Remember what Ralphie Parker lusts after in Jean Shepherd's wonderful "A Christmas Story": "An official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle (BB Gun) with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time"?
My Red Ryder BB Gun was what I called a high-heel doll. This was in the days of yore, before Barbie, guys, and the doll I wanted was about a foot tall and she had an, ahem, woman's figure and she wore high-heeled shoes. My mother, bless her, bought me one, but the one she picked was blonde. I hid my disappointment and kept the doll, but I mean, look at me, am I blonde?
It seems so silly now, but those feelings came back to me awhile back when I bought my daughter (she's now in her 30s) her lusted-after doll: Kid Sister. She opened it and I recognized that dismayed look. Turned out I'd purchased a knock-off (in this case brunette instead of blonde). I returned it the next day, but she still trots this story out every Christmas to demonstrate how cheap I am.
So, what was your Red Ryder BB Gun, the present you lusted after, and did you get it?
RHYS: My best story of Christmas longing came when I was eighteen. Transistor radios had just been invented. (Okay, I'm giving away my age here, I admit) They were really expensive. I really wanted one but a dear friend was getting married in Germany over Christmas and had invited me to be bridesmaid. So my parents were paying for my fare as my Christmas present.
So I didn't even mention the transistor radio. My parents weren't overflowing with cash. Then on Christmas morning I opened my stocking (yes, I still had a stocking at 18) and the first thing I found was a battery. I stared at it wondering why on earth anybody should think I might want a battery for Christmas. Then the thought gradually crystallized... it couldn't be... they couldn't possibly know... I dug through the stocking and there, at the very bottom, was my transistor radio. I still get weepy when I think about it. It was my father, of course. He was such a kind and perceptive and generous man.
HANK: OH, Rhys, even I get weepy when I hear that story. Transistor radios were such a big deal. I was glued to mine, listening to the top 40. And the battery! No wonder you write suspense!
Anyway, this is probably some deep psychological thing, and Roberta will want to come right over and talk or something. But I must confess, I don't remember wanting--or getting--anything in particular. Oh, I did want stuff. And our Christmas mornings under the tree were an embarrassing array of presents for my parents and for all us kids. I think it was even Christmas when I got my first pony. But I don't remember, exactly.
It must be some sort of object lesson: I do remember, perfectly, the Christmas when my parents decided we weren't going to have a tree, and on Christmas Eve, my sister Nina and I sneaked out and got one, and put it up in the middle of the night, surprising everyone. And I remember we always got chocolate oranges in our stockings, the kind you whap on a table and the sections come apart? I can't even look at those now without welling up.
HALLIE: Hold on, Hank. You got a PONY?
RO: Ah yes, I remember getting my first PONY...I think mine was a handbag...
HANK: Okay, yes, I'm laughing. We lived in what was then pretty rural Indiana. We had a big barn, and there were four-going-on-five kids, and yeah, we got a pony. A Welsh pony named Sable. And from then on, we all had to muck out stalls before we went to school. Happy New Year!
ROBERTA: No, no Hank, I'm not rushing over to chat. You sound just fine:).
HANK: Oh, whew. (I mean, not that I wouldn't love to have you come chat.)
ROBERTA: My sister and I got a transistor radio too--we're 11 months apart so we often ended up sharing (and that's another story for a different day!) I was a huge doll fan--distinctly remember the year I asked for and received Patty Play Pal. (Isn't that an awful-sounding name?) But I really, really loved Barbies. There were four of us kids, and we got plenty of loot, but never as much as my only-child cousin. We'd head over to her house for Christmas dinner and I'd disappear into her room for hours to play with her stuff. Barbie's Dream House, Barbie and Ken and Barbie's sister and Ken's convertible, and racks and racks and racks of outfits. No wonder I like spending time with my characters...
JAN: Hard to choose from among all the toys I so desperately wanted for Christmas, ...I had three older brothers, so I was always longing for girl stuff. Easy Bake oven, (never got it), the light up vanity (got it), but most of all Tressy. Tressy was supposed to be competition for Barbie, but with a button in her stomach that made her hair grow to any length. I wanted her, I got her, and then I took her to my best friend Karen MacVicker's. Karen had two older sisters and every possible Barbie outfit. As it turned out, the outfits didn't fit Tressy, who immediately seemed second rate.
RO: I don't remember lusting after anything in particular. I was not a Barbie gal, or any dolls really. Calling Dr. Roberta...
I do know that I NEVER wanted whatever it was that Aunt Mary got me. Nice woman but not only did the woman choose the worst presents for kids - umbrellas, rubber boots, goofy hats, stuff no kid wants - she got all twelve of us the same thing in different colors. And of course we'd each have to open them and PRETEND that we didn't know what it was. (Sorry Aunt Mare.)
I did get the EasyBake oven one year which cooked with a light bulb. Very strange. After you used the box of (I'm sure it was all chemicals) cake mix, I don't remember what you were supposed to do.
HALLIE: That Easy Bake oven ended up on the "dangerous toys" list some year or other because it could burn you...duh.
I had one and I have to say it was one of the best toys ever. It had tiny little boxes of cake mix that you could actually whip up and cook in tiny little pans. And I did it all wear my Mom's frilly apron. (I DON'T THINK SO! My mother who wore high heels just about 24-hours a day would not have been caught dead in a frilly apron.)
So, gang, what was your Red Ryder BB Gun?
And tune in later in the week--Wednesday WRITER MAMA Christina Katz will be visiting JRW, and she'll be talking about that mysterious entity, a writer's platform, and how to "Get Known Before the Book Deal." Friday we'll be welcoming mistress of all things mysterious Janet Rudolph, editor of Mystery Readers Journal.