Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Past, Long Past



Like every other kid in Wisconsin, I'd already worn out the pages of the new Sears Christmas catalog, trying to decide which of the many wonderful Christmas gifts would be mine. There were board games, dolls, trains, inflatable punching bags, sleds, etc. But when I saw the skates, I stopped looking and started wishing. New figure skates were the only thing I wanted for Christmas - beautiful white, insulated figure skates.

If I only had figure skates, I could stop wearing those stupid buckle-on two-blade skates that clipped onto my boots (and often fell off) when the neighbor kids and I would meet at the low spot in the field that always had just enough ice to help us imagine that it was a skating rink.

Christmas Eve arrived. My aunt and uncle and cousin were there. I can't remember if my grandma and grandpa were there or not, but if they were, then the dinner consisted of oyster stew (yech!) my grandpa's favorite, jello salad (or maybe a lettuce leaf with a half pear on top and a scoop of cottage cheese placed in the center), and Christmas cookies. There was most likely a hotdish as well, for I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who refused to eat oyster stew.

The Jungers oil burner kept us fairly warm in our old and drafty house, but that night nothing mattered much except getting dinner over and washing the dishes so we could get on to the presents part! That was the protocol - no presents until the dishes were done! My mom and aunt donned their chiffon Christmas aprons and cheerfully began the washing up. It seemed like it took forever! What we kids did during that long interval was to inspect each package under the tree, trying to guess what was in it. I knew my skates were there somewhere, for I'd left unmistakable hints for my mom and dad that skates were the only acceptable gift.

My parents had a nice living room with modern fiberglass drapes and a Christmas tree with big Christmas lights - orange, blue, red, and green - and real tinsel, the kind you could wad up into a tiny metal ball if you wanted to. And of course we wanted to! But our mom insisted that we carefully remove each piece after Christmas and place it back onto the cardboard holder to use another year.

Eventually the women came into the living room and someone was assigned the role of Santa, the one who would hand out presents to the eager recipients.

We didn't open presents one by one, carefully unwrapping the paper and savoring the moment, but each kid had their pile of gifts in front of him or her and started frantically ripping off the paper. We didn't notice much what was happening with anyone else.  I opened one box. It was a new flannel nightie. I got a new flannel nightie every year. My mom sewed them for my sister and me. They were soft and warm, but by the end of the night, a nightie would be wrapped around my neck and the rest of me would be freezing. I hated those things! When I think of all the work my mom went to, to make such a lovely and unappreciated gift...!

I know there were other gifts as well, but all I could think of was the pair of skates that were not among my gifts. I looked around the room. My brothers had opened their gifts; my sister had opened her gifts. The parents and aunt and uncle and cousin had opened their gifts, and there were no more gifts under the tree.  I couldn't hide my disappointment. How could everyone else be having such a great time when I was sitting there suffering???

We drank punch out of beautiful crystal goblets and ate peanut brittle and desserts, and then the company went out into the snowy evening to go back home. By now it was pretty late, so it was time to go to bed.

Just then, I saw my brother whisper something to my mom. She clapped her hands over her mouth and ran upstairs. When she returned, she had a big box that she had retrieved from under her bed. Even before she handed it to me, I knew what it was. My skates. My beautiful white insulated skates. My new figure skates that were 2 sizes too big, for my mom knew I'd grow into them...eventually...by the time I was 18.

But it didn't matter. Not a bit! I was the happiest kid in the world.

P.S. I even liked my brother a bit better after that night. ;-)


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Do you have a memory of a special Christmas gift?  or a memory of a disappointing Christmas gift? C'mon, share it with us! :-)



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25 comments:

ImSoVintage Laura Walker said...

What a wonderful memory. My favorite memory is the year I got my Betsy Wetsy doll. She was the only thing I wanted and I was the happiest kid on the block. Santa didn't let me down that year. xo Laura

Sandra said...

i don't have any special memories.. your memory jogged a couple of things, like we opened our presents in the AM after Santa came, my brother and i never let our parents sleep past 4 am...there were no presents under our tree until after we went to bed. when we got up the tree was covered underneath with presents. our presents were things we needed. flannel shirts, school shoes, jeans, slippers robes stuff like that. and if mother bought 4 pairs of socks she wrapped each pair so that the presents were stacked up. i always got a book and a doll and paper dolls. my brother got little men and cars.. the only time we got new clothes was at Christmas.. and a new dress and shoes at Easter.

Eileen said...

What a nice memory.
We mostly had inexpensive gifts at Christmas. Then one year sister and I had a beautiful doll each and a twin pram to share! How we would argue over that pram :-)

EG CameraGirl said...

Oh I'm so glad you got the skates you wanted! Christmas always seems to awakens childhood memories, doesn't it? I guess when it comes to December we are still children at heart.

Diane said...

Cute story-- so funny your mom forgot. I guess we all have Christmas memories. One I always remember is my younger sister starting to bug my folks at 3 a.m. one Xmas morning to open presents! My mother finally relented at 6 a.m. We opened presents then went back to bed!

TexWisGirl said...

i laughed at the flannel nightie. gosh, they'd twist so tightly that i could barely breathe sometimes.

