Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wish List

When I was a little girl (back in the 60's and early 70's) I loved getting the yearly Christmas catalogs in the mail. Betty Marcy and I would call a temporary cease-fire to our sibling rivalry and go through the pages together. We had games we would play - seeing who could pick out the coolest toy on the page, or the most expensive (not always the same thing)...we would make lists of what we would like to get. Mind you, we weren't greedy and being brought up in a family that had raised a tradition of Low Expectations to an Art Form, we didn't expect to get anything from our elaborate lists. Of course, that didn't stop us from wishing.

Eleanor (Roses for Christmas) seems to have had the same type of wish list as we would present to our parents. A few things that we really really wanted (but didn't expect) a few more reasonably priced things, and finally a couple of cheap things, to prove we weren't greedy, ungrateful children. Which we really weren't.

Christmas 1973 was arguably both my worst Christmas AND my best. There were only two presents for me under the tree. One was from my grandmother(might have been something useful like socks), and the other was from whichever of my siblings had drawn my name that year (the default present back then was a $1 bottle of bubble bath). That's it. Dad handed out presents to all the kids, but he kept having to skip me, because there were no presents to give me. I was just 14 years old...and trying to be mature about the whole thing, but there were definitely some tears that escaped and trickled down my cheeks from time to time. When there were absolutely no more presents left under the tree, my dad pulled an envelope from the tree and handed it to me. It was the first clue to a treasure hunt. The treasure? A very expensive new flute that I had no idea my parents had bought. I knew exactly how much that flute cost ($180 - which was a lot for one child of a large family - especially in 1973), and I knew how much of a sacrifice it was for my parents to get it for me...the funny thing was, I never expected to get a new flute. If it was even on any Christmas list of mine (unlikely), it would have been the equivalent of Eleanor's sable coat.


  1. My mother had a habit (it happened twice in the entire history of raising six girls, but hey, it was traumatic both times!) of teaching lessons about snoopers and smug, greedy girls.

    When my two oldest sisters were about 13 & 14, they asked for white wool blazers with a crest - THE hot look that year - about 1956 or so. Money was very very tight, but Mom managed to get the blazers, along with the wrist watches my two other sisters wanted. They were 11 & 9.

    Of course, the girls snooped, and were delighted - thrilled - to be getting their most-wanted things. So much so that Mom heard them bragging about it a couple of weeks before Christmas, to one of our cousins. She was NOT happy.

    Even she said for years she doesn't know how she did it, but she wrangled the money together and managed to get two more blazers and two more wrist watches - smaller sizes for the blazers, of course - and wrapped them identically.

    Christmas morning, that's what was under the tree - the replacement packages but the younger girls got blazers and the older ones got watches. Four very long, sad faces, although the younger girls were a BIT smug about the blazers.

    Mom & Dad let them go the entire long, day of visiting and being visited, and sometime after midnight, everyone was still up, visiting with aunts & uncles and cousins, and Dad went out to the car and got the original packages out of the trunk of the car and passed them to the girls.

    They did get two special gifts that year, but it was nothing like the very special lesson they learned about snooping, bragging and Mom! :)

    She did a similar thing to my next oldest sister (we two came much later, and were basically raised separately) Kim wanted a stereo so badly she could taste it. She begged and demanded and was so sure she'd get one.

    Christmas morning, there were lots of clothes and a few games, even a new record album. But no stereo. Kim was Not Happy! They let her go until late afternoon when one of my married sisters brought the stereo.

    I love your story - what a picture of sacrifice and love your parents demonstrated! :) Do you still have the flute?


  2. I passed the flute down to a younger sister when I graduated - because that's what you do in big families. I used it for 3 or 4 years...and I still have the memories.