Judging by all the wonderful gifts under the tree that year, I remember thinking that there definitely had to be a Santa Claus. It also crossed my mind that I must have been extremely well behaved that year. After all, we were just a middle class family, not richer or poorer than anyone else I knew in my 10 years of reference. Truth was, my parents were indeed jockeying for position, and they went overboard. They spent too much and gave too much.
I still remember bounding down those steps that Christmas morning, hoping beyond hope to see both my mother and father sitting in their spots with the Brownie camera in wait. Actually, neither was there. My grandmother sat in wait with a sweet, but tired and worried smile, searching my face for reaction. The colors and smells are still so clear to me. Invariably, whenever I am in the electronics section of a department store, my olfactory senses take me back to that living room, Christmas morning, 1959.
The Christmases after
Before I get all maudlin and you begin to feel sorry for me, don't. Eventually, everything settled down and I was much better off in the long run. I didn't realize that screaming and yelling wasn't the norm. The word "dysfunctional" wasn't prevalent and even though I was the only child in my class at school to be "divorced," I survived. My grandmother continued to raise me and we had a wonderful time together. But there was never again such a Christmas.
Keep in mind I was still very young. So the next year, when the presents were significantly less, I wondered again about my behavior. You see, I was always told that if I were "very, very good, Santa would bring me lots of presents." This simply is not true. How do I know you say? Because, I was always very, very good and never again was there the plethora of presents under my tree.
My poor grandmother had a lot to live up to top that Christmas of 1959. In retrospect, I think the look in her eyes as I bounded down the steps that year was reflecting her fear of "how in the world can I top this?" So she didn't even try.
She was always sensible, and thoughtful in her giving and never tried to win me over with extravagant gifts. Henceforth, I never again spent hours opening up gifts bought with the wrong intent. Each gift was lovingly selected with "me" in mind and nothing else.
The best Christmas gift I ever received was on my 16th Christmas. My grandmother gave me a charm bracelet and started me off with a "Sweet Sixteen" charm. That charm bracelet is full and still in my jewelry box to this day.
There is a pencil for when I graduated from high school, a bridesmaid charm from my best friend's wedding, a mustard seed from my favorite Sunday School teacher, and a drama mask to commemorate my first play. Each charm was carefully chosen - just for me.
Those many years ago, all of those gifts I got weren't really for me. They were bargains in a plot to win my affection. As I hold my charm bracelet some 40 plus years later, I run my finger over each charm and remember each giver with love and fondness. Each charm takes me back to the event, big or small that it signifies.
There simply is nothing like a gift from the heart. Let's all remember that as we celebrate this season of giving.
Karen Logue is a legal assistant and managing director at West T. Hill Community Theatre. She lives in Junction City and is a community columnist for The Advocate.