I must have been about ten or eleven because we had moved out of our apartment and into our house. The house had two spare 'bedrooms' that were essentially closet/storage/junk rooms. And in one of them, I hit the motherload in the weeks leading up to Christmas: a huge army-green-colored duffel bag FULL of presents that hadn't been wrapped! Bullseye!! I don't remember everything that was in there, but I was pretty excited and I do remember one gift in particular: a chemistry set. I couldn't wait to get my hands on that thing Christmas morning. I'm not entirely sure WHY I was so excited, but being an only child caused me to be excited by anything that had the potential to alleviate my boredom. Now I'm pretty confident I had some fantastic gifts that Christmas because of several factors: 1) I am an only child; 2) my mother always went completely overboard at Christmas -- and still does, relatively speaking; and 3) I was an only grandchild. My mom's parents lived around the block from us and just as things started to settle at our house, my grandparents would arrive with the next load of loot. My head spins just thinking about it. I was still crazy lonely growing up, but boy did I have a lot of stuff to keep me occupied.
After I had exhausted myself tearing through everything, I realized I hadn't received my chemistry set or any of the other gifts I saw. Where could they be? I couldn't ask my parents or my grandparents because then they'd know I snooped. But you know I was obsessed with the presents I had seen and where they went. Maybe they forgot! How on earth was I going to remind them?
After we managed to emerge from underneath all the gifts and wrapping paper, it was time to dress and head over to my father's parents' house, where'd we'd exchange gifts with my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and my two first cousins -- otherwise known as the sibling rivals I never wanted.
As I watched my cousins open their gifts, I was horrified to discover that they were...all the gifts from the duffel bag! There must be some mistake! Why are they getting my gifts?? And finally there, as my cousin David opened his last gift, was MY chemistry set! And the ugly truth dawned on me -- I had found my cousins' gifts, not mine. And I couldn't share my pain with anyone. Kind of served me right, no?
I do come by it honestly though. When my mother was younger my grandmother took her shopping one day and asked my mother to help her find a gift for my mother's cousin Nancy -- her own unwanted sibling rival. My mother was not particularly fond of Nancy, so in an act of pure selflessness and maturity, she picked out the ugliest slippers she could find for her dear cousin.
Imagine my mother's surprise when she unwrapped the ugly slippers Christmas morning! My grandmother wanted my mother to get something she really liked, so she had her pick out her own gift! That, my friends, is karma.
Maybe that's why my mother always went/goes so overboard. I'm sure she never wanted me to feel that disappointment. But most kids do because they're kids. Fortunately, I'm not a kid anymore and I appreciate my mother and everything she's done for me far more than any material gifts. If she never bought me another thing, it wouldn't matter. I know I'm just lucky to have her. And I'm not just kissing up to her because Santa's watching. Honest. ;)