I AM not allowed in the laundry.
Normally this would suit me very well.
There are all kinds of good reasons for not entering a laundry, most of them to do with laundering things.
There have been times when my wife has laid traps with the specific aim of getting me into the laundry and its odious contents, such as brooms and scrubbing brushes, cleaning equipment and — worst of all — washing machines.
Now I’m not allowed in there. Is this some kind of double bluff? I don’t think so. I have worked it out. It’s where she’s hiding my Christmas present. This is good. This is great!
First, it means she’s got me one; and second, it means it’s too big to be hidden by conventional means, like underneath the linen in the chest of drawers.
I like big presents. It’s the kid in me. I remember those Christmases when I fought my three siblings for Santa’s favours, odiously sucking up to my mother by offering to do the washing up, so the biggest present under the tree would be mine, left there by an approving Saint Nick.
A big present is bound to be interesting.
A small one could be socks, or a watch or a book.
But what could a gift-wrapped box be when it’s so big you have to hide it in the laundry? A very large quantity of socks? I don’t think so.
Especially not from my wife. We take our Christmases seriously in our house, in a festive sort of way.
Our gifts are given with a great deal of thought and affection.
She would never give me socks for Christmas. And I’ve been dropping hints about a router and a bench.
Now that’s something you couldn’t hide in a chest of drawers.
What’s more she’s the kind of person who would say things like, “Don’t go in the laundry,” just to heighten that sense of titillation that gives Christmas its unique thrill.
We can keep this up for weeks, each dropping casual comments laced with undertones of tinsel and festive wrapping paper.
Last year I made a point of asking her not to put my clean underwear away, but to leave it on the bed. “Why not? I always do!”
“I just want to do it myself.”
“What’s in there you don’t want me to see?”
There’s a special way of saying “nothing” when you mean “something”.
You have to include just a hint of a wry smile and a mischievous gleam in the eye that you fully intend them to notice, but they think they caught by accident.
It’s even more delicious than Christmas morning when, somehow, she’ll have managed to wrestle a box — big enough to hold a router and bench — from the laundry to the tree without me seeing.
It’s important to her that I don’t see. She’ll even get up again in the middle of the night to avoid me seeing.
All these things, these small attentions to the little details that go into the building of a wonderful Christmas, are among the reasons I love her.
But you have to play your part, too. That’s why I walked up behind her in the kitchen, put my arms round her, kissed the nape of her neck, and said, “So why can’t I go in the laundry?” "Because," she said, with a mischievous gleam that I wasn’t supposed to see but caught accidentally, "I’ve just washed the floor."