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vkimo's Christmas Special

By: vkimo

Christmas means something different to everyone. A pile of loot, visiting your oddball in-laws. Maybe it's maxing out the visa, stampeding your fellow man for that coveted DVD/VCR combo or maybe you just like relaxing in your recliner watching the fireplace pop and crackle as the ol' RCA Bakelite plays White Christmas. Being an adult, I've cross the evolutionary line from getting gifts to giving them and I'd like to take a look back over the tinsel littered years. So grab your rose-colored glasses and scarf as we bobsled down memory lane!

Christmas season seems to start sometime in the wee hours of the night on October 31st. Soon as the ghouls and ghosts are done causing mischief, it seems the very next day they've been chased off by snowmen and Santa. As a kid in school one of the first things that made it seem like the holidays was the themed calendar my teacher would put up. As winter and darkness set in, the neighborhoods seemed to bloom in defiance with colorful lights, props and decorations. Even now when I walk and it's pitch black at 5PM I draw a little comfort from the inflatable Santa in his "Present Patrol" helicopter. Some of my fondest memories are riding in the car with my brother and folks as we cruised around town just looking at the houses lit up like beacons. Even now, in Bethlehem Pennsylvania where Christmas is serious business they have "Lights in the Parkway" where you drive through a winter wonderland of neon lighted ornaments and moving attractions. It's so relaxing and peaceful.

Around the house, things were pretty much the same as always. Although there was always the urge to behave or the threat of not getting that coveted present. My dad would always wax nostalgic to us about his childhood around the holidays. He grew up in the 50s and Christmas was one of the only times he got gifts. And by gifts he meant A gift, He told bizarre tales of visiting his grandparents who would slaughter a pig and have fresh milk on Christmas eve. Back then his father would go out and cut down a tree, a far cry from the QVC collapsible tree stashed in the attic I was brought up on.His gifts usually consisted of post war era tin wind up toys and baseball cards that would fetch thousands now that he would use to put in the spokes of his bicycle.  They had a TV back then but I think it was more of a novelty you showed off to your neighbors.

But just from the way he described it, it seemed like the golden age. Christmas seemed to make it's debut in that era. Gene Autry wrote Frosty The Snow Man, Here Comes Santa Claus and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer all in that short time! The world canonized Santa shimmying down the chimney, being pulled by reindeer, etc. Looking through our families photo albums of a bygone era is so neat. The Christmas trees didn't have ornaments like they do now, the bows seemed to sag from the amount of tinsel used so much so the tree almost resembled something you'd find in a swamp. Everyone looks so dapper, I see one of my uncles with a sports coat over a festive wool sweater that makes me itch just looking at it. For my folks it was one of the only times they would see any relatives so I can see why it was held so sacred.

Fast forward to my own experiences and there were always some traditions my family formed. Growing up right outside of San Francisco was such a bonus around the holidays. While we never had snow we did have the Big City to visit. We would all pile into the Buick Le Sabre and drive around the ritzy areas of town. Whole blocks so lavishly decked out astronauts used them for reference points in space. We also would walk downtown by all the shops and my favorite, the hotels! The Ritz-Carlton lobby was breathtaking. A Christmas tree that seemed as tall as a telephone pole stood inside. I remember thinking what magical gifts were inside the velvety wrapped boxes underneath. Flagship stores like Macy's and FAO Schwartz also added to the vibe.

Another cool aspect of Christmas is all the neat fund raisers and charities that seem to pop up. The sound of a volunteer Santa ringing a bell by a Salvation Army sign is always a nostalgic treat. I remember more around Thanksgiving time the local mall would build this HUGE Turkey that had numerous flaps on it that people could drop canned foods in. This thing was like 15 feet tall and the head moved up and down. I also remember being a youngster and enviously peeking in the large barrels set up in supermarkets where people could drop in new toys for children in need. It was and still is a great aspect of Christmas.

