Of the many memories I have of Christmas on the farm, I don’t have a single memory of ever telling Santa what I wanted for Christmas. I do remember being told innumerable times that I had better be good or Santa wouldn’t bring me what I wanted.
How could he, was my sassy reply, when I hadn’t told him what I wanted?
Santa. A black-and-white photograph does exist of my two older brothers, sister and me with some department store Santa in, maybe, 1960. Could I have slipped the fat man a slim list that day?
I doubt it, because the picture shows him looking blankly into the camera while we all are staring far right. Eyes don’t lie; the disconnect between that St. Louis Santa and those Illinois farm kids couldn’t be more obvious.
I do have a clear memory of Santa bringing me a battery-powered, toy electric razor one year. The proof is another photo that has me holding the razor while sporting a smile brighter than the tinsel-draped cedar tree behind me.
That razor was way cool, but I didn’t ask Santa for it.
A couple of Christmases later, my two older brothers received BB guns, the pinnacle of every boy’s Christmas gift pyramid. Had they asked Santa for ’em? They must have, because I had not asked Santa for one and, well, I didn’t get one.
Confirmation. At that point, anyone with a thinner skull might have picked up on that “Ask Santa” thing. Anyone, maybe; me, no. I needed confirmation.
Finally, in 1964, or so, I learned the full truth at Grandma’s house. I remember the moment of clarity completely. That Christmas Eve was like every Christmas Eve; we were at Grandma’s eying the beautifully wrapped gifts under her tree while the adults were in the kitchen eating pickled herring and raw oysters, Grandpa’s Christmas gift to them. (Some gift.)
As I bored through the tottering pile, I uncovered an enormous box that was ticketed for my brother, David. Wow, David had hit the Grandma jackpot. The Mother Lode.
“David,” I said in hushed awe, “Look.”
He glanced at the huge package.
“Yeah, I saw that.”
“No, dummy,” I insisted, “this is the Big One, the
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