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:
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?