Now it begins, day after day. Needles and pins, time ticking away.... sung to the tune of the big hurt. This is when it began in earnest for us kids. Thanksgiving was over. Crossing off the days with a big black X in each square on the calendar. We'd mark an X and count the days remaining. Then we'd dream of that one wish to be turrned into reality on the big day. Christmas!
We looked at Christmas differently than children today. Today's child can say, "I want that," to his/her mother and they receive it. Not so for us kids in the late 40's and the 50's. Our parents paid their bills before buying those luxury items like toys for children. Day to day finance was the order of the day. There were no plastic cards to pile up debt just to have things. No sirree. A kid's life was filled with imagination and whatever was at hand to fulfill that playtime.
My dad worked on the tugboats for thirty-five cents an hour in the early 50's. It was not easy for a legal alien from England to earn a living just a few years after the war. His experience with the Royal Navy was enough to land a job on the decks of the tugs run by Whitestack those many years ago. He was always searching for a better job and found one at the Armour Star meat packing plant on the corner of Mary and Meeting St. It was directly across the street from its rival, the Swift Meat Packing plant. The pay was a bit higher which eased the financial problems. However, providing a child's every whim was still way down the list of necessities for our family. That is why Christmas was such an important holiday for a child. It was the one time in the year that a child had of receiving his/her biggest want.
The dream gift which was upper most in mind for an entire year. Now that dream gift might change as the months passed but one thing remained constant, whatever that wish was there was a chance it could be received on the big day.
Hints were dropped all year. Those hints came more often once Thanksgiving dinner was consumed. Like Ralphie's, "I want an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock!" we would drop those subtle hints wherever and whenever we could. Often twice since our parents tended to look at us with blank eyes. We always thought they ignored our most important needs. Yeah, they became needs at this time of the year. Each day we'd wake with the coveted gift in focus. All other thoughts were elbowed out to make room for that primary prize. Yeah, we thought about the true meaning of Christmas when we were at Sunday School. But we were just kids and when the Sunday School doors closed our minds slipped back onto the GIFT.
The suspense would build with each passing day. Would Santa bring us our heart's desire or would we get a bag of switches? It was a possiblility if one's behavior during the year did not meet his standards. The boy next door had received just that, a large bag crammed with switches of every size. He must have been on the bad little boys list. It was a warning I heeded as well as I could.
Well, it was a thrill to wake the folks up at 4:30 on Christmas morn to see if Santa had left what I had yearned for over the preceding months. Sure there were little things from the folks but the message always seemed to get to Santa. I always wondered how my parents passed on that info but not for long.
It would usually be sitting under the limbs of the beautiful cedar tree bedecked with bubbling lights and tinsel. It was always a surprise because it had not been there on the previous day. Obviously Santa had been there during the night and dropped it off though I could never figure how he'd entered the house not having a chimney over a fireplace. Who cared? The thought immediately disappeared along with the paper from around the package. And there it would be after a year of wishing and hoping. The one thing dreamed of would be in my hands. It was a moment of sheer bliss. It was always the best Christmas ever.
I'm sorry the kids of today miss such wonder. They were joyous. Every Christmas was pure magic that was an extention of the glory of the season. The Spirit of Christmas was a part of everyone in their smiles and friendly greetings. Tidings of great joy and good will to men. Truly magical.