As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance. -- Calvin and Hobbes

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The greatest gift is Christmas past!

This piece is a collage of old stamps from my childhood, dating back to 1975. Hope you like it and the story!

My Christmas gift this year is a story of a young girl who happened to have a brilliant Mother!

I started collecting stamps when I was eight. I started tearing them off envelopes as they arrived. Mom let me and my brother Tim order them from the Littleton Stamp company, an idea which probably was derived from a comic book ad! We would periodically receive little bundles of stamps from all over the world, regarding every subject...from space exploration to freedom and peace, new countries and old, automobiles and trains, animals and plants, kings and queens and beyond. I remember getting the newest set of stamps in the mail and lovingly inspecting each one, with the giddiness that a young child has. I can't imagine a kid nowadays being so thrilled by a tiny little perforated piece of paper! I hope I'm wrong!

I have added a little here and there to my collection over the years, and I'm still crazy addicted to stamps! I'm proud to be a philatelist! LOL I love saying that!

On other memories:
From the very beginning, whether she realized it or not, Mom encouraged us to see the world differently, to try to understand science and geography and history and evolution and art. She loved reading. She took us to the library regularly to get a new stack of books to read. She encouraged us to learn all we could. If we didn't know a word, she would tell us to go look it up in the dictionary. She loved writing, too. She and my grade school teachers encouraged me to have pen pals and thus also began my love of writing! She said there was no excuse to be bored; "Go read or play...boredom is an insult to your intelligence!"

On Christmas:
We didn't have a lot, but I didn't miss that! We didn't have a large family who sent lots of presents, but I didn't miss that! (The relentless torture by my three older brothers, I didn't miss that either!) My Mom made sure that every Christmas was extra special, so exciting, and so full of love that there isn't anything I miss at all! Decorating the tree, sometimes on Christmas Eve--that was awesome! Eating the cornflake and marshmallow cookie wreaths that my Grandmother sent, even though they may have gotten stale during shipping! Making cookies with Mom! Mom helping me wrap presents, and learning how important giving was; and of course,the excitement of not being able to sleep because Santa was coming!

What's funny is what I remember most of all: Sitting on Christmas morning emptying our stockings, which always contained an orange and a lifesaver storybook. (It wasn't until I was much older that I learned that the origins of fruit in the stocking came from the Great Depression, where receiving an orange was a really big deal!!) I'm sure there were toys in there, too...but oh, the lifesavers!! How I looked forward to trading my cherry flavored pack for my brother's butter rum. Today, passing out the stockings is still a favorite activity at my folks house! Even though Santa comes to our own houses now, we have kept the tradition going at their house, with what has become an entire wall of stockings, tied to the iron styles of the dining room above, each with a name card on it! We all bring fun little treasures to add to each others' stocking, sometimes old toys or long forgotten books and mementos of our youth that we had kept all these years, making us laugh, tell stories, and sometimes cry! Although still filled with childish anticipation, we now watch each other to see the reactions when someone opens that silly little thing that makes them remember...

I'm sure we had great dreams of what we would love to receive from Santa, and I'm sure there must have been a time or two when we didn't get that one thing on the list, but I can't remember missing it..all I remember is that the presents seem to cast a heavenly glow sitting out waiting for us by the tree! I still see them today; I was 10, I think, and we all got cool foot lockers in our favorite colors. Mine was yellow, and I got a doll lamp to match; she wore a yellow dress, and the shade was like her parasol..she was so beautiful! I kept everything in that locker, I was so proud of it! After 30 years, Mom finally told me she had to toss it because it was so rusted!! I have an almost unnatural love of chests, boxes and containers; I wonder why...

I have a difficult time imagining what it's like to be a kid today, getting more toys than there is time to play with them; spending most of their time in front of the tv with video games; maybe not learning how to ride a bike or never building a fort! It makes me wonder who they'll grow up to be, will they appreciate those little things like lifesavers as we did?

Play time for us was spent in the neighborhood with all the kids, in the backyard and small wooded areas around the house and neighborhood, and in the basement with racetracks paper airplanes and hideouts! Building forts, making go-carts, pretending to be cowboys and indians, pirates and kings and princesses. A stick worked for a sword; the swing set was always home base; little army men, GI Joes and Barbies everywhere; a fire cracker was the most amazing thing; hide and seek was a ritual nearly every night in the summer; tents in the backyard, made from blankets hanging over a clothesline, (we could make a really long tent!) Winter was great! We would go through so many pairs of mittens and still want to go out again, that Mom had to put socks on us just so we would be dry! When we lived in New York, there was sledding at the park (which I think may have been a golf course!) My parents took us to Manhattan to see the big moving scenes in the Macy's window, and ice skating in Central Park. And although I'm too young to remember being on my Dad's shoulders, the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Much later, after we moved to Washington State, we would skate on the pond in the woods near our house, and for a few moments, I would become the Olympic hopeful!

My parents had incredible imaginations, and I think they knew how important it was for us to have our dreams, too!

We definitely had toys, and as far as I'm concerned, the late 60's and early 70's was the magic age of toys and playtime! Lawn darts, and bike ramps, burying things and rope swings, gyroscopes and litebrites, Holly Hobby ovens and shrinky dinks, Lincoln logs and erector sets! Riding your bike with the wind in your hair!!! Of course, a lot of them have been deemed too dangerous or socially incorrect now and everyone must wear a helmet now!

As you look back to your fondest memories, remember how much of a role your imagination played in your life and try to reach your children and grandchildren with something different this year. Yes, there will still be presents, and Santa and all that. But, what is that special thing you can share with your family that wont involve spending money!

Have you ever sat down with your child or grandchild and written a story? Now would be a great time!

My wish to you is that you receive from your children the kinds of things my Mom received from us...handwritten stories and illustrations; hand made Christmas ornaments; plaster plaques and yarn necklaces with acorns; decorated shoe boxes and sculptures made from masking tape and markers! To me, this would mean you have sparked their imaginations, you have stimulated their brains, and most of all, you have created a better person who gives from the heart!


  1. Beautiful Christmas time story. I think you should post this story every year!

  2. Thanks! I made my Mom cry! Of course, I had a tear writing it.

  3. It is ok to skim over/SKIP Lisa's stories but you better read mine word for word - there will be a quiz.


  4. Thanks so much for sharing this. We all have those precious memories of Christmas from our childhoods. If anyone isn't in the Christmas spirit, your writing of this would certainly bring it to the fore front.

    Merry Christmas

  5. Are you still stuck in the snow?

    Bill - (not Lisa) - Bill, she never comments here so stop reading her junk. And please put up some work here or I'm going to use this spot to post my work.


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