As much as I loved my two little grandsons, I didn’t get either of them a Christmas present when they were young. That’s because they had toys stacked so high in their home that you couldn’t see any corners.
I think back on those great Christmases when I was a kid, when there was common sense and simplicity left in this world. I wish all kids could experience such a Christmas.
I just lived for a new two-gun and holster set and a cowboy hat at Christmas when I was five or six. Nowadays, if a little kid has a toy gun, somebody is scared to death he’ll point it at someone and go “bang-bang”, like I and a thousand other kids born during the days of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers did.
Here we are at a time when no kid can have a toy gun and look what’s happening. Maybe somebody is overlooking something. It might not be toy guns that created the monsters. My cousins and I built forts and took our toy guns out and played cowboys and outlaws all the time and none of us ever held up a convenience store or a bank when we grew up. We never shot anyone either!
By the time we were 11 or 12, we all carried Barlow pocketknives to school and back home each day, and yes, we all cut our fingers a time or two. But nothing that left a scar. If Grandpa gave us a Christmas present, it was maybe a hickory whistle he made, or comic books that had the top of the cover cut off.
When I was that age, I was tickled to get two or three Christmas presents under the tree, and there was always a gun and holster set, to be used hard in my effort to catch bad guys and herd cattle, like they did on the Saturday afternoon movies at the Melba theater in town. A youngster could get in there each Saturday afternoon for a dime.
There wasn’t much quantity to life for a kid in the Ozarks in the 1950’s, but brother, did we have some quality. When I see some kid looking at a little box where they use their thumbs for hours and hours, I think to myself that life isn’t better for kids who do that. But they can never know what they are missing. What a difference there seems to be today, in grown ups that used those boxes as kids and those of us who built forts in the woods and chased make-believe outlaws with toy guns.
On Christmas day at Grandpa’s house in the 50’s, all of us cousins got together and had one heck of a time without toys because our folks wouldn’t let us bring anything. They had paid too much money for those guns and holster sets and cowboy hats to let one of those rowdy cousins get their hands on them. We didn’t need toys anyway when we got together on Christmas, we’d play football or go down to the pasture and throw dried persimmons at each other.
Finally we’d have the doggonedest dinner you ever saw, and my Dad and Uncles and Grandpa would talk about somebody’s pick-up motor or the best coon dog they remembered or something of that sort.
Finally when Aunt Margie and Aunt Ruth and Aunt Mildred and Mom and Grandma got the kitchen cleaned and in order, we’d all come in and get our presents from beneath the cedar tree beside the wood stove.
Grandma remembered each of 20 grandkids with a gift, which almost always was a pair of socks for the 14 boys, handkerchiefs for the girls.
Then we’d watch our aunts and uncles open their presents, usually a flannel shirt for the men and scarves and perfume for the women.
Then Grandma and Grandpa would open their presents and they’d get all sorts of good things. Lord knows there was so much they needed. I remember thinking that the people who did the best at Christmas were grandparents, because their kids all had jobs and could buy good presents for them. And most had lots of kids.
My two grandsons will never remember that when they were little Grandpa never got them anything for Christmas. On Christmas morning when they picked out some toy or gadget they really, really liked, I just waited ‘til they were all by themselves and told them that Grandpa asked Santa Claus to bring that to them! Some of the grandparents who read this column might remember how affective that is.
But if the truth were known, I’ll bet both of my grandsons would have just loved to get a gun and holster and a homemade hickory whistle for Christmas. Maybe not, since quality is not as important now as quantity is.
To so many, the reason for it all; the birth, the hope and the faith resulting from that miracle two thousand years ago, just isn’t there any more. There is beauty now; bright, colored lights everywhere, all of them resulting from one bright star in the Far East long ago. It was just one light then, a star heralding the greatest hope mankind will ever have.
We were told about that when we were kids, with those silly little church plays and school plays, school plays that can’t be part of Christmas anymore because of our new progressive ‘culture’. It’s funny what some call ‘progress’ nowadays.
As kids, us old timers were told about the star and the manger and the virgin mother of Jesus, and gifts brought by the three wise men… the origin of modern day gift giving.
If you are a grandparent taking my advice, give your grandkids a pair of socks and tell them about how Christmas came to be.