25. This memory is a lesson in transition from childhood to the greater scope of giving and loving one another. No doubt the charm of Christmas is the children, their unabashed innocence and excitement. The exception may be Ebenezer Scrooge before his visits by apparitions of Past, Present and Future. Before his transformation his love of people of all ages was null and void.
I do not remember the exact age when this lesson was imposed. Since my memory was the lesson included my two younger siblings. I don't remember if it was BSC or ASC, before or after Santa Claus ceased his chimney visits.
There was a trend in the '40s where public service groups collected toys, new or lightly used, and redistributed them to less fortunate children. I believe it was before the Marines' Toys for Tots program which dates back to 1947. In my hometown the fire department provided this service, maybe others. I might have been 10-11.
As you can tell from my memories my family always had a Christmas to cherish. If there were monetary problems, we siblings were blissfully unaware. There was always Christmas cards, gifts and too much food. Mother particularly loved Christmas cards. Remember this was pre-Internet, pre-e-mail. My parents often heard from relatives and former friends or acquaintances in Christmas cards with handwritten notes.
I distinctly remember the day in late November my Mother announced we siblings had to relinquish a toy to the local toy drive, or we would not receive our most cherished gift wish for the year. I was shocked! I was being bushwhacked and held hostage for my toy possessions, given to me by self-same parent! By this age I and my playground rascals had a name for this: Indian giver! [No doubt a politically incorrect phrase today.]
And her follow-up statement really seemed like blasphemy and punishment! The criteria we were to use was a toy in mint condition, i.e., we had not played or used it to any degree. I almost fainted right there in my saddle oxfords!
Furthermore, the decision deadline was imminent. No doubt Mother needed time to shop or mail-order our Christmas presents which I did not comprehend. Decisions like this require some thought and procrastination!
The reaction of my siblings I don't remember. I was too busy wallowing in misery over Mother's edict. I retired to my room of the overflowing toy box of treasures, in mourning to decide which toy I would relinquish. I had toy separation anxiety complex!
My still childish mind finally faced the decision as I mulled over the conditions of the edict. I reasoned, 'at least she did not say I had to part with my very favorite toy, because it would show wear and tear' --no doubt, the wrong attitude--I had not absorbed the lesson. I began to sort through my ample toy selection.
I'm sure my donation was a little used, mint condition doll. My doll playing usually involved religious adult rites like baptism and communion which I witnessed regularly in church services. I selected a lightly used doll to comply with Mother's unexpected, shocking edict.
Although I received and even asked for dolls, I rarely played 'dolls' per se, like my sister . I was too involved in misadventures like playing in the sand pile in my Sunday-go-to meeting dress, drinking water with my dog out of the fishpond, a la Gideon's army selection, or making mud pies [Mother rued the day she taught me to make mud pies!]. A regular happening of my misadventures was some form of discipline, depending on the gravity of the situation.
This tradition was followed for several years, probably as long as the fire department had the program. Later organized charities provided similar services to less fortunate families, especially families with children.
Long before today I realize all the ramifications Mother's edict related to Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit of giving and all the moral teachings of life not usually taught in public school classrooms: it is more blessed to give than receive, the best gift is a part of self, lesson in helping the less fortunate, giving the best we have, not grudgingly, etc., not the least of which a Loving God gave a Son-how can you top that!.
Today, I realize this year's decision made by my close circle of friends, my church Life Group, and individually link back to that lesson over 60 years ago Mother decided to teach her children. 'It is more blessed to give, than receive.'
My husband and I have truly enjoyed the planning, the gifts, the food. We have been involved in similar, but less intensive programs previously as members of various organizations or churches. This year we enlarged and embraced the idea --the joy of giving personally.
Do I miss putting up a Christmas tree, the yard decorations, the pile of gifts orgy, the congregate feeding feast frenzy? Not really! We have no children and at our advanced age, keeping traditions requiring much attention channeled inwardly, we had little time for the true Spirit of Christmas!
And what will we be doing Christmas day? The dog will have some gifts--always fun with her! We plan to pick up four dinners at the local VFW which serves a community Christmas dinner, two for ourselves and two for our neighbors, one of which is a shut-in. We will leave a donation to the many programs the VFW provides our community.
For all who spent time reading this litany of Christmas memories and a few miseries, we wish you the merriest, blessed, joyous Christmas!