My girls always do a great job decorating the tree.
As a child Christmas was always a magical time for me. As with many kids I saw it as a time when all my efforts at being good throughout the year would pay off. The gifts I would receive were connected to my actions. Plus the fact that it was a time of winter break from school when you hung out with friends building snow forts and talking about what gift you hopped for. Things were simple.
Of course even as a child I was aware that the type and number of gifts were closely related to available funds. Even so I loved the idea of all things Christmas from the, music to the shows I would watch before bed like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys.” I had my favorites but that was the one looked forward to the most.
For many years I had a calendar I kept near my bed marking off each day of December in anticipation for the big day when Santa would bring me gifts. Eventually I started to put together that we didn’t have a chimney plus there were the kids in school who said it was a lie. In time, as we all do, I learned all about it but not before I enjoyed many years of the thought that he was in fact coming. I swear one year I really heard the bells on his sleigh on our roof, I was completely convinced. Years later I would dangle bells on the end of a broom stick and shake them outside of the kid’s bedroom window hoping they would feel the way I did.
My own kids, at least the first two, were raised differently than I was. They were taught at a young age that Santa was not real because I thought the truth was more important plus my intention was to teach them Jesus is the reason for the season. Thinking back I believe it’s possible to do both and I wish I had. My last two kids though were allowed to dream about the idea though only one actually believed it was true for a while at least.
Some of the magic of Christmas wears off as an adult. It can be hard to focus on the things we did as a kid because of work, money it takes to get gifts, shopping crowds and traffic. Sometimes Christmas can be a time of sadness for some people who have lost loved ones or who have had significant life changes. For them Christmas can become a time of year when you just wait for it to pass perhaps while forcing a smile.
The fact is life happens. Things change and those changes may not always agree with our plans on how things should be. These changes may seem unfair or like a curse even.
Even with the changes life brings there are choices to be made. I’m not saying this is the way it should be for everyone but for me I choose to face those changes with courage. I will accept that life happens and I will make a choice to be happy. The thing happening in my life this season will not be what defines how I face it in years to come. Actually yes it will because this year I will be happy and enjoy Christmas.
As my kids open their gifts I will think about their happiness and how fortunate I am.
What kid doesn’t like toys? Plenty of toys for Christmas was all I ever wanted as a kid. There are some toys that I still think about and I’ve even purchased a few over the years from the internet. I thought if I owned something from my past that certain memories might return clearer or perhaps I would regain something from that time. It’s an odd thing I know and really it didn’t work. I simply looked at the items a few times and tucked them away in a corner. Still if felt good for a while to know those things were there for me to see whenever I wanted but come to think of it I don’t know where they are now. Below is a list of some of the toys I remember most.
My earliest toy memory is of action figures my brother and I got for Christmas, his black and mine white. What I really liked about this toy is the fact that the arms, legs, and various attachments were interchangeable. The idea of replacing a whole arm with a weapon was magical to me and not only that these action figures were solid with a metallic feel to them. The down side was the fact that the parts could be easily lost and of course that’s what happened. Eventually I would miss something and finding my brothers action figure would try to put mine together whole but there was no hiding the fact that they were different colors. This may have been the beginning of our fighting careers that lasted throughout childhood and adolescence.
This was Christmas at my dad’s where we would always get tons of toys. It was almost comical the number to present under grandmas tree. Years later my dad told me about how he would buy all these toys and we would just rip open the box, set it to the side, and ready ourselves for the next. As a father of four I now know that’s just the way it is. One year I got a toy I didn’t know I wanted but that blew me away. The Monster Machine was a new concept to me as a toy that allows you to create something. There were several busts that could be made from Frankenstein, an alien creature, Jekyll and Hyde plus a couple more I don’t remember.
I didn’t even wait for the present giving to end and while everyone else was gathered in the living room I quietly went upstairs to the attic bedroom and got to work. Pouring the plaster contents into the mold you had to attach it to this green machine that needed to be rotated 100 times while saying “Monster Machine” at each rotation. This I did in anticipation. The toy was great while it lasted but the plaster ran out so it sat and disappeared. Years later I would find it on an online auction site but the bidding went above my max price of $150.00. To this day I go online and search for it but I think that one time may have been my only chance.
It was the summer of 1980 when I received my first real bike. One without training wheels or too small. I’d wanted a big kids bike for a year or so and talked about it but it just wasn’t one of those things I thought I would get. Gifts were typically smaller in size and price so I just figured it wouldn’t happen. The bike was given to be as a birthday gift. I don’t remember how it happened but I think it was brought home in the trunk of the car and presented to me while I was out playing. My mother had a camera to take a picture of my reaction which was the equivalent to what an adult might feel when hitting the lottery. At that moment I saw my bike as the answer to all the problems I might have thought I had. It was freedom that would take me placed I’d never been. While that wasn’t necessarily true it certainly did take me places a lot faster.
This was not so much a gift as a lesson. By this time I was receiving an allowance every two weeks from my dad to spend on whatever I wanted. It was at this time too that I opened my first bank account with encouragement from my dad to deposit some money each time. Around this time I received my first wallet too which made me feel really grown up, having a wallet and bank account you know. One thing my dad always said was if I wanted a toy or other item I should save up for half of it and he would pay the rest. The thing I wanted most at this time was a boom box because it was the thing to have with rap music and break dancing becoming popular. Having a boom box was a way to get into that culture plus there was street cred. with having the biggest loudest box around.
Eventually I saved enough money for a boom box I had my eye on and still remember the day we went to get it. One thing I hadn’t counted on was the number of D size batteries it would take and how much they would cost too. The battery issue would prove to be difficult when the idea of the box was to carry it around the neighborhood blaring out Grand Master Flash on lvl 10. The louder you play the faster the batteries would die. There was a time when we had a radio day in school where kids brought in their boom boxes to the gym. Sitting in the gym I rotated the knob to 10. “It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under…”
There was a kid in the neighborhood who had a Commodore 64 that I considered a big step up from my Atari. It took floppy disks and had games will cool graphics but I never got to play it. This was another time when I thought the gift idea was way out of reach for me and probably not worth asking for but I did anyway. When Christmas day came I was amazed to open a box with a VIC 20 keyboard inside. But it was just the keyboard. My excitement died quickly knowing this and also knowing it would be impossible to get the rest of the system needed to play the games. I hooked up the keyboard to the television and typed in a few things I’d learned by my TRS-80 computer kept in Jackson at my dad’s house. Of course nothing happened so the keyboard sat and like other toys disappeared. I never bothered to ask my mother for the rest because I knew she could not afford it. The fact that she tried to get me this item she knew I really wanted was great though.