Now Playing: If I Were You, by Kasey Chambers. “If I was good, I’d tell everyone I know. If I was free, I wouldn’t be so keen to go. If I was wrong, I would take it like a man. If I was smart, I would get out while I can.”
Got to thinking the other day about my favorite Christmas presents of all time. It’s a pretty short list. My family scrimped and saved through most of my childhood. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have Christmas or get more than we should have given my parents’ situation.
But, and it pains me to say it, I usually was kinda disappointed on Christmas morning. It wasn’t that I didn’t get what I asked for, I just didn’t get what I wanted (which I usually kept to myself).
What made it doubly bad was that we had a two-pronged Christmas. We’d open presents from one another in the family on Christmas Eve, then get Santa stuff the next morning.
Those Christmas Eves were murder. We couldn’t open gifts until everyone had finished eating. Which meant waiting on my sister, Becky, to finish. It wasn’t that she ate so much, she just ate so slowly. I’d help clear the table once she finished, then she and my mom would do the dishes, and finally we’d settle into the living room – Christmas was the only time we ever used it – to hand out the presents and open them. It truly was torture waiting for it.
The next morning, we’d get stuff from Santa – this went on long after there were children in the house. And we’d get a box with oranges, tangerines, apples, nuts and candy. It was one of the best parts of the deal. The bad thing was, after we examined the Santa stuff, we’d immediately head to my grandmother’s (my father’s mother). I was never close to her, she was 900 years old when I was a little kid and she dipped snuff and kept the heat on greenhouse levels. And I resented never getting to play much with my stuff till all the visiting was done.
But anyway, I got stuff – lots of it through the years. But much of it was never the cool brand or exactly the right thing. I remember asking for a stereo system one year. I got it, but it was little different from the record player we already had. (And yes, I know how petty this sounds – but it’s the truth.)
Still, three presents stood out as my all-time favorites.
One was a rocket that worked with water pressure. I must have launched that thing 500 or more times. I absolutely loved it. It was a Gemini model, and the solid rocket boosters came off, which left the manned part to float to the ground by parachute. It was a blast – pun intended.
Then there was my Thingmaker – quite possibly one of the most dangerous toys ever made. I had the Creepy Crawlers version, and it was great fun until the Plastigoop ran out. I had no idea how to get more, and it wasn’t like there was a toy store in SoBo. There was Rose’s, Newberry’s and Western Auto. Other than that, your toy-buying ventures depended on a trip to the Kmart in Danville – in those days a much-desired trip. Back to the danger: Combine one part blast furnace heat with liquid plastic, mix with one part kid’s impatience at waiting for the molds to cool, and you’ve got a recipe for at least second-degree burns. But great fun, nonetheless.
My all-time favorite toy, though, was my official James Bond Attache Case. Just like the one 007 used in From Russia With Love. It had so many great features. It opened by a combination code. Mess up and you’d get shot with a plastic bullet. If someone from SMERSH or SPECTRE snuck up on you in SoBo, there was rubber knife hidden in the frame. Inside there was a codebook, passport and currency. Not to mention the pistol that you could turn into a rifle. With loads of plastic bullets. I had great fun with it for probably far too many years.
I got other great stuff, too, including a BB gun. And I never shot my eye out. But as for my childhood friend Mike Lipford, that’s a story for another day.
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” _ Bob Hope