When I was a kid, which was way, way back in the last millennium, Christmas shopping wasn’t a “thing” in my family. There wasn’t much money, to begin with, and my dad had some Scroogelike tendencies going in. I knew even when the Sears Christmas catalog—the Wish Book—came in the mail that my Christmas was going to be sparse in comparison with that of most kids I knew. It would be nice to be all noble about it and say I didn’t really mind it because we all had a good time anyway, but that would only be half-true. We did have a good time, but I minded a lot that our Christmases were somehow…less.
When I look back, however, I don’t mind it at all. What I remember is poring over the Wish Book and making my wishes. Talking to friends about which doll I wanted (I was a girly girl), which bicycle, which fancy dress to wear over the holidays, which black patent church shoes, which tea set, which skates. As I grew older, I picked out record players, cool clothes, and things that matched. The matching things were furniture, scarves and gloves, gowns and robes, outfits as displayed on the catalog pages. I remember wishing so hard for a jewelry box with a twirling ballerina on its top—a spectacularly goofy wish since I had nothing to put in it! I wanted a typewriter of my very own—now I was getting into the real thing.
I started this article with the intention of writing about traditional Christmas gifts. Many of those I listed above are the ones I was thinking about, and I do need to make it clear that one Christmas I got a Tiny Tears doll and another Christmas I got a bride doll—those were glorious mornings.
I still love the traditional gifts. My grandsons loved Legos and Lincoln Logs and Matchbox cars in their turn. My granddaughters looked forward to their Barbies and jewelry boxes.
But I left a traditional gift out of my list, didn’t I? A very important one.
Every single Christmas, I got books. And gave them. When I was a kid—back we go to that last millennium—no matter how many I got, by the time I went back to school after the holidays, I had them all read. For the first time. Until I was an adult, I don’t believe I ever owned a book I only read once.
When I first read about Christmas Town, Maine, in Christmas, Actually, I felt like I was back in the pages of the Wish Book. The town is full of tradition, of magic, of lights and twirling ballerinas, of wishes and dreams come true. Of dolls for Christmas.
I love going back each year to visit the town and its people. I hope you’re enjoying this year’s visit as much as we are.