The fun of Christmas -- and the fun of looking back on Christmases -- has a lot to do with my kids. I had a passel of 'em. This picture dates from Christmas of 1961. Kerry was getting ready to turn 1 in January of '62. That meant that Bryn was 2-1/2, Erin was 4 and Sean was 5-1/2.
We lived in Westminster, California in a small 3-bedroom house that had 1140 square feet in it and that cost $15, 250 when we bought it in 1959. Sean and Erin had one of the bedrooms and Bryn and Kerry were in the other. Our house payments were $99 per month, which included principal, interest, taxes and insurance. We didn't have a whole lot of money but we had enough to get our children exactly what they wanted for Christmas.
Sean knew his dad had served in the U.S. Marines, and he spent a lot of time play-acting being a "soldier." For his Christmas present he got a set of little "dress blues" -- and for months after he got this outfit he wore it everywhere except to school. He "became" a Marine; there was no doubt about it.
Erin wanted a certain doll. I can't remember what it was called, but of course she found it sitting under the tree on Christmas morning and she was in seventh heaven (as you can tell by the expression on her face).
Little Bryn, the child that was always smiling, finally got her own cash register, and she rang up sales until we were sorry we'd bought that toy for her. It made an awful "ca-chunking" noise every time a register key was punched. There wasn't a thing electrical about it, but manually pushing on the keys produced the exact noise she knew was for ringing up a sale -- so her dad and I emptied our pockets into the till and she, little tyke that she was, kept trying to sell us things.
And baby Kerry was too young yet to signify her wants. She liked everything, even the bows that came off the presents. There was no squawking from her about not getting what she wanted.
I look at this picture and I remember how blessed that Christmas was. The kids got lots of other presents from Santa Claus, and of course from their grandmas and grandpas. None of the presents were big expensive things. There were no electronic gadgets being shown on television that made the kids want to have one just like it and cry if they didn't get it. It was possible then to have a reasonably inexpensive Christmas holiday and still provide enough goodies for your kids to be wowed!
In fact, my kids grew up and celebrated Christmases before the electronic age hit. I am stunned when I see the prices that parents nowadays must pay if they want to give the kids what they have seen on TV and are asking for.
But I have to remember that just because I am shocked at the prices, it is probable that their parents aren't; if $25 was a lot to pay for a present in 1961 when cigarettes were 25 cents a pack, then now in an economy where cigarettes may be $5.00 a pack parents may not think comparably higher-priced presents are too expensive either.
I have never been one of those people who crabs about the commerciality of Christmas. I have always loved the Christmas season, the hunt for the perfect gift, the music, the congeniality of holiday, and most especially the happiness in the eyes of my children.
And I guess that is why I look at this picture and see the tiled floors with no carpets on them, the raggedy and sparcely decorated little Christmas tree which was the biggest we could afford, and remembering how hard it was to make ends meet when we were first starting to be a family -- and I remember those things but what overshadows them all is the look of happiness on the faces of my kids. They may not have always received exactly what they wanted, but apparently it was enough to make them want to do likewise for their own kids.
And that's the pleasure of being grandparents, watching your grandchildren, both big and small, knowing that they will be smiling when the unwrapping starts.