Back when I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t so much about the shopping. Black Friday was not a term that was used by anyone–maybe merchants, but certainly not the rest of us. No stores were open on Thanksgiving–in fact, no stores were open on Sundays. Still, we managed to get our Christmas shopping done.
As it is today, Christmas was about family. My grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. That meant a huge family gathering with all my cousins. Sometimes it was just those of us who lived in the Phoenix area and we could get together at someone’s home. On special birthdays or when family members were here from out of town, we would hold it at a restaurant meeting room. My grandfather, who was a wonderful, loving man, was the center of attention. He was in a wheelchair and we took turns sitting on his lap as if he were Santa.
I remember being excited about Christmas and anxious to open my presents on Christmas morning. (I was the kid who always peeked at the presents no matter how well my mom thought they were hidden.) But there is not a single Christmas or a single Christmas gift the sticks out in my mind. I do remember the Christmas when my sister Shirley received a life-size doll that walked. It wore three-year-old clothing and was nearly as tall as Shirley.
My brother Ricky was born when I was nine. Being his big sister wasn’t my favorite role. Still, at Christmas time I was able to talk my parents into buying him toys they would never get me, being a girl. Those gifts included Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and a chemistry set. While they might have been gender-appropriate, they weren’t really age-appropriate. That was okay because I was the one who played with them. I used the Erector set to build a robot. You should have seen the faces of my family members when it came rolling down the hall.
After all the presents were opened and the wrappings cleaned up, I would eventually get around to looking in my stocking. There was no real hurry because I knew what was in it. There would be an apple and an orange in the bottom. There would be a mixture of nuts–not in neat little packages with the hulls removed. These were nuts that had to be cracked. My favorite were the Brazil nuts, but they were also the hardest to get the meat out of. I remember spending hours trying to pick out the pieces of nut stuck in the corners of the shells, my fingers bleeding from where I had poked them with the pick. Of course, my stocking also held candy–this was also unwrapped. It was hard candy in the shape of fruits with a soft jelly center and colorful ribbons-shaped candies. Unfortunately, by the time I dug through my stocking, the candy was coated with a thin layer of nutshell dust.
As a child, I always puzzled over the contents of my stocking. There was usually fruit in the refrigerator. So why did my parents put it in my stocking? I never asked–mostly because it would make me seem ungrateful. As an adult, I came to consider that my parents had grown up during the Great Depression. In those days, the contents of my stocking would have been real treasures.
Christmas has changed a lot. Today kids are looking for electronics and other expensive gifts under the tree. But it will always be a magical time filled with wonder, anticipation, and love.