Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Memories No. 10: Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts

What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give?

I have been blessed to receive many special Christmas gifts from family members and friends over the years. The first Christmas that I remember was in 1970, when I was three-and-a-half years old, and we lived in Kake, Alaska. The gifts from family in Michigan had arrived after Christmas (packages always arrived on a slooooow boat from Seattle), and we couldn't open them until after Dad returned on January 4th from a business trip for The Salvation Army. Reading Mom's thank-you letter to my Grandma and Grandpa DeVries helped bring back more memories:

Miriam has had me read "[Someplace for] Sparky" a few times already and is now working on her spirograph. She also liked the modeling clay and her 2 pretty nightgowns. She has not looked at "The Magic Clothesbasket." (not yet anyhow.) She also was excited over the pictures you sent and showed them to us several times. [1]

I absolutely loved these books, and had them for years! Someplace for Sparky was about a little engine who was constantly told he was too small to do anything useful. He found a place where he was just right for the job, pulling the children's train at a fair. I'm sure my grandmother thought this was a great story for me, and it was, as I was always the tiniest child around (even as an adult, I'm still a "shorty" at 5' 1/4"!). The Magic Clothesbasket was about a boy named Paul who used his imagination to turn his mother's clothesbasket into a train, plane, boat, and a myriad of other things. In the end, his mother finds him fast asleep in the basket, tuckered out from his adventures. I don't have these Whitman Tell-A-Tale books anymore, but I remember them vividly!

I also remember my spirograph. It was an original 401 as shown in the link above, and I used it for many years. I especially loved having pens of different colors: black, blue, red, and green. Do you remember the smell of modeling clay (not Play-doh)? I sure do! It came in long tubes of various colors, similar to what you see here, and I enjoyed playing with it for quite a while.

I have many, wonderful memories of gifts I received in subsequent years. I can also remember playing with other gifts that I received in earlier years, but I don't actually remember opening them at the time. For instance, I remember dolls that I played with and loved for many years that I received as gifts at earlier Christmases. One of these was Mattel's Drowsy doll. In this link here, I had an African-American version of the second doll pictured. The reason I had a black baby and not a white one is that with her jet-black long hair and dark complexion, she looked more like the Native American babies I was in contact with than the Caucasian one did. I called her "Mimi" because she said, "I'm sleepy," and I thought she was saying, "I'm Mimi."

My favorite memories of giving have been the ones involving my own children. When they were little, we always tried to find toys that were both educational and fun, like Legos and Tinkertoys. We also picked out their favorite Disney or other classic children's movies on VHS. Now as teenagers, they enjoy gift certificates so that they can pick out their own gifts (my daughter especially likes clothes shopping); or as my son likes to do since his birthday is two weeks after Christmas, combine his Christmas and birthday certificates and money and buy himself something big (like a Ninendo Wii, etc.). The looks on their faces when they're opening their gifts or gift cards are always priceless!

[1] Letter from Faith (Valk) Robbins (P. O. Box 427, Kake, Alaska 99830) to Adrian and Ruth (Hoekstra) DeVries (464 Kenwood St., NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49505) 6 January 1971; held in 2007 by Robbins (current address unpublished for privacy reasons).

This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Click on their names for the list of topics. To see what others have written, go here.


Terry Thornton said...


Thanks for this memory prompt. I'd forgotten our sons' Spirographs and the fun they had with them. Somewhere here in a huge steamer trunk recycled as their toy chest are bits and pieces of at least two Spirograph sets (maybe more). That trunk contains the boys favorite toys and they insist that it be sealed until they get ready to open it. I think they have examined the contents of the trunk twice during the past 12 to 15 years! It is a time capsule. And I'd forgotten about Spirographs. Thanks.

Lori Thornton said...

The other day I was looking through a new art book that came back to me to be cataloged in the library. One of the drawings in it reminded me a my spirograph. I had not seen or thought of a spirograph in years until I saw that drawing. I told one of my student workers that I could do that if I had a spirograph. I also had a Drowsy doll. My nephew played with her after I did. She lost her cry a long time ago (or whatever she did when you pulled the string), but she's still around at my Mom's house.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

My kids loved their spirograph. Instead of playdough or modeling clay we made our own out of salt and ...something. I made it for my kids and probably still have the recipe someplace. The only toy I really remember is an etch-a-sketch but I never could do much with it. I know there were lots of toys but none of them really stand out in my memory.

Miriam Robbins said...

Boy, mentioning that Spirograph brought back a lot of great memories for many of you! Seems we have more than genealogy in common; we seem to be pretty creative people! ;-)

Barbara said...

Hi Miriam,
Count me in to the Spirograph generation too !
I loved that :)
I cannot think of any particular gift that stands out among others. I usually received clothing,books,a few toys ( more often creative ones), sometimes a little bit of money.

We were a "Chritmas morning" family to open the gifts, and not a Christmas eve one.

See you soon.


I also had a Spirograph. The
set had colored pens. Red, Green
and black. The pens ran out and
it was hard to find replacements
in the small city I lived in.
About 5 years ago my neighbor was
cleaning out her basement before
she moved and gave me an old 'Mega'
Spirograph set for my young child
to play with, it was in top condition and it still had pens,
and the plastic knobbed pins that
held the paper onto the cardboard
surface. It was unreal a 40 year
old toy with all the parts!
That Spirograph is now an adult
"remember when" toy stored in a
bin high up in my closet.