This Christmas will be my 50th. (No, I’m not yet fifty, but I wasn’t yet one for my first Christmas either…it’s a math thing.) As you can imagine, after a half-century of Christmases a lot of them exhibit some degree of sameness. Traditions do that, being that you have a routine that is more-or-less followed year after year. Even so, amid the truckloads of presents and visits by Santa, I’ve managed to have a memory or two stick with me.
I got a Superman costume. Yeah, it was nice that my dad’s parents came for a visit, and I got my first guitar (plastic and out-of-tune, of course), but I was completely into Superman at the time (this would be the George Reeves Superman). As could be expected from a 5-year-old kid with some superhero worship, I spent many a day afterwards in that costume, cape fluttering heroically behind me, running around the neighborhood.
I’m now certain that this gift was also a present to my mom’s towels, which took much abuse when on cape duty.
1972 Panasonic ad.
My TV was the one in the back.
My brother was born a couple days before. But that wasn’t that big a thing. What was big was me getting my first television. In a time when most families only had one, this was HUGE! It was a Panasonic 19″ b&w set with the matching rolling stand. What was so cool for me, too, was this set had a flat anti-glare screen which was about as close as anyone was getting to a flat-screen TV for about three decades. The future had begun.
Finally on my own and in my apartment. There’s nothing quite like having to worry about things like rent and food and other sundry stuff. That first Christmas alone was mine. No…not much in the way of presents (or money for that matter). I didn’t even have a tree–I could barely afford food at the end of a month–but the season seemed to hold out a future full of possibilities. O, to be young.
This was the year that I wrote and illustrated The Christmas Eve Story for my new extended family. Every character was based on a family member. Additionally, I learned bookbinding so I could present it as a proper, one-of-a-kind, edition. It was also the first non-trivial fiction I’d written a while, and the longest project I’d undertaken since my RSI issues in January all but crippled my hands (it would be another year before I could use a computer without wearing a brace).
That gift was better received much better than I expected.
This one was unexpectedly special. It was the first I spent with my extended family. As great as that was on its own, the thing I most remember was sitting with Granddaughter-like-thingy #1, Lara*. She as only three at the time and a little skittish when it came to dogs. Well, the alpha of the house had recently had a litter of puppies, which were being shared around the room. Lara sat with me and the puppy that would eventually be the one that was kept. It was a nifty bonding experience.
One of the most outstanding things you can do at Christmas is to give the perfect gift. This year was the last before dementia started consuming my dad, so it was well-timed. For many years my dad would talk about about a western he had read over and over when he was a kid. It was his favorite book. Of course a book from the 1930s isn’t exactly the easiest thing to find, but after several months I was able to find a copy of Square Deal Sanderson by Charles Alden Seltzer.
It’s the only time I ever saw my dad weep from a gift. It is without a doubt the best gift I ever gave: a bit of treasured childhood to my father.
* Names have been changed.