I must admit I haven't worked very hard this week. Well, you have to go out in the snow, don't you? (I found this sausage dog!) And then there's lots of catching up to do with blogs and such. I didn't even manage to do that thoroughly, as I spent far too much time browsing through photos of wonderful vintage stuff on Flickr. When I saw a beautiful old box of 1950s Christmas crackers, I wondered if the owner had looked at the toys inside. It suddenly came back to me how I used to do that as a child.
I used to enjoy laying the table for Christmas dinner, because we had serviettes (they're always called paper napkins nowadays, aren't they?) and crackers. As an aside, I remember a period when I used to fold the serviettes into waterlilies - where on earth did I pick that up from? Anyway, at some point I discovered that I could ease open a cracker to check what was inside. The crepe paper and its foil overlay could be pushed back afterwards to hold it closed and no-one was any the wiser. With this new, god-like power, I could decide who got which toy! I could laugh in the face of the Cracker Fates, who might give me a racing car; I was going to get a fortune-telling fish, or a tangram puzzle at the very least. Everyone else got whatever I deemed appropriate. Or in the case of my brothers, what I thought they deserved. As it was Christmas, I would probably have had a fight with one of them before lunchtime, and he could be punished by giving him the cracker with the pouting red plastic lips.
Apart from feeling slightly embarrassed by my childish vindictiveness (well, kids are horrible, aren't they?), it made me wonder why I never regretted 'spoiling the surprise'. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that I don't really like surprises very much. Maybe this is borne out by another childhood tradition - searching for Christmas presents. My brothers and I soon learnt my mum's hiding places (bottom of the wardrobe, back of the pantry), and would poke about for toys in the weeks before Christmas.
Of course, there are nice surprises. I had some lovely surprises from Mr Kitsch at Christmas, including the kitschy china animals above and the Moomin things at the bottom of this post. And a special surprise as Mr Kitsch had a go at embroidery, and created this wonderful picture of Moomintroll. I was staggered by how good his stitching is for a first attempt!!
I'm glad to say Mr Kitsch knows me well enough to get the right presents. He also knows me well enough to never spring a large surprise on me. A surprise holiday? It would freak me out. No time to plan or pack and no say over where to stay. I'd much rather plan a holiday together. A surprise party? Why? Does the surprise increase the fun? Probably only for the planners. A friend of mine was on the receiving end of a surprise party planned by her husband. She came home to find all the guests lying in wait in her living room. After the initial shock, all she could think about was "Did I clean the toilet?". The rest of the time she was worrying about not having tidied up.
Many years ago, Mr Kitsch planned a romantic surprise for me. We'd been living together for a few years and he decided a surprise 'date' would be exciting . He left me a postcard at home with instructions on when and where to meet. When I got home, I was tired and just wanted to put my feet up, and not in the right mood to discover a message on a mysterious postcard. I was also less than enthusiastic about catching a bus back into town. Obviously, I couldn't stand him up, but I felt a bit resentful at having to go out, and I felt really guilty about feeling so negative about his romantic gesture. So, by the time I arrived at our rendezvous, I was thoroughly grumpy and miserable. I think I burst into tears. Needless to say, he never tried anything like that again, poor man.
So yes, I've come to the conclusion that big surprises are not all they're cracked up to be. An unrequested gesture of love is a lovely thing - buying or making a present, suggesting a weekend away, making a meal or even a cup of tea, but the surprise is not the point. I'd rather have a meeting than an ambush.