Although I've seen all the old snapshots, I don't really have a concrete memory of any Christmas before I reached the age of five. That year, my parents loaded us up into the car to visit the grandparents and numerous other relatives back in Tennessee, which was several states away. I don't remember the trip, but I do remember worrying that Santa would never find us there! I needn't have worried about Santa. It was my cousin Virgil who turned out to be the problem.
I should first explain that my parents always made Christmas a joy-filled occasion. They didn't spoil us with all the toys we begged for, but taught us to entertain ourselves through playing and interacting with one another. I don't remember ever being disappointed with their philosophy and the resulting lack of playthings, but it did make the toys I received more memorable.
The year we went to the grandparents was not a disappointment, either. Santa, for some reason I cannot fathom to this day, decided to leave me a rather large drum. A very cheaply made, but awesome to my young eyes, drum. The prospect of pounding that drum throughout the house brought me no small amount of joy because I was very enthusiastic about any kind of music long before the age of five. Unfortunately, I never managed a single resounding bang on that drum, because before I had time to pick it up, cousin Virgil decided to sit upon it. Virgil is my age, but even at the age of five he was a stocky young man, and his bottom went right through my fascinating new toy.
I fared much better the following year. My parents spent countless hours making the most wonderful doll accessories. In our house, the girls always received a doll for Christmas, whether we wanted one or not. I no longer have the clothes my mother sewed for my doll, nor the wardrobe, complete with copper hangers, that my dad constructed out of cardboard boxes and wood-grained, stick-on shelf liner. He even put real hardware handles and hinges on the doors. But I do still have the doll bed he made for me down in the basement. How I managed not to destroy it is beyond my comprehension.
It was probably the year after the doll furniture, about the age of seven, that I received a fantastic gift from Santa. Please understand that at that time, it didn't matter who constructed the gift, or whether it was home-made or store-bought, we attributed all of them to Santa. Or at least I did. I've always been a staunch supporter of the jolly elf in red. But that year he outdid himself. My siblings and I each received a large cushion. Yep, that's right. A cushion. Mine was the middle-sized one, of course, being the middle child, and I remember that it was covered in corduroy, although I can't remember the color for sure. I think it was a dull gold. My mother had purchased some heavy foam pads, and my dad cut them to size, and she then stitched a sturdy cover for each of them. I used that cushion all the time, and had a blast doing so. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself, or at least break a few bones, with the stunts I dared with the assurance that the cushion would keep me safe. I dropped, upside down, out of trees, where I hung by my knees until swinging free and falling to the cushion, which waited below. I shot down steep staircases atop that cushion, hanging on tight until I came to a stop on the concrete floor below. I found the courage to perform handsprings and flips as long as the cushion was there to catch me. I don't remember how long the cushion actually lasted, but I loved it more than anything that could have come from a department store at that time.
You probably noticed in the photograph above, I also received Tammy and Pepper dolls, but that was several years later. My mother would not allow me to have Barbies, so this was a compromise that we both were okay with. A neighborhood friend had a mother a lot like mine, so we would get together and make clothes for our new matching dolls. If any had survived, you would all understand why I don't make doll clothes for my own
I've never had a disliking for dolls, but I was a bit of a tomboy, and wanted toys that afforded me more fun than a doll. So the same year I received the fashion dolls, I also asked for and received a baseball bat and glove. I still have both of them, although the glove is buried in a box somewhere in the garage. It's a left-hander's fielder's mitt, or I think that's what it is called. I spent countless hours playing catch with my good buddy, George, after school and on Saturdays. It was much better time spent than playing with dolls, you can be sure.
By that time I was more into big kid toys, and I remember receiving my first pair of roller skates. These were the kind you screwed onto your sneakers with a strange looking key. Unfortunately, we lived on a rather steep hill, and I never found the courage to skate down it, but I spent a lot of time rolling back and forth across the basement. Fortunately, for my backside, I still had my cushion at that time.
The following year I tried something much more daring. I asked for, and received, a pocket knife. It was absolutely beautiful, with a brown and cream swirl in the handle. I loved that knife, but it didn't last long. When Christmas break was over, my mother warned me to never take the knife to school. She said if I did, it would disappear. Did you know my mother was part witch? She somehow not only knew I took off for school with that knife in my pocket, she made sure it DID disappear. I had hidden it in my pants pocket before putting on my coat, gloves and hat. We weren't actually allowed to wear pants to school in those days, but we could wear them under our dresses for the long walk to and from school, as long as we took them off upon entering our rooms.
It was nearly a mile walk to the elementary school, and I checked my pocket several times to be sure the knife was safe. But when I got inside and went back to the cubbies to remove my boots and pants, the knife had disappeared. To this day I have no clue as to where the knife ended up, but I never got it back.
The following year I received a pogo stick, something I had wanted for a long time but my mother feared. She knew me so well! Even though I couldn't skate down our hill, I found that I could jump up and down the hill with a little practice. Soon my friend and I were having pogo stick contests and doing all kinds of tricks. I embarrassed myself greatly by jumping backwards up the neighbor's back steps, and then falling through their storm door. My dad had to pick the glass bits out of my backside, and my mother confiscated the pogo stick. Shortly after she took it to the basement, one of my brother's older friends decided to play with it and broke the spring.
The second best gift I ever received for Christmas was my record player and 45 records. There weren't forty-five of them, that was the speed they operated at. I no longer have the player, the only electronic gadget I ever received as a child, but most of the records are still with me today. Songs like Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups, and Baby Face by Bobby Vee are some of my favorites.
But my number-one-all-time-favorite Christmas gift ever was my cookie cook book I received when I was twelve. I still use it every single Christmas, and have done so every year. It's filled with wonderful recipes that I share with my own children, even though some of the pages are in very sad shape. Santa certainly out-did himself that year.
I hope you have as many fond memories of Christmases past as I have. None of the gifts I received were elaborate or costly, but perhaps that is one of the reasons I cherished them so much and remember them so well.
Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!