Growing up in my family, I loved Christmas, of course. But what I loved more was Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one present from under the tree.
Choosing just one present was by no means an easy decision for a child full of excitement like I was. Sometimes that choice could turn horribly wrong. Like the year I chose Aunt Jean’s gift to open. It was a pair of knee socks and some hair bows. Aunt Jean wrapped it in a fairly good size box. I was sure it was a toy of some kind. I was five years old and too young to be cheered up by Mom’s, “Oh yes! You needed new socks. And aren’t those hair bows adorable” sing-song reaction when I opened them. I was grumpy the rest of the night.
I learned my lesson and got more savvy about what to open. No aunt, grandparents or sibling presents on Christmas Eve. Too risky, I decided. Mom or Dad presents were the target. They knew Santa. And Santa had my list.
In the days leading up to Christmas Eve, I would study the shape of the packages and try to figure out what items on my list may be under the tree. I didn’t get everything I asked for, of course, but I would usually get my number one choice (indicated on my list with several stars and exclamation points) if it wasn’t too expensive. Sometimes Santa would bring that one. But that meant it wouldn’t be under the tree until Christmas morning. But sometimes Mom and Dad would give it, and that meant it could be there on Christmas Eve. So many things to factor in for such an important decision!
I was pretty proud of myself when I guessed the big one in 1973. A Velvet doll. I had been asking for it all year. In fact, my friend Jayme and I both asked for it for Christmas so we could play together with them. If you don’t know about Velvet, you were never a little girl in the 1970’s, obviously. I already had Velvet’s older sister, Crissy. What was so special about Crissy and Velvet? They had hair that grew. Yep. You pushed a button on their tummy and took hold of their hair and pulled it to whatever length you wanted. You wanted it shorter? No problem. There was a dial on their backs to crank their hair back up into their head. Genius, I tell you. I saw that rectangular box and just KNEW it was Velvet. I tried to play it cool when I chose it from under the tree. But my 8-year-old self was absolutely losing it I was so excited.
I had a few “ok” years of gift choosing when I finally hit it big again. It was 1976. I was 11 years old and loved the Carpenters. I wanted their new album, “There’s a Kind of Hush.” I had my own room for the first time in my life and I had my own record player. I had big plans for that album. I was razor focused that Christmas Eve, scouring under the tree for that distinctly flat, square package. Dad tried to trick me by putting it underneath another present, but I spied it. I played that album in my room over and over and over again on Christmas Eve until my mother finally yelled at me to “shut that thing off and go to bed, already.”
Do you have a special memory of a Christmas present?