When I Was a Kid…

What do kids want for Christmas this year? According to a recent Nielsen study “American kids aged 6-12 [are] generally more interested in the latest iOS offerings than other consumer electronics and gaming devices.” An iPad under the tree is a growing trend according to Nielsen. This year 48 percent of children are requesting the devices, up from 40 percent a year ago.

Sifting through Nielsen’s numbers I began to think back to the days when I crafted my wish list for Santa. A few things may have changed from those snowy Massachusetts days, especially the importance I had misplaced on plastic action figures:

The Sears Wish Book
When I was a kid…we did not have the Internet to help us find the latest toys and gadgets. Each year my classmates would race home from school as the holidays approached to check their mailboxes (actual aluminum boxes nailed to wooden posts) for the arrival of the Sears Wish Book. Back then its immensity rivaled the New York Yellow Pages – a publication we knew through the fanciful tales told by our parents, many of whom were transplanted natives from the city.

The Wish Book was a wonder to behold as a child. Its sheer weight was only outdone by the marvels it contained. Spending day after day in a town of less than 800 people with only a general store, my friends and I relied on our imaginations to entertain us. The Wish Book provided us with an opportunity to press our noses up against the windows of Santa’s workshop, seeing toys as the titans of the industry such as Hasbro and Mattel launched them. Like Pavlov’s dog I still feel an odd joy in the pit of my stomach when I think back to hours spent flipping through those pages.

When I was a kid…we did not have the option of creating a Pinterest account just for our wish list. My list was completed in several steps, all handwritten, by logging page numbers from the Wish Book, items on those pages, descriptions of the items, rough drafts as the list was made more manageable, and ultimately the final draft.

I toiled over my drafts for weeks, twisting my hand around that hard plastic sleeve on my pencil to make the final version legible for Saint Nick and his team of elves. (A bit of explanation: In school we studied penmanship, a subject that kept me practicing as I watched my classmates run off to recess each day.)

In an odd twist of fate, it was my preoccupation with handwriting that helped me match gift tags written by my mother with those penned by Santa.

When I was a kid…simplicity did not work for me. Crafting a straightforward wish list never helped my case for receiving the latest toy. One year I distinctly remember a single line item in my missive to the North Pole:

1. Every He-Man toy.

It was simple. After years of feeling that my requests went unfulfilled I was guaranteed at least a few action figures although I had my heart set on Castle Greyskull.

That Christmas morning I raced down to the tree and after tearing the paper off of the last gift I unknowingly left a lasting emotional scar on my parents’ hearts when I openly questioned Santa’s inability to meet my needs. Hitting rock bottom in slipper pajamas is a unique experience. It remains a vivid image in my own memory. As I finished my little speech I saw a sharp pain in my parents’ eyes. In that moment I understood what I said.

I don’t remember the exact year I placed more importance on seeing my family happily spending a morning together and stopped treating Christmas like a greedy free-for-all, but I do know that it was when I was a kid.

What images stick in your mind from your holidays as a child?


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