Poloroid pictures don't hold of very well, but I am lucky that this one is still here to share. This was our first Christmas at the big old house in Ontario California. In the background from left are my dad, my brother Steve, my mother, my mother-in-law, me, father-in law, sister Ginnie and brother-in-law Don. In the front are three of my kids - Sean, Erin and Bryn - and my sister's oldest son, Dennis. There are two missing tots, my youngest daughter Kerry and her cousin David. They might have already been put down for the night, or they could have been off playing cowboys in some other room. This was the year of the vacuum cleaner, and below is the story, written some years ago:
When my kids were little shavers, we lived in a big old two-story house. On the day before Christmas, my sister and her little family would come early and we’d spend the day talking, laughing, eating and getting the last minute presents purchased while the little cousins played together. Just before bedtime we all gathered by the fireplace to hang seven stockings. The kids were always glad to go upstairs to bed, because they knew they had to go to sleep before Santa would come.
As soon as they drifted off, the four of us adults would start assembling all the various toys, which was no small project, although in those days they were mostly mechanical things. Electronic toys hadn’t been “discovered” yet. On this particular Christmas we lined up each kid's toys directly underneath their stocking so child could quickly identify whose was whose. After all the presents were assembled, I vacuumed the floor and we readied the house for the Santa’s arrival. I left the vacuum cleaner in a nearby corner of the living room because we knew we’d be using it again after the mayhem of present-opening the next morning was over.
This particular year my sis’ oldest son, Dennis, was about 4 years old. He was at the stage where he liked any machine that made a noise, and he was particularly fond of his mom's vacuum cleaner, of all things. So his folks had purchased a clever little upright vacuum made of plastic, with a battery operated “mechanism” inside made to sound like a motor. They knew he was going to be really happy.
The adults slept downstairs. We managed to stay in bed until about 5 a.m. The kids started waking each other up about 5:30 and we adults stationed ourselves at the bottom of the stairs until they all were up and ready to see what Santa brought them. When we turned them loose, six little kids went through that door all at once. Over the yelling we could hear little Dennis screaming, “A vacuum, a vacuum, Santa brought me a vacuum” – and by the time we got into the living room, Dennis had a vacuum in his hand gleefully pushing it around as he yelled, but it wasn’t his toy vacuum. It was my real one.
His little face fell when he learned that the real vacuum was not his, that instead his was the little puny thing by his stocking. It took a lot of explaining on the part of his folks to get him to accept the reality of the situation – that Aunt Bobby needed her vacuum and she couldn’t let him have it but that Santa brought him one of his very own.
Dennis grew up to be a nice, well-adjusted kid. Obviously he was not damaged irreparably by Santa’s faux pas. Through the years, when ever my sis would say something about one of the kids' disappointments, she would always qualify it by saying, "He wasn't as disappointed, though as when he couldn't have your vacuum cleaner." And when I would tell her something like, "Well, Bryn was upset that she didn't make concert choir" I'd always add "But not as disappointed as Dennis was when he couldn't have my vacuum."
Every family has stories that take on a life of their own and become the makings of great lore. Dennis probably doesn't even remember the Christmas that this occurred but at least he will now know that he is famous for something!