It’s that time of year – when my younger children begin fidgeting with anticipation and getting excited about the holiday season. I remember the joys of Christmas as a young boy, but the magic of Christmas seemed to fade as I reached adulthood. But now the excitement returns each time the sparkle in my kids’ eyes remind me of those fond memories.
My children are amazed when I describe the types of toys we had. My sister ignited our senses with her Easy Bake Oven as its light bulb baked its single serving cakes. I performed with my TV Magic game as my parents pretended to be surprised at my poorly rehearsed tricks. I like to underwhelm my kids with the descriptions of our first electronic games. I tell them how amazed we were when Pong came out in 1972. We would stand at the display counter at Sears and entertain ourselves by turning a dial to move a line of light back and forth to hit a square dot, hoping our opponent would miss. My sister would fly in a rage when I ran the dial back and forth, creating a blur of light that she was convinced was cheating her out of a point. The strategy never worked, but I would always try it. Maybe it was just fun hearing my sister protest.
I’m convinced that our Perfection game was designed to give children posttraumatic disorders. We rushed to fit the twenty-five pieces into their spot as the sixty-second timer reminded us of our eminent doom. My excitement would rise as I had only two shapes to go, then twenty-three pieces would fly at my face with a bang, making me jump out of my socks.
One Christmas my sister was given a new kind of doll. It had plush skin made out of rubber that felt almost like real skin. Most of the time, her dolls had the natural look. Without clothes, they basked on the floor under the sixty watt lights. I don’t remember exactly how I discovered it, but I found that if I poked the doll with a sharpened pencil tip, it made an interesting gray pattern. I decided to give her new doll the measles. It was only pencil lead, so I figured the dots could be erased when it was time to recover from the measles. Unfortunately, the gray measles turned out to be incurable.
After realizing my mistake, I decided to cover my tracks by putting the clothes back on the doll. I dressed her and tucked the doll into bed before making my escape, hoping my sister wouldn’t notice. She did. Within minutes after walking in the door, agonizing screams came from her room and she ran down the hall crying, “Look what Eddie did to my doll.” She visualized a violent act and to this day, she swears that she saw me stabbing her doll like a serial killer.
The highlight of Christmas for me was when my grandparents would arrive in their Chevro-sleigh and bring in wrapped presents from grandma’s workshop. My sister and I would sit under the tree with our cousins identifying which ones had our names. Presents would not be opened until after dinner, and we could hardly wait. We would beg to open just one, and my grandfather would tease me by saying, “Pick out a present and I’ll let you know what is in it.” I would grab the most promising looking package and return. He would study it thoughtfully, and lean over saying he needed to whisper it in my ear. I inclined to listen closely and he would say, “It is….a secret.” I would bounce up and down, and beg for the real answer. He pretended to relent, but then he’d tell me the same thing before giving a jolly laugh.
Today I have the privilege of seeing that same delight in my own children. They bounce with excitement as we visit their grandparents and try to identify their names under the tree. Sometimes the anticipation of the contents behind the wrapper causes them to beg to open just one. I can’t let them, but I do tell them what is inside – it is…a secret!
Eddie Snipes 2010