Prompted by an MSN page this morning which listed their version of the top 15 favourite toys of all time, I started probing for what my favourite Christmas present might have been. A Slinky came to mind, but I remember feeling that it soon became monotonous. Not a lot of possibilities for play. Dolls? Disappointment there too, with one particular doll being dressed very fancily in some sort of gown with panniers on the sides. She was small and I think was of the type you were supposed to collect and then display on a shelf. You really couldn’t do much with her. Another doll was larger, jointed, and meant to walk, but I never caught the hang of it. I seem to remember wanting a Betsy-Wetsy one year, but didn’t get it, and likely that would have been a disappointment too.
I was shocked to realize this, but the really satisfying Christmas presents I remember were…books! Wonderful books such as Peter Churchmouse and The Carrot Seed when I was small, and Heidi when I was older. Huckleberry Finn was over my head, but I read and re-read it, puzzling over the dialogue which seemed, in its southern idiom, to be close to a foreign language. I loved that book. I still know parts of it by heart.
And one year I hit the jackpot. I received a whole set of books, ten volumes, entitled The Junior Classics. Everything from Greek myths to fairy tales to adventure stories, stories about animals, stories about boys and girls, poetry–they went on and on. They looked to me like a lifetime of good reading, and got me into trouble many times, because I would be found on the floor reading them when I was supposed to be cleaning my room or doing other chores. It was impossible to be bored–there was such a variety of stories. And I still have them on the shelves right beside me. Somehow (heh heh) they survived the great book purge we had to do in moving to this condo. Since they’ve stayed by me for sixty-some years, I guess that must have been my best Christmas present ever.