Seeing relatives is always one of the interesting aspects of Christmas and the holidays in general. One year I remember my family took the long ride up north to my uncles. It was a long drive and this was a time before phones and tablets so I remember just contently staring out the window at the darkening sky as we cruised along the highway. About 3/4 of the way up to my dad's brothers I remember the weather taking a turn for the worst. My mom and dad were arguing, my mom wanting to pull over and my dad saying it wasn't a big deal. I just remember not caring either way, but putting complete faith in my dad's driving and our rickety car. I fell asleep to the rain crashing down on the roof and the rhythmic swinging arc of the wiper blades. Soon after we would pull up to the house though. It was cold outside but we could see the light pulsing from behind the drawn curtains. My brother and I were shy kids so we huddled behind my mom as we walked up the stairs to the house.

Though the memories seem to blur on these annual visits I will always vividly remember walking through the door. They had one of those old door bells you turned clockwise and it generated an agitating ringing sound. My dad would turn it, and you could hear the voices in the house rise, "Someone's at the door!" And I was always anxious, hoping for an inconspicuous entry that never happened. This is where things sped up. We were rushed in by my aunt, who for a lady barely topping five feet tall was as loud as a passionate minister. My brother and I became a lunch tray being slid along a track of kisses and cheek pinches until we were finally absorbed into the group and dumped off by the TV. I remember seeing my cousins who I only saw once a year. Seems like it always took me most of the night to ease into playing with them, but by the time I felt comfortable it was time to go. So I had to repeat that ritual every year. Most times my brother and I would just sit by the fireplace and play Gameboy while my the grownups roared with laughter and merrymaking. My aunt was a wedding cake baker by trade so the desert was always superb and she would always make a German Chocolate cake for us to take home which was awesome. I just talked to my mom the other day and her and my dad will be making the trip to them again this Christmas. I won't be there but I can still smell the shag carpet of that house from three thousand miles away.

No one can talk about Christmas of course without touching on presents. Each kid has their own
Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! Seems like now for almost any youngster that grail gift is a video game console. For me it was this GI Joe tank, I don't remember all the specifics only that it was made of pvc molded awesome and infused with testosterone. It was like two feet long! My parents never got the hint and I never did get that tank. I could probably buy it now off eBay just to spite them! Kids are fickle though, if I got that tank I'm pretty sure my brother and I would have broke it within the week. I actually had the most fun in the pure act of opening the presents. I'd approach the box, pick it up and give it a few hefts to judge the contents. Light, soft bounce? Clothing, toss it to the side. Heavy, slow recoil? Now we're talking! I'd love tearing off the paper and catching glimpses of what was underneath. Since my folks almost never got what I asked for it was really suspenseful to see what we got. Looking back, the gifts themselves were meaningless. It was the look as my parents eagerly watched us open our gifts, the mayhem that followed and the general happiness that stands out today for me. Nothing like lying down on the couch, clutching my fresh new Batman as the yule log on TV burns merrily away amidst the mess of gift wrap and tissue paper. 

After all the presents have been opened, and all the ham consumed, time seems to slow down. The mayhem of the holiday season is over and the aftermath is a sort of peace and serenity after having survived it. People look to the coming new year with hope and renewed zeal. Once the material endorphin rush ebbs we're left with the real joy of Christmas, the appreciation for family and friends and the capacity for generosity and unsolicited kindness. Thanks for reading and I hope you get your GI Joe Motorized Battle Tank with Super Climbing Ability!

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Looking for more from vkimo?

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 24, 2014 at 02:21 AM

It's bound to be in there somewhere.

vkimo Posted on Dec 23, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Thanks Vapor! Maybe I'll find that tank in the wishbook haha

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 23, 2014 at 09:51 PM

Congrats on the win vkimo! It was a great article. Enjoy the winnings!

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 22, 2014 at 04:14 PM

I would take a "hand me down" 80's over just about any normal decade. So you were lucky. ;)

vkimo Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:53 PM

My oldest brother was 17 or so when I was born, he was from my mom's previous marriage. All of my siblings were pretty much 80s babies. So basically I lived the 80s in the 90s due to hand me downs haha

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:29 PM

While you were just beginning to enjoy life with your NES out of diapers, I was graduating high school. Man I'm old. LOL

NLogan Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 01:16 AM

Dancing Coke can, NES, torn knee jeans, mini trampoline seat, possible King Hiss figure or WF Wrestling Superstars Terry Funk in the basket, Power Punch Batman,two plush generic cars, generic wooden bead maze, a dead parrot or upside-down horse head behind you, and some battleship looking toy on the floor, now that is what I am talking about. It was actually a triple-dog-dare as I went straight for the throat but then backed off as I thought it might be too harsh. Nice picture.

vkimo Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:51 PM

Your double dog dare post is gone, but I accept the challenge none the less.I have one one old picture on my phone that I can find for now. Circa 1992, I'm sporting a 49ers shirt and playing Super Mario on the NES. Notice Batman and Penguin duking it out Rock 'em Sock 'em style.

