When I was little, New Years Day meant we would get our Christmas presents.
Christmas gifting ritual was a pain! Grandma and Grandpa Wilfley would come over, we’d have Sara Lee coffee cake warmed in the oven. And then The Ritual. We’d have to sit on dining table chairs in a circle around the living room. Mother would distribute the presents one by one, and everyone was expected to watch The Unwrapping. And then that present was neatly stacked with the others next to that person as they were expected to watch The Unwrapping with the next person.
And then when it was all done and we each had our respective piles of treasures (which were rather paltry piles some years, but a couple of years were GREAT — December 1964 in particular), we were dispatched from the living room while Mother returned all the presents back under the tree to be displayed until the tree came down on or about New Years Day …. or whenever they were sober enough to get around to taking it down.
We were allowed to play with a new game, or read a new book, or whatever, only if we ASKED permission to take it from under the tree, and then we were supposed to put it back to its original packaging to be returned under the tree. I never understood this bizarre ritual.
December 1963 I was in Fourth Grade, and the one gift I remember was a copy of the California History textbook we were also studying in school. It had a blue cover with pictures of significant California landmarks. I LOVED that book and wanted to read it all, so i was very pleased to have a copy of my very own at home.
December 1964 I was in Fifth Grade and that was a good year for Christmas — I got a ventriloquist dummy, a new bicycle (black Schwinn 3-speed), and a bunch of other cool stuff.
I don’t remember *exactly* what year Mother sold our beds out from under us*, but my brother and I ended up sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor in the bedroom. And then for Christmas that year we both both a brand new air mattress, the cool kind when a foot pump to blow it up easier.
But it was Christmas so we didn’t actually get to use them, because of The Ritual.
But the weekend between Christmas and New Years was the father-and-son camp out for the Boy Scouts. My brother was a Boy Scout, so he and Dad were going camping. AND they were going to use the new air mattresses. I wasn’t asked if Dad could take my new air mattress, not even as a mere formality, it was Simply Decided.
And when they came back a couple days later, my air mattress had developed a leak. It didn’t even stay inflated the first night I got to use it. I asked my Dad to fix the leak. He didn’t put it off, he simply refused to fix the leak that occurred while he was using it. Every time I asked him he refused. I already knew he didn’t like me, but that was just wronger than wrong. You don’t give a kid a present and then ruin it before he even has a chance to use it.
* no, seriously, she did. I’d already gone to bed and was sleeping, and Mother came in and woke me, told me to go sleep in my brother’s bed in his room. When I woke the next morning, I went to my room to get dressed and my bed was gone. My brother’s bed mysteriously disappeared shortly thereafter.
I think that was in 7th grade, because I’d gotten my first pair of glasses in 7th grade, in the fall of 1966. A day or two after getting them, I put them on the bed while I went to take a bath. After the bath I bounced on the bed and landed on the glasses and broke them.