I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas

If that sounds like a whine, I don’t mean it as such. It’s true that as a child I never received anything I wanted for Christmas, despite the fact that I noted page numbers in catalogs, circled items, made note of color preferences and quantity, and any other helpful information my mother might need.

Nevertheless, it’s true. I never got a single thing I requested.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I also told you how Santa Claus never visited my house. That’s true too, but I’m not asking for your pity. In fact, if there was ever a child less deserving of pity than myself from days past, I’d like to meet them. For not only did I have a family who loved me, I had parents who knew what was best for me. And what was best for me was rarely what I wanted.

This is a picture of my brothers and me on Christmas Eve, before the evening’s festivities began.

Brothers and me

My two older sisters are missing, the oldest one married with a little girl of her own, the other sister… well, I’m not sure where she is. Maybe she was still getting dressed.

The sparkly dress I’m wearing was my “movie star dress.”  I wanted to wear it all the time.

“Mom, mom, can I wear my movie star dress? Pretty please? Pleeeease?”
“No dear, that’s too fancy. That’s for fancy events.”

Christmas Eve was our fancy event.

The entire family gathered for dinner, relatives came from out-of-town, everyone dressed in their Sunday best. It was a sit-down meal with Mom’s finest plates (Corelle®) and her only set of matching silverware. We may have used fabric napkins, I don’t remember.

After the meal, everyone helped clear the table and the adults washed the dishes. By hand. We had to wait until every dish was clean, dried, and put away.

Finally, after the last piece of silverware was put in the box (not used again until Easter), Mom wiped her hands, removed her apron, and announced it was time. Everyone took a seat by the tree, we children sat on the floor.

One gift at a time, that’s how it was done. Usually Mom, but sometimes Dad, would select a gift, hand it to the person it was intended for, and we’d watch as they unwrapped it.

If this sounds ponderously slow, I should point out that children received three gifts each and the adults, as I remember, received one. If that. Even so, when you’re six years old and the last of five kids…

This particular year, the year of the photo, I wanted a doll. But not just any doll. I wanted Dancerina Ballerina.

Dancerina Ballerina ad

Push a button on top of Dancerina’s head, her leg kicks out and… get this… she twirls! Just like a real ballerina!

I told my mom: That’s it. That’s all I want for Christmas. Dancerina Ballerina

My mom, I have to give her credit, she looked into it. She must have for a few days later she broke the news: It exceeded her price limit for dolls.

You see, my mom was a great believer in budgets and rules. She had many rules, most of them her own creation. Two of her long standing rules involved dolls.

Mom’s Doll Rule #1: Every little girl should have a doll at Christmas
Mom’s Doll Rule #2: No doll should cost more than $20.00

Dancerina Ballerina cost slightly more than $20.00.

It wasn’t a lot, maybe a dollar or two at the most. But it was a dollar or two over $20, and that broke Mom’s rule. Other parents would have thought, “Oh, it’s not that much. We can swing it.” But those parents weren’t my mom. Mom was a rule follower. 

Plus, Mom was German. Dancerina Ballerina didn’t have a chance.

Even so, I had hope. When Mom handed me the wrapped, doll-sized box that year, presented it with a comment along the lines of, “This is Christi’s special gift,” I was certain it was Dancerina.

But of course it wasn’t. If it was, I would have titled this post something other than, “I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas.”

Here I am with the doll I did get, along with my two other gifts:

Giggles and me
The larger doll, the one with the shiny golden hair, that’s Giggles. When you held her hands and moved her arms, she giggled. As I recall she sounded a bit like a dolphin, but that was okay by me. I loved her.

The next morning, Christmas Day, my brothers and I headed outside to show off our new toys to friends, who were all outside for the same reason. It would be several years before I realized they probably opened their gifts that morning. At the time, I thought everyone celebrated on Christmas Eve. I had no reason to think otherwise.

That morning’s “look-what-I-got” exchange is an especially memorable one for me. Of all the girls my age who received dolls, I was the only one without a Dancerina Ballerina.

I realize how that sounds. You probably think I’m exaggerating for effect, but please believe me, I am not. I truly was the only one without a Dancerina.

Again, don’t pity me. For there’s a funny thing that happens when children see the same toy over and over, then finally see something different. The different toy becomes the most popular.

Giggles was the life of the party.

And why wouldn’t she be? Everything made her happy, nothing ever got her down. She was the friend who cheered you up, the playmate who laughed at all your jokes. She was a perfect delight.

