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.

reindeer

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

The Story of a Young Girl’s Faith in Santa, Her Ensuing Disgrace, and Her Rescue From Certain Despair

The year was 1970. I was in the first grade, and I was being punished for believing in Santa.

Rather, to be more clear, I was punished for defending Santa.

srikanta-h-u-51975

You see, an unbeliever in the ranks – a heathen – was casting doubt on his existence. Pointing out irregularities in the Santa Claus canon. Casting aspersions on his good name.

Several of my classmates were listening and their faith was shaken. You could see it in their eyes.

I’d had enough. I proclaimed in a voice for all to hear:

There is so a Santa Claus! He’s been to MY HOUSE!

Gasp!

Unfortunately we were in class at the time and our teacher was not fond of loud proclamations. Even those in defense of Santa.

It was the time-out table for me.

I must pause here, for I need you to understand the overall makeup of our teacher’s time-out table. Only then can you grasp the true horror of what was before me.

Miss September — okay, my teacher’s name wasn’t really Miss September. It was something similar to Miss September. Something like Miss Sembler… or maybe it was Stremble. Honestly, I don’t know.

The fact is, I was never very good with names, even as a child. For those I didn’t recognize or couldn’t pronounce, I’d come up with a close approximation and stick with it. No doubt Miss September corrected me plenty of times before giving up, figuring there were worse things to be called than the name of a centerfold.

In any case, it wasn’t enough for Miss September that a noisy child sat at the time-out table. The point had to be driven home, which was why there was a stack of index cards on the table. Whoever sat at the table had to do so while keeping an index card in their mouth. The entire time.

I had never, in the entire history of my academic career (now spanning kindergarten and a few months of first grade), been punished for speaking out of turn.

I can still hear Miss September’s voice, “Who said that?!” Adding, in disbelief, “Christi? Was that you?!”

Was there a moment of hesitation? A possibility of reprieve given my incredible track record? Was consideration given for the fact my outburst was a necessary one? The foundation of our faith was being challenged! A defender had to rise up!

I was that defender.

But no. Consistency in punishment, that was Miss September’s way. She pointed to the back table without saying a word. I made my way, my head cast low.

The truly frustrating thing was that I had no reason to stand up for Santa.

Santa had never brought me a present. There was no chimney in our house for him to come down, no stockings to fill. My parents never threatened us with “Santa won’t come if you don’t behave,” because we were always to behave. Santa had nothing to do with it. And Santa never came on Christmas morning, presumably, because we celebrated on Christmas Eve. It was our family’s tradition from ages past.

Clearly, Santa and my family had denominational differences.

But being the broadminded people they were, my parents were not Santa-deniers. They never spoke out in favor of him, nor against him. They simply never brought him up.

What I learned, you might say, I picked up on the streets.

My faith was a pure one. Not born out of fear or greed, but out of sincere philosophical musing and sound theology.

Plus, as I said, he’d been to my house.

Santa and me 2

Many years later, as my mom was showing family pictures to my husband, I asked her who the man was who showed up at our house one December day so long ago, dressed as Santa.

She laughed. It wasn’t a man. (Gasp!) It was the neighbor lady from across the street. The people who bred Boston terriers and decorated their house with blue Christmas lights. It was her.

Honestly, I had no idea.

Back to Miss September’s class: I approached the time-out table, sat down heavily, put the card in my mouth. The tears… oh my friends, the tears! Never has a child suffered so much, nor felt it so deeply as I. Shame and misery were mine.

But the story doesn’t end here, for there was another student at the time-out table. She was a frequent visitor, a regular felon in our classroom. In truth, she was our class clown, and though we weren’t close friends, she gave me a gift that day.

I’m very sorry I don’t remember her name. A better writer would make one up for you. Just name her Angie or Susan or Debbie. Invent a name and run with it. But just as it is with Miss September and my Santa lady with blue Christmas lights, I cannot lie. Her name is lost.

I have failed you. Mea culpa.

All I can remember are two things: her hand sliding across the table until she got my attention, and then, when I looked up… do you know what I saw? This little comic genius had taken the index card, folded it in half, put it in her mouth and was now impersonating a duck!

Soon my tears of sadness were tears of joy and I could hardly stay in my seat due to giggling. My misery forgotten, my day instantly brightened.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, what impact we can have on others? Whether we dress up as Santa (remember ladies, it’s an equal opportunity position), or we cheer up a tearful child with a goofy face. It’s the little moments of kindness that matter.

So as we make our way through this holiday season — indeed, as we approach a new year — let’s look at the ways we leave our mark on others. The memories we give them, the words we leave them.

Let’s make them count, yes?

brigitte-tohm-162814

And please, put in a good word for Santa. There are enough doubters in the world as it is.

First picture: srikanta H. U on Unsplash
Second picture: Author’s own, and ain’t I a cute one?
Third picture: Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Letters From Dad

Dad was never a big letter writer.

