that is the question.
Ah... the holidays are here again. This year of course, one of the strangest in modern times, that is my lifetime, makes one want to hearken back to Christmas and Thanksgiving days gone by.
I have to say straight out how much I am one of those people who does love the holidays. I love my turkey on both Christmas and Thanksgiving. I love my pumpkin pie. I love my eggnog spiked or not. I love how people for the most part truly do try to be nicer to each other and capture that elusive 'Christmas Spirit'. I even love the giving and receiving of gifts. I think I get this from my mother, God rest her soul. Christmas time was my mother's favorite time of the year. She thoroughly enjoyed buying gifts for her family and relished in our response to her gifts. Some of it was self-serving I suppose, it made her feel important, needed, I guess you could say. No matter what the reason, she would go all out to get you a gift she thought you would love, unless you were one of her daughters-in-law, but that's a tale for another day.
As I said, I am much like mother in this regard, I love to buy gifts for others. Is it some response to wanting others to like me and to feel needed, maybe, I'm not sure? What I do know is that it brings joy to me to see others actually touched by my actually giving thought to what would bring a smile to their face on Christmas morning. I know for me as a kid I couldn't wait for Christmas to arrive. When I was a younger child and my dad was still part of our family, we would have wonderful Christmas mornings with fresh-cut trees packed with presents all around. My mom and dad spoiled me with so many gifts that it was hard to decide what to play with first. Any new and exciting toy that had hit the marketplace was probably going to make it under our tree it seemed, and I was thrilled. Christmas Eve was always memorable for the family Monopoly games we would partake in. I was always stuck with lousy choices for Monopoly pieces being I was the youngest. My brother would take the race car, the one I always wanted, and my sister the little dog, oh well such is life. My dad was the banker and usually won. I of course didn't last long, I would just slink into the living room and watch whatever Christmas cartoon that was airing, with no significance to our story here, I really loved to watch the 'Little Drummer Boy', claymation and all. Anyways...Christmas was the one time of the year when my father was the funnest guy in the room, unlike the rest of time where he just worked, drank, and fished. But at Christmas he was the 'Belle of the Ball' and would spend hours playing with the toys he had bought us, he loved the season too. After he left, it was still good, my mom made sure of that, but just not the same. The family's income now reduced meant that Christmas giving had to be reduced as well. Now don't get me wrong the quality was still there, just not the quantity.
When I grew up and begin to have my own Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations I splurged just as my mother had. I no longer cared much about what I would receive but wanted my kids to look forward to the holidays as I had when I was their age. I probably got carried away and spoiled them too, but justified it in my own mind because I didn't really spend much, the rest of the year. Christmas was the time of year to spoil my kids rotten, so why not. As I've said, I'm a giver, like my mother before me. The world is made up of two types of people, the ones who want to get stuff and the ones who want to take joy in giving it. Mind you, I don't dislike a thoughtful well-intended gift, but I have little thankfulness for gifts that show no consideration for who the person is at all, say like many gift cards which basically tell the person that is receiving them that I just don't want to put the effort into getting you a thoughtful gift, so here you go. Now, I will say that restaurant gift cards are the exception to the rule. You can always use an excellent dinner out on the town, that is if your Covid-Governor allows it. But I digress, put some thought into it, will you, it truly is the thought that counts.
As I just said, the world is made up of givers and receivers. All kids are receivers during the holidays that's the whole purpose of writing letters to Santa telling him what you want for the big day. When you become an adult however, you have a choice. Do you want to be someone more concerned with the things you get in life or the kind of person who wants to make others lives better by being a giver. Around October each year I begin to plot the things I want to get for family members. If you ask me what I want I usually have a hard time even telling you. I'm a giver not a receiver, right. And I know that does make it hard for other people to purchase or make thoughtful gifts for me as I am advocating here, it's a problem and I am working on it. But the truth is at this stage of my life I am buying gifts much more than I am receiving them. I rarely get anything from my adult children for a myriad of reasons that I won't go into here, but I still make sure that they receive gifts even if I don't see them during the holidays, I'm a giver. I wish I had grandchildren to spoil, I was made for that, but alas at this point I don't, I don't know if I ever will but I hope so. The good thing is it doesn't really matter to me as a giver I don't care what you get for me. Like my mother before, the pleasure and joy comes from giving and touching someone's heart with the perfectly chosen or created gift. It's about making someone else feel special for a moment in time, that's what it's all about. So if you are reading this blog right now and wondering why you took the trouble to do so and you happen to be someone in my gift-giving circle, just remember when I give you a gift that you love and touches your heart, you don't need to feel guilty that you didn't do the same for me. I don't care about that, I'm a giver and you receiving your gift and being even a bit moved by the act is all the gift I need, that's just how my dear departed mom taught me to be and how I like it.
