Day By Day: Memory - the gift that keeps on givingWe were talking in the office this morning about Christmas buying and shopping at the “five and dime” when we were kids. It begged the question “Is there anything left you can buy for a nickel?”
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
We were talking in the office this morning about Christmas buying and shopping at the “five and dime” when we were kids. It begged the question “Is there anything left you can buy for a nickel?” The only thing I can think of is a few minutes at Hudson parking meter.
The five and dime I grew up patronizing was the Ben Franklin store in Stillwater. I can still hear the wood plank floor creaking underfoot and looking up at the little glass office at the top of the stairs where my cousin Marge Best could see the whole store. I figured she ran the place and I envied her job — all that great stuff right at her fingertips.
We didn’t get to town often from the farm, only when Dad went to the feedmill or Mom needed groceries but Ben’s was the first place we headed as kids. I remember seeing my first Barbie doll there in 1960. She was a brunette with a pony tail and she was in that black striped bathing suit and heels. I think she was about $3 back then. It might as well have been $30, she wasn’t going to end up under the tree for me.
My other Ben’s memory is of “Evening in Paris” in the deep blue pint size bottle with the silver lettering, all for the price of one night’s babysitting at 30 cents an hour. I think Mom got a bottle every year and I don’t remember her ever wearing perfume. I do remember that she had the world’s largest selection of Avon cream sachets as they were the most popular teacher Christmas gift for most of the 30 years she taught school.
My Mom loved Christmas and she loved dolls and baby dolls, more. My sister Mary was her firstborn and her favorite holiday memory is of the life-size doll she got as a little girl. The doll came complete with a decked out baby buggy and a whole wardrobe of real baby clothes. I loved my Tiny Tears doll, even though it came with the stern warning about handling her carefully because her head would break if I didn’t. I can still remember throwing myself onto Mom’s bed, sobbing because I found a crack in Tiny on Dec. 26. My brother Mike came in and pulled one of his miracles by rubbing off the pencil mark I mistook for the end of Tiny’s life.
Mike was six years older than me but I can remember the Christmas he got his Erector set complete with a working motor. I think it took him three days between chores to build a working Ferris wheel. I don’t remember a lot else he built, but that was enough.
Mike was a sucker for Christmas like Mom. When he got older, he loved to stage Santa blowing in with our presents on Christmas Eve. My brother Will recalls the time when he, and Dan and Tom were just little and they heard a racket coming down the stairs. They opened the heavy wood door at the bottom only to have presents tumble over them and Mike yelling from the top of the stairs that Santa had just come through the attic with the loot.
Will and Dan crawled as fast as they could over the presents to get upstairs and found Mike hanging out the attic window lamenting that they had just missed him. It was a magical moment that only my late, fun-loving brother could pull off.
My other unforgettable gift came the year Santa brought me a record player — a great idea but I didn’t have any records. Once again, Mike stepped in and provided Bing Crosby’s Christmas album, the one with just his head in a Santa hat on the cover, and “The First Family,” a satirical take on the Kennedy’s first years in the White House featuring Vaughn Meader as JFK and a woman whose voice was the perfect imitation of Jackie. I didn’t get all the humor but I remember watching Mike and learned to laugh when he did. I wish I had that album back.
Gifts are funny things. They can be a burden to buy when someone appears to have everything but unbelievably fun when you find the “perfect thing,” like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree Kevin got from friends just a few days ago. And sometimes it isn’t the gift at all but who it comes from and when. I’ve had gifts like that from almost every member of my family over the years and while the gift itself might be gone, the memory remains and keeps on giving.
I avoided Black Friday and Cyber Monday intimidates me and with everybody older, we don’t exchange gifts like we used to. But that’s the thing with memories, who needs to buy new when recall is free.