At my stage of life, with plenty of Christmases behind me, Christmas evokes memories, whether they are of my childhood or the childhoods of my children.
I was in a work meeting last week with some folks who still have children at home. They were talking about the latest in Christmas presents for the younger set, and how they go about doing their shopping.
I’m not a shopper, and I long ago turned it all over to my better half. But hearing that discussion made me catch my breath, remembering how we would take a day off in early December to do the Christmas shopping together for our little brood.
And yes, I said early December. This was before the Christmas season started the day after Halloween.
It’s a happy memory.
There was no online shopping in those days. We might have occasionally ordered something from a catalog, but for the most part it involved going to stores and finding just what one of the little ones was asking for that year.
Because we would usually do it on a weekday, the crowds were not terrible, but stores were certainly busier than during the other 11 months of the year.
Since I don’t shop today, I don’t know if the online thing has made those previous holiday crowds, especially on weekends, a non-event. I hope there is still some of the festiveness — the hustle and bustle (sorry for the cliché), if you will — that I recall, and I hope young parents, as they get out to shop for their little ones, might experience some of the joy we did.
As for the gifts themselves, over the years there were the basketballs, footballs, tricycles, bicycles, wagons, scooters, baby dolls and Barbie houses. There were the late-Christmas Eve bottles of wine as we dealt with “some assembly required.”
There were also the fun stocking stuffers like socks, Lifesavers books (they still make those, don’t they?) and candy canes.
As the children got older, the gifts became more sophisticated — clothes, video games and cell phones, and gift cards in stockings so they could buy for themselves what they wanted. That’s about the time I began letting my wife handle it all.
And speaking of cell phones, I’ll never forget the first one we got for our oldest when he was 16. (He is almost 34 now, so do the math and figure how long ago this was and how far the world of phones has come).
He had been asking for one for about a year. Privately, I asked him if he knew with absolute certainty he wanted one.
I explained to him that, once he had it and had his own number, not only would he receive calls from friends, but he would also receive them from his parents (I was specifically talking about his mother). He would be expected to take those calls at any time, wherever he might be.
He assured me he had taken all of that into account.
On Christmas morning, when he opened the tiny pay-as-you-go phone, ready to be activated with his number, he jumped up, threw his arms around his mother and kissed her. (Just to be clear, this was not a typical reaction for his super-chill personality).
Since cell phones are ubiquitous now, and I’m guessing kids are getting them at ages much younger than 16, I don’t know if they are popular gift items anymore. But giving our son that one stands out in our Christmas memories.
What about you? What are some of the standout gifts you remember from Christmases past?
I’ve tried things like this before, with little success, but I’ll put myself out there and try again. Send an email to me, describing a special Christmas gift, one you gave or received. Tell me about the circumstances surrounding what made it special and why the memory of it is significant. I will compile these and share them in my column that runs the Monday before Christmas.
If that piece is about something else, you’ll know it didn’t work, but it’s worth a try.
Happy shopping (and memories), everyone.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.