Thursday, December 24, 2009
You can open ONE tonight!
One present on Christmas Eve. That was the rule in my house growing up. But which one? My brother and I would scan the pile under the tree. The gifts from Santa would not be there yet of course, but there were still plenty to choose from aunts and uncles and grandparents. God forbid you should choose a box that contained clothing or something you couldn't actually play with. In the early years, Christmas Eve meant visits from relatives, Bing Crosby crooning on the record player, a good soak in the tub, my hair curled into rollers for church the next day and the ONE GIFT. I recall choosing a couple of duds - some game I had never heard of or new pajamas, so each year I became more selective until I learned eventually that there was one gift I could always count on to please me. Christmas Eve always warranted a visit from Great Uncle Ken and Aunt Laura. I was in awe of them. They were childless and rich. (compared to us anyway). They never bothered with toys. They would come bearing gifts with cold hard cash attached to them. And not coins or one dollar bills. Initially there would be a fiver attached, then as years passed it became a ten, and then years later it became American greenbacks (they spent the winters in Florida). They would attach these crisp bills to a nice gift pack of Laura Secord Chocolate and sometimes there would be a little trinket mixed in with the candy. Once I got a little faux gold chain bracelet with small carved wooden mice charms attached. They had little leather ears glued to them. I loved it. I know five or ten dollars doesn't seem like much, but in 1963, it was a small fortune in my mind. I would spend days dreaming about how I would spend it. I recall one year when I was about 10, taking that money and buying my first LP - Herman's Hermits - There's a Kind of Hush...all over the world tonight. You remember the song...I hope. (If you don't, you're too young to be reading this blog). Their gift provided not only a good tooth-rotting experience, but the opportunity to spend the rest of the evening dreaming. Laura Secord chocolate was a treat back in those days before more upscale candy companies like Godiva arrived on the scene here in Canada. I even recall being impressed with how it would be presented, all wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. Not your everyday penny candy. And there would always be a good quality candy cane in the middle - not like the crappy ones that hung all over the Christmas tree, a solid jaw-breaking stick that could last for days if you stuck it back in the wrapper when you tired of sucking on it. My daughter continues the same tradition, except in our case she gets to open one gift on the 23rd because in recent years since the Santa myth has been shattered, we open our gifts after dinner on Christmas Eve. That way everyone gets to sleep in on Christmas morning and we have more time to get ready to make our way back to my childhood town and my parents house for dinner. She will have Godiva chocolate in her stocking and her monetary gifts will far surpass the five or ten dollars that so impressed me as a child. I wonder what she will have to say about it all when she reaches my age and if her memories will be as precious to her as mine are to me. Time will tell.