Otherwise, we could have mailed it all in and been done with it.
But to rush down and look under that dried pine dangling delicate memories of times past to discover YOUR NAME on a card connected to a large, brightly wrapped box, that is what Christmas is about.
Here are a couple of Christmas day photos I remember.
This was around the mid-50s.
The big gift of that year must have been the bicycle. I think that was my brother’s bike. I remember riding it later and that big headlight, and it had fenders.
There is also this space jacket. That may have been a Boy Scout thing or a space commander’s club. I see a fast draw gun set and a fort building kit, so I think they were mine.
There was always a BIG-ticket item that overwhelmed the other piles of socks, shirts, ties, candy, appliances, shaving utensils, and a few useless toys.
One year it was a car for my brother, one year it was a fur coat for my mother, one year it was cardboard tank for me??? Hummmm?
By 1959, I was thinking we needed a dog.
Don’t know what came over me, but I asked Santa for a dog. Not a puppy, a dog. Our family had a dog, a boxer, named Ike, after the president, but he had left under unknown to me happenings. So I asked for a dog. Maybe it was an offer to pull the family together with a common gift? It didn’t happen. Instead I got a stuffed animal the size from a carnival.
At 11, I also got a white shirt, a basketball, and some other “stuff”. I see in the background my brother’s school ring picture had been framed (Dad used to like to frame things.) and a box of cigars for my father, a bottle of Old Spice in it original wooden box. There are socks and gloves and a puzzle of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Further back there is a Hamilton Beach blender and golf balls and cart since this is probably about the time Mom started playing the game.
Perhaps this was when mom decided to do something else without my father’s guiding light. Perhaps this was when she drew close to the country club set. Perhaps this was when she was forming me to join all the clubs and follow all their rules.
“But Mom, we have color photos!”
In 1964, from what the Christmas photo shows, was my first year at attempting to play the guitar. That is a baritone ukulele that I started learning folk music on. We also got the World Book encyclopedias (even though I never used them) and I think the big hanging suit bag against the wall was mom’s fur coat. The BIG-ticket item.
The next Christmas, I received from Santa a doll wrapped in plastic. Cute Dad! I get the hint.
I don’t know why we went through all that struggle of shopping, wrapping, carding, and falsely giving the impression that once a year we would all come into a room hardly used, into a fake setting of once a year decorations and show off our prestige.
Was this what Christmas was all about?
The church told a different story of donkeys, shepherds, open sky and a new beginning, but the television, which became the more powerful pulpit, told us of the wonders of credit and the amazing technology that would change our lives forever.
And the TV won out.
Each year a new message from manufactures that the new, improved, brightly colored, with sound and light and motion gadget will become so necessary to our live styles, we must procure one or more for our family and friends.
The same speech that told us to buy washers and refrigerators, telephones, and aluminum siding sells us to purchase larger televisions and faster computers and slicker automobiles and sweeter fragrance and more sparkles and bling.
These are created into family traditions. So at the beginning of winter, we shut down our work, decorate and create a festive environment, gather our family and friends, laugh, sing, talk, eat and drink to the abundance we share.
So as we sit back and enjoy the spectacle that has become the 25th day of December, let us gather up our loot and call all our friends and tell them what I got.
“What did you get?”
I got to partake the beggars banquet.