Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Memories

I love Christmas. I love the craziness, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, and most of all the snow if we're lucky. When I was a little kid I knew that, once it began to snow, Christmas couldn't be too far away, and I haven't forgotten. I probably wouldn't be able to live in a warm climate all year round.  I have some wonderful memories of Christmases when I was growing up in Chicago. Back then there were no sold out, hard-to-find toys. More likely than not it was just hard to find the money for the toys we wanted. But I almost always got the stuff I put on my list for Santa.

I shopped a little yesterday and when I shop for presents for my kids I always get nostalgic. They're way too old for toys now, except for the expensive electronic kind, and I miss the days of buying them that one special toy that would make their eyes light up on Christmas morning.

Just about every year when I was growing up there was a doll under the tree for me at Christmas. My mom always knew exactly what I wanted and now I know she probably worked hard to be able to afford them. She loved Christmas and I think she probably loved dolls too. The most memorable ones: Tiny Tears, Miss Revlon, Ginny, Shirley Temple, Chatty Cathy, Patty Playpal and, of course, who can forget Barbie and all of her exquisite outfits and accessories? Oh, the magic of Christmas.

Chatty Cathy and Barbie are the only ones that are left. They both still look pretty good for 50.

I tried to do the same for my kids when they were young. I hoped that the dolls I bought for my daughter would create some of the same magic as mine did  for me when I was growing up. The American Girl dolls came close but it didn't take me long to figure out that nothing could ever really compete with puppies. It became obvious that, for her, stuffed dogs were the only toys that created magic. And then real puppies. For my son it was dinosaurs, trains (can you say Thomas?) and Legos--the more the merrier. Later, as a teenager, money always seemed to do the trick.

Our first dog, Bailey, an Old English Sheepdog


Nope, he didn't spend it on a haircut . . .  .

In addition to the dolls, one year I got a pastel painted metal doll cradle that I loved for my baby dolls and then "Chatty Cathy." I can't remember what I used for a blanket, but I do know it wasn't a doll quilt. When I graduated to Barbies, one year one of my sisters bought me a little pink frilly canopied Barbie bed with a matching pink satin blanket and pillow for Christmas. My sister Audrey was more than a few years older than me (so she should have known better) and too old to play with dolls herself, but she was so excited and so in love with that little bed that a week before Christmas she couldn't contain herself any longer and took me into her closet where it was hidden, unwrapped. She let me look in the box and then let me play with it for a few minutes every day after that while my mom was at work. Shhh, don't tell Mom! Boy, did I have to act surprised when I opened presents that Christmas! Much, much later, when I grew up, I loved going into quilt shops and was always drawn to the little antique doll beds displayed with little quilts. Then my daughter was born, and yippee--all of a sudden I had permission to play with dolls and doll beds again.

You gotta love Hallmark for bringing many of our childhood dreams back to life.

I read a blog where this woman said that when she was little she wanted a Chatty Cathy doll for Christmas SO BAD but her mom said it was too expensive and, besides, she was ten--too old to play with dolls--and so she never got it. Then she grew up and along came EBAY. She bought her first doll from her childhood a few years ago and said now she has FIVE! Wonder if her mom is still alive and what she thinks, LOL.

Some other Christmas memories:
  • The year we had a silver aluminum tree with shiny blue ornaments
  • Bubble Lights
  • Going through the Sears Christmas catalog over and over again, picking out toys. Didn't they call it the Wish Book?
  • Driving around to see the houses with lights on Candy Cane Lane
  • Taking the "L" downtown to see the Christmas window decorations at the old Marshall Field's store on State Street in Chicago, invariably on the coldest night of the year
  • Taking my kids to see the same windows many years later, standing in line for over an hour to see Santa and then another hour waiting to have lunch at the Walnut Room under the giant 3-story Christmas Tree in Marshall Field's. My daughter Caitlin screaming and crying at finally seeing Santa up close (those were not happy tears)
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks the FIRST time around
  • Glass Wax Christmas stencil pictures my mom painted on the windows
  • The Andy Williams Christmas Show
  • Metal roller skates (with a key you wore around your neck, remember?). They were so heavy you could almost kill a kid if you weren't careful swinging them around. Who needed a Red Ryder BB gun to shoot your eye out when you had those things?
This year I vowed to cut back on excess--overspending for one--and also on spending excessive time stressed out about cooking, cleaning, decorating. That means less cooking, more takeout or quick meals sometimes, to make it easier to enjoy my kids while they're home and out of school and also to have time to share and visit with friends and family--what Christmas should be all about anyway. And just in case you need any reminders about the  true meaning of Christmas, I love how Linus explained it to Charlie Brown in  "A Charlie Brown Christmas:"

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people . . .  "

Merry Christmas!  


Carol said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post! Thanks for the great memeories!

Anonymous said...

You brought back many memories- the dolls, the aluminum tree, the Field's windows etc. I still have my Ginny doll - close to 60 years old now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Charlotte said...

I enjoyed reading through your Christmas memories. Brought back a few for me too.

Beth- Near Chicago

judy j said...

What a nice post.
I too have been thinking about past Christmas'
of when I was a child and wanted Poor Pitiful Pearl and did not get her.I did find her the year our youngest daughter was born in 1975.A lady had bought her for her grand daughter and the girl did not like her.She was still in the original box when I bought her.It brought tears to see her.
Neither of my girls were into dolls
I have Pearl still.I gave myself permission to play with dolls a long time ago.A day last week when I was really supposed to be house cleaning I cleaned and played in the doll room.
judy j

Shelley said...

Oh my gosh Kathy! I have PENNY Playpal and she is standing next to me Christmas tree also! Shelley

Kathleen Tracy said...

I guess the little girl in some of us never grows up . . . .

Ingrid said...

Wow, what a trip down memory lane!

Lori said...

Ah, Christmas is a time for memories. I love the story of your sister showing you the canopy bed and letting you play with it!! That is so sweet!! Merry Christmas!!

Julie-Ann said...

I had a Chatty Cathy doll, too, and many others. One night my older sisters were watching me while my parents went out. They let me stay up and watch the Twilight Zone. It was the one where the baby doll killed people! The next day I screamed (I was 4 or 5) until my mom put away all of my dolls. I never played with them again, except a Barbie that I got when I was around 8 or 9. Twenty years later Mom, my sisters and me were sitting around talking and Mom said how strange it was that one day I loved my dolls and the next I hated them. Boy, my sister's wore guilty looks! I still don't like dolls that much. Oh, well . . .

I am now starting to make doll quilts for my great-niece and having fun doing it!

I received two early Christmas presents so far and they are two of your books, Kathleen! I love them!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Julie-Ann, that is so funny. I was terrified by some of those Twilight Zone shows and my sisters always watched them too.


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