The Best Gift (Christmas Story Part 2)
Dear Friends, we are now in that odd time zone between Christmas and the New Year when no one really knows what day it is and none of us has had a healthy meal in days.
This year I have found myself reminiscing about Christmases of old. (Or of olde, if you go far enough back). I love those old decorations, the songs, the old family movies and photos. I love the old fashioned Christmas imagery, like the lady in the picture at left. She is mailing out Christmas cards the old fashioned way...without email.
I am thinking about all of the Christmases I have experienced up until now. It seems that each one is clear in my memory. But today, I am thinking about one in particular. It was the year that I got my best gift ever.
When you were a child, did you ever look through the Sears Christmas catalogue at all of the toys available that season? We would wear that catalogue out between the four kids, all making our wish lists, circling certain items right in the catalogue. We had the pages memorized by early December. We would let Mom and Dad know our wishes, of course, and anything that they didn't give us, we could always hold out hope for Santa. (By the way, look at the vintage Santa in the picture at right. He looks angry, somehow. He seems put out that he has to drive this sleigh all over the world, and he might decide not to bring you ANY gifts).
Well, there was one year that I did not even need the catalogue. The TV commercials told me what was available that Christmas. It was what I NEEDED. In fact, it was what every girl eight years old and under needed more than anything that Christmas.
Barbie's Dream House! Oh, I wanted that house soooo badly!
It was pink. Imagine a pink house! It stood over three feet tall and had...get this...a working elevator! Imagine. A doll house almost as tall a I was. I simply had to have that.
With much prayer and supplication I made my requests known to God, and to my mom and dad, and maybe even to Santa. I no longer believed in him, but I was covering all bases.
I waited and waited, and as December 25th approached I became more excited. I could hardly wait to introduce my Barbies to their new home. A working elevator, people!
When Christmas morning finally arrived, we all woke Mom and Dad at some indecent hour of the morning, long before sunrise. This was our annual tradition.
I entered the living room to see the bounty of gifts beneath the tree. As far as Christmases went in our family, we kids always got a decent haul of presents. We didn't really get toys and other extras throughout the year, but at Christmas we were not left lacking.
So why did I not see an almost three foot tall box wrapped and labeled for me? I searched throughout the presents for the box that might be the Dream House I was looking for. Nothing looked that big. Undaunted, I reminded myself that these things often came "assembly required," and might fit into a much smaller box than I had expected.
That morning I opened gift after gift, and with each unwrapping my heart sank a little bit more. As I unwrapped my last present it became obvious. Barbie's Dream House was nowhere to be seen. Disappointed? Yes, devastated. But not being one to complain, I said nothing of my disappointment. I'm sure it was evident on my face though.
Later in the morning, long after toys and giftwrap were scattered along the living room floor, my parents took me aside.
"We're so sorry," they told me. They went on to explain that they had been to every store in the area and beyond. They were sold out everywhere. They had looked and looked. I imagine they had tried every toy store, every department store in that suburban sprawl between Boston and Providence, only to come up empty handed.
It was a bit of a comfort to me, knowing that they hadn't ignored or forgotten my request. They had really tried.
But this is supposed to be about the best gift I ever received, isn't it? Well, yes and no. In a way, the best gift was one I never received. Here I will tell you why:
Not even a month later, my dad began collecting items like wood, old shingles, and carpet remnants in the basement. The basement where he had tools, a workbench, and a table saw. A hammer and nails, of course, were among the collection. What was he up to? Well, it didn't take much insight to figure out that what he had there were the makings of a small house. A doll house. Imagine. My dad was building a doll house, customized for me and my Barbies!
He worked on it every night after dinner, after being at work all day. He build a three-story house with rooms that had doors between them, real carpet on the floors (leftover from our living room). He even put wallpaper on the walls before setting them up. Real shingles on the roof. And the front of the house could be opened and closed as a hinged door. When it was completed, it was the most beautiful doll house I had ever seen! Sure, it didn't have an elevator, but it was as tall as I was and had such loving attention to detail that I knew I had something much better than the mass-produced pink Barbie Dream House made of plastic.
When the doll house was finished I was able to have friends visit. "Bring your Barbies," I would tell them. "I have a great Barbie house!" They were amazed at what they saw. An 8 room house with doors and windows, and that 1970s shag carpet that reached all the way to Barbie's silicone thighs. Yes, the size ratio was a little off.
I played with that house long after all other childhood toys had been abandoned. It did start to show some wear and tear, especially after we started using one side of it for our "graffiti."
It became more of an art project over the years. But I never stopped
appreciating it. I loved my dad for making that house for me. I still do.
Now, all these years later I can see that it was the best Christmas present
I ever received. And the Barbie Dream House was the best Christmas
present I never got. If I had received it on Christmas morning, I would have
had a house just like the houses in thousands of other girls' rooms. Instead
I had something unique, crafted with me in mind. I have always known that
homemade gifts are the best.
I wish you all Happy Holidays again and
a Happy and Healthy
NEW YEAR 2019