Archived Story

Christmases of youth were the best

Published 7:45am Sunday, December 18, 2011

It’s the season of giving and that’s fine by me. There isn’t much I need or want for Christmas this year.

I know that makes me lucky. It also makes me a little bored. If I think back to those childhood Christmases when I could be greedy with a clear conscience, when I could want without limits, I can still feel the excitement. I hear the New Christy Minstrels on the record player. I smell the Scotch tape on the presents and the tangerines in the fruit basket.

The suspense and anticipation are palpable again, and I am there in the season of getting.

I am 4.

More than anything I want a Mrs. Beasley doll. I don’t care about her corn silk hair or her polka dot frock. I don’t care that her sky-high eyebrows and expression of surprise are warnings of the coming botox rebellion. I want her eyeglasses. Those black square spectacles would make every outfit pop. I am 4, but I know the power of a perfect accessory. I pull Mrs. Beasley from her box, remove her glasses and abandon her in my miniature rocking chair. Those startled eyes will never see clearly again.

I am 5.

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m sitting in my playroom mentally preparing for Midnight Mass, which is always a struggle because it’s 1976 and it still starts at midnight. It’ll be several years before our church gets wise to the fact that if they start Midnight Mass at 10 more people will come.

First I hear bells and then my mom calls me to the front door. Standing there is a man in a bright orange jacket wearing a Russian cap and a scarf tied around his face.

Santa! He’s holding a beautifully wrapped package that’s as big as I am. I am 5. Fortunately my willing suspension of disbelief knows no bounds at Christmas. Otherwise I might have thought a deer hunting Cossak whose eyes strangely resembled my father’s was about to mug me with a giant present. The box holds a full set of yellow plastic china. Finally, I can entertain properly.

I am 6.

I’m watching my sister hunt for Christmas presents in the attic with the stealth of a Cold War spy. She spots the loot but getting it won’t be easy. In one corner of the attic boards are laying over bare insulation. My mom has pushed the presents out onto the middle of one of these boards. Some might say it was a tricky maneuver; some might say it was an invitation to disaster.

As soon as I saw Susie start to shimmy across that board I ran. My fight-or-flight response kicked in and, as usual, flight seemed like the smartest option. My mom was standing at the stove cooking dinner, so I loitered around making sure she would see me and know that I had no part in what was about to happen.

A loud thump hit the hood of the stove above where my mother was standing. “God bless America! What was that?” she yelled. My mom doesn’t swear, but when she’s startled she gets really patriotic.

“Mom,” came a voice from above.

“Susie?” my mom said calmly looking up.

“Mom!”

“Susie!”

“I’m in the wall!”

“God bless America!”

See what I mean?

I don’t remember how she got out. I don’t even remember what I got for Christmas that year. I only remember laughing for a very long time. That was gift enough for me.

Those were fun Christmases. I don’t know what happened to most of my toys, but I know exactly where I keep my memories of fantasizing over the pages of the Sears catalog, believing in Santa because believing made him real, and sitting on the floor with my sisters in matching nightgowns while my dad took our picture.

Let’s do something to give a fun Christmas to as many kids as we can this year. There’s still a week left. If you are able, please consider donating a toy to Toys For Tots. You’re not just giving a present. You’re giving a child a Christmas memory that will last long after the toys are gone.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.