It was the anticipation of the Christmas box arriving from England every year that made Christmas so very special for me as a child.
I imagined it coming across the ocean all the way from England and even though I had lived there, I was too young to remember much detail. The fact that my Grandmother would send a special box all that way was just simply too over-the-top exciting for words. My Christmases as a child were fairly normal. While not filled with family, as we were immigrants, it was always a lovely Christmas. Included was a stocking, perhaps with a Christmas orange in the toe followed by other things like crayons, pencils, candy, then perhaps some sensible gifts like pyjamas, socks or a cardigan. I remember dolls and maybe a book to read, a colouring book or a paint by number set. Not all of those things — one or two perhaps.
If I then fast forward to my son and the Christmases he enjoyed, there is no comparison. Some electronics were available at that time and I think he had a game for the television, transformers and before that GI Joe figures, as well as clothing.
Having more money than our parents, our generation tended to over gift in an attempt to make up for what we didn’t have.
Today’s children receive cell phones, computers, drones, silly-expensive items of clothing, ski passes, and more. Gift giving seems to have ramped up and has become all about consumerism at its worst and we feed it more and more every year.
Interestingly, I came across a question on Facebook the other day that asked us to recall our favourite Christmas gift. I thought about it for some time and then I remembered the absolute piece de resistance of my childhood Christmases.
But first, some background. My paternal Grandmother had lived through an economic depression in Germany and experienced going to the grocery store with an enormous amount of money that would only buy a loaf of bread. She married my Grandfather, an upper-crust Englishman who was then shunned by his wealthy family for marrying her. Eventually, the financial hardship that this created led to his early demise and left my Grandmother alone to raise two boys. Sadly, she became a bitter penny pincher of extreme proportion in order to survive. As a result, she became quite eccentric.
Her Christmas box arrived every December and seemed enormous to me as a 5-year-old. It was never predictable and from my childish point of view, it was full of weirdly unique and wonderfully fun surprises. She was frugal beyond the meaning of the word and it appeared she had scavenged around her house to find the things she put in the box. The fun that was had by imagining what might be in the Christmas box was hugely exciting to me and I would pester my parents almost daily as it got closer to Christmas. “Has Nana’s box arrived yet?” or “Do you think Nana’s box will come today?” I mean, Christmas would not be Christmas without that box.
Aside from the anticipation of its arrival, the eclectic assortment of oddities in this box brought about more enjoyment than any other thing at Christmas. There would be several broken necklaces, chipped ornaments, cookies in packages that were no longer in one piece (they were cheaper to buy when they were broken), individually wrapped candies just tossed in, Brighton Rock, one earring (always only one), bags of broken candy (again, they were cheaper to buy) a Rupert’s Bear book, and one time, a very old doll — which might have been hers, as it was porcelain, its face cracked, missing a hand and was wearing old-fashioned clothing. I loved it.
This box provided more fun than anything else at Christmas. Memories were made as each item was taken from the box and examined by all of us. Ironically, she had unknowingly figured out how to send a box of joy.
The Christmas Box from an eccentric Nana that I barely knew, provided more happiness and giggles over any other gift I received. Despite her odd ways, she created a positive memory. I hope you are able to find your own box of special memories too. Those memories may be the best gift of all because they never stop giving.
I would like to wish all the readers of this column and my friends and acquaintances all the very best of the season. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas.
Carole Fawcett is a freelance writer, editor, humourist, see www.wordaffair.com