Now the countdown can begin for Christmas at the Watson household. Actually we’ve been clandestinely ordering presents for months. But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we had a crew of kids playing in our backyard so I took the opportunity to do a little reconnaissance work for the fat jolly guy. And what I found was that kids think about Christmas much the same way we did 60 years ago.
Asking my great niece Joy if she’d been good for Santa this year, she glanced uneasily at her older sister Daisy. The three-year-old seemed to be mentally sorting through some of the events over the past year when Daisy bailed her out by reporting, “She’s been good.” That was excellent news I said to the child who was obviously relieved.
When we discussed Christmas gifting with Jordan, my great-nephew who lives next door, he gave careful consideration to what gifts he’d like Jilda and me to get him. I’m sure in his mind he was clicking off things he’d like along with the associated price tags. He’s very mindful of money and rarely asks us for anything expensive.
“What about a new winter outfit,” Jilda suggested. He jumped all over that with, “No, my mom takes care of my clothing needs. I think you guys and Santa should focus on toys and games.” Good answer, I thought.
He’s almost eight years old and extremely bright for his age, but I shook my head at the way he framed his answer to our question. I might have thought that same thing when I was his age, but my answer would have been a lot more direct. “I’d druther have toys.”
In the 1950s, The Sears Christmas Wishbook hit our mailbox in the fall. They got it into the homes early enough to torture kids for months. That was a genius move on their part because it gave families in rural areas of the country a chance to help Santa shop for their kids.
Those pages were “visual crack” for most kids. By the time Christmas rolled around, the pages were dog-eared and worn as thin as onion skin.
Our TV was black and white in those days and I think toy manufacturers believed that TV was a passing fad not worthy of spending a lot of advertising dollars on. I do remember advertisements for Slinkys and for Viewmaster slide views. These looked like binoculars, but you poked in a round cardboard disk with tiny color photographs in cutout slots in the disk. You would point the Viewmaster toward the light and click a lever, which advanced the pictures. Santa brought me one of those.
These days, sales pitches inundate children’s programming on TV and fill their parent’s email inboxes with the latest and greatest in technology toys, games, and other high-dollar offerings.
Jilda and I don’t have kids, but we find ways to spend Christmas dollars on our nieces and nephews. We try to get them things they might enjoy but probably aren’t on their “A” list. We look for unique toys, books, and games that will last after the Christmas lights are packed away for another year.
I know the Christmas Wishbook is pretty much a thing of the past, but if it were the only way to reach children today, I’d bet they would enjoy it as much as we did when we were kids.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.