November 11, 2007

What We Wanted for Christmas

How did we know what we wanted for Christmas in the days before television, glossy newspaper and magazine advertisements? The Sears Christmas Wish Book was our bible. After it came in early November, my mom used to hide it for a few weeks, so we didn't have months to want things she couldn't afford to give us. I don't recall regular visits to department stores, though we probably did visit Santa Claus occasionally.

We had more generic requests--bikes, trains, truck, dolls, chemistry sets, tinker toys--than kids do today. I recall being thrilled with a cake baking set. We didn't long for specific brands, colors, sizes. Our presents did not require batteries. We were aware that mom and dad were not rich.

But my memory could be playing tricks on me. Perhaps I spent hours gazing over the Sears catalog and coming up with a 25-item list. In my old age, I have learned to mistrust memories that compare me favorably to younger generations. When my daughter Rose was 5, she said, "anything Santa wants to bring me for Christmas is fine with me." I doubt my brothers and I would have been so unmaterialistic.

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