A simple Christmas Story
While we wait to see what the Dodgers are able to do with their new found financial flexibility after trading one of the most popular Dodgers, I’ve decided to tell a little Christmas Story inspired by a CBS Sunday Morning episode about Sears. The CBS story isn’t a good story about Sears, it is about the rise and fall of Sears but it reminded me of one particular Christmas that was one of my favorites.
Like many people who are near my age and came from humble middle-class families, the Sears Christmas Catalog was how one turned their Christmas wishes to presents under the tree. In the winter of 1967, our family was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany and the five boys had gone through the Wish Book and put our initials next to everything we wanted. We knew we wouldn’t get everything we wanted, but we would always get just enough that Christmas was something to look forward too.
I have no idea how my parents decided which gifts to get, and which to ignore while making sure that it was a somewhat equitable distribution of gifts among five boys. Due to circumstance in 1967, my parents faced a stark decision. Sears had informed them that the Christmas order they put in would be late and would not arrive until early January. They had two choices. An empty Tree on Christmas day with promises of presents to come or biting the bullet and shopping local for immediate boyish gratification on Christmas day. The reason we used the Sears Wish Book wasn’t simply for convenience it was also a budget issue. We weren’t poor, my father was a Lt Colonel and was the commander at Fort Edwards, but that sounds more impressive on a resume compared to what it meant in actual money so they never spent money needlessly. I was not privy to the conversations that took place between my mom and Dad and I have no idea if they were in agreement or had a debate about what to do, but what they did do was to turn a normal Christmas into an outstanding Christmas.
They had decided that a tree without presents just wouldn’t do, so unknown to me (the youngest and most vulnerable to an empty tree) they went into Frankfurt and shopped like a local. If I had known that beforehand I’d been petrified that those bundle of presents would have somehow involved Lederhosen
as my mother had been trying to get me to wear a pair ever since we had arrived in Germany. What they did get me, a nine-year-old boy was my favorite Christmas present ever. A miniature medieval castle complete with knights, peasants, maidens, catapults, moat, drawbridge, and the animals. If memory serves me correct these weren’t cheap plastic toys. This was a German toy made in 1967 these things were detailed and unfortunately fragile. It just needed my imagination to make it all come to life and imagination was never something I was short on.
Whatever presents Sears finally delivered to us, I don’t remember. I thought it was cool that we got two Christmases even though Christ was only born once, but I haven’t a clue what I or my brothers got from the Sears Wish Book. I only remember my friends and I playing with that castle during the long winter months in Germany. Sixteen months later we were headed back to the states and I don’t think my castle made the trip. I have no memory of playing with it after coming back to the states, but I know that for a time it was my favorite way to past the time and I was always amazed that my parents had picked that out for me. I wish I had a photo but photographs of our time in Germany are rare after a flood in Alexandria destroyed most of them and a search of Ebay/Google didn’t find anything that resembled what I remember my castle looking like.
Shame, I would like to look upon that castle again.
My story does give the Sears Wish Book the short end which is not proper. That Sears Wish Book was a large part of my families history, and at one time, most of America.
for many kids, the arrival of the annual Wish Book was nothing less than the unofficial herald of the holiday season. We like to grumble that Christmas comes earlier every year, but the Wish Book would appear in late summer, just as school was returning; which meant, by Thanksgiving, the catalog was dogeared and mangled, its pages circled and scissored out, to act as helpful illustrations for wish lists to Santa
Ours was also dogeared with items circled with our initials. I don’t know when we stopped using the Wish Book, probably when we moved to Glendale and had a real retail Sears right smack in the middle of town but I do remember the palpable excitement when we were allowed to browse the Wish Book and make our choices. It says in the article that the book would arrive in late summer, so I think our parents kept it from us because I don’t think we got a look at it until after Thanksgiving but that could be why they weren’t able to deliver the presents in time for Christmas.
Anyway, I’ll always appreciate how my parents turned disappointment into joy by taking the extra step that they didn’t have to take. I’m a little embarrassed that my favorite Christmas moment involved a toy and not something charitable I’d done for someone in need. I need to fix that, maybe next year I’ll have a different Christmas Story, one I’m not embarrassed about. That would be cool.
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