An Unexpected Present


Growing up, Christmas was a big deal in our house. My dad believed in going all out with gifts at this time of year. He grew up in a large family during the Depression.  He always remembered not getting what he wanted because money was always tight. The story goes that he vowed that his children would not have the same experience as he did.

Needless to say, the living room in our small ranch house was overflowing with gifts for my brother, mother and me.  As I am writing this, I can still picture all the gifts we received over the years. Barbies, kitchen sets, drum sets, guitars, games, clothes, toy guns and helmets (Vietnam loomed large then), bikes ( I actually rode mine in the kitchen while mom was putting the turkey in the oven!).  My dad was a huge believer in Santa Claus and insisted that he existed well into our teenage years.

But even though we were spoiled at Christmas, my brother and I never asked for anything outrageous. We were always overjoyed and appreciative of the gifts we received. One year-maybe 1975-my dad asked me if there was something that I wanted for Christmas but probably would not get.  I replied that I really wanted a stereo system but knew that they could not afford one. Rock and Roll music and FM radio were in their heyday and it seemed like everyone was listening to their stereos full blast and buying albums that featured the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, among others.

On December 23rd of that year, we were at my Nana and Grandpa’s apartment enjoying our annual roast pork dinner. Nana always made a special meal or shared a Christmas tradition with each of her five children.  Our time was always on this date. After dinner, my father asked me to go into the bedroom because Santa had delivered  a present to the apartment for my brother and me. Apparently, it was hidden under the bed. I pulled out a long, wrapped and somewhat heavy box. On the tag it said: “To Kim and David From Santa. Do not open until December 25th.”  My brother and I were puzzled as to what it could be. Like I said, we had no expectations at all for any big gifts.

When family and friends gathered at our house on Christmas Eve, I told my uncle about the gift.  “Don’t open it first,” he said.  “Save it for last.” He knew that my dad would be dying to see our faces right away.

We did as he suggested. Together the two of us opened the gift last on Christmas morning.  And WOW!  We were dumbfounded! An Am/FM stereo system with a turntable and two speakers!  Of course, my dad persisted in saying that he and my mother did not purchase it-Santa did.

That stereo stayed with me for many years. In high school, I listened to many of rock’s best albums on it. All of  Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Elton John, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Chicago.  I brought it with me to college and blasted Bruce and U2 ( the early 80’s albums-OMG!) and The Clash.

For me the gift symbolizes many things: Rock music at its best, memories of my teenage and college years, but most of all my father’s unconditional love.


This post is brought to you by the venerable Kellie Elmore and her Free Write Friday prompt:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Childhood Gift

Write about your most memorable childhood gift. Was is a Christmas gift? A Birthday gift? Was is something you really wanted or was it a surprise that ended up holding a sentimental place in your heart? What do you remember? How did it make you feel?

free write friday kellie elmore

A First Memory

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When I was a kid, we owned various models of black and white televisions over the years. In fact, we never had a color television until the last black and white one died.  My father always fixed the television on the kitchen table when the tubes blew and then it was back to business!  One of those crusty old models stands out in my mind quite well. It was tall and brown- a laminated wood sort of look-and it stood on four legs. The screen-when not on-was a murky green.

So there I was one night back in 1965, sitting on the floor with my trusty yellow blanket  and my footie pajamas watching the Art Linkletter Show. My mom was in the kitchen and my brother was elsewhere in our tiny ranch house. I was four years old and a very happy camper until suddenly the screen went blank and the house was encased in total darkness. Needless to say, I completely freaked out and ran to get my mom, leaving my blanket behind.  A second panic ensued once I did because I thought I lost my blanket! ( I totally identify with Linus, by the way). When I finally settled down, we found my brother, some candles and a flashlight.  My younger brother did not seem at all bothered by the turn of events. In fact, he appeared oblivious to the situation while I was totally anxious. My mother sat us down at the kitchen table by candlelight and served us some butterscotch pudding. I had no appetite so my little bro helped himself to a second serving with great relish. I am not sure if I was worried because we were in the dark or because I had nearly lost my precious blanket!  In any case, there was really nothing we could do so my mom sent us all (including herself) to bed. I was having none of sleeping by myself so my mom put me in with my brother in his bed ( we both had full sized) and then she joined us in the middle. I still was not satisfied and insisted that we keep the flashlight on. I can still picture it now: the three of us snug in the big bed with the big black flashlight standing upright on my brothers dresser-a beacon of hope and comfort.

(This early recollection was an actual event: The Great Blackout of 1965.)

Many thanks once again to Kellie Elmore who always has a way for us to show our creative selves at their best.