NLogan Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM

There are worse fates. Moss Man at least smells like a pine tree. Your celebrity here on the the retro boards will not be forgotten but could be cemented for ever in the halls of history with a picture to focus on. Think George Washington or Abe Lincoln. Likely no one will forget what Mona Lisa looks like. Your third eye only makes it more memorable and endearing.

vkimo Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 09:33 PM

That is become I am an enigma...existing in all time periods, and none. Foreordained to haunt the retro message boards of the land in hopes of keeping my legacy alive. For the moment all cease to recall the name vkimo, I will be doomed to the toy clearance bin of the great beyond and forced to play endless games of Connect Four with Moss Man.

NLogan Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 09:21 PM

One of these days vkimo will be back on the west coast. He will then have access to his childhood pictures again. I hope he chooses to use them in a future article. So that we can finally see the man behind the mask. I know that he is not pictured here because none of these pictures are of his decade. The closest one is 1985 based upon the Transformers Autobot dress up playset pictured.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 09:26 PM

Oooooh. Do tell. Did anybody get arrested? LOL

vkimo Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 06:48 PM

The comments section is kind of making me want to write an article about the time my Pokemon cards got stolen.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 06:05 PM

Your Christmas tale definitely makes me wish we had an extended family we could visit, but my wife and I are both "stranded in the desert" far away from home. I loved the excitement of family reunions growing up and seeing all the distant relatives I never knew existed.

@NLogan That is a pretty great lesson your Dad taught you guys. Your epic story makes me realize I should have involved my Dad when my Star Wars toys got stolen by a neighbor kid and his brother. My Mom just didn't have that intimidation factor.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 03:29 PM

Sounds like the one who got caught learned a lesson for life. I hate to think what he endured when they got home.

NLogan Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 03:06 PM

We were lucky to get his name and number he was crying so hard.

vkimo Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 01:52 PM

So one kid remained on the loose? I thought you'd be able to squeeze the one kid into giving up some intel on who the other culprit was.

NLogan Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 05:20 AM

I got the tank and had it stolen from my grandma's back yard. My twin brother raced after the thieves they were also kids who had jumped the fence. I ran for my dad in the house and came in crying blurting out stolen and my brother's name. My dad thought someone had kidnapped my brother. I never saw my dad run that fast my life he cleared the back fence 6 feet high by just putting a hand on top and leaping over and racing down the alley. Me and grandpa jumped in the truck and roared around the block to head them off. The kids were older than me and my brother but somehow my brother scared one into dropping the gijoes and tank and bolting the other direction. My dad caught the other one. The first one probably saw my dad pounding down the alley after them and gave it up. We escorted the kid back to grandma's crying. My dad made me share my gum with him which I thought was unfair as we called his parents. One very angry dad showed up to collect him and promptly smacked the snot right out of him. I felt bad. The dad took the thief home. The cops were never called. We recovered most of the toys stolen. The tank remained missing. It was the last time we used grandma's garden as a jungle to play in. We had turned our backs for a few minutes setting up defenses across the tiny little irrigation canal that she had in her yard for watering and they must have been walking up the alley and saw our toys. I learned that we treat all people with respect even if they have wronged us and that most "bad" people are just good people that made a bad mistake. I don't know if the tank was worth it to them, it sure didn't look like it to me.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 04:27 AM

Your visits to your uncle's house remind me of my visits to my grandparent's house during Christmas.

There were always some of my cousins there that I rarely saw or knew, and it was never really a comfortable place to be with all those people there that seemed to know me, but me really not knowing them.

Awesome article v... as usual!

OldSchool80s Posted on Dec 16, 2014 at 03:31 AM

Nicely done! Merry Christmas.

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