We know, Mama—Christmas is not about the presents. Even so, Southern girls of a certain age still have fond memories of the best Sears catalogue to arrive all year: the annual Sears Wish Book. Somehow, Mama convinced us that she could help communicate our heart’s desire to the North Pole if we dog-eared pages and circled our absolute favorite toys. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to call her to the television whenever we saw a commercial for something that particularly sparked our interest. Armed with this information, she could expedite her holiday shopping. (A Clairol day-to-night makeup mirror? Not until you’re old enough, little missy.)
Some of those presents under the tree are long forgotten, in part because Mama believed it was a sin for me to have toys I didn’t play with while needy kids in our community were doing without. So any toy left idle for a month or two would mysteriously disappear into Mama’s one-woman toy giveaway operation.
Others, however, were so just-what-I-wanted that I still remember them. Looking back, I think a lot of my wished-for Christmas gifts had something to do with what I wanted to be—or how I wanted to look—when I grew up.
Here are some of my favorites—what are yours?
Mine had a sink and range. I remember feeling ever so grown up as I flipped those plastic fried eggs and pretended to butter fake toast.
Suzy Homemaker Appliances
Over the years, Santa brought me the stove, the washing machine, and the bonnet hairdryer. (Is it me, or was Mama on a mission to encourage personal grooming and get some help with the housework?)
I especially loved tea parties with my older cousin Vivian Ann because she would let me have coffee!! She would put about a tablespoon of coffee in the cup and fill the rest with milk, but I thought I was mighty “grownified,” as Mama says. I still take my coffee with a healthy splash of cream. (P.S. Did Vivian Ann invent the latte?)
My first baby doll was named Susie, and I gave her an unfortunate haircut when Mama wasn’t looking. Sadly, Susie’s hair never grew back.
I just had to have Barbie, Francie, Casey, and Skipper—and imagined myself sporting their cool clothes and sassy hair.
Red Cash Register
This might sound like a strange favorite, but when I used go grocery shopping with my mother, I thought the “check-out girls” at Winn Dixie were super glamorous. In the 1960s, they all wore bouffants or French twists and sky-blue eye shadow. (At the time, Mama considered teased hair and makeup inappropriate for a six-year-old. Still, a girl could dream.)
My cousins and I would pedal our bikes all over the place, pretending that we were on horseback, driving cattle with trail boss Gil Favor on Rawhide. We always argued over who got to be Rowdy Yates.
White Patent Knee-High Boots (Mama Called them “Majorette Boots”)
Blame my style choices on Nancy Sinatra and That Girl.
Polaroid Square Shooter
You mean we won’t have to drive the film to the drugstore and wait two weeks for pictures to come back?
Disco aside, the 1970s were great years to be a teenager who loved music. Every Christmas, I’d give Mama a list of LPs I wanted. (FYI, Linda Ronstadt’s Hasten Down the Wind remains the single greatest hurtin’ record of all time, should your love go unrequited or your boyfriend dump you right before prom.)
Day-to-Night Makeup Mirror
I finally got one—had to wait till junior high, but I got it.
I think I was a freshman at Auburn when Mama agreed that I was ready for Oscar de la Renta. A couple of years ago, I asked for another bottle of it, just for old time’s sake. Got it, too. (Thank you, Mama.)