Monday, October 04, 2004

Week Five, THEME

I loved Christmas time when I was a kid; we were dirt poor, but it was still the greatest time of year. I made that my first statement because by the time you reach the end of this, you may think I feel otherwise. We had a great time growing up during the holidays; a real tree, a star made out of aluminum foil perched atop, giving homemade gifts, making candy cane shaped and "thumb-print" cookies.... I can almost smell the cookies and the tree now. But boy, is Christmas past different from what we consider a normal Christmas now. Oh, all the sentiments are the same... a wonderful time of year to all be together and celebrate the season... but let's take a moment and put all the sentiments aside; after all, the true meaning of Christmas hasn't changed for a couple thousand years. What has changed is how its celebrated with our kids today. Every good little boy and girl knows that Christmas is Jesus' birthday; I knew it growing up, and my kids do too (despite how I am about to make them sound). So what's different? We believed in Santa Claus, they do not. Getting into our Christmas stockings was as good as getting away with something; they could care less. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, therefore not a lot of expensive gifts; we still don't have a lot of money now, yet they still get a lot of expensive gifts (and we get the bills). I'm really starting to feel nostalgic for the good old days...

Santa Claus was real to me when I was a kid. I mean, I swear I saw Rudolph's nose guiding the sleigh one Christmas Eve when I was six years old! I even rubbed my eyes and watched to see if it blinked like an airplane light or not. If you had asked me at that moment in time if Santa was real or not, I would have bet my brother's life on it (hey, I was a believer, but I wasn't stupid!). Growing up it was a big deal to tell Santa what you wanted for Christmas; he even made guest appearances at our chruch parties! Now, how do my kids feel about old Saint Nick? I'm quite sure they were both born skeptics, because I can't remember a time when they ever said that Santa was real. As a matter of fact, at the ripe old age of 4 my daughter would share with other kids that Santa Claus was not real. What' s her explanation? She tells the truth (who is this kid?), Santa was real a long time ago, but he died. And all those other guys you see around at Christmas time in big fat red suits? We called them Santa's helpers - she calls them fakes. Of course, her skepticism has ruined any hopes of winning her brother over to the cause of Claus. So who fills those stockings at night? With a twinkle in her eye she'll tell you without a doubt, "Mumma does of course!".

Christmas stockings hung on the stair railing were the greatest thing to dump out at 5:00 in the morning. It was the house rule; we could get into our stockings as soon as we got up - no waiting for Mom and Dad to get out of bed! What a treat! Of course, it was always stuffed with the same items from year to year, except for the occassional change in candy. We got an orange, some nuts, a "book of lifesavers", bubblegum, a toothbrush, and loose, unwrapped generic hard candy (which consequently would be covered in stocking fuzz because it was not wrapped). It might have been the same old stuff every year, but we loved it! We would dump them out, separate the goodies, and then the bartering would begin. "Who wants grape bubblegum? Anyone want to trade their orange for my walnuts? I hate cherry lifesavers! Trade ya for your butterrum." I was so happy to pass on this tradition of letting my kids get into their stockings before we got up; to me it was a win-win situation. Well... surprise! It does not work at all the way I had imagined. The kids still come down to our room bright and early wanting us to get up and open presents. When I come upstairs, there hang the stockings; lonely and virtually untouched by little hands. "How come you didn't get your stockings down?" I inquire. "We didn't want to," they matter of factly reply, "we want the presents!". There goes one tradition down the tubes. The real stickler is that I don't even fill them with the same stuff we used to get; I put the goods in them! We're talking little toys, gift certificates to McD's, video passes, wrapped candy, and yes, bubblegum and tooth brushes (they just go hand in hand, don't they?). It's all in vain... I think this year they'll get oranges, nuts, and fuzzy candy. They could care less about the stockings, which generally hang there until the presents are open. Did somebody say presents?

