The 2nd in a series of Christmas reflections from all stages of my life.No Socks in the Box
Once the house was clean, we could focus more on the important part of Christmas: presents. We were big into the giving thing. Papa’s standard line while en route to the dump, was that it was better to give than to receive, and no better example, besides the dump, existed besides Christmas.
Mom has said repeatedly that Pa closely monitored the gifts that Santa brought to make sure that each child’s “stack” included the appropriate percentage of real gifts, as opposed to cosmetic gifts. You know what I’m saying/talking about. Gaily wrapped packages that contain underwear or socks are so bogus, because they help create the impression that life is good, and you are making out like a bandit. Pa was there to make sure that no kid walked away on Christmas Day unhappy, at least from the perspective of having opened the proper number of quality gifts.
I only remember being disappointed one year, as far as choice of gifts went. I received a guitar around the time I was twelve. When I saw it on my stack, I went to Mama and asked her if Santa hadn’t made a mistake. To her credit she never hesitated, assuring me that Santa knew what he was doing and that I would love playing the guitar. Well, the very question itself boded ill for the venture. I may have given it a try for two or three days, fifteen minutes per, before announcing that my musical career was stalled. I don’t even remember what happened to the guitar.
Otherwise, each year I was sure to receive two, three, maybe four new books, all hardback copies, with at least one of my favorite casts involved, like the Hardy Boys or the Bobbsey Twins. The older boys read the Hardy Boys, while the younger set read the Bobbsey Twins. On one occasion, when I announced that I was going to Sav-On Drugs Store to buy three Bobbsey Twins books, older brother Brian lobbied for me to buy as-of-yet unread Hardy Boys mystery stories.
“Why should I?” I had asked. “You won’t let me read the ones you own, so even if I bought Hardy Boys, why would I let you read mine?” Leverage with the big boys was difficult to achieve, and I worked on it continuously.
“I’ll tell you what, Babe, er, uh, Markie. For every Hardy Boys book you buy, I will let you read one of mine.” His proposal merited consideration, but I went for the jugular.
“How about you let me read two of your Hardy Boys books for every one I buy?” And thus it was that negotiations were conducted on the home front.
When it came to Christmas, everyone was actively involved in the pursuit of cash so as to be in a position to buy presents for the other members of the family. Even a nickel candy bar, poorly wrapped in crumpled wrapping paper, was welcomed by each and every member of the family, the logic being that it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as Himself used to say. Sound logic, that.
In 1965 we put our money together, the five oldest of us, and went to the outdoor shopping strip containing Sav-On Drugs, Kresge, and Gemco. My contribution was five dollars, and we had about thirty altogether, but in 1965, it might as well have been ten times that. We were able to do a worthwhile facsimile of Santa, and provide each member of the family with an expertly wrapped package, with the guarantee that there was no underwear or socks in the box.
By the next year (The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” was blaring on the store’s speakers) we had two hundred dollars, and ended up buying a new turntable and speakers for the folks from Wallach's Music City, and boss gifts for everyone else.
There is no way I can adequately describe how crucial this whole process was to each and every one of us. All of the [negative?] emphasis today on the material side of Christmas, ignores the fact that people who like people, enjoy giving presents. The stores did not create that need; they just facilitate it.
All we did was pick up the loose ball and run with it. If I could go out with five bucks and buy everyone presents, imagine what we could do with thirty bucks. And skip the socks, please.