Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent Calendar of Christmas 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 "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, 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 in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Personal fundraising widget for 2009 Red Kettle campaign

Click on the Image Above to Adopt a Needy Child or Senior in Your Community


Amy Coffin said...

Spirograph was awesome. One of my favorites, too.

Greta Koehl said...

I still have the spirograph I was given for my...12th? birthday. The box is falling apart, but the spirograph still works.

Anonymous said...

My mother, Sharon (Smith) Thomas, was the author of The Magic Clothes Basket mentioned. I was stunned to find the book when I googled it! I had been told that there were only 500 printed, though I have no way to know if that was factual.

Miriam Robbins said...

Thank you so much for posting your comment. Your mother's creativity provided many children like myself, I'm sure, with wonderful memories. I wish I still had The Magic Clothes Basket! Now I will have to look for it on eBay, especially after learning there weren't many printed.