As a child, I started to think about what I wanted for Christmas around July 4th. I reached a certain age where I was old enough for my mom to take me to her friend’s house when she was going for a cocktail, but not enough to stay home alone and trust not to destroy the place.
It was during these visits to my mother’s friend that I had my best Christmas dream.
My mother was a recent widow and many of the neighbors seemed to make a special effort to invite her for scotch, cigarettes and onion soup and fries. While the adults smoked and drank in the living room, I was allowed to walk around the house at leisure. Maybe I wasn’t cleared, but that’s what I did.
Many of my mom’s friends had kids much older than me, and each of those teenage rooms was filled with wonder for an eight-year-old boy. It was at Mamie Lee and Pete Jones – while my mother was visiting the other room – that I first discovered the Beatles albums.
The only Beatles music I had been exposed to at the time was a single “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” that a babysitter had given me (certainly one of the greatest gifts I have ever had. never received, and for no occasion). In the Jones’ living room, they had a record player as big as a sideboard filled with daily records. I didn’t mind going to the Joneses because it was Beatles all the time.
It was with the Ferrells that I first discovered the music of The Who and Mad Magazines.
If the house my mother visited for a cocktail contained elderly people of the age of grandparents, there was usually not much to discover, so I would play outside with their dog or one of the dogs. of the neighbor. Which, even still, was better than going to the beauty salon and sitting on a chair while she and the other clients sat under those hair dryer domes.
If my mom was going to visit her friends the Dodders, I was probably in the front seat of the old yellow Plymouth before she could get out of our back door. The Dodder House was the wonderland of an elementary-aged boy. Upstairs there were three teenage bedrooms who were never home, and I was free to roam.
Actually, I don’t know if I was free to roam, but I wandered anyway. The first time I heard Led Zeppelin was in one of these rooms. The album was Led Zeppelin III, and the song was âThe Immigrant Songâ and it was the coolest thing I ever heard.
Although the zenith of childhood rummaging and nosing was in the Dodder’s lair, in a cabinet, under the television. This is where they always kept last year’s Sears Christmas catalog, aptly titled “The Wish Book.” While the adults drank and drank in the living room, I was in the study watching Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and flipping through last season’s Sears Wish Book while dreaming about everything I wanted Father to do. Christmas brings for Christmas.
It could have been during the heatwaves of midsummer in southern Mississippi, but I was studying last year’s catalog, page by page, with feverish concentration. This Christmas catalog, which was published annually, probably only had a 12-page toy section, but it was the centerpiece toy for an eight-year-old whose primary exposure to such fun stuff was three. shelves at the Ben Franklin Five and Dime and two shelves at the drugstore next door.
My children have benefited from Toys R Us. Children today have a world of toys to dream of on the World Wide Web. We had the Sears catalog. There were all kinds of things a young boy could dream of in that book, and I was always grateful that the Dodders kept the issue from the previous year.
We never had a Sears Christmas catalog with us if I remember correctly. I don’t know why it was, and I just found out. Also, I don’t remember ever having offered anything from this catalog. Although Santa Claus left a ventriloquist doll under the tree for a year. It was a little scary and the string that was attached to her mouth through an opening in the doll’s back snapped after a few weeks, so the model ended up doing a better job of keeping her lips still than I did. trying to learn ventriloquism from the instructional album and booklet that came with it.
What I really wanted was a minibike. A few neighborhood kids had one and they seemed to have a lot more freedom and fun than my Schwinn Stingray offered. The movie “Easy Rider” had come out a year earlier and my friend Stan had a poster of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on his wall. I remember thinking that if I could just have that Sears mini-bike and a brown leather jacket with bangs (desperately wanted one), and figure out how to grow sideburns and a mustache, I’d be the guy on it. coolest in the neighborhood. None of this ever materialized.
Although a year later, I ordered a set of prolegs on the back of an Archies comic book and wore them to school in fourth grade. I was sent to the principal’s office and he kept the favorites.
These days I don’t have a lot of Christmas dreams. I especially like to give. It’s much more fun. Although I still wouldn’t mind having one of those brown suede fringed jackets
May all your Christmas dreams come true.