First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas even if you don't celebrate the holiday. Christmas can represent a wonderful spirit of giving and love, so why not spread it around? I can't see that it hurts anyone.
We had a very quiet Christmas this year. It gave me the opportunity to remember some of those Christmas's past that will stick in my mind until I'm no more.
My first recall is when I was two or three years old. (Okay, I don't actually remember this, but my mother swore it was true and my dad would just laugh when she told the story, so I have to believe it.) One of my gifts was a train set. It ran around the Christmas tree complete with a puffing engine and a whistle. A strange gift for a girl until you realize that my father sat on the floor next to me handling the controls because he didn't want his princess to hurt herself. I think I was five before he let me do the honors. By then the train had grown in size and been mounted on a hunk of plywood between two sawhorses in our basement. The plywood is long gone, but I still have that Lionel train set in my garage. I haven't had it out in twenty-five or so years and I'm sure the Florida climate has rusted some of the track, but when we move to Memphis next year, you can be sure I'll try to get it up and running for my grandsons.
My mother made sure that I received my fair share of dolls over the years. My favorite is still with me. She sits in a chair in our bedroom. Her honey blonde hair is a little worse for wear--I played hairdresser a bit too often--but a huge white bow I bestowed upon the back of her head is also in place to this day. The ruffled, pink, full-length, circle skirted dress is almost intact. Unfortunately, the matching pink shoes and wrist corsage she wore disintegrated over time.
By the time I turned eight, I was heavily into reading, so imagine my delight when I opened a present containing ten--count them, ten!!!--Nancy Drew mysteries. I was in heaven and within two weeks had read them all, barely able to contain my excitement until I could afford the next book in the series. I eventually gave them all to my niece, since I was not blessed with a daughter.
At twelve, my interests in toys had faded and clothes took center stage. I was born and raised in Indianapolis and going downtown to see the Christmas display windows at the L. S. Ayres and Wm. H. Block department stores was a must. I can remember seeing this gorgeous pink angora sweater on display in the Ayres Junior Miss department. It was so beautiful. I could see me wearing it to school and being the envy of all the other girls. I begged my mother for it, but the price tag was $15, a small fortune for the late '50s. We walked away. And yet, there it was under the tree on Christmas morning. I was ecstatic and couldn't wait for the first day of school after winter break. The irony was the wool made me itch and the angora made me sneeze. I think I wore it the grand total of three times.
And before I forget, giving was just as important as receiving. I can recall with sharp clarity, the time Mother and I somehow squeezed a huge box into the car, wrapped it, and shoved it next to the tree for Daddy. It was a bar and fit into the corner of our den perfectly. He was delighted even though he had to assemble it and buy the bar stools later.
Mother also benefited from my gifts. She smiled and immediately wore all the bracelets and necklaces from G. C. Murphy's Five and Dime I could afford, declaring them exactly what she wanted. After her death, I found all those items in boxes in her dresser drawer. My mother was not a particularly sentimental person, so this touched me deeply. I still have them in my vanity
As time passed, my gift requests turned more practical. Now, most women would smack their husbands up along side the head with a two-by-four for getting them a washer and dryer for Christmas. But since I had two small boys and hated going to the laundromat, I did a happy dance across the living room floor.
Christmas gradually turned into watching my sons and later my grandchildren opening gifts. Seeing the surprise and joy on their faces was all the presents I wanted. Which now makes me understand my father playing with a train and my mother spending a fortune on a sweater. And that's what counts in the long run.
So hang onto those memories. They can never be taken away and as I get older, I've discovered they return sharp and clear.
Wishing you all the best.