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Betty Stone: What didja get for Christmas?

 

Betty Stone

 

By now Santa Claus must surely be back at the North Pole, utterly exhausted after his whirlwind trip through all those time and temperature zones on his annual marathon journey. Actually, a mere marathon pales by comparison.  

 

You are probably exhausted, too. Here''s a little exercise in nostalgia that might rejuvenate you a bit. 

 

Remember what you did as a child after the Christmas bonanza, after you had picked up all the ribbon and stuffed all the wrapping paper in a garbage bag? It was time for Show and Tell. The neatniks soon had their gifts spread out on display, maybe on their quickly made-up beds. 

 

Then, if you were lucky enough to live in a neighborhood of children, as I was, the grand parade began. Clumps of children, perhaps each carrying a portable toy, trekked from house to house with the inevitable question, "What didja get for Christmas?" 

 

I don''t think my family fared very well during those moments. The first callers always caught us still in our pajamas, with crumpled paper scattered across the floor. I think that might be because my mother insisted that we have breakfast at the regular time. I think that is why our children were allowed to breakfast on the fruit in their stockings and the coffee cake in the kitchen. Nevertheless, we still got caught in our bathrobes. 

 

Later during the day, especially on some of our warm Southern Christmases, we could play outside with new bikes or roller skates. 

 

 

 

That special something 

 

Now, see if you can remember a Christmas when you got a special gift, one that you recall through the intervening years, and whatever it was that made it memorable. I asked several people what it was for them. I found the diversity interesting. 

 

Two of them seemed almost prophetic. Verda Laws got a blackboard, one you could flip over to a clean side. She liked to "play like" a teacher. Later she became one.  

 

Joyce Bray remembers getting a nursery rhyme book with which she practically taught herself to read early by memorizing the nursery rhymes. She has maintained a lifelong interest in helping people learn to read. 

 

Bob Gilbert remembers a Christmas during the Depression when he got a little cannon that he could really fire. He couldn''t have imagined getting such a wonderful gift during tough economic times, and that in itself was impressive. 

 

Julie McPherson Delk claimed she couldn''t remember anything, then proceeded to name a long list of specialty dolls that I could not recognize.  

 

The "in" doll of my childhood was Betsy Wetsy, which I hated because my father used to tease me by calling me "Betsy Wetsy" instead of Betty. My daughters belonged to the Chatty Cathy generation. But Julie is so young, she had a whole play group of dolls that had catchy names defining their numerous skills. I could not begin to name all of them.  

 

Selden Lambert had a bunch of dolls ,too, but she was not interested in them. She preferred a chemistry set. She wonders today at some of the things it included, such as formaldehyde. She remembers one day when her "experiment" caused the whole house to smell of formaldehyde. 

 

 

 

Oh, the toys 

 

One of my sons-in-law, Vaughan McRae, especially enjoyed a toy called something like "Crime Car Chase," but thinks perhaps the greatest thrill one Christmas Eve was secretly watching his father and older brother sneak his go-cart into the house. 

 

Our daughter Terrell had some Christmas bad luck one year. She got a beautiful ballerina doll whose leg fell off before Christmas Day ended. No dancing there! 

 

Bill Lee said his best toy would have to be his bicycle, which was especially welcome after he had been using a homemade wooden wagon. 

 

Here I absolutely must mention a toy our daughters got that was one of my favorites and which I have never heard anyone else mention. It was called King Zor and was a jointed plastic dinosaur. It had a red target on its green tail. It moved and made a fierce noise. If you shot it with a suction cup arrow from its plastic gun, and if you hit the target on its tail, it would turn toward whoever shot it and attack, spitting ping-pong balls at its assailant. I confess I was as captivated by it as the children were, but they squealed louder. 

 

So think back to some of your early Christmases while you prop your feet up and recover from this one. See if it doesn''t make you smile a little to ask yourself, "What didja get for Christmas?" 

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

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