First of all, I feel it is only fair to take a moment and mention that my parents had to buy for five children for Christmas; lest they should come out looking like Mr. Scrooge. We each got one "big" gift, which by definition had to be under $20, and "family gifts" were things like Chinese Checkers or Twister. Even though we would each painstakingly pick out what we wanted from the Sears Wishbook for Christmas, we knew that odds were pretty good that we would get only one of those items (possibly two on a good year), some other toys, and a lot of clothes. Oh, and gifts from Grandparents: I do remember the year my sister and I got matching rainbow colored stretchy belts from Gram and Gramp... those were nice... Now, skip ahead to the present and this is what you'll find: my beloved little offspring think that putting a sticker on a desired toy in the Toys R Us catalog automatically secures that item for them, no ifs, ands or buts about it, it's as good as theirs. My children define the "one big gift" theory as follows: it is one huge, monstrously enormous gift that takes up half of the living area in our house (obviously I have a problem with this theory, as does my wallet). Money is, of course, no object to them. Today "family gifts" are big-ticket items like a new TV for the living room or a PS2 system (with games of course). As far as gifts from Grandparents go, these kids make out like bandits! Not only do they get practically a new wardrobe every Christmas from their Grandparents, they also get savings bonds and four or five well-chosen toys! Between home, Grandparents, and other family, my kids get nearly everything they wanted for Christmas, and then some.

Now that it's all out in the open, written in black and white, we come out looking extremely materialistic here in the present; or at the very best it seems I have spoiled rotten children. I would like to argue that point, but it appears I have no ammunition. The only thing I can say is that they do not get everything they want; if they did our house would look like a toy tornado touched down. The sentiments are all the same (believe it or not), from the past to the present. Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that I have grown up and now live vicariously through my children's Christmas. Well, that and my daughter has managed to kill off any hopes I had left that maybe... just maybe, Santa Claus is real.


Blogger johngoldfine said...

Good read! Hard to write?

The colleagues and I always are debating the merits and demerits of the five graf essay, which this, thank god, is not. My question is: did you like writing five graf essays in 101? Were you aware as you wrote this that it might be considered a 'contrast essay'? When you write, how much revising are you doing? Is it picky revising or big throw-nearly-everything-out revising?

This just reads fun....

October 5, 2004 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger josiejo said...

The comparison was inspired by the Double Standard Dad piece - I thought about doing my own; comparing how we were treated by our step dad as compared to his biological children - but I found (after a long thought process) that I really didn't have much to go on. With the Christmas season fast approaching, comparing my childhood Christmas to what we experience now was easy. I chose three points to make because of 101 - the nice neat package form - old habits die hard... No, I am not a fan of 5 grafs (if by that you mean the intro, 3 supporting paragraphs, and conclusion - if thats not what you mean then I don't have a clue), unless it's an easy write. There is nothing more painful than trying to find 3 points to make when really you only have two good ones to make. The third ends up being somewhat deflated if you know what I mean. Hmmm, so I guess that's why I chose not to attempt my own Double Standard Dad version, because I couldn't think of 3 easy points to make off the top of my head, well, that and I figured if I went that route you would think I hadn't put much thought into my own idea but fed off someone elses. It could stand a rewrite with some dialog...and scene setting... and now that I look at it personally I think the packaging is too neat.

October 5, 2004 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger josiejo said...

oh, and on the revision part - most of my revisions are done either in my head (think the line through, then write it - like in Stairways) or write a few lines on the fly, then back track to read the flow - at that point I either backtrack using the backspace key and try again, or forge ahead and continue the process after a few more lines. Most of the process happens in my head, and a final read through (or two, or three...) checks the flow (ahem, and spelling - what's up with the no word check?). Rarely do I delete huge chunks - generally an idea that's large enough to warrent a "chunk delete" doesn't make it to the page, I've mentally deleted it long before then.

October 5, 2004 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Thanks for the insights into your writing process. Everything you write sounds like what writers write about writing, as opposed to students....

Yes, I mean what you mean by a five-graf essay. Coming up with that third point can be hard. You didn't like writing them, eh? I really think you jumped on your material very well, and I'm glad Double Standard Dad stimulated you--it's still working away in my mind, 14 years later.

October 5, 2004 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Erika Lynne said...

I would like to say that you're extremely talented... but it's such a bland way of putting it. Your pieces are more like living breathing things that try to jump off the page and straight into the brain without any messy eye intervention. That may not have made sense, hence the scaling back to talented. Thanks for sharing with us...


October 9, 2004 at 3:30 PM  
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October 26, 2005 at 7:18 PM  
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