I think differently at Christmas. I forget what I have learned. I forget that I am not responsible for other people’s happiness. I want to make dreams come true. I am proud to say that I have toned down my shopping remarkably in recent years. But, memories of Christmas in the past remind me of the extreme lengths to which I would go to make someone’s holiday the best ever.
In 1974, Colleen was 3. When asked what she wanted from Santa she announced, “I want a black doll.” Surprised, but pleased, I patted myself on the back. I was raising an open and accepting child. It wasn’t easy to find a black doll in the early 1970s. I guess no matter what color skin you had, if you were a little girl at that time, you played with a doll with white skin. After some searching, I was able to locate a very adorable black baby doll. Along with it Colleen got a cradle, high chair, bottles and a complete layette. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to see her face when she opened her gifts. She didn’t disappoint me and was thrilled with her new baby and all the accessories that came with it. Later that night as I watched her cradling her doll, I said, “So, did Santa bring you what you wanted?”
“Yes,” she smiled, pretending to feed the baby with the bottle of disappearing milk.
“A black baby,” I said beaming.
“Yes,” she answered. “Black hair.”
My children never cease to humble me in many ways. I assured myself that I still had reason to be proud of my parenting as when she opened the baby with the black skin (and black hair), she didn’t hesitate to love it.
Jimmy requested a Noah’s ark. Again this was a gift you could find easily today but not when I needed it. I searched tirelessly with no success and had to settle on a book about Noah’s ark. Jimmy never complained as he also got the Batman alarm clock that he asked for in his letter to Santa.
Years later, when Jim (no longer called Jimmy) came home from college for the holidays, we were out Christmas shopping together. I said to him, “Do you remember asking for a Noah’s ark for Christmas when you were little?”
“I did?” he said. “I don’t remember that at all.”
“Yes, it was terrible. I searched and searched and couldn’t find one. I had to settle on a book instead.”
Teasing me he said, “Oh, yes I remember now. I was devastated that year. I wanted a Noah’s ark so bad and all I got was a lousy book.”
Immediately the wheels in my brain began to turn and a plan was hatched. That year I easily found a Noah’s ark set. I wrapped it up with Jim’s name on it and put a big sign on it that said, “Fell off Santa’s sleigh Dec. 24, 1977.” I put it toward the back of the tree and waited until he had opened all his gifts. Then, I handed it to him with a big smile. He read the note, looked so confused, and said “What the heck?” As he realized what I had done, his face lit up with a smile and he laughed saying, “This is the best present I ever got.”
Once, my husband Jim and I were visiting friends. Displayed in their home was a lovely ceramic knick-knack of two little girls sitting on a bench. One of the girls was white, the other black. The little black girl was playing with a white doll and the little white girl was playing with a black doll. I don’t know if it was the story of Colleen and her black doll or that we had adopted children who were African American but Jim fell in love with it and the message it conveyed.
I put that in the back of my mind and hoped to find one for him for Christmas. I talked with our friends and found out where they had purchased it. The shop was all out but agreed to order it. It was much more that I would normally spend but I knew Jim would be thrilled. Christmas came and the excitement grew in me as I was finally going to be able to give Jim the gift. He opened it and his response was not what I expected. He said something like, “That’s nice,” or “I like that.”
I was disappointed but tried not to dwell on it. Months later, while watching television together, Jim pointed over to the shelf where that special gift sat and said, “That’s beautiful. Where’d we get it?”
I guess it’s not just my children who humble me. When I told Jim I had given it to him for Christmas, he turned bright red. It was a good color to be at holiday time and I thoroughly enjoyed his apologies over and over again. The little girls still have a special place in our home and once in a while I remind Jim where we got them.