Everyone who celebrates Christmas has a history of presents. Some are cherished, some hated – some rate regifting while others go straight to the return department if not the nearest trash can.
In the early 1970’s we lived in a Chicago apartment building along with my Uncle F. Uncle F was in his early twenties complete with beautiful wife and one-and-a-half children. His daughter M was a year younger than myself and a semi-constant playmate during this time.
I was playing in the floor one evening to look up and discover a grinning Uncle F slipping through the back door. Without a word he scooped me up, tossed me over his shoulder and carted me out the door he had just entered!
I recall looking over my uncle’s shoulder to see Father following closely behind with a grin of his own as we navigated the maze of stairways to my uncle’s apartment. He carried me into his apartment and sat me down near the Christmas tree. Under that tree, set up in perfect arrangement were matching gifts for myself and his daughter: Weeble Airports!
I played faithfully with my Weeble Airport for many years, cheerfully singing “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” I don’t remember the final fate of that little airport and its’ egg-shaped characters, but I do remember the many hours I played with that cherished treasure! Thank you Uncle F!
Fast forward to 1979, when my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas. Father was furious and accused my grandmother of “pushing” her religion on me, so I set that book up in the center of my room and just looked at it for several weeks. Eventually curiousity overcame uncertainty and I ended up reading that Bible cover-to-cover in the ensuing years. The spine gave out in that book, which I patched with tape the best a child could manage. It is now boxed safely away, and the thought of that little red book brings a warm glow to my heart.
The second time I met great-grandfather he was residing in a local nursing home. It was near Christmastime when we visited, so his cherished gift qualifies. He motioned me to come closer to his bed, pulled out his little leather coin purse and carefully folded my fingers over a shiny new quarter, instructing me not to “spend it all in one place.” He was in his nineties at this time, so a quarter was big money to him. I thanked him politely, and still remember my father and uncles telling me that was the biggest monetary gift they recall him ever giving a child! It was the last time I saw him alive, so the memory is especially poignant.
A year or so later dear Uncle O gifted me with a treasure: a hairdryer complete with a small bottle of shampoo and a lighted clamshell mirror! I barely paused to thank him as I ran to the bathroom to try them out! Did I actually remember to thank him back then? Honestly I am not certain but I made sure to tell him over the years how that simple Christmas present warmed my heart (and my hair)!
During my teenage years dear Auntie M surprised me with an early electronic game of jacks. The music was loud and grating, but the challenge of keeping up with the pattern of lights was addictive, and I played that game until the machine finally died several years later! Auntie M, thank you again for such a kewel Christmas present!
Fast-forward a bit farther to Uncle T. A friend of his at work created beautiful pieces of art from little more than thick plexiglass and paint. My uncle commissioned him to make me a picture of a horse rearing in the sunset. Done in striking black and white, that piece never failed to grace a wall in my home. Unfortunately I left my ex in such a hurry that the piece still graces a wall of the home he still owns. I have a picture of it however, and the memory is still fresh in my mind.
When I was 15, Father gifted me with a treasure. He took me to Service Merchandise and let me pick out my very own typewriter! I had begged many years for a typewriter, so this was an extraordinary treat! He loaded me up with extra ribbons and paper, and tolerated the constant clacking of the keys while I pounded out my masterpieces. I used that machine faithfully well past father’s death until it finally failed in the 1990’s.
The next year instead of a traditional Christmas gift I asked for permission to choose a unique pair of eyeglasses. Two hundred dollars later I not only saw clearer but had frames I was proud to wear. I used those glasses until after the birth of my first child, and I’m sure they are still stashed around here somewhere. Thanks, Dad!
There have been other gifts and other seasons, but these are the ones that glow brightest in the halls of my mind. I may no longer celebrate the season, but I still possess great memories. Perhaps you can share some of yours!