Remembering the gifts of Christmas past

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While I have been on the subject of Christmas presents, I tried to think back on my favorite present from my childhood.  I hate to admit this, but I can only remember one specific present I ever received.  How bad is that, after all the money we spend on our children, will they ever remember the gifts we searched so long and hard to make their Christmas exactly what we thought they wanted?

Mine looked just like this image from google images
Mine looked just like this image from google images

So what was my present?  I had tried to let it be known that I would like a small radio I could plug in.  I loved my small transistor radio, but the cost of batteries was adding up.  My grandmother had given me her transistor radio when I was only 4 years old, I eventually gave it to my oldest son when he was little.  Yes, music was my second love, after books.

I should say first, that while I have told you about growing up with my grandparents, there were a few years in which I lived with my mother, it wasn’t a good situation and I returned to live with my grandparents until after high school.  The one present I remember came from the short time I lived with my mother.

I was 12 years old when I asked for that radio.  I was so shocked to get not only a radio that wouldn’t need batteries, but it was a clock radio.  Not fancy by today’s standards, it was a simply alarm clock with AM channels, this being before FM was available, or at least not known by me.

I also remember the moment I hated my present.  Right after I opened my present, I know I had a huge smile, my mother turned to me and informed me that she was glad I asked for the radio because now that I had an alarm I could be responsible for waking my siblings for school and she could sleep in.  A present with a responsibility, thanks can I give it back?

I didn’t care for the added responsibility that came with my present, but I loved the present. Now I could listen to music whenever I wanted, as long as I wanted without worrying about how much life was left in the radio.  I had that radio for many years.  I still had it when I was a young mother. I finally traded up when AM channels were disappearing and all the good channels were on the FM band.

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My grandmother always gifted me with clothes and books. She knew I loved to read and she also knew my mother didn’t buy me much to wear or read.  I don’t have any concrete memories of a favorite book or piece of clothing but what I do remember is that she tried to give me gifts that I could use and need, and they were always appreciated.

Once I was out on my own, my grandmother knowing my love for horses would gift me with an inexpensive horse ornament for my tree each year. These I lovingly care for and remember even now that I no longer have them.

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So what do I remember from my childhood Christmases?

Food:

  • I remember my aunts wilted salad she made every year (oh how I begged her to make it each year),
  • my grandfather’s homemade coleslaw (he made this for every holiday),
  • my grandmother insisting no one could make gravy like her, so she would take over the kitchen to make the gravy.
  • my grandfather controlling the mashed potatoes to keep my grandmother from over salting them.
  • My grandmother’s best friend who delivered us huge boxes of her homemade cookies
  • My grandmother’s fruitcake which filled our fridge every year

The other things:

  • And I remember my grandmother complaining that my grandfather refused to put up the outside lights until Christmas eve, he said it was to keep her from running up their electric bill.
  • Having company stay over because their cars were completely buried in a snow storm

None of my memories really ever centered on the gifts, it was the traditions that revolved around the food or when the tree would go up, who took what job in the decorating or cooking.

What presents do you remember from your childhood?

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14 thoughts on “Remembering the gifts of Christmas past

  1. My fondest childhood Christmas memory was when I was quite young… maybe 4, it was before my parents divorced. After all the presents were opened, my parents said we’d better go check in the basement to see if Santa left anything down there.

    So my brother and I charged down the stairs… and there it was… the most amazing Christmas gift ever. It was a giant inner tube with a piece of canvas stretched across the top so you could jump up and down on it. But the best part was the surprise. It was wonderful!

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    1. I like how they presented you with Santa’s gift. I bet you had a lot of fun with the inner tube. That’s something I could see children fighting over to play on it. Sounds like your parents tried to give you the ideal childhood before the divorce.

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    1. I never saw a doll like that, I’m sure you had lots of fun with her. Knee Socks? Okay, everyone has their quirk. Did you grow up during the time that you could get the knee socks with the separated toes? Those seemed like such a good idea, I got a pair one year and hated them because my toes felt cramped every time I put on shoes.

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  2. From my childhood, I remember getting a writing desk with a lamp attached and two removable tray drawers. I loved it. I don’t remember asking for it, but it was perfect. I used it for drawing and crafts and writing. I think my parents were still married, which would have made me under seven when I got it. I’m still a writer now… and I wish I still had the desk 😛

    This year, I wrote a Facebook note, tagging friends and family, and I told them they were off the hook for me this year. They were gift exempt! This has had an interesting result — my father, who normally would just go out and buy a ton of stuff, is being very deliberate and asking my sister what he could get me that would align with my minimal lifestyle and my values. I suggested a pair of handmade earrings from Etsy, and I sent along a link to some TOMS shoes for my sister to sneakily pass his way, as I do need new shoes and TOMS donates a second pair to a child in need for every purchase. I’m so pleased my Christmas won’t be filled with a bunch of cheap toys made in China 🙂 I think the gift exemption strikes people as so very strange that when they DO want to buy me a gift, they pay a little more attention to what I would really and truly appreciate. It’s really nice!

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    1. I remember you telling us about your Facebook message letting people off the hook. Sounds like it’s worked pretty well. I keep meaning to actually look at the Tom’s website, but I put it off because I need to try on a pair of shoes before I buy them, I just don’t fit into a standard size.

      I would have loved your desk too. When I was younger I used to go camping each summer, it was free as it was run by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. When I returned to live with my grandparents I was 14 and that summer I went to camp as usual. When I came home my grandmother told me that my grandfather was glad I was back living with them and had a surprise in my room. He had put a small desk (which used to be theirs and painted it blue, my favorite color) in a corner and had run a line and installed an antique telephone. When I thanked him, the tough guy he was only replied that teenagers need their privacy. I was so touched by his gesture. When I moved he kept the phone, but gave me the desk. I kept it all these years, but didn’t have room when I moved, it’s now sitting in my youngest son’s home getting lots of use.

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        1. Me too. The part that I remember is that he didn’t spend a dime to give me that gift, the paint was left over colors he mixed to get the right shade, everything he already had. I think he had quite an influence on who I turned out to be.

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    1. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the things we remember are those things our parents took the time to make for us, like your dad painting the desk and of course who wouldn’t remember their first pair of good scissors. I still enjoy seeing my desk when I visit my son’s house, those memories will always be with us.

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