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21 December 2016

Christmas Wishes of Yore



By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2016

A psychologist friend tells me that we can learn a lot about ourselves by remembering our Christmas wishes. I don’t know how he knows this, but he is smart and worked with children for years, so perhaps there is something to it.

Christmastime was a mixture of religious and secular traditions in my family. After my younger twin brothers came along, it was much more fun for me because I loved surprising them with gifts, wrapping the presents and reading Christmas tales and poetry to them. I’d even sit up late with them “waiting for Santa” — they usually fell over asleep on the sofa and we’d tuck them into their beds. 

On Christmas morning, I’d tell them how I had heard Santa’s sleigh landing on the rooftop right after they went to sleep. They were as gullible as I — believing all the stories about Santa, the reindeer, and red-nosed Rudolph. Even though we never had a house with a fireplace or real chimney no one questioned how Santa got into the house to deliver the gifts or how he could make a round-the-world trip in one night.

Mother always decorated the tree except for allowing us kids to toss some icicles on it. She was a creative and talented decorator, and it was not until I was married and bought my first Christmas tree that I realized I did not have a clue about how to decorate it. I am glad no pictures survive of my first pitiful tree.

My family was not big on giving toys, although my parents always purchased at least one gift for us to play with, but most of our presents were practical ones — you know, underwear, socks, pajamas, clothes, sweaters and winter coats. Daddy usually bought me “girly stuff” — Heaven Scent cologne and bath powder or jewelry. 

We were taught to be grateful for everything we received. I was fortunate to have several aunts who always sent me a gift or some money. I really liked the green stuff best so I could buy paper dolls and books.

I don’t recall ever actually writing to Santa and asking him for anything. Usually someone in the family would ask me what I would like to have for Christmas, but I don’t remember anything I ever specifically asked for until the year I was eight.

I spied it in a furniture store window and fell in love with it. It was a golden oak desk with a little matching stool. The slanted top of the desk raised up and inside was plenty of room for crayons, scissors, pencils, writing paper and my paper dolls. 

Santa came through and on Christmas morning, there it was next to the tree tied with a big red bow. I was delighted. Later I overheard my mother tell one of my aunts that she didn’t understand why I wanted a desk, but that was all I had asked for. My aunt laughed and said, “Well, maybe she is going to be a writer.” Little did they know.

Of course, the signs were all there about what I would grow up to be, if anyone had been paying attention. One year I asked for a camera — a Baby Brownie. Then for a Mickey Mouse watch and a few years later for a typewriter. However, somewhere between the watch and the typewriter requests, I asked for a Toni doll 

The Ideal Toni Dolls were a promotional doll, connected with the Toni cosmetic company. Toni dolls came with their own home permanent kit. Everything that a mother had to perm her daughter’s hair, the Ideal Toni Dolls had the same things. That included a permanent solution, made of sugar and water. There also were end papers and a comb, just as in the adult home permanent kits.

I gave my doll many permanents and had her until I was in junior high school. That was when my younger brothers decided to perform surgery on her. They amputated her limbs and scalped her.

About that time, I decided I wanted to be a twirler for the school band and asked for a baton. What was I thinking? My hand-eye coordination scores were probably at the bottom of the charts — most likely not even on the charts. I never even made it to tryouts as my baton was usually lost in the grass.

However, when one dream is crushed, I discovered a new one might even be better — in the long run. So I gave up the dream of wearing a white satin outfit and twirling a baton. I replaced it with a typewriter and became the editor of the high school newspaper. 

It was one of my smarter moves in life.

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