Wally had long since given up believing in Santa. That illusion was destroyed when his big sister found the thank you note from Santa and reasoned out that it was my printing. She made sure her younger brothers learned the truth – immediately!! The trio was probably 5, 6 and 7 at the time although it took another 2 years for the kids to completely give up going to Santa.
The family tradition was that since they already knew the source of the gifts they’d get, they might as well give Mom and Dad a list so they’d get what they actually wanted. However, we lived fairly close to a major department store with a Santa there daily from noon to 6 PM. So after handing the lists to us adults, the three of them would trot over to see Santa just to make sure that, just in case there really WAS a Santa, he also knew what they wanted. Eventually even that tradition gave way to reality – Mom and Dad bought the gifts and wrapped them for Christmas. No more trips to the department store, at least not to bother with Santa.
In March of that year Wally had turned 10 years old and was a firm believer in Mom and Dad being the real Santa. That November each child gave me their Christmas wish list. I was a bit perplexed with Wally’s list because he hadn’t requested a TV. 2 years earlier we had given Kirsten a black and white 15 inch TV for her bedroom. By that time prices were rapidly coming down for televisions and Kirsten rarely liked anything we watched. A TV was an ideal gift for her bedroom.
Needless to say, the very next year Lenny gave us his Christmas list which had all of 3 items on it. 2 regular toys and in underlined, giant letters so no one could miss it, the word TV! He didn’t even bother to spell it out. Lenny simply made sure
the letters were so big and bold that even a blind parent would know what he wanted. What he didn’t know was that I had already bought it when it was on sale and it was well hidden. Lenny was thrilled when he had gotten his Christmas gift of a TV.
And now it was Wally’s turn. I had often heard the boys squabbling over what to watch and Lenny always won. After all, it was his TV – not Wally’s! Although we tried mightily to encourage Lenny to share his TV that would only work if Lenny thought we
were in the next room and would make him share with Wally! We all knew that the minute we weren’t paying attention Lenny won all the arguments about the shows because he owned the TV and Wally didn’t!
Their Dad and I figured out how to arrange their shared room so two TVs wouldn’t interfere with each other. In summer when the TVs were on sale I once again bought one and hid it where Wally wouldn’t find it. And now, a month before Christmas I was holding Wally’s list and not one of the 10 items he wanted was a television!
I was more than perplexed and had several problems: either I had to get Wally the gifts he wanted or if I gave the TV to Wally I had to figure out how to explain why I decided to give him a TV instead of what he had asked for. If I didn’t give Wally the TV, I had to figure out what to do with the useless one all wrapped up in beautiful Christmas paper. I knew I couldn’t return the TV because the store’s policy had a 30 day return window. I had bought it in July and now it was November. One thought I had was to ask around among the neighbors and parents of the kids’ friends to see if anyone wanted to buy a brand new, already wrapped Christmas gift. The few inquiries I made all came back negative so I was stuck with a black and white TV when we had a very expensive and very new color TV in the living room!
I eventually decided that Wally would have to live with the TV I had bought him. It may not have cost a fortune but $79 wasn’t pocket change either in those days. I just couldn’t see wasting the money. I was fairly unhappy as I waited for Christmas Day. How do you tell a kid you love him but tough luck, you just gave him an expensive gift he didn’t want?
In the weeks before Christmas I would hear the boys in their room constantly arguing over what to watch on Lenny’s TV. Boys being boys they had a couple of physical altercations over the choice of TV shows but eventually Wally would give in to Lenny’s
choices because, as Wally was constantly told; it was Lenny’s TV and Lenny got to choose what shows to watch. That was that!
Just days before Christmas I heard Lenny shout at his younger brother, “Look! Go get your own TV if you wanna watch something!! This is my TV and I get to pick the shows!”
Sure enough, a few minutes later Wally came out of their room all red-eyed and sniffling, “Mommy, I want to change my Christmas list! I want my own TV!”
I felt so sorry for my little blonde urchin that I squatted down to his level and hugged him tight. He kept asking if he could add a TV to his list now. I felt a bit trapped. If I in anyway indicated that he could change his list, Wally would know he was getting a TV. If I told him not to worry, Wally would know he was getting a TV. I wanted to keep his big gift a surprise and I had to tell him no. That poor little boy was broken hearted when I told him that it was less than a week before Christmas and I had already used his list for his Christmas gifts.
“But,” I added in my most cheerful voice, “It’s only 4 o’clock. I’m sure Santa is still over on Lincoln and Belmont. Why don’t you go over and ask him to get you a TV for Christmas?”
Wally wiped his nose with a tissue and pouted, “There’s no Santa! I know there’s no Santa! You get my list and then you and Daddy buy the stuff. I get exactly what I want as long as it’s on my list!”
“Well, that’s true.” I agreed, “But you have nothing to lose by trying! Maybe Santa will give you something one last time before you grow up.”
That convoluted logic never sank into Wally. Instead he decided to get dressed and walk over to Lincoln and Belmont just to see if Santa was still there and would listen to him. An hour later Wally walked back into the house with a rather secret smile on his face. I didn’t know if it was because he had told Santa anything or if he had simply decided to let Mommy make a fool of herself on Christmas when he didn’t get a TV. I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell.
Our Christmas mornings would begin when Daddy came home from work doing the midnight shift as a cop. He’d get home at about 8 AM and the kids could wait that long to open their gifts. We’d have a huge breakfast and then Daddy would go to bed and the kids could play with their new toys at the other end of the house.
When I put out the gifts as the kids slept I made sure at Wally’s TV was hidden way in the back so it would be one of the last gifts opened. Early Christmas morning the kids were up early and they helped set the table for breakfast while we waited for Daddy to
come home. Then the door opened and Daddy got a bigger than usual welcome. I guess you could call it a ‘greedy welcome’ because the kids were less concerned about their Dad and more concerned about their gifts.
We had our little ritual where each person would get to open their gifts one at a time. That let everyone see the other persons’ gifts. Eventually all the gifts were opened but Wally was very disappointed. Not because he didn’t get a TV. By then Wally had been constantly assured by me that I couldn’t have bought him a TV because it wasn’t on his list. No, Wally looked at the various piles of gifts, especially those in front of his brother and sister, and realized that his pile was rather puny. In fact, Wally was
starting to believe that he had been cheated.
That’s when their Dad found this big box tucked way back under the tree. And, wonder of wonders, it was for Wally! Wally tore into that box like it was a huge sack of candy or maybe even…as he tore off the wrapping he realized it was a TV! Just like he
wanted! Just like I told him I couldn’t afford because it hadn’t been on his Christmas list!
At that moment, the 10 year old boy who didn’t believe in Santa looked like a 5 year old boy who did! He was so thrilled and he began to cry – not a lot , 10 year old boys didn’t cry.
Then Wally blurted out something his brother later teased him about, “I told Santa I wanted a TV and I got one!”
Yes, eventually Wally figured it out and really didn’t care whether it was Santa or his parents who made sure he got a TV. But I can tell you that in my 70+ Christmases before and since that day, that particular holiday holds great memories for me.
Maybe it was Santa who made sure I got the TV for a little boy who forgot to put it on his list.
Filed under: Tales of the Kiddies