When I was in the 4th or 5th grade at Hayhurst Elementary School and Jena was in the 7th or 8th grade at Robert Gray Middle School, we decided that we wanted to stuff Mom and Dad’s Christmas stockings.  Santa always seemed to stuff ours, but short changed our parents, maybe only leaving one or two token gifts.  We had known (of course) that Santa didn’t exist and that Mom was the main stocking stuffer, and we wanted them to get stockings full of goodies too.  We called our project “Stocking Stuffers for Parents,” or SSFP, and we told Mom and Dad that Hayhurst and Robert Gray schools had a collaborative project called “Social Studies Foreign Project.”  For this project, an elementary school student was supposed to pair with a middle schooler, and they’d work on the project together.  Jena and I decided to work together on it since we were sisters!  For two or three months before Christmas we would periodically say, “Well, we’re going to work on our SSFP project” and race off to one of our bedrooms to scheme.  Mom and Dad didn’t suspect a thing.

Part of SSFP entailed picking out gifts for Mom and Dad that would fit in the stocking, fill the stocking, leaving room for the requisite piece of fruit at the top.  The other part was devising our plan for delivery without giving ourselves away.  We erroneously believed that Mom and Dad stuffed our stockings at night on Christmas Eve, so our plan was to wait until everyone supposedly went to bed, then sneak out into the big room, hide behind the couch in the dark and wait until M&D came and filled the stockings.  Once they had finished, we would jump up and fill their stockings, and then creep back to bed and go to sleep.  We decided that, since we would be waiting for who knows how long in the dark behind the couch, we needed hand signals in order to communicate with one another.  We wrote up a page full of hand signals, everything from “stay there!” to “come here” to “they’re coming!”  We memorized and practiced the hand signals in the days leading up to Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, after we all went to bed, Jena and I snuck out in the big room and assumed out positions behind the couch.  We quickly realized that creating and practicing hand signals had all been in vain, because it was too dark to be able to see each other.  We lay there silently for what seemed a VERY long time—maybe until 11 or midnight?  No Mom.  All the stockings were still empty.  We realized the folly of our assumption.  She must fill them in the morning!  So we went back to bed and fell asleep.  In the morning, sure enough, our stockings were bursting at the seams, and theirs were hanging limp as usual.  I think we told them some lame, “You guys stay in the TV room for a minute, OK?” before running out to the big room and filling their stockings.  It was a little anti-climatic, but I think they were still surprised we filled their stockings, and of course the most pleasure came from boasting about our SSFP lie: the made up school project that no one had thought to question.