As for me, I remember holding another girl’s Dancerina and feeling her stiff, awkward limbs, seeing the odd button on top of her head. Without a word, I handed her back to the girl and gave quiet thanks for my mom’s rules. She really did know best.

Many parents worry over whether their children will be disappointed on Christmas Day if they don’t get exactly what they want. Personally? I think it’s a needless worry.

Children are resilient. They can handle much more than we give them credit for, even a few strange rules and a strict budget. And the way I see it, no one would be more deserving of pity than a child who always got what they wanted and never heard the word ‘No’.

In the end, all that truly matters is whether or not they were loved.


Merry Christmas, friends. I hope the day brings you every good thing, many happy memories, and lots and lots of love. ❤️


25 thoughts on “I Never Got What I Wanted for Christmas

  1. I can’t say I never got what I wanted. My problem was I never knew what I wanted. I knew I’d only get three or four things and could never decide between them. One time I did ask for green army men and got two boxes full – mostly because I think mom was so happy I pick SOMEthing. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. As always, a lovely and warm look back at the outrageous injustices we perceived as wee ones, until we had time to reflect on that various matters. It seems like we may have discussed your disappointment with the non-appearance of Dancerina Ballerina at some point, but I may be mixing my memories. As for me, I often did not get what I wanted at Christmas as a child, mainly because my requests fell in to the fey and gay category, and nobody knew how to deal with that in Oklahoma. (Hell, I didn’t know how to deal with it.) But I just as often got exactly what I needed, so the satisfaction pendulum swung both ways. (Except for the underwear. I never understood why such garments should play a factor in the gift-giving ceremony.)

    1. I’m pretty sure any disappointment I experienced lasted all of 30 seconds, or until the moment I heard Giggles giggle. My moods fluctuated wildly in those days. 😉
      When I was older my chief desire was that someone would give me a leather bound notebook and quality pen, proof-positive they thought me capable of quality writing. Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone I desired this because that would ruin the whole point, meaning no one knew to get them for me. (Goodness, we writers are a messed up lot!)
      As to the underwear dilemma: One year I got underwear with the days of the week on them. They kind of stressed me out as it was so difficult keeping up with laundry, and my mom didn’t understand her daughter walking around in the buff because Saturday was in the wash.

  3. Love this story. I’m glad you loved your doll. I don’t remember being disappointed with any of my Christmas gifts, although we have some family jokes about others disappointments.
    Merry Christmas, to you and yours, may it be filled with peace, happiness, joy and love.

  4. I can relate. There were four of us kids and my parent’s only charge card was at Sears, so if Sears didn’t carry it, we didn’t get it. I was already a teenager when I asked for a name brand cologne and got some substitute that smelled nothing like what I wanted. But Sears must have had a limited selection 🙂 It’s the one gift I really remember, so the other years must have been good! Merry Christmas, Christy!

  5. I love the ride this story takes! You really are a master story teller, Christi. Your unique style is delightful. It sounds like you grew up in our neighborhood. But if that were so, you’d know I usually got a lump of coal and your parents would disallow you to play with us. Just kidding – mostly. I’m very glad to know someone else that thinks we put too much emphasis on the gifts at Christmas. Merry Christmas, my friend!

    1. Thank you so much, Roo! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I neglected to mentioned – though I suppose it can be assumed – that the biggest part of Christmas Eve happened AFTER the gifts were opened, when we headed to church for the candlelight service. It would never feel like Christmas without that.
      Merry Christmas to you, Roo!

  6. You always delight, never disappoint. Your warm retelling of that Christmas all that time ago from the movie star dress to the réalisation that Dancerina was actually rather less magical than once imagined and that Giggles was the shining star of the Christmas morning show and tell is warm, full of wry humour and captures the moment perfectly. Your mother may be German and mine British but believe me the rule-following edicts are identical.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this Osyth — your comment is a gift in itself.
      And I quite believe you with regards to your British Mum, as I work with a lovely British woman whom I would never cross in a million years. 😉

  7. I love your movie star dress and of course your mother’s wonderful common sense. I always asked for a dog. Never got a dog. Now I have a cat who thinks she’s a dog or a person or something other than a cat. So. Christmas every day!

  8. My dad is half German in ethnicity so I get what you mean by that statement. 😉

    I also think it’s good for kids to not always get what they want for Christmas. My mom used to love to sing that Rolling Stones song to me all the time, “You can’t always get what you want, but you might find sometimes, you get what you need.”

    My mom taught us words of wisdom through songs and metaphors.

    1. I bet the Rolling Stones never thought their music would be used to raise children! (Works well though)
      For some reason your comment wound up in my Spam folder. So weird!

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