Christmas 1945 -- Cleveland, Ohio
I‘m late preparing for Christmas this year, but have been thinking back on Christmases past, mostly in my dreams.

Maybe it was Seasonal Affective Disorder and the fact that we lived pretty far north, but the holidays were always a minefield in our house, at least when I was growing up. 
I do have some warm memories, though, especially of snow, making all the long distance calls on Christmas Day to Kansas, Colorado and other places we called "home," having dinner at my cousins' house where we sometimes sang folk songs or practiced for and performed piano, violin and cello trios. The two girls were very talented, and although much younger, I was learning to play piano. Caroling was fun, but the mad dash to buy, wrap and hide gifts, wasn’t.

Looking back, here are a few Christmas presents I've never forgotten:

1. A doctor's kit. I believe I was 3. Looking back, I think my parents were concerned about me being afraid of all the doctors I saw over my first few years. I got off to a rocky start with a few correctable anomalies.  
The big black kit contained a toy stethoscope, thermometer, wristwatch, a certificate to hang on the wall, some sort of BP cuff and a big round eye cover, remember those? I don’t remember any insurance forms included.  

2. A bride doll. I was 4 (!). This bride was unusual because she was also a baby (not a babe). You could comb her blond hair and wash her rubber body, but she was definitely a baby, with a bride’s outfit. At 4, I didn’t have a problem with that.

3. A wooden cradle that my dad made as a bed for the bride doll. Made sense to me. I loved that cradle and kept if for many years. I assume my mother threw it out.

4. A few books, including Babar, Heidi and The Fireside Book of Folksongs. I still have what's-left-of-them. 

5. A Kodak Brownie camera. I might have been 8. One of the first photos I took was of the prettiest boat I'd ever seen. It was an ocean liner pulling out of the New York City piers as our school bus was pulling in on a class trip to the big city. The boat was called the Andrea Doria.

4. An English racing bike, when I was around 12 (?). I lusted after those sleek blue and white wheels, and couldn't believe my eyes when I found them leaning up against the wall next to the Christmas tree! We lived in the hills, so it was important to have a lightweight bike with gears to maneuver up and down.

5. A microscope. Not sure how old I was, but probably in junior high. I remember studying the Lafayette catalog for months, then traveling into the city to look at microscopes with my dad. He got me a good one and I still have it, somewhere.

6. A trip to Costa Rica. Not really. When my son was about 9, he cut pictures out of a magazine, glued them on a board, painted it and gave it to me, with a note saying, “Just what you always wanted, Mom, a trip to Costa Rica!” I think I loved that collage as much any real trip, because he tried so hard to give me something special. I still have it tucked away.

7. An engagement ring, in 2002. Dave and I had lived together for a few years and were talking about getting married, but he was dragging his feet. His son John and girlfriend came to our place for Christmas, where one of them suggested we open Christmas stockings first. As I recall, I opened mine last. Inside were a pair of sensible wool socks, some goofy earrings, a few candy canes, and finally a tiny sparkly box wedged into the sock’s toe. I figured it was a trick, but Dave had actually bought me a diamond!  We married 6 weeks later, during Valentine's week. 

What  Christmas presents and other fun things do you remember?  Please leave a note in Comments.



12/18/2009 18:48

Hi Paula, I've been checking Birds daily since your beautiful snow post. I wanted to see how you are and how New England prepares for the holidays.

Love your many Christmas posts, most especially this one about the engagement ring. Some people think love is only for the young...you and Dave, Denny and I and many others know that love is not an age but a blending.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is 1996. I'd started radiation & chemo (for breast cancer) at the beginning of December. By Christmas I was exhausted. Denny doesn't believe in Christmas but he took me to pick out a wonderful big tree. He helped me unpack my treasured ornaments and hang them on the tree. He loved the holiday as part of my tradition and I felt well in that love, in spite of fatique and pain and fear.

Life is a balance, we gather strength from love and live through ill and believe in the power of the day.

12/23/2009 03:54

My most memorable present was when I was about 8 years old. I loved cars and spent (what seemed like hours) staring at the 'Sizzlers Super Control Set' in whatever department store mom was shopping in at the time; memorizing every detail because I knew I'd never have it. It was a race track with little motorized cars that you 'gassed up' with a battery charger and let them race by themselves on the track. It seemed so huge and expensive that I knew it couldn't be possible. But on Christmas morning, there it was...amazing. I must have spent hundreds of hours playing with that race set.


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