Here's another Christmas story that shows the power of giving and the real message of the season!
Once upon a time - so long ago that everybody has forgotten the date - in a city in the north of Europe - with such a hard name that nobody can ever remember it - there was a little seven-year-old boy named Wolff, whose parents were dead, who lived with a cross and stingy old aunt, who never thought of kissing him more than once a year and who sighed deeply whenever she gave him a bowlful of soup. But the poor little fellow had such a sweet nature that in spite of everything, he loved the old woman, although he was terribly afraid of her and could never look at her ugly old face without shivering. As this aunt of little Wolff was known to have a house of her own and an old woollen stocking full of gold, she had not dared to send the boy to a charity school; but, in order to get a reduction in the price, she had so wrangled with the master of the school, to which little Wolff finally went, that this bad man, vexed at having a pupil so poorly dressed and paying so little, often punished him unjustly, and even prejudiced his companions against him, so that the three boys, all sons of rich parents, made a drudge and laughing stock of the little fellow. The poor little one was thus as wretched as a child could be and used to hide himself in corners to weep whenever Christmas time came. It was the schoolmaster's custom to take all his pupils to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and to bring them home again afterward. Now, as the winter this year was very bitter, and as heavy snow had been falling for several days, all the boys came well bundled up in warm clothes, with fur caps pulled over their ears, padded jackets, gloves and knitted mittens, and strong, thick-soled boots. Only little Wolff presented himself shivering in the poor clothes he used to wear both weekdays and Sundays and having on his feet only thin socks in heavy wooden shoes. His naughty companions noticing his sad face and awkward appearance, made many jokes at his expense; but the little fellow was so busy blowing on his fingers, and was suffering so much with chilblains, that he took no notice of them. So the band of youngsters, walking two and two behind the master, started for the church. It was pleasant in the church which was brilliant with lighted candles; and the boys excited by the warmth took advantage of the music of the choir and the organ to chatter among themselves in low tones. They bragged about the fun that was awaiting them at home. The mayor's son had seen, just before starting off, an immense goose ready stuffed and dressed for cooking. At the alderman's home there was a little pine-tree with branches laden down with oranges, sweets, and toys. And the lawyer's cook had put on her cap with such care as she never thought of taking unless she was expecting something very good! Then they talked, too, of all that the Christ-Child was going to bring them, of all he was going to put in their shoes which, you might be sure, they would take good care to leave in the chimney place before going to bed; and the eyes of these little urchins, as lively as a cage of mice, were sparkling in advance over the joy they would have when they awoke in the morning and saw the pink bag full of sugar-plums, the little lead soldiers ranged in companies in their boxes, the menageries smelling of varnished wood, and the magnificent jumping-jacks in purple and tinsel. Alas! Little Wolff knew by experience that his old miser of an aunt would send him to bed supperless, but, with childlike faith and certain of having been, all the year, as good and industrious as possible, he hoped that the Christ-Child would not forget him, and so he, too, planned to place his wooden shoes in good time in the fireplace. Midnight mass over, the worshippers departed, eager for their fun, and the band of pupils always walking two and two, and following the teacher, left the church. Now, in the porch and seated on a stone bench set in the niche of a painted arch, a child was sleeping - a child in a white woollen garment, but with his little feet bare, in spite of the cold. He was not a beggar, for his garment was white and new, and near him on the floor was a bundle of carpenter's tools. In the clear light of the stars, his face, with its closed eyes, shone with an expression of divine sweetness, and his long, curling, blond locks seemed to form a halo about his brow. But his little child's feet, made blue by the cold of this bitter December night, were pitiful to see! The boys so well clothed for the winter weather passed by quite indifferent to the unknown child; several of them, sons of the notables of the town, however, cast on the vagabond looks in which could be read all the scorn of the rich for the poor, of the well fed for the hungry. But little Wolff, coming last out of the church, stopped, deeply touched, before the beautiful sleeping child. "Oh, dear!" said the little fellow to himself, "this is frightful! This poor little one has no shoes and stockings in this bad weather - and, what is still worse, he has not even a wooden shoe to leave near him to-night while he sleeps, into which the little Christ-Child can put something good to soothe his misery." And carried away by his loving heart, Wolff drew the wooden shoe from his right foot, laid it down before the sleeping child, and, as best he could, sometimes hopping, sometimes limping with his sock wet by the snow, he went home to his aunt. "Look at the good-for-nothing!" cried the old woman, full of wrath at the sight of the shoeless boy. "What have you done with your shoe, you little villain?" Little Wolff did not know how to lie, so, although trembling with terror when he saw the rage of the old shrew, he tried to relate his adventure. But the miserly old creature only burst into a frightful fit of laughter. "Aha! So my young gentleman strips himself for the beggars. Aha! My young gentleman breaks his pair of shoes for a bare-foot! Here is something new, forsooth. Very well, since it is this way, I shall put the only shoe that is left into the chimney-place, and I'll answer for it that the Christ-Child will put in something tonight to beat you with in the morning! And you will have only a crust of bread and water to-morrow. And we shall see if the next time, you will be giving your shoes to the first vagabond that happens along And the wicked woman having boxed the ears of the poor little fellow, made him climb up into the loft where he had his wretched cubbyhole.