Grandma Barb's This and That said...

Oh Judy, you have brought back so many memories! Your Christmases sound so much like the ones we spent. Even the oyster stew which I thought was yuck too. I'm so glad you got those skates.
The one disappointment I had one Christmas was that I was wanting a phonograph. My dad kept telling me it would have to be a wined up one. Sure enough I got a toy wined up one. Not only was I disappointed but I was mad. At the end of opening presents one more appeared and it was the phonograph I was wanting.
Have a great weekend.

Ruth Kelly said...

How well I remember the tinsel on the trees and my favorite was the candle bubble lights on grandma's tree. A couple of years ago I ran across some of those bubble lights and sent them to my brother. He was delighted too because that was a fond memory for him too.

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

That's such a happy memory. I have ten brothers and sister, and one particular Christmas stands out, the year I didn't get a pair of clogs. We were lucky if we got underwear, pencils, crayons, and socks, but I was so disappointed, because I really did need a pair of shoes. (I can't remember if I told my parents I wanted clogs.) It's not an unhappy memory, but it's one of those memories that put things in perspective for my life.

I like that my spouse's family opens one gift at a time, so everyone gets to look. (Though they use to over do it, because it's a small family.) We no longer live driving distance from them, but we do the same in our home. Only one person at a time can open a gift. It works really well.

Vee said...

Oh a few, just a few... My poor mom also sewed many an unappreciated gift...just sayin'.

So glad that you received your two-sizes too big skates. It made me smile.

Susie said...

Oh I love this story of your childhood. I could just see everything you described. Some times I wish we could go back to those days...it just seemed simpler. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

Noelle the dreamer said...

Judy, you win the prize for the best Christmas story! Best part: you liked your sibling a tad better after this!
I am afraid I have no such story to share...Christmas celebrations was quite different for us but it is the days leading to that special time of the year which remains with me to date!
God bless and Merry Christmas!!

Muffy's Marks said...

Your post brought back many memories of my first pair of ice skates. We had a creek behind the house, and I know on Christmas day that is where I headed to try out my new skates. Unfortunately, I hit a soft spot, where someone's gray water ran. Being the bullhead I was I didn't go in, but kept skating. When I did go in, the laces were so frozen my dad had to cut them open to get the skates off my feet!! That fateful day is always with me, my feet always get cold first!! I've tried wool socks, soral boots and finally found the answer....Arizona!!!

Terri D. said...

I love the way your told your story! Growing up in Ohio, at one end of a large lake (Buckeye Lake), we lived in our skates all winter. I don't remember getting skates for Christmas - I just always had skates, but I DO remember the first oil painting set I got for Christmas, and the first mohair sweater I received!!

Empty Nester said...

I don't remember one single disappointing Christmas until I got married. All of my childhood Christmas memories are wonderful! My granddaddy loved oyster stew too but I hated it. We didn't have it on Christmas Eve though. And those pears? My mom used peach halves and with cream cheese that had chopped pecans in it. On Christmas Eve, we had a ham and various other goodies. What I always remember is, like you, waiting for the grownups to finish so we could get to the important stuff. LOL

Meggie said...

A great story...so glad you shared with us.

Chatty Crone said...

What a sweet sweet story and memory!

Cheryl @ TFD said...

I love reading stories like this! I'm glad you got your skates. I remember getting ice skates one year and was so thrilled! I know what you mean about the flannel nighties. LOL!

Prima Widodo said...

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!
Bring you Good wishes of happiness.

Sorry for greeting you earlier,, just don't want miss saying this.
By the way, I'm prima. It's my first time visiting your blog. I am blogger

too, and now try my best luck to open an e-store. Nice to know you.

Regards,
Prima

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

Christmas and Winter is such a wonderful time to "jar the memory" of those special times and people and events that happen to you. Glad that you got your skates!!

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Oh my gosh, I was hanging on to the hope that you did get them in the end, and was almost worried that they didn't come...what a great Christmas memory.

And those fiberglass drapes....laughing, yes I remember them well.

Jen

vintage grey said...

Such a sweet memory! SO funny about the flannel nightie. ;) Have a great week! xo Heather

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Heide at ApronHistory said...

Oh there are so many memories! The crazy, crowded Christmas Eve parties at Grandma's; making homemade presents for my siblings; the excitement of Christmas in a new house; receiving a new doll; right up to more recent memories of spending the whole day with the family watching all the seasons of Jeeves and Wooster!

Rebecca Stevens said...

O.K. you asked for disappointed ones too! My first Christmas after leaving home for college. Wrapped up I had a receipt from a car dealership for a 1965 Mustang "to be delivered Christmas morning". I almost broke up the room trying to get to the front door to look out - No Mustang. Next package opened a toy Mustang - not the same folks. Then I opened one that was a doll who came with a whistle and, when you blew it, she crawled across the room. I also got the usual clothes and I don't remember what else and am grateful for those. But it was a little embarrassing to get back to college and have to answer questions about what I got for Christmas "a doll and a toy car". But if Mom and Daddy were still with me I would welcome those toys.

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