As you get older one of the things you can’t help but do is hearken back to earlier times, when snowball fights were serious business and Santa’s famous list was a real concern. So in keeping with that theme I was wondering, what’s the best present you ever got? I know mine…
One of my earliest and fondest childhood memories is staying up “late” one Christmas Eve with some of the older neighbor kids ( I smell a set-up ) to try catching a glimpse of Santa. Being adept as spies, we staked out the living room, for what seemed like hours, behind the center island in my kitchen. We were about to give up when… “are those sleigh bells outside?” “Hey, someone is rattling at the back door…quick….hiiiide…shhhhhh”.
…And there, plain as day, was the jolly ole’ Fat Man himself. Relying on my stealth and surveillance skills, I carefully peered over the counter top observing Kringle doing his thing. Every once in awhile he would look in my direction and I’d pop back down with all the speed of the fastest prairie dog ever.
Eventually, this 5 year old spy couldn’t maintain his steely composure any longer and belted out a huge “Ho, Ho, Ho!” When addressing Santa it is important to speak his language, I figured. Santa responded with a big “Ho, Ho, Ho!” of his own.
I thought I would burst.
To this day I have no idea how (or if) I slept at all that night. The next morning I tore into the gifts under the tree. After the initial flurry I headed to one of my favorite spots in the house to play. This spot was a little corner ledge, in our sunken living room, where a heater vent was located. It made an excellent HQ for action figures to hide out in their super lair (vent) and repel down the cliff (ledge) in order to save mankind. Hey, it was before the Internet and 24 hour cartoon channels so we used what we had, mainly our imagination.
And there he was, an extra present, a stuffed bear, Henry. Henry wasn’t even wrapped, so you knew he was different. Santa put him directly in one of my favorite spots instead of under the tree, so it truly was a special delivery. The Big Guy knew I liked to play here, so clearly this was his little nod to me. Henry had music box inside him with a key sticking out of his back.
He was a musician.
Even though Henry was awesome, he could not be my favorite stuffed animal. That position was already taken by “Snoopy”. Snoopy wasn’t really that Snoopy, but it hardly mattered. He had seniority and, in matters of plush toyness, seniority is everything. Henry was happy to fall in along side, as Snoopy’s sidekick (my Woodstock was a hairbrush and even kids with great imaginations have trouble playing with a stupid brush).
I’m telling you, it takes a lot for a special delivery present to be willing to play second fiddle, but Henry was a team player and his attitude about the whole thing made him even specialer.
Henry, Snoopy and I had lots of good times together until several years later when his music box quit working. I was very upset at this, probably more than I should’ve been. Looking back now I can connect it to my Mom being sick and having medical tests done in Iowa City, but back then I just knew the music had stopped and I needed it to come back on, pronto.
My Dad took Henry in for some “surgery”, a musicboxectomy of some sort. The procedure was a success and all was well for awhile. When Henry’s music faded again a short time later I was more prepared to accept him becoming a silent partner. We had many more good years together, Henry and I.
In this day and age, with all kinds of whirling do-dads and thingys to do kids’ imagining for them I wonder if they can have any special bond to a gift. Just when I’m about to give up hope I hear about my neighbor kid. He’s about 7 and this Christmas Eve his mom spotted a large 10 point buck in her back yard, so she rushed to take a picture of it. His Dad is a big hunter so this boy has seen lots of deer up close, but when she showed him the picture he didn’t see a deer in his yard, like she expected. He saw a reindeer, one of Santa’s of course. He was just as geeked out as that 5 year old spy was about 35 years ago.
There may be some hope for us yet.
A belated Merry Christmas to all.