Desolate, the child went to bed in the dark and soon fell asleep, but his pillow was wet with tears.
But behold! the next morning when the old woman, awakened early by the cold, went downstairs - oh, wonder of wonders - she saw the big chimney filled with shining toys, bags of magnificent bonbons, and riches of every sort, and standing out in front of all this treasure, was the right wooden shoe which the boy had given to the little vagabond, yes, and beside it, the one which she had placed in the chimney to hold the bunch of switches. As little Wolff, attracted by the cries of his aunt, stood in an ecstasy of childish delight before the splendid Christmas gifts, shouts of laughter were heard outside. The woman and child ran out to see what all this meant, and behold! all the gossips of the town were standing around the public fountain. What could have happened? Oh, a most ridiculous and extraordinary thing! The children of the richest men in the town, whom their parents had planned to surprise with the most beautiful presents had found only switches in their shoes! Then the old woman and the child thinking of all the riches in their chimney were filled with fear. But suddenly they saw the priest appear, his countenance full of astonishment. Just above the bench placed near the door of the church, in the very spot where, the night before, a child in a white garment and with bare feet, in spite of the cold, had rested his lovely head, the priest had found a circlet of gold imbedded in the old stones. Then, they all crossed themselves devoutly, perceiving that this beautiful sleeping child with the carpenter's tools had been Jesus of Nazareth himself, who had come back for one hour just as he had been when he used to work in the home of his parents; and reverently they bowed before this miracle,
which the good God had done to reward the faith and the love of a little child.
Everybody had those gifts that meant so much to them, here's
a few that I will always cherish receiving, oh the memories.
Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle- This is back when toys didn't break in a day and actually did what they said on the package. I jumped everything I could find with this toy, including the canal across from our house. As much fun as any toy I ever received, long live Evel Knievel!
Big Jim and his sports camper
I loved Big Jim and all his accessories. He was kind of a cross between G.I. Joe and Barbie. He had Kung-Fu Grip, weapons and even cool husky dogs, but like Barbie he could let his hair down and just have fun with his camping equipment and other cool stuff. I wish I knew what happened to the van. Yes I know, I did play with dolls as a boy, cool action dolls though, man!
Table Top Hockey Game
My brother already had the electric football game that we played all the time, but the hockey game was a Christmas gift to me and did I ever spend hours upon hours on it. I never really was a fan of the sport, except for the 'Miracle on Ice' of course, but I sure loved playing this game with rods that were somewhat like foosball but at a slower, more strategic pace.
Mr. Quarterback Football Passer
I know, I know, major sports theme going on here, but what can I say? When I was a kid video games were just starting and Madden was a glint in some designer's eye. When my older brother was to busy or tired of me to toss the football around, I had this baby that my mother bought for me. It really worked well. You just set the counter on the side and the timer started and then you ran the pattern and the ball came flying your direction. I got pretty good at catching passes with this sucker.
Masterpiece The Board Game
I didn't play much Clue or Sorry when I was young but my family loved Masterpiece. It was a bit like Monopoly in that you purchased items and who had the most money at the end won. In this case it was famous paintings. I remember one summer as a kid when it seemed like me and my older brother and a neighbor friend of his played almost every night until the wee hours, great game. Bonus, you actually learned about famous paintings and their artists.
Golden Gate Slot Car Racing
I don't think I got this particular one as a gift during Christmas but we always had slot car sets around and had loads of fun with them. My dad and brother would beat my brains out on sets just like this. The Golden Gate set that we had like this one was my favorite though it belonged to my brother. This set is even talked about in my new book, 'Fishing for Something'
that's how much an impact it had on me as a child.
Well that's my short list, there are so many others of course I could go on for way too long if I listed them all.
Finally, some wish lists for Santa that are hilarious!!
Good Luck With This One Santa
At Least He Or She Is Honest
Watch Out Santa, This Kid Means Business!
Max Wants Mature Stuff, Whatever That Is?
Every Child Needs Colorful Duck Tape
Honest To A Fault
The Practical Kid
Seasons Greetings Everyone
Andrew Scott Bassett