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 December, 2006


 What Christmas meant to me


By Al Owens
In my 58 years, my favorite Christmas present was that mini-typewriter Santa Claus brought me when I was about 8 years-old. Santa must have been able to see into my future, because it seems Iíve been sitting at some kind of keyboard ever since.

Itís not that Santa always knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas. Sometimes he dropped clothes under the tree. To a pre-adolescent, the only function clothes had, were to get in the way of the good stuff. Like bob-a-loops, Play-Doh, and finger paint. I remember being giddy while wild watching tops spin. Dispensing a single gum ball from my personal gun ball dispenser Ė made me delirious!
Me and my brother Marlin would rush downstairs and engage in the most furious de-packaging of Christmas gifts known to man - but only for the toys.

There were so many pencil boxes, I should never be in need of a pencil today. There were crayons, Pixie (pick-up) sticks, and lots of toys that made noise. Noise, when youíre that age, and on that day, was even allowed inside my house. How about yours?

I can remember finding what seemed like car lots full of miniature motor vehicles beneath those bubble lights on our trees. Cars made of plastic and trucks made of some kind of metal would get rolled across the floor and under the feet of our proud parents. We were in our glory.

There were games that took longer to learn than to play. Clue was never really a hit in our house. We preferred Easy Money!

When you have an older brother, there are times when you can actually take delight as he opened his presents. You knew secretly, when he outgrew his, youíd inherit them. Thatís how I got his big ole model train set. And I also gained control of his Carrom game board that doubled as a checker board and billiard table. But it was in bad shape by the time he abandoned it. I didnít get a lot of hand-me-down clothes. But I gladly got my share of hand-me-down toys.

I remember Christmas mornings when I felt like Iíd like to live under the Christmas tree for the rest of my life. So many toys, Iíd get dizzy twirling my attention between all of them.
Somehow Santa would sneak a little educational gift in there too. I still have the Encyclopedia he gave me when I was about ten years-old. Of course I did what every ten-year old does with a new encyclopedia. Whenever neither of my parents was paying any attention, Iíd looked for the words that would get you kicked off television if you said them today.

It seems in those days, toymakers tried to engage your imagination. An Erector Set, if used properly could provide you with enough girders and screws to fashion something that looked like Rockefeller Center.

Iíve lost count of all of those paint-by-numbers books I got every year. Coloring books and stencil pads that were supposed to appeal to my ďartistic sideĒ. I still canít draw anything more complex than a stick figure. And I even have to explain what it is, if somebody sees that!

Musical instruments were big in those days. There were plastic trumpets, brightly colored xylophones, and awful sounding drums sets that broke by the day after Christmas.

Record players werenít nearly as sophisticated as those MP-3 players are today. For those of you whoíve forgotten, they needed needles and they played plastic disks. Thus, they were called record players.

I can remember when weíd get puzzles for Christmas and the entire family did something you rarely hear of families doing these days. They actually spent time, in the same room, without a television set, at close quarters, trying to put the same thing together. Try that today and you may end up without a quorum.

Iíve always wondered why Santa always brought us stuff that helped us get away from our parents. I remember those snap-on roller skates that could be attached to the bottom of your shoes. There were bikes that only had one speed. And there were sleds. Come to think of it, I think Santa must have had something against our parents. Because a lot of those gifts were designed to help us escape!