By Helena Rodriguez
The spirit of Christmas is in giving rather than receiving. I must confess though, that being on the receiving end has made for some memorable Christmas gifts.
Like many parents, Mom and Dad liked to surprise us girls with special toys. But after peeking into Mom’s stash of yet-to-be-wrapped gifts one year, the real surprise came when a Honeyhill Bunch dollhouse that I thought was destined for someone else ended up being mine.
Imagine my joy when I ripped open the wrapping paper and saw that cute dollhouse, which had been the object of my envy. I was the lucky person. I excitedly exclaimed, “Yes! It’s mine!” Fortunately, Mom didn’t know that I had stumbled upon her stash in her walk-in closet while playing Hide-and-Seek.
But then there was the year, while in grade school, when I came down with a fever before Christmas break and stayed home from school. I couldn’t stop eyeing the brightly wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. Before I knew it, I was trying to sneak peeks here and there. I even loosened carefully folded ends and made small rips in what I thought were inconspicuous places.
A few days later, we were loading the gifts into the car for our traditional gift exchange at Grandma Emma’s house. Mom about flipped. She spotted the poorly patched holes in the gift, which was a doll for Vanessa, and let us have it. She had to do a quick rewrap.
Then there was the Christmas my parents gave me a tape recorder.
There were no Walkmans, Ipods or MP3s back then. This little black cassette player, which came with a little plug-in microphone, was the state-of-the-art in sound back then. I couldn’t wait to record my favorite Top 40 songs from the radio.
Of course, these recordings would not be perfect. There was that little problem of the DJ talking as the song was starting and then the problem of someone walking into the room, and blurting out, “Are you recording?” while you were recording.
Other than these minor problems, I had a blast with that tape recorder, once at my sister Becky’s expense. Us girls shared a bedroom, and one night Becky was snoring particularly loud. I got this bright idea to record her snoring. I pushed down the record buttons, and with Becky snoring so deep, I had to bury my head in the pillow to keep from laughing so hard.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I then had the gall to wake Becky up out of her deep slumber so she could hear herself snoring. I was laughing so hard, but Becky was furious, and with good reason. She was about ready to pop me.
Other memorable Christmas gifts I received included my beloved Shirley Temple doll. With her bright white and red polka dot dress and tight brown locks, she was my prized possession for years. We had the Shirley Temple album and so I’d move my doll around and sing “On the Good Ship, Lollipop.”
My parents got their money’s worth with the Lite Brite they got me one year. I spent countless hours poking bright little pieces of plastic into a black screen with holes, creating all kinds of cool, illuminated images.
Even when I reached the teens, that Lite Brite came in handy. We’d have impromptu discos in our bedroom with the neighborhood kids on North Avenue B and I’d put a flashing light bulb in my Lite Brite and it became a disco light.
Then there was the year Becky and I got matching baby blue skateboards for Christmas.
Although it was freezing outside, we spent hours rolling around on our skateboards in Mrs. Creamer’s driveway. Mrs Creamer lived down the street from Grandma Emma. We liked skateboarding at Grandma Emma’s because her neighborhood had a sidewalk that extended from the front of Miss Maldonado’s house down to Mrs. Powers’ house on the corner.
Mrs. Creamer had a wide driveway, which was perfect for us to do all kinds of turns. Before the end of our skateboarding days, we could pop wheelies. Becky believes the concrete-floored garage to our old home on South Globe still bears the blood marks from one of her crash and burns.
May you have a merry Christmas and blessed New Year. And remember, it is still better to give than to receive.
Helena Rodriguez is a freelance columnist. She can be reached at: