The delicious agony of anticipation wrapped my brother and me in its winter hug. Christmas started around December 15 at our house…when our teachers at last brought out the red and green tag board. (I was a whiz at cutting and gluing strips and turning them into paper chains. Or at least I thought I was.)
Tommy was five, I was eight. I’m certain we drove Mom to distraction with our nagging: “Did the mail truck come yet? Huh? Did it?” I demanded immediate answers in that whiny voice that a second grader fine tunes.
We were waiting for the arrival of Auntie Rosie’s annual Christmas gifts, sent to us all the way from Montreal. Just think of it! A present from another country!
Tommy and I never knew when the post office would deliver our gifts. UPS and Fed Ex did not yet exist and Jeff Bezos wasn’t even born. And the home with a television was a rarity. Like all the kids in our neighborhood, my brother and I relied on the magic of Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. Night after night we paged through the thick catalog with its thin glossy pages, periodically running into the kitchen to announce that we’d changed our minds yet again. “THIS is what I want Santa to bring. Can I change my letter?”
I would shove the thumb-worn book at my mother who would sigh. “OK. Mark the page,” she’d say as she handed me yesterday’s copy of the Minneapolis Evening Star whose pages we tore into page-marking strips.
I don’t remember what I’d marked nor do I recall what Auntie Rosie sent me that year–or any other year. But oh, how easy it is to bring back the happy excitement that started mid-December gradually built over the next few weeks.
At last the day came. School vacation, big snow storm, probably no chance of a mail truck pulling up in front of our red brick duplex. I climbed down from the sofa, my preferred lookout spot. I was filled with disappointment (Christmas was only a day away). I lay down on my bed and opened my Pippi Longstocking book. I knew I could count on her to lift my mood.
I was well into chapter three when my mom called me. “Judy! There are packages here for you and Tommy.”
I suspect we almost killed each other as we raced into the front room.
I don’t know if I loved the gift or not. That memory is long gone. But even after all these decades, I remember with crystal clear clarity how happy a Gift from Another Country made me.