Sunday, December 09, 2007
(Note: About 5 years ago, I had my sister send me all of our family photos and I scanned them in and burned them to CDs. I know family photos are boring to those who aren't members of the pictured families and that's understandable, but I'm going to stroll down memory lane alone even if no one else wants to come along with me. )
Despite the fact that my family was relatively poor, every Christmas I remember was a huge blow-out of gifts. My mother always went overboard and almost always went into big debt. I remember her taking out loans and putting items on lay-away months ahead of time. When I was a very young kid, I didn't know or think about the money aspect and my mother didn't share it with us until I was around 12 years old. At that point in time, the lavishness of our Christmas and the toll it took on the family finances complicated my enjoyment of the holiday. By the time I was an adult, I couldn't separate the presence of a plethora of packages from the fact that it represented my mothers shop-aholic nature.
Before I was old enough to know the financial flip-side of the gift-filled holidays we had, Christmas was an absolutely magical time where every wish we had seemed to come true. I think that my sister and I got the bikes pictured above when I was 6 and she was 8. That'd put the year of this particular Christmas around 1970 (but I'm not sure).
This is my sister (on the right) and I amongst a cornucopia of toys and a lot of discarded wrapping paper. One of those items is a generic version of an Easy Bake Oven. The box between us says "magic cool oven set". I guess that using a light bulb to cook tiny cakes must have seemed like "magic" to kids. I remember using up all the kid-size boxes of cake mix and then finding that my mother couldn't afford to buy us more so we'd try to adapt regular recipes but it never worked particularly well. When I discussed this picture with my sister, she said she loved that oven and used it constantly until it broke.
The funny thing is that I don't recall those bikes much at all except for a vague recollection of learning to ride by removing the training wheels on the smaller one that was mine. I only remember the oven in terms of not being able to use it anymore. The thing I loved the most and recall the most clearly, oddly enough, is the tall, plastic poodle which you can see the back of in this picture. I think it was full of bubble bath and could be used as a coin bank by cutting a slit in a slot in the back when the bottle was empty. I remember that there were two of them (one for each of us) and one was pink. It was incredibly cheap, but I really liked it.
The picture above was taken at the same Christmas picture with the bikes. Most kids would probably get the bikes and a few little things or the oven and a few little things, but we got it all. For us, Christmas was like one of those movies where a poor kid miraculously walks into a room full of every delight he could want at the end of the movie. It was quite spectacular. Looking back at these pictures helps me remember just how magic Christmas could be for a child.