Sitting here as dawn is breaking in South Florida, waiting for hubby to awake in about an hour or so, all the present wrapping for him done now. A moment like this makes me nostalgic, thinking of other Christmases past, when I woke before daylight as I always do on this day.

First time was in 1953, age 4. I crept from my bedroom through the darkened house, wondering if Santa had come and if there were any presents. I didn't see any.

Then I noticed that the double French doors to a parlor were closed, which they never were. In those days it was used as the television room.

I cautiously opened the doors, and there was -- Christmas. A fully-decorated tree standing in a corner that wasn't there the night before (nor anything in that room being out of the ordinary before I'd gone to bed), the room crammed with unpackaged presents displayed everywhere, on every chair and the floor. It was my parents' custom at that time to unbox and unwrap everything, no gift wrap for us little kids, my sister not yet 2. It was also the days when many toys had to be assembled, so that was a consideration, too.

And around the base of the raised tree was a snowy mountain, with skiers coming down it to a complete village. And encircling that village was a brand-new Lionel train set, the tracks passing through a tunnel at the back of the tree. As a 4-year-old I was totally stunned, it was like magic. And why I still recall it so vividly, that family photos used to document exactly as I remembered. (Those gone now, lost to floods and other mishaps over the years)

Our parents had stayed up all night, hauling the tree in from the garage where it had been hidden, decorating it, bringing down all the toys from the attic and assembling them, creating that village scene and setting up the train set. I would later learn they didn't get to bed until 5 AM, just moments before I woke up. And they continued to do that each Christmas for the next several years.

So now of course I have a tendency to do the same thing myself, creating a Christmas effect secretly during the night before. Doing so reminds me of my youth, and that most amazing Christmas of my life. It also reminds me of my late parents, who loved us very much that they would go to all that personal trouble, disregarding the considerable expense, just to delight my sister & myself. I loved them very much, too, and admired them, and I could do worse than to copy them each year in this way.