Then later in life, after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had a few serious illnesses, Dad realized he didn’t have a lot of time left. He began to “get his affairs in order” as they say. He made sure everything was in good standing for Mom. He sorted through his belongings, finished projects, made things for grandkids.

And he wrote letters. Lots and lots of letters.

He wrote to cousins he hadn’t seen since he was a kid, he wrote to his brothers and their wives, his nieces and nephews. He even wrote letters to his grown children who lived in the same city as he did. It wasn’t at all unusual that when you visited and it was time to go, he’d put a envelope in your hands, your name written in a shaky script on the front. It would be another letter telling some bit of family history, or a chart showing our ancestry, some copies of black-and-white photos of our grim-looking relatives.

My recent post on handwriting led me to read them again. Below is one of those letters. 

First, a note: As I was typing, I realized I was editing and somehow that seemed dishonest. In the end, I decided to keep things pretty much as they were, grammatical errors and all. The only thing I changed was to break up his paragraphs a bit, as his thoughts occasionally jump from one story to the next, then back again.
One other note: When he says they provided all the milk for Bruce — that’s a small town in South Dakota.

Dad with siblings
My dad is on the bottom step next to his little sister, Margaret. His oldest brother, John, is in between the twins. Dad was born in ’23, so I’m guessing this photo was taken around 1928.
A Letter From My Dad…

This letter is about things that happened over 80 years ago.

Mother was having a hard time raising her twin boys. She said she prayed every nite for help. Then Mother found she was pregnant again. She thought the Lord was going to punish her with this new baby. The twins would be 2 in August and I came along the 1st of May. The twins were still in diapers. The conditions were rather primitive on the farm back then, no running water, you did things the hard way.

Mother told me when I was an older kid what a good baby I was. At the time I never wanted to hear about it, it made me sound like a sissy. Mother said I never cryed only whimpered when something was wrong. The relatives said something is wrong with that baby, that baby don’t cry – all babys cry. Mother said I was ok and a happy kid and was an answer to the prayers to the Lord. She also said she could sit me down any place & I would be ok.

Then one day when I learned to crawl Mother heard a loud cry & found the twins stomping on my fingers & were proud of them selfs that they got me to cry. Mother thought they had ruined me & I would cry all the time, but I went back to the way I was.

The good that come from it was the twins were better behaved & watched over me & never let any thing bad happen to me. This has been true all our lives. They have always protected me. We never had any fights with them, altho they were always fighting with each other.

*****

Roger & Rolf were always very fair & kind with me except when work was involved. They would divide the jobs in 3 equal parts, they was kind enough to give me the choice of the jobs, that went along quite well. Now the milking of the cows was another thing.

We always had 20 or so cows to milk. The cows were divide in 3 parts of 7 or so cows. I again got to choose the bunch I wanted. This was the evening milking in the summer as Dad & John could stay out in the field until dark. I was never very fast with the milking. I would have 2 or so left to milk when they were done. The fact that I was 10 years old & they were 12 had nothing to do with it so they would watch me finish. The reason we had so many cows was that we had to furnish most of Bruce with milk.

*****

Bro. John was always to blame if any thing went wrong. When I was about 3 I was breaking the ice in the stock tank & fell in. I was in quite a long time when John found me floating under the ice, he was blamed for me falling in & not (praised?) for pulling me out.

Another time when I was about 3 Dad came home from town & found me layed out on the township road. He brought me to the house & looked for bruises. Then I woke up, I was just sleeping in the middle of the road. Bro. John was blamed for letting me sleep on the road.

*****

They got a very good whipping for stomping on my fingers. I wound up with a deformed finger nail & at the time it got infected and got a swelling under my arm. I was brought to a Doctor & he lanced it. This did cause me trouble later in life.

Merry Christmas
Love, Dad

Dad with brothers
Left to right, Dad, John, Roger and Rolf. We could always tell our twin uncles apart because Rolf was the one who glowered. You might think they’re all glowering, but Rolf glowered best. By the way, they were all extremely kind, gentle men. But yeah… glowering.

Dad passed away 12 years ago. I often think of the stories he told, and the way he told them. He was great storyteller.

Thanks for the letters, Dad.

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Holidays and Family Dinners

In honor of the Season, and all the accompanying stress it brings, I hunted through M.A.’s journal hoping to find something that could help us. (In case you missed it, our discovery of M.A. was first mentioned HERE.)
Sure enough, we found something! Not only that, we found a most intriguing recipe for apple pie that includes… wait for it… wine! (Gasp!)

MA 2

From M.A.’s Journal

The holidays bring mixed feelings: Joy, for what we hope they will be, Dread, for what we fear they will be. We place so much importance on these days, wanting everything to be perfect, only to be tired by the end of them.
Remember that holidays are made by humankind, for humankind. No more than that. They are what you make of them. Resolve now to make them what you need, not what you imagine you want.

