One of the most wonderful things about the house I grew up in was the huge, full-sized attic. It's a gracious old Victorian so the attic is a glorious thing, with high rafters allowing you to stand at full height and walk its distance, exploring all the wonderful things that have been left up there throughout the years its been in the family. It was built by my great-grandparents so it has relics dating to the 19th century - one of which ended up at the local Historical Society a couple years ago when we discovered it was a rare spinning wheel made by the Dominy family - craftsmen of local renown. So - its a real treasure trove of stuff and when we were growing up we loved rummaging around in the old trunks and boxes.
I remember very well the time right before Christmas when my sister and I ventured up into the attic to look around. I think we were surprised to find that my mother had hidden Christmas gifts up there, well covered with blankets but not wrapped and easily spotted by children who knew every shape and space by heart. I remember finding a big doll that was destined for my baby sister but I don't actually remember what was there for me. My distinct memory, though, is of the disappointment that came on Christmas morning when I already knew what was waiting for me under the tree.
We didn't get many gifts at Christmas. My mother believed in simple holidays, stressing the religious meaning of each one rather than the commercial one. (That and my father's desire not to spend money on anything made for simple days with only a few gifts.) But they were good gifts and I loved Christmas morning. Except for that one. We had ruined it for ourselves.
It was a lesson I've never forgotten, and since that December many years ago I've never tried to figure out what anyone's getting me for Christmas. I don't snoop and I don't peek because I know that Christmas morning will be so much more fun if I don't have any idea what it will bring. I love surprises and Christmas is one of my favorite opportunities for them...