One year, when I was quite small, my Dad told me and my brother to look in the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. I wasn’t quite sure what we were looking for, but we eventually found a white piece of paper with our names on hidden in the tree.
Opening it up revealed a clue. A treasure hunt clue! But where and what was it for? I squealed with excitement and ran to put my shoes on, shouting at my brother and Dad to hurry up. That treasure hunt took us on a magical mystery tour upstairs, outside, into my Grandparent’s house next door, and into the big rabbit shed where I remember getting a small white horse keyring (with a fluffy pink mane and tail) as ‘mini’ treasure along the way. As an adult, I now realise this was to keep a small child entertained due to having the attention span of a gnat.
We eventually found ourselves back in the house, in what felt like hours later. In reality I’m guessing it wasn’t that long but was long enough to get us kids out from under my Mum’s feet while she cooked the Christmas Dinner, which I now understand was the purpose of the treasure hunt.
The final clue was leading us to somewhere we’d been before. Surely not? Oh but it was. It was leading us BACK TO THE CHRISTMAS TREE. My brother and I looked at each other, barely containing our excitement. “We’ve emptied underneath the tree, there’s no presents left”. “Oh but LOOK!!” Underneath the tree was one new present that had appeared as if by magic. I can’t remember whether my parents let Santa take the credit for this rather elaborate but magnificent present stunt, but take it from me there were two VERY excited children to get an Amstrad 464 to share that Christmas. My brother used to play games and I used to write stories up until the character limit on the main screen with no way of saving them.
In my head we had a treasure hunt every year, but in reality I think my Dad did it only once or twice. Probably because we got old enough to occupy ourselves in that time between all the presents being opened and Christmas dinner, but also because they’d set the bar with a ‘big’ present at a time when we still didn’t have electricity and lived in a house with bare plaster walls and probably didn’t want to set a precedent.
But that treasure hunt memory stayed with me, as has the horse keyring (currently in a box in a storage container in the UK), and in the years following, I would look in the Christmas tree every Christmas morning, with a tinge of disappointment when I couldn’t find that magic white piece of paper. Even when I moved out of home but returned for Christmas dinner, I’d check.
I think I stopped checking briefly in my twenties, having given up on the notion of the magic piece of paper. Until one year, towards my late twenties, my Dad told me and my brother to “go look in the Christmas tree”. I’m pretty sure my eyes widened and my mouth dropped open. SURELY NOT?
I reverted back to being a child, racing through and finding the white envelope. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. I couldn’t WAIT to get started again, shouting at everyone (for there were partners now to tag along) to get their shoes on so we could get started. I led the way on what was probably the coldest Christmas Day we’d had for a while, trudging everyone around in the mud and the wet. My Dad thought he could just let us get on with it, but oh no way Dad, you had to come around with us too. I think he started to regret doing it again at this point, and soon realised he’d attributed more intelligence to us as grown ups than we actually had and had to help us with all the clues as they were too difficult.
I’m not sure my brother was as ecstatic as I was, but I can’t thank my Dad enough for doing that for us (and repeating it the year after with easier clues). It plays a massive part of wonderful Christmas memories, and anyone that knows me should know that as an adult I have a fondness for treasure hunts, totally born from these first memories.
Every year, wherever I am (and this is 100% true), if I have a tree I still run down on Christmas morning and check for that white bit of paper, even if my Dad is the other side of the world, because maybe, just maybe, magic will happen.