My father, who because of his Amish upbringing didn't go to high school, always worked long hours and overtime whenever possible so that my mother could stay at home and raise us 7 kidlets. (He did go back and get his GED later in life though - Go Dad!) My father is one of the hardest working men I know. (Guess he learned something from years of getting up early to do chores.) In addition to working as much as possible, he'd often pick up side jobs here and there just to help make the ends meet -- or at least come closer together. Needless to say, money was tight.
Nevertheless, my parents still did things to make our Christmases feel special. Most of the things I remember are the traditions (which I will post about later this week). But I also remember the gifts. We each always got 1 gift for Christmas. My parents made that decision when they started having kids - one main gift per child. That way, no matter how much money they had (or didn't) we never had high expectations and were never let down, because we could always count on that one.
When I was really small -- like 2 -- Naomi got a wooden train set, Rachel got Weebles and I got one of these...Tree Tots!
When I was about 4 I don't remember what Naomi got, but Rachel got a Mickey Mouse doll, Sam got a Donald Duck doll, Sarah got a baby doll my mom made and I got this... A Fisher Price "Record Player".
We shared our toys and after Christmas, for the most part, we didn't think of our gifts as "my" toy or "your" toy; they were OUR toys. Maybe it's because we only got one.
I remember some of the other gifts through the years too. In third grade I got a purple watch, with a REAL second hand (not digital, like the other kids were going to.) I loved it because while I felt my friends were all "cheating" I could tell time for REAL. Haha. Another year I got a little blue typewriter, another year I got a Crystal Barbie, and in the 5th grade I felt all grown-up because I got a blue sweater w/ matching purse set. I think it's because we only ever got one gift, that I cherished those.
When some of us older ones could babysit and earn our own money, we asked my parents if we could draw names for Christmas and be each others' Secret Santas. (This way we could each get another gift in addition to the one from my parents.) They agreed. The limit for our Secret Santa gifts was $5 and we had to earn it. The little kids did extra chores to earn their money and then once everyone had their $5, we drew the names and off we went in search of the best gift our $5 could buy. Luckily, there was a Variety Store within walking distance from our house, which we called "the Dime Store"; I guess because they sold penny candy and candy for 10 cents, etc. But they also had things like little toys, books, figurines, etc.
Well, the first year we drew names, the youngest sibling Ruthie drew my name. Christmas morning came and when it was my turn to open my gift, I shook it and it rattled. Hmmm, wonder what it is, I thought. I was about eleven years old and Ruthie was 5. Excited, I ripped open the wrapping to reveal 2 boxes of Nerds candy. Now, Nerds WERE pretty special, since they were like the newest candy to hit the shelf. However, they were only $.35 a box back then and tax was only 5 cents on the dollar. So, what did she do with the other $4.26 you ask? Good question. I can only assume she had purchased a bunch of candy, having only the best intentions, but between the date of purchase and Christmas she gave into her temptations, leaving me with the 2 aforementioned boxes of Nerds. Now, being 11 and it being Christmas, I gave a little chuckle and said "thanks" and then went on and on about how Nerds were my favorite candy ever and how excited I was. Okay, so I overdid it a bit. But I didn't want to make her feel bad.
So, guess who drew my name the next year? And guess who once again got 2 boxes of Nerds candy? I guess my performance was so convincing she decided on a repeat gift. Maybe it was an anomaly or something, because the third year we drew names, she drew mine once again, and for the third year in a row, I got 2 boxes of Nerds.
Over the years, it has sort of become a joke between us. However, I will have to say, that I actually do like Nerds candy. My favorites are the pink ones and of course the Christmas ones, like these...
So, whaddya say, Ruthie? Send me a box for old time's sake?