The musty smell made me smile when I opened a plastic bin containing Christmas decorations today. A nostalgic ritual that sometimes brings tears, I opened a bag and pulled out several children’s books with tattered edges and weakened spines. They are, after all, more than 40 years old. I opened Jingle Bells to see “This Little Golden Book belongs to Timmy, 4, and Tommy, 2.” Oh, what sweet memories … reading that book and Frosty and Rudolph and, of course, The Christmas Story to my little boys, now men with children of their own.
As each year, I put them out among my other holiday decorations to remind me of those precious years. I have given my sons some of their childhood books but I haven’t been able to part with the Christmas ones. Future gifts, perhaps.
Some of my fondest Christmas memories are of opening gifts of dolls my mother had saved from my childhood. The first was a soft baby doll she wrapped and gave to me when I was 42. I hadn’t seen that doll in decades but I recognized her blue pajamas with a safety pin where a snap was missing immediately. I had forgotten her name but remembered that her head squeaked.
A few years later my old Tiny Tears doll appeared under my mother’s Christmas tree. What a thrill to open that present! Right there in the very living room where Santa left her for me many years before! How I loved her! She was still wearing the flannel pajamas she wet when I fed her water from a small plastic bottle.
The best, though, was to get Beverly back the Christmas I was 50. A walking doll, Beverly was my favorite. Through the years, I had wondered what happened to her. I’m still amazed that Mom had her and the others and I didn’t know it. This time, my old doll didn’t come back to me in her original clothes and condition. Mom had her completely made over—head to toe.
Here is why:
Thinking about that gift brings back the pure joy and deep love (for my mother) I felt that Christmas. Having Beverly back was, and still is, special. Her long curly reddish hair is now blond and braided. A red and green (Christmas-y) plaid dress and fancy white apron replace her drab green dress. But her head still turns when she walks, her eyes still open and close, and I still love her as much as I did when I was 8.
This treasured trio is on display all the time, not just at Christmas:
Mary Hartman, the majorette, and my beautiful ballerina never showed back up, but they live on in my magical childhood memories, as well.
The older I get the more I cherish those childhood memories … mine, and my sons’. My valuables are worth more in sentiment than dollars.
Also in that bin I opened today was a bulging zipper bag with cookies individually wrapped in soft paper. Each year when my sons were young we made salt dough cookies to hang on our Christmas tree. One of their stars was always at the top. Long after they had moved out and on with their lives, I continued to hang them on my trees. Now afraid of damaging them, I no longer display them. Sometimes … not every year … I unwrap each one and savor those bygone days and my sons’ sweet boyhood faces.
One year, we made cookies resembling my sons’ favorite football players—for Tim, Roger Staubach, painted blue and silver, and for Tom, Terry Bradshaw, painted black and yellow. Until they were teens, they hung their players in their bedrooms year ‘round. I doubt if they still have them. I wish I did.
Nearly 10 years ago, when my mother moved from our family home to assisted living, I wondered what else she kept from our childhoods. Lots of school papers. No more dolls. If only she had kept my coonskin cap.