Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Memories

Ho Ho Ohhhhhhh........

I must admit first off that I am The Grinch. And Scrooge. I wasn't always and indeed loved Christmas as a kid (what kid doesn't?). My childhood joys of opening Xmas gifts were surpassed only in the summertime when the hydroplanes came to race in the Diamond Cup on Lake Coeur d'Alene. But Christmas was fun and gifts, aka TOYS!, were wonderful. For the most part. Like everyone, I got some awesome, and some not-so-awesome, gifts over the years.

As a tyke I got the usual late-1950's and early-1960's assortment of trains, cars, airplanes and tractors. Oh how I wish I still had them all (in mint condition, hello Ebay!).

Some of my best gifts came from Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary in Montana. Over the years I got cool stuff like an astronaut helmet and a secret agent attache case for Xmas and birthdays. But my All Time Number One Greatest Xmas Gift of All was an Aurora Thunderjet 500 HO Slot Car Set. It wasn't a big set but that small track and the skinny-tire Fords started a love affair that grew and lasted until I was in high school.

In time, all my buddies got slot car sets and we'd combine our track to create huge layouts. I had control of half an unfinished basement that was hobby central. The wall was covered with center spreads pulled from Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines, a desk was dedicated to slot car tune-ups and model car building, and the radio was always tuned into the original KVNI at "1240 on your dial". What we now refer to as Man Caves was, back in the day, Boy's Club.

Other memorable Xmas gifts included a 20 gauge shotgun (pheasant hunting!), a trip to Hawaii (4th grade, didn't mean much then but was my first big vacation) and a trip to the 1995 Indy 500 from my wonderful wife, Sue.

One year I had my eye set on a wonderful plastic Army set from JC Penny and let know that that box of little green men and vehicles was what I desired. Come Xmas morn I didn't get it. After everything was opened and breakfast was over, Dad broke the news that they got the Army set but couldn't find it. We went through Mom's office (Ace Travel, 3rd & Sherman, 2nd floor) and Dad's (CdA Chamber of Commerce attached to the Desert Hotel) to no avail. Such is life, Xmas was still great.

In the summer, for some reason, I was yanking my way through an 8 foot long basement closet with only a walk in door. As I pushed my way to one end I heard something. Crawling back I discovered a box. Hello Xmas. We spent the summer setting up all the soldiers, cannons, jeeps and tanks only to bombard them with dirt clods. Now that was a great Xmas present and well worth waiting for.

Then there's the presents that didn't go over so well. As a high school freshman I got a typewriter. Sure, I was in typing class, but a typewriter as a present?! (This may have been a turning point in my perception of Christmas.) Not too many years ago I got a "brew beer at home" kit (which was promptly returned, if I'm going to be a home brewer I'm sure not going to do it in a plastic jug from Spencer Gifts). No complaints on socks and underwear, they may not be fun but are everyday useful.

But the all time worst Xmas gift was from my dear Aunt Mary. After Uncle Ray had passed, which suggests that he was the "fun" guy in the pair.

My family was a Christmas morning family, but on Christmas Eve I was allowed to open ONE gift as long as it was from someone other than them. Knowing that Ray & Mary always sent cool stuff, I plucked a small box from under the tree. From the size it could have been a wallet, maybe with money. Excitedly I opened it only to discover the most gawd awful ornate gold maltese cross on an equally awful gold chain. (And this was the days before wearing crap like alarm clocks around your neck was cool.) The one time I wore it was the one time I also wore a funky white turtleneck just long enough for Dad to take a photo. I need to find it, you'd get a great laugh. Out of respect I stashed the cross somewhere and one day re-gifted it in some manner.