Family is coming. Why does that make us nervous? Are these not the people with whom you shared your childhood?
Yes. Perhaps that explains it.
When apart, we choose to think of our past as we want. When together, we’re forced to see things as they really are. No matter what we want to believe of ourselves, these are the people to whom we belong.
Are we shamed for not living up to their standards, or for they not living up to ours?
No matter, for both are folly.
If it is your actions, then change them. If it is theirs, accept. It is all you can do. That, and love. Love the quirkiness, the eccentricities, the pain. Yes, even the pain, for all of it is what made you who you are today.
Therefore, the Noble Woman has three tasks before her with regard to others:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Love

With regard to herself, a fourth task is added to these:

4. Resolve to do better

Also, make a pie. Families who eat pie together, smile together. No one argues. No one fights. The world is a happier place when people eat pie.

This is truth.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

Tipsy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy with cheats
  • Print

There's not enough alcohol in this pie to qualify as tipsy, but the wine helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. If you'd rather not use it, I suggest a tart fruit juice such as cranberry.

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • basic pie pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie*
  • 6 to 7 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Golden Delicious variety)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Egg wash and raw sugar for top of crust

Directions

Heat oven to 425°. Roll out pastry for bottom of pie, line 9″ pie plate. Roll out top crust; cover with a clean towel as you make the filling. (See note below for alternative to using crust.)

In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to apples, along with wine, and stir. Fill pie plate with fruit, top with bits of butter. Cover with top crust, cut and flute the edges. Cut a few vents on top of crust; brush on egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. Test to see if the fruit is tender by inserting a knife through a vent.

Note: You can use pre-made pie crusts to make this easier, or skip the crust altogether and make an Apple Crumble: Pour fruit filling into a greased 9″ baking pan or casserole dish. For crumble topping, mix together: 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and a pinch of salt. Bake as directed above. 

My Glorious Summer of ’76

Note: Since I’m on vacation, I’m giving you a rerun. This first appeared on June 3, 2015, back when I was new to blogging and had about 10 followers. It relates a childhood memory of mine that involved murder and explosives, as all good memories do. Also, the post includes a recipe because when I first started blogging, that was supposed to be my schtick. Then I forgot my schtick.
That’s the trouble with schticks. They only work if you remember them.
Oh well. Enjoy.

Growing up in the 70s was great. I’m not even talking about the movies and music from that era, although we had some darn fine ones.

What I’m talking about is the total lack of parental involvement. Even if a parent stayed home, they pretty much left us to our own devices. It was great.Kids-jumping-and-playing-outside-940x600

Brother and I had it even better, as both Older Sisters and Older Brother were out of the house.

We’re talking complete lack of supervision, baby! Frankly, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the whole place down.

Though we came close. Continue reading “My Glorious Summer of ’76”

Message From 1924: We’re Gonna Be Okay

Not sure about you, but I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Not quite feeling the lighthearted folly I try to bring to you every Wednesday, if you catch my meaning.

I was about to give it up for lost and take the week off, certain you’d understand, being the understanding sort of readers you are. Then yesterday evening, while going through a box of old photos, I found a little Valentine’s Day card dated 1924: Continue reading “Message From 1924: We’re Gonna Be Okay”

The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive

One look at that little rodent corpse, the serene look on his face, and I knew. It was a clear case of mouse suicide.

My family lived in west Phoenix in a square cinderblock home, painted turquoise. And the thing to know about cinderblock homes, however unattractive they might appear, a splash of turquoise paint makes them nearly… less unattractive.

housemouseIn any case, cinderblock keeps out rodents and reptiles, and for desert living that’s darn smart.

Although about the time I was 12-years old, my dad built a garage in our backyard.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a garage as a giant workshop/sanctuary. It took up nearly half our backyard and was made primarily of wood.

That’s when the mice moved in.

The reason we knew we had mice is that every so often, about once a week or so, we’d find one floating in Pepper’s water dish.
Pepper being our family dog.

Continue reading “The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive”

Do You Hear What I Hear?

reindeerWhen I was a young lass, I believed Christmas songs were like homemade cookies. There was no such thing as a bad one.

Then someone shared their mom’s cookies made with raisins, dates and orange peel, and my childhood innocence was lost forever. Continue reading “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

A Fabulous Football Quilt From 1939

quiltA few days ago, someone brought a quilt into the office that was made by his great-aunt. She made it in 1939 when she was 15 years old, living in the small town of Ajo, Arizona.

Fifteen years old!

She made it in honor of her high school football team, the Red Raiders.

It’s clearly been well-cared for and the workmanship is excellent, but it was the attention to detail that impressed me the most.

See for yourself: Continue reading “A Fabulous Football Quilt From 1939”