Sunday, December 25, 2011
Ghosts of Presents Past
Honestly, I don't remember the euphoria of getting that ONE thing I had begged Santa for. I don't even remember what those things were. I DO remember that when the Christmas Wish Book would arrive from Sears, and Wards and JC Penney, it was a happy day of dreaming and making lists. Flip straight to the toy section and start writing down the item, the catalog number, the price etc, in neat columns.
I remember the feeling of utter despair when I would hand my "Christmas list" to my mom and she would say something like, "Now, pick out one or two things from that list". I felt like throwing a tantrum and cancelling Christmas. HOW could I ever narrow my beloved list of wants down to one or two items? Honestly, I don't even recall getting any of those catalog items. And yet, when Christmas morning came, there were gifts, and with the attention span of a gnat, I was distracted like a raccoon by other shiny objects, my lists quickly forgotten.
Here are a few of the noteworthy gifts I've received that popped into my 50 year old head this morning:
I got a used, beat up bike the year I was in Kindergarten or 1st grade. I thought it truly ugly and I was really sad about it. *I* wanted a new, store-bought, never been used by 1,000 other kids (especially NOT my sisters) bike. But we didn't have any money. My dad was still in college, with a stay at home wife and 4 kids. I think my dad may have seen the utter disappointment in my eyes as I tried not to cry knowing after all...it was a BIKE. He said we would go to the store and pick out any color of spray paint I wanted and he would paint it for me. I chose a deep purple with sparkles.
When I was about 8, I got a new, store-bought, never been used by 1,000 other kids (especially NOT my sisters) bike. It was a pinkish purple, with a white banana seat with 60's style purple and pink flowers on it. It had colored streamers coming out of the ape-hanger style handle bars and it has a white wicker (OK, maybe plastic) basket on the front with artificial flowers woven in the basket. It was awesome. I loved that bike.
And who in my era doesn't remember getting the original Slinky? I was sad that we didn't have any stairs. Somehow, they always ended up in the bottom of the toy box with other toys tangled to it, bent and sprung, never to slink quite the same.
And the ever famous Silly Putty. It had a specific smell and taste. Don't ask me how I know. You could press it to the colored comics and then stretch the image to distort it. You can still find this stuff in dollar stores. I know.
One year we got one of the very first hand held blow dryers. It had almost no power and there were 4 of us with very long hair so we had to take turns. But it was revolutionary. It was orange.
My great grandmother would send us a giant box of oranges (or the money for it and our parents bought them, I'm not sure which). I thought that was the weirdest, dumbest, most boring Christmas present EVER. My mother later explained that when my great grandmother (and even grandparents) were growing up, if you didn't live in Florida, citrus fruit was rare, expensive and dear. It could not be transported like today. So to her, she was giving us something very precious indeed. I wish my parents had explained that to me then.
penny loafers (so called because you could put a penny in the slit...why? no idea) or saddle shoes would. Lord I hated those. They actually made me cry I hated those ugly shoes so much. But the maryjanes? Ahhhhh, bliss.
autoharp to share. Most people don't even know what one is. They were a big deal to us, because our music teacher played one for music class instead of a piano. June Carter Cash played one sometimes. Our arms weren't big enough to play it held against our chests, so we played it on our lap or the floor with a arm cross over style. We had to set the timer to take turns playing it so we wouldn't fight. But we fought anyway.
Another year we got an electric keyboard and music book. Same story...set the timer, fight anyway.
In 5th grade, I got a music box that played the theme from the movie Love Story. It was a photo cube that rotated. I put my boyfriend's photo in it. Ross. Oh man did I love that boy. That may have been the same year he gave me a smiley face hand mirror. A little tiny thing with a swirly gold trim and handle and a pink smiley face on the reverse side. I treasured that for a very long time. No idea what happened to it. I'm fickle like that.
That same year I also remember getting feeted pajamas for big kids...they were yellow and fuzzy and hell when you had to pee in a hurry. I got a captains telescope and I would sneak out of my room at night and try to spy on people with it (while pretending I was Harriet the Spy).
Another year I got a series of the latest, greatest Wizzers. They were tops that you scraped rappidly across the floor to build speed and then watch them spin. Two things happened with those. One, my dad was trying to teach me how to use it, when he released it from his hand too soon and it flung through the kitchen window. Oh man....so glad *I* hadn't done that or I would have been toast! Two, when I was holding one of the wizzers before releasing it, I accidentally (or on purpose, not sure which), touched the tip of it to my long hair. In the blink of an eye, it wrapped my hair from waist to skull in a "never-get-it-out-until-you-die" tangle. Mom had to CUT a chunk of my hair out.
I had a Mrs. Beasley doll. This was a doll that Buffy had on Family Affair (a popular TV show when I was a kid). She was rather dull, but OH, to have something that Buffy had...it was like being her twin! I can't say for absolute certain that this was a toy I got and not one my sister got. If it was my sister's, by rights, it SHOULD have been mine. I coveted it if it wasn't mine.
Ahhh, the spirograph...now that was fun.
And Creepy Crawlers. You can watch vintage commercials for these toys on YouTube. They're fun to watch. There was a liquid plastic, poured into metal molds, then heated to blistering hotness, cooled and popped out of the molds. They still made this when my son was little but had changed it to make it safer. Less effective. The blistering hot molds were part of the fun. Later they came out with other shapes like flowers. Not as fun. And also Incredible Edibles, where the plastic goo was edible...so you could make and eat a bug in front of your friends.
Loved me a good game of Operation!
Sort of like a game of color coded slap jack for kids. No idea why I liked it, but I did.
This board game was based on a hit kid's TV show by the same name (in the mid 1960's). I always wanted to be a guest on the show. Somehow the cardboard version wasn't quite the same.
And of course, who didn't have Monopoly? Or Candyland? We had all sorts of board games. I did NOT get Mystery Date (which I wanted).
There was also a lesser known "Animal Twister" that we had since my little sister had not yet learned her colors, but could work with dogs and cats.
I got my favorite coat ever many years ago. My hubby bought it for me while we were still dating. Cuz no way could I afford a really warm coat. This is an Eddie Bauer parka with a ruff on the hood made from coyote. You can't really even find those anymore. I know it isn't PC but I truly love that coat and I hope it never wears out. It's down and the warmest thing I've ever owned in my life.
I never did get a pair of PF Flyers as a kid. They were sneakers (some of the first ever made) that were advertised to make you run faster and jump higher. But feet grow fast and name-brand shoes cost more than dime store shoes. Plus, remember I said we had to wear those stupid penny loafers or saddle shoes? Those were "substantial" school shoes. Typically, unless we grew, we had one pair of "substantial school shoes" and a pair of black or white patent leather shoes worn only to Sunday school. Ohhhh I wanted those PF flyers.
What are some of the gifts you remember wanting, getting, loving, or that didn't measure up to the hype or expectation? I don't recall a disappointing Christmas (well, not until I was an adult living in poverty). As a kid it was all magic and my parents always got us lots of fun stuff. How they did it, I'll never know. I know that sometimes my grandparents sent them money to buy our Christmas presents with, and I'm sure, just like I did when I was an adult, they did without so that we had fun.