Dateline Livermore. Christmas bells are still ringing in my ears along with the unmistakable whine of radio controlled cars and the steady clip-clop of Barbiesís small horse as it canters across hardwood floors.
"What was the best thing you boys (twins aged seven) got for Christmas?" I asked after the snow flurry of paper and ribbons had settled.
"Pogs! Pogs!" they squealed as they slammed the popular bottle caps to the floor.
Two new BMX bikes lay on the floor close to the tree. Twenty six hundred pieces of K-Necs were scattered here and yon awaiting assembly complete with motors as well as radio controlled cars. Various and sundry clothing and books were scattered among the wrappings. I remembered Bill saying one year "Itís decadent the amount of presents we have under the tree!" But as each year passes, we parents and grandparents forget and each year thereís those last minute extraís to buy, just in case we havenít gotten it all. We get caught up in consumerism by a media bent on selling us everything a childís heart could desire.
I was reminded of Bruceís first Christmas. We had very little money , but we wanted to get him a record player. He was happier with the box it came in. I felt deep frustration. And even deeper frustration when Poppy built a wagon for him so large that he couldnít even pull it. By the time he was ten the entire neighborhood was using it for a pick-up-truck. Weíve probably been Ďoverdoingí since time immemorial. Or my first teen Christmas and I wanted clothes desperately. There was something shaped like a suitcase under the tree and I visualized it chock full of the latest teen fashions. To my chagrin it was an Accordian complete with a years worth of lessons.
I watched as Bill put the video camera away. It had nakedly and brazenly recorded the moment the boys saw the bikes, walked around them and then back to the tree where the Pogs and K-Necs were. It had captured on film forever that those twin little boys had no idea the differences in the cost of Pogs and BMXís nor in their innocence were they concerned. Their father was visibly disappointed that they werenít thrilled with their expensive name brand bikes.
As I watched the scene unfold I guessed that perhaps at age seven, they needed to want them longer. The need for a BMX had to burn itís way deeper into their souls. They had to pine for them more. Ride on their friends bikes and then describe the thrill of it to their parents. Dream about them. Cut out pictures of them from the paper and tack them on the walls of their room. Talk about them. Begin saving money for them. Sacrifice for them. C. S. Lewis, in the movie Shadowlands, says that the most intense joy is not in having, but in desire! Anticipation is all ... once you get it, that mesmerizing thrill is gone.
So often some of the things that we get our children for Christmas are special things we didnít get when we were kids, or they are things weíd give our eyeteeth to have now....if we were just kids one more time!
"Backward turn backward, oh time in your flight, and make me a child again....just for tonight!"
Christmas brings out that wondrous child in all of us. Memories of Christmas Past swarm into our heads. Sometimes the memories can be overwhelming. Sometimes they can make that little child inside cry for the simplicity of yesteryear.
Barbieís horse galloped past us again and we all marveled at the exquisite workmanship of itís jointed legs. The whirring of the race cars soon drowned out the tiny horsesí hooves as the father and grandfather played with the remote controls of the cars, and the childrenís computer game was beeped for attention in the next room.
"We never had anything the likes of this," Dick said as his car raced past Billís.
"Well...itís the 90ís. The super electronic highway is here and now....donít you just love it?" I said.
"Letís go ride bikes," the little boys said in unison, tiring of K-necs.
"Wait for me, Guys," Bill said, beaming handing his radio control to someone near.
The stereo was spewing forth a digitized version of Christmas Bells. I picked up my auto-focus camera to follow the twins outside. I got to the street just in time to see Jeff plow straight into the back of our motorhome with his new bike.
"Use the hand brakes. Use the hand brakes!" Bill was calling to Jeff.
What I heard in the cobweb recesses of my mind was my daddyís voice behind me saying "Balance, Johnny....donít go too fast!" as I wobbled down Madrona Street in another town in another place in time on my first two-wheeler.
Nothing much changes really....just the players on the stage and perhaps the eyes of the beholder.
None of us truly want to wait for anything and in an era of instant gratification from MacDonalds to MacIntosh....this generation doesnít have to.
Beep, beep. Whirr, Whirr. Ding, Dong, go the bells of Christmas Day. If we donít climb on board the Super Information Highway weíre gonna get gobbled up by the Global Cheapeyjobbers. If you donít believe it, ask any child over six who talks back to you in computereze.
"Itís mindboggling how much our grandchildren know these days," I said to Dick as we drove the motorhome down I-5 heading south toward Buttonwillow and home, "Just mindboggling."
He was already fast asleep and I wondered, just briefly, as I commandeered the RV through bumper to bumper after Christmas traffic if visions of sugar plums still danced in his head. Probably not. Being left brained it was probably the beep, beep of the computer and visions of playing with the color printer that we got each other for Christmas.
Delay gratification? Us? Not likely. Our apologies to C. S. Lewis, but we donít have that much time to waste. Besides that we survived The Great Depression and believe me, it wasnít that great!
Just then I remembered how warm and toasty my feet were. I looked down at our $140.00 UGGS Boots that we had gotten for the trip and smiled.
We must get it from our kids!