horror that lay beneath, well… that was a risk I was willing to take. Besides, for all anyone else knew… my sister had done it.

The other “behavior” was not revealed until all of the ornaments were removed from our real, live tree and my father would drag the tired tree through the house to the back door and outside where he would throw it away.

Feeling like a couple of princesses as we lounged around in our new fuzzy pajamas for two weeks eating Hershey Kisses in front of Christmas movies, my sister and I developed this habit of using the tree as our own private trash receptacle. It all began one particular day when we just didn’t feel like getting up to throw our Hershey wrappers away. She looked at me and then looked at the tree and launched the little balls of red and green tinfoil directly into its branches.

Forget that this caused a giggling fit that would last well into the New Year… we thought this was an absolutely brilliant solution to our ever-having-to-get-up-off-the-couch-during-The-Sound-of-Music-again dilemma. Brilliant, that is until my father noticed a trail of tree trash that consisted largely of Kiss wrappers, empty chocolate cups and napkins following him all the way out the back door.

Needless to say, our cover was blown. Until Christmas rolled around again… and one of us took the initiative to say to the other—with a twinkle in our eye and a tinfoil wrapper in our hand… aimed squarely at the tree—“Hey! Watch this!”