"Just what do you think you're doing? That doll was meant to be your Christmas present." Mom stood in the door, and her eyes shot sparks. It was a couple of days before Christmas. She'd been busy with company, and I'd decided I couldn't wait.
I was caught red-handed standing on a chair pulled up to the closet, but I quickly shoved the doll back into the bag and placed the blankets on the top shelf over her. "Sorry, Mom."
"And you should be. You know I can't afford anything else, and now you know what you're getting for Christmas." She turned and stalked from the room. I climbed down and placed the chair back by the bed. Disappointed, I'd planned to slip the doll back into the closet and not let Mom know I knew what I was getting. I hadn't meant to ruin her surprise. And, it was just like her to get some sort of doll. I should've known without even having to look.
Mom's voice rang from the adjoining room. "Now, it won't be a surprise."
"At least sissy will still have one." It was my turn to stand in the door and eye her "I love her. I'll still be happy on Christmas morning. I can't wait to get her."
Mom glared for a second. "Seems you can't wait for anything." Then, her face softened. "It's just that I wanted our first Christmas without your dad to be special." Dad died when I was only four years old on Christmas Day. It's only been a year. The way I looked at it, this one had to be better no matter what. It couldn't get any worse than the last one, could it?
"Curiosity kills the cat, you know."
"What?" I glanced at Mom, but she laughed. "Forget it."
"I guess it killed the Christmas surprise this year." I hung my head.
Christmas morn I found a stocking with fruit and candy, the rag doll stuck in the top. When I look back upon that morning, I call it my rag-doll Christmas, because that was all I got that year.
It wasn't until I grew up and had children of my own that it dawned on me just how much I'd spoiled the holiday for Mom. She only received a small social-security check once a month after my father's death. As I look back with an adult's eyes, I realize how hard it must have been for my mother who always tried her best to make ends meet and make our Christmas special. But, she had me for a daughter, a curious little tomboy of a girl who always managed to find some way to spoil every surprise she planned. I blame it on my love for mystery, of course, but I now realize how disappointed she had to have been. She wanted to watch her young daughter open her Christmas gift with wide-eyed surprise and wonder. I just never had the knack for being surprised, since I couldn't wait long enough to let anything be one.
Now, I realize I missed a lot of fun that way, and you really do remember surprises more, but that's one rag-doll Christmas I'll never forget. Like memories, good surprises are to be cherished, and they're so much more fun. But the greatest Christmas gift of all is sweet Jesus, and He's one surprise I didn't find too soon.