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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Gift

      After two weeks of “chatting” with writer friends, it’s back to our "regularly scheduled program". In the bustle of gift buying, parties—the ones we give or attend—decorating the house, sending out cards, there doesn’t seem to be time to do all that we want or to sit back and just enjoy the holiday season.

     Like most people, I’m usually rushing around trying to find that last gift or stocking stuffer or being gently harassed by my husband to finish our annual letter (he writes it; I add, correct, tweak...). This year is different. On December 1st, our son came from Phoenix so we celebrated Christmas early. The house was clean, decorations were up, gifts were wrapped, food stocked—all by the time he walked in the door. You could even see the top of my desk—a miracle that only happens when I can’t find something. Did we do all this for our son? Heavens, no. Well, not all because of him. He’s used to the chaos of our house. He knows when he visits there will be clean sheets on the bed and the bathroom will be cleaned. The rest...let’s just say House Beautiful won’t be setting up a photo shoot. This visit was different. He brought his girlfriend with him. We met her in October and spent a lovely week on vacation with her and our son. On future visits, she can see the “real” thing. Just not the first time.

     With almost everything done early, I’ve had time to muse about Christmases past. Many come to mind as an adult. Not so many as a child. Except for the Christmas I was ten. That was the year I was convinced Santa would bring a puppy. While I didn’t believe in Santa anymore, I had to pretend because of younger siblings. And “Santa” knew I wanted a puppy. My parents repeatedly said “no pets”, but I just knew they were pretending. During the night, I was sure I heard a puppy whining. On Christmas morning, I looked and looked for a box big enough for that puppy. There wasn’t one. When I opened my gift, I found a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

     A camera, not a puppy. Ten-year-olds don’t mask disappointment well. I’m sure my mom was hurt by my reaction, though I don’t remember her ever saying anything. But then, ten-year-olds are oblivious to how they affect adults. What I didn’t realize until much later was what a truly wonderful gift that camera was. I got over my disappointment in not getting that puppy. I took pictures of many, many things. Siblings, giggling girlfriends, vacations. Since then, I’ve always had a camera. From that Brownie Hawkeye to an Instamatic to a Canon SLR to the digital camera I have now. I’ve had movie cameras from a Super 8 to a camcorder and movie capability on that digital camera. I’ve recorded memories from the mundane to the momentous. I’ve taken enough slides and home movies to cure everyone of insomnia. The wonder of what that first camera started was brought to mind as I watched our son show his girlfriend the photo albums that captured his past.

     As my brain reaches overload and kicks out old memories to make room for new, I’ll see a photo from long ago and the whole event comes right back. Not just what happened at the instant the shutter snapped but everything before and after. Trips with friends then with husband, our newborn children, their first Christmases/birthdays/schooldays/graduations, daughter’s wedding, grandchildren. Treasures.

     Maybe Mom just thought a camera was a nice gift for a ten-year-old. Or maybe she knew it would lead to a lifelong fascination with capturing memories.

     As I wish you and your families happy memories of this holiday season, I’m curious. What was your most memorable gift?


  1. What a wonderful gift, Diane! And a perfect phrase, capturing memories. I love the thought and your mom no doubt knew the magic of a camera and the power of a photo.
    My favorite memory is of my Mom, my brother and I sharing an easy chair in the dark. We had turned off the lamp after decorating the tree and then started singing Christmas songs. I'll never forget the closeness we shared at that moment.
    Thanks for this great post! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and greatest New Year!


  2. I hadn't thought about memorable Christmas gifts until I read your blog, Diane. Thanks for making me stop and reflect on times gone by. Christmas 1946, to be exact. I was eleven and wanted nothing more than a record player back then. I loved music and thought a fancy record player would be a perfect gift. My parents gently told me they couldn't afford a gift like that, and tried to get me interested in other, more practical things. I knew times were tough back then, but I kept hoping. But no suspicious-looking gift had appeared under the tree by Christmas Eve. Next morning I was up early, still hoping, but no big, square package had magically appeared. Disappointed, I opened pajamas, a book, hair ribbons...then Daddy told me to look under my bed. There it was! A small, no-frills record player and two 78 records. And I'd been sleeping over it for a month, they told me. What made that Christmas and that gift so special? Daddy died of a heart attack the following February.I stood by his bed while Momma phoned the doctor. I don't remember many Christmases after that one until I was much older. But I do remember that plain, inexpensive record player. In my eyes, it was beautiful. I played those 78's on it for many years after that. Thanks for reminding me that sometimes, plain and simple can make a very special gift.

  3. How dear those memories are and how fortunate some of us are to have them captured in photographs. Our babies, our grandparents, a family gathering that not all members would be present for next year, the list is long. Thanks for reminding me how important it is to snatch the moments while we can.

  4. The first one that came to mind was a white teddy bear that Santa left when I was about six. I slept with "Frosty" for a long time. Loralee's post made me also think of the small portable record player my mom gave me when I was maybe sixteen and the suede fringed purse my husband gave me the first Christmas we were dating and the 8 track tape deck he gave me the following year. Can you tell it was the early 1970s? Those all stand out in my mind and were gifts I kept until they were pretty much worn out.

    Merry Christmas!

  5. I love reading your comments. Interesting about the phonographs. I remember the one I got when I was in 9th grade (I think). It was black and white and played 45s. Thanks for sharing such touching memories.


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