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Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

Christmas Shopping

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Christmas shopping for me will always be the once-upon-a-time of memory: walking on Fifth Avenue it's probably snowing, windows decorated like the fairy tales of childhood, with incredible train sets, dolls with beautiful porcelain faces and long yellow hair dressed in ball gowns from royal courts of "the old country" (as grandma used to say). One year, such a doll danced with a toy soldier in a red jacket and tall, feathered hat. Round and round and round they went, never to tire, never to grow old. A little girl like me could stand, enthralled, holding onto my mother's hand, having all these precious gifts, if only for that moment.

There were replicas of steel suspension bridges; an entire miniature department store with different floors, an up-and-down elevator, tiny people moving about, cash registers with tiny numbered tabs which shot up ringing a little bell for each purchase; incredible mechanical dancing clowns; log cabin villages with families standing outside, smoke coming out of the chimney as a young Abe Lincoln sawed logs outside; everything seemed to have moving parts.
Christmas Story Lamp and FRAGILE
Christmas greetings from Indiana - A 'major award' in a Vincennes window - TE photo, December 2010
One year, there was a metal cathedral maybe two feet high which played Christmas carols sung by (I learned later) the Vienna Boys Choir. Nothing was made in China, with the possible exception of children's sets of China cups and saucers you could see through if you held them up to the light. The steel railroad cars that sped on metal tracks right through little villages with blacksmiths who banged away on an anvil, trees whose leaves never fell, The General Store with geezers spinning silent yarns on a bench outside, tall and short houses, one of which contained an immobile quilting bee, bus stops, and the wonderful Train Station itself. No wonder boys and their fathers were held in a state of rapture looking in the store window at such life. We used to imagine these wonderful toys coming to life after closing time, little anticipating that one day, movies about that very fantasy would be made, perhaps by grown-up kids who once gazed longingly in those same windows.
Christmas Story Lamp lighted up by the window
...including a tin of Ovaltine and a framed photo of the Parker family.
Today's kids will also have Christmas memories: plastic logs, plastic computers, plastic dish sets, figures of plastic comic book heroes. If you ask a five-year-old what he or she wants for Christmas, chances are they'll say "A television for my room," or "an iPad," or "my own Blackberry."

Whatever gifts children get, be they an old-time working replica of a Ferris wheel, a modern-day Angry Bird app, or set of giant stuffed germs, we can be sure of one thing: considering the heavy plastic used to package today's toys, batteries, even cosmetics, unless they have a flamethrower, nobody will be able to open the boxes.


© Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
December 20, 2010 column
Related Topics: Christmas in Texas |
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