Monday, December 07, 2015

A list for Santa ~ My column from Sunday's paper

Now the countdown can begin for Christmas at the Watson household.

Actually we’ve been clandestinely ordering presents for months. But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we had a crew of kids playing in our backyard, so I took the opportunity to do a little reconnaissance work for the fat jolly guy. What I found was that kids think about Christmas much the same way we did 60 years ago.

Asking my great niece Joy if she’d been good for Santa this year, she glanced uneasily at her older sister Daisy. The three-year-old seemed to be mentally sorting through some of the events over the
past year when Daisy bailed her out by reporting, “She’s been good.” That was excellent news, I said to the child who was obviously relieved.

When we discussed Christmas gifting with Jordan, my great-nephew who lives next door, he gave careful consideration to what gifts he’d like Jilda and me to get him. I’m sure in his mind he was clicking off things he’d like along with the associated price tags. He’s very mindful of money and rarely asks us for anything expensive.

“What about a new winter outfit,” Jilda suggested. He jumped all over that with, “No, my mom takes care of my clothing needs. I think you guys and Santa should focus on toys and games.” Good answer, I thought.

He’s almost eight years old and extremely bright for his age, but I shook my head at the way he framed his answer to our question. I might have thought that same thing when I was his age, but my answer would have been a lot more direct. “I’d druther have toys.”

In the 1950s, The Sears Christmas Wishbook hit our mailbox in the fall. They got it into the homes early enough to torture kids for months. That was a genius move on their part because it gave families in rural areas of the country a chance to help Santa shop for their kids.

Those pages were “visual crack” for most kids. By the time Christmas rolled around, the pages were dog-eared and worn as thin as onion skin.

Our TV was black and white in those days, and I think toy manufacturers believed that TV was a passing fad not worthy of spending a lot of advertising dollars on.

I do remember advertisements for Slinkys and for Viewmaster slide views. These looked like binoculars, but you poked in a round cardboard disk with tiny color photographs in cutout slots in the disk.

You would point the Viewmaster toward the light and click a lever, which advanced the pictures. Santa brought me one of those.

These days, sales pitches inundate children’s programming on TV and fill their parent’s email inboxes with the latest and greatest in technology toys, games, and other high-dollar offerings.

Jilda and I don’t have kids, but we find ways to spend Christmas dollars on our nieces and nephews. We try to get them things they might enjoy but probably aren’t on their “A” list.

We look for unique toys, books and games that will last after the Christmas lights are packed away for another year.

I know the Christmas Wishbook is pretty much a thing of the past, but if it were the only way to reach children today, I’d bet they would enjoy it as much as we did when we were kids.


  1. Very good article. I loved Daisy, Joy and Jordan's reactions. I love the way you put it together. good stuff. I love 'druther', definitely a good word. LOL
    We are on the road tomorrow to Disney. The noise starts Wednesday!
    Take care.. That article will get some response. I bet.

  2. I am happy to hear how mindful of money he is as so many kids are not. Oh I loved the Sears Christmas Wish book and I did dog ear to death. My mom rarely got anything from it either. I can still recite the slinky song and I had one of those view finders. We did get Pong one Christmas:)

  3. I can no longer afford the "nice " gifts for my offspring. There are too many of them. I get one big present that I try to tailor to their tastes and also make it unique. Then I make a stocking for each of them. It is some sort of container filled with little toys like kazoos, bird whistles that chirp when filled with water, tops, Jacob's ladders, plastic worms, finger traps, card games, metal mind puzzles, whoopie cushions, temporary tattoos, flying frogs... whatever catches my eye that year. I also put candy like bubble gum cigars, wax lips, foil wrapped bubble gum coins, candy necklaces, wax bottles with flavored liquid inside, various small candies(individually wrapped of course), safety pops for the littlest ones, suckers for the rest, pop rocks, ring pops... Again whatever catches my fancy that year. One year my children asked that I not give them to their children so I obliged. The following year my oldest grandson mentioned that he hoped that I would make the stockings again because that was the best part of Christmas for him. He was 19 at the time.

  4. I'm sure the Christmas Wishlist is alive and well, it's just taken on another form.

    Ms Soup

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I know for a fact that clothes are on the short list. They want toys. I got two of my little grands clothes once and they barely glanced at them. I won't do that again.

  7. Rick, I loved that Christmas Wish Book... my sisters and I spent hours going through it... and we lived in the city... I agree children today would love it just as much as we did... it was fun way make a list ;)

  8. The choices were simpler in those days and cheaper. I wouldn't know where to begin now in buying a toy for kids. It's like toys are made for another planet. I miss the good old days when buying for kids wasn't such a challenge.

    I love that photo of Jilda and the kids. Another year and they will tower over her.

    I remember the Christmas Wish Book.

    Have a great day.

  9. This brings back a lot of memories. I remember fighting with 3 other sibling over the Sears wish book. Finally others would save them for Mom so we could each have our own. Along with a marker to circle all of our wishes.

    When things were so simple.

  10. We live near the original Viewmaster factory here in Portland. I haven't thought of them in years. I guess computers made Viewmaster obsolete.

  11. Anonymous1:53 PM

    I loved my Viewmaster (an early form of 3D)!!


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