Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: He was the best dog on the planet.

Bonding

Bonding
The author of Mark's Work with Ellie Mae

Guess who's coming for dinner

Guess who's coming for dinner
Blue heron, sitting on the dock of our pond

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

BFF's forever

BFF's forever
Margie and Ellie Mae

Tomatoes and peppers are us.

Tomatoes and peppers are us.
Spicy salsa with roasted peppers, here at HappyDay Farms

Much love, John-Bryan

Much love, John-Bryan
Eric at 26 on the left, and John-Bryan in January of 1973.

Halloween fun

Halloween fun
SmallBoy and Dancing Girl

Our house

Our house
The snow season approaches...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Collection of Christmas Reflections # 2: No Socks in the Box



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.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, books were big. I remember on my 11th birthday I received SIX - count 'em SIX - hard bound books. and one "Go to the Head of the Class" game - There were memorable years as far as Christmas gifts go - the year I was 15, I got a small clock radio - OMB! I was in heaven (I still have that clock radio) - I could listen to KHJ all night long if I wanted to. Remember those years when the combined resources allowed the kids to take themselves to - of all places - Disneyland! and then to the snow (one year the Palm Springs tram). I agree - gift giving is sweet but can be frustrating these days when money is tight and time to shop for the something special is even tighter. Ah, but the internet comes to the rescue! Shop while sitting on the couch listening to Christmas music!

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  2. How does that shopping on the Internet work? And why is it OK to listen to Christmas music in your living room while shopping, but not OK to listen to music in the stores? What's the difference? I remember going to the tramway twice, the second time involving my Nova breaking down on the way back. We all piled into the two remaining vehicles, and abandoned the Nova. I also hear you about the time/money thing. Retirees and worker bees seldom rub elbows on the calendar of real life.

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  3. I remember when your Nova broke down - that was an adventure in and of itself!
    Shopping on the internet is fun but way too easy - go to Amaxon.com for example and start browsing books - note that you can get new or used books - the topics are endless - you can find anything on line somewhere - why is Christmas music at home different? b/c IT IS AT HOME. It is cozy and quiet and reflective. It is not crowded and annoying....but that's my general take on shopping most of the time.

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  4. You find shopping crowded and annoying? Why is that? Oh, because the stores are crowded, and it's annoying. You should begin by stopping at the "sweets shop" and enjoying a hippie speedball: one gluten-free oatmeal cookie and a latte. Works every time. Then the music will seem soothing in the light of those crowded stores.

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  5. For me, there is nothing like walking into a Macys or Costco in December and getting hit with the music, ornaments, and all the "commercial" aspects of Christmas.... I love it! Puts me in the "holiday" spirit!
    Thanks for another walk down memory lane, Mark!

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