Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hard Candy Christmas

Pretend you are in a Christmas time machine! We are headed to the year 1945! Destination: a one room house in the Smokey Mountains, where a little Dolly Parton and her 11 siblings are overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of having a store-bought gift under the tree. Let's listen in:

"Somehow Mama and Daddy always managed for each of us to get one store-bought gift. Regardless of what it was, it was a thing of wonder to be revered, looked at with slow eyes, felt with tender hands, and relished for its newness. Best of all was that "it's really mine" feeling that could carry you around on a cloud for days, or until it was replaced by that "it's really broken" feeling.

The boys' gifts usually included fireworks, and they'd be outside announcing that fact to the world as soon as a match was found. For today, tin cans would become space capsules, finger-formed dams would be blown, and many a German matchbox would no longer threaten Allied troops...

We girls usually got a little pink plastic doll with its own white cloth diaper held in place by a tiny gold safety pin. That may sound really cheap, and I'm sure it was. But for us, just the fact that it was plastic made it different from the ordinary things we saw in the holler. There was no way this could have been homemade. Unless you're home happened to be a sweatshop in Taiwan.

Those little plastic dolls instantly became the focus of whatever motherly instances the Parton girls had. Of course we all had one, and they basically all looked alike. If you looked closely enough, and of course we did, you could see little imperfections in the plastic that identified each doll. We "mothers" would get to know our dolls intimately. Inevitably, some body's would get lost or eaten by a cow or thrown down a well by an ill-tempered brother; sometimes there would be a "baby snatching."

A fight would usually follow, consisting more of accusations and name calling than anything else. "That's my doll," the rightful mother would cry. "See, it's got two little extra globs of plastic on it's left ear." On a good day, though, each mother would care for her own plastic treasure, and all would be well with the world.

We would scavenge to find things to serve as a crib and bedclothes. The more industrious ones would even fashion clothes for the doll. I always liked mine just the way it arrived on Christmas morning, in its special cloth diaper with the shiny gold pin."

Wow! Dolly's family may have been poor, but the children were rich in appreciation for even the smallest gifts, and they used so much creativity in their play.

Certainly, I am grateful that I can buy my girls more than one dollar store toy for Christmas, but I feel like by giving them so much, they have come to expect it as "their right," and often don't truly appreciate all the gifts we put in front of them. I would love for our house to have fewer toys. I'd like to find a balance between Mika and Macy having nothing and a having everything, like owning a few toys they really treasure and appreciate, instead of a house full of cheap, imported, lead-laced pieces of junk that probably cost pennies on the dollar to manufacture. Easier said than done, right? I may never figure out how to tame the "toy beast" in our lives, but I can smile when I think about little Dolly Parton, clutching her tiny store-bought doll with so much wonder and delight.

1 comment:

  1. I think it can be taught. Somehow I grew up to appreciate the hard earned money my parents made. I don't remember us going through the toys r us catalog or trapsing through the toy store to find make the big list of toys we wanted. I just asked for a few things and left it at that. I would always think of the thing I wanted MOST and would spend weeks making sure my parents understood that if they would get me that ONE thing, I wouldn't ask for anything else. I still remember my top 5 most treasured gifts and how I felt when I received them.

    1. PJ (my childhood cat) - age 12
    2. Sandy (first baby doll that was like a real baby)- age 5
    3. My first 'mountain' bike (which was actually pink with a basket for my dolls) - age 8
    4. Hot Wheels Race Track - age 11
    5. My first Walkman - 14

    I think we can teach our kids to just think of two or three things they would like for Christmas and then make them put them in order of what they want most. Then ask our friends and family to just get one thing a piece. It's allowing them want, want and want some more that's the problem.