Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

The other day someone asked me to name my favorite Christmas gift of all time. It made me pause because, while I’ve received many wonderful gifts over the years, I’m not sure which gift I’d consider my absolute favorite.

I can, however, tell you the first Christmas present I ever remember receiving. It was a “Chatty Cathy” doll and when you pulled a string on her back, she spoke one of several phrases. Now, you have to remember this was back in the dark ages when having a doll that sported realistic-looking eyes was a major development in the world of doll making. So having one speak was high tech for its time.

And I loved my Chatty Cathy doll. I was the only girl in the family since my younger sister hadn’t yet been born and I only had brothers to play with. I loved all things girly – something they didn’t understand – so I pretended that Cathy and I were sisters.

But then it happened. My older brother absconded with Chatty Cathy one day shortly after Christmas and yanked the “chatty ring” on her back too hard and one too many times. And Chatty Cathy ceased chatting. It broke my little 4-year-old heart.

To this point I hadn’t quite learned the art of retribution. But now that I’m thinking about it and getting mad all over again, I’m wondering if it’s too late to get back at my brother. Hmm. I wonder if he still has some of those little green plastic army men? I could melt them down into a big ol’ pile of green goo.

On the other hand, they’d probably release all sorts of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. So…better not. Besides, I’m pretty sure that even if he did have some of those little green plastic army men stored in a box somewhere, he surely no longer plays with them. Yeah, he’d probably look at me like I’m the crazy one if I whipped out a Zippo lighter.

Apparently I’m not very good at the whole retribution thing.

But I digress. I was talking about favorite Christmas gifts. I’m guessing that talking about Soprano-style retribution defeats the feel-good aspects of “Favorite Christmas Gifts,” eh?

So let’s move on, shall we?

My mom tells me that the year prior to the whole Cathygate incident, I asked Santa for balloons for Christmas. Balloons – really? This is a gift I neither remember asking for nor receiving, although apparently both happened. But since I still get all giddy when I receive a handful of helium-filled balloons, I’m sure this one was true. Santa must have been ecstatic that year. This is great, kid, he probably thought. I can pick up a cheap pack of balloons and the elves won't even have to break into a sweat on this one.

But, Santa, it’s never about the price of the gift. Right?!

As I said earlier, I loved all things girly – still do – so the year I received a little heart-shaped birthstone set with a ring, stretchy bracelet and necklace from Woolworths that I coveted, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Never mind that the bracelet turned my wrist green and the ring broke within a week or two. I loved those little heart-shaped sapphire “jewels”!

I remember as a young adult asking my parents for specific gifts to furnish my apartment. One year, I asked for a dresser for my bedroom. Another year, I asked for a rocking chair. A third year, I asked for a cheval mirror.

But my favorite gift I received as a young adult was a hammer. Yes, a hammer! I’d decided that I really shouldn’t use my high heels to pound nails into the wall anymore, so I asked my dad for a hammer. This was a gift he could get behind, so off he headed to Lowe’s. And under the tree on Christmas morning was a colorfully wrapped gift – in the exact shape of a hammer. I laughed as I picked it up and said, “I couldn’t possibly guess what this might be!”

When I use that hammer today, it always makes me think about my dad – and I always smile.

As we get older, I think the thrill of receiving gifts lessens a bit since we can most likely afford to buy the gift in question ourselves. What makes it special, really, is the person giving us the gift. That someone we care about thought about what we might like – and chose a gift especially for us.

So I’m just happy whenever I receive a gift. But please don’t go searching through eBay for an old Chatty Cathy doll. I couldn’t bear it if she stopped chatting and it broke my little 50-something year old heart!

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