The official soundtrack for this entry--MUST be played while reading:
Somewhere in My Memory
Candles in the window,
shadows painting the ceiling,
gazing at the fire glow,
feeling that gingerbread feeling.
I can see.
Somewhere in my memory,
Christmas joys all around me,
living in my memory,
all of the music,
all of the magic,
all of the family home here with me.
It’s impossible for me to hear this song—originally from the Golden Age classic “Home Alone”-- and not be immediately consumed with warm fuzzy memories of the Christmases of my childhood.
There were certainly a lot of great ones. I remember the trips to cut down a fresh tree, then bringing it home and decorating it with my parents and my sister. I remember spending Christmas Eve with my Dad's family and Christmas Day with my Mom's. Delicious food, elaborate desserts, warm houses, lots of people laughing, lots of relatives who have since passed on.
And, the presents—oh, the presents! Lego sets. Wrestling figures. Video games. Board Games. Bicycles. Any toy you could dream of. One year, I even got a swingset. As a kid, Christmas morning represents all that you’ve worked for over the course of an entire year—affirmation that you were, in fact, a good boy or girl, and that Santa noticed and was rewarding you for it.
|Early '90s Lego "Ice Planet" Set|
|WWF Hulk Hogan Hasbro Action Figure|
|The Original Gameboy (via http://danielvol4.blogspot.com)|
|My Pal 2|
I received so many great Christmas gifts in my childhood that it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But perhaps the one that stands out most in my mind is when I got the original Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas in 1990. I’m not sure that I appreciated how big (or expensive) a gift it was at the time, but I do know that I spent countless hours playing it throughout the rest of my childhood.
Six years later, when I WAS old enough to realize that a gift was expensive and difficult to obtain, I got another of my most memorable gifts—Nintendo 64. That Christmas N64 was flying off the shelves, and selling for almost 4x MSRP on the black market. But I guess I was just a lucky kid, because Santa somehow found one for me.
(Not me of course, but another young Golden Ager celebrating getting his n64 for Christmas)
For her part, my sister scored both a Tickle-Me-Elmo and a Furby during the Christmases that those items were all the rage. My parents certainly weren’t paying more than retail price, but we do have an uncle who “knew some people.”
Christmas was just a wonderful time. There were more great gifts than I could ever remember, but I know I’ll never forget the anticipation leading up to Christmas Day and the pure joy and excitement that we felt running downstairs on Christmas morning. It was magical.
Sadly, as I got older, that magic wore off. The air came out of the Santa balloon. The toys and games turned to boxer shorts and tube socks. The family gatherings that used to be so fun began to feel repetitive and boring, and all the good food we used to eat became a downer because I knew it would make me fat. All the things that I used to look forward to, I became indifferent about. And after a while, indifference and apathy gave way to an active dislike. By my college years, I thought the whole thing was a commercial fabrication, and I actively told people that it was “a stupid holiday.” A number of factors in my life had made me a lot more cynical about a lot of things, and Christmas, which had once been my favorite day of the year, became an object of scorn.
Then in early 2007 I took a service trip to Honduras that changed my perspective on a lot of things in life--so much so that I decided to spend Christmas that year at a Honduran Orphanage with some friends. My mom was pretty sad that I wouldn’t be home for Christmas for the first time ever, but I think we both knew that it was the right thing to do. The kids in Honduras had really never experienced Christmas the way I knew it. As it turned out, Santa didn’t visit orphanages in Honduras—until 2007, at least. We made a small stocking full of school supplies and candy for each kid, and gave each a toy or other fun present, many of which we’d brought with us from donors in America. The excitement on Christmas morning was off the charts. You would have thought they had won the lottery. This was Christmas in its purest form, and it reminded me of the magic of the day.
Here’s why I tell you this story, on this blog for children of the '80s and '90s: as a generation, it is now our responsibility to ensure that every kid can experience the unadulterated joy of Christmas the way we did. Many of us who grew up in the “Golden Age For Kids” have countless wonderful Christmas memories—“precious moments, smiling faces, happy people we can see—somewhere in [our] memories.” We had loving parents and families who created those beautiful memories for us--the memories that we still carry with us today and that we'll carry always. Unfortunately, many children aren’t as lucky. They may not have parents in their lives, or they may be in families without the means to provide gifts or elaborate meals or parties.
That’s where we come in. Whether it’s spending Christmas at an orphanage in a place like Honduras (or anywhere else) or it’s adopting an angel and buying a gift for a child that would otherwise be disappointed, or maybe it’s just doing some other act of kindness that benefits a child at this time of the year…. The responsibility is ours now. God knows we had enough joyful Christmas moments throughout our childhoods—let’s make sure that the next generation has those same moments. Because every kid deserves to experience the magic of Christmas—and if you can bring happiness to a child on Christmas, you just may be reminded of that magic yourself.