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Leaner times — but boy, were they fun

As a child, Christmas was a magical time, even though from the viewpoint of a child who had been primed by relentless toy advertisers, perhaps a bit disappointing.

No Chatty Cathy. No Barbie Dream House. No Easy-Bake Oven.

Money was scarce in our house of seven kids/two parents, so we pretty much got one present apiece and some small thing for our stocking (an actual sock; knee-high, with an orange in the toe, followed by unwrapped hard ribbon candy — which always seemed to have sock fuzz on it before it was over — wrapped, dome-shaped, Brach’s chocolates of some sort, unshelled nuts, an apple and a banana).

For my older sisters, the stocking gift was often something like a “rainbow pad” (something we joke about to this day); by the time I and my younger sisters came along it was more like a yo-yo, Troll doll, Slinky or other small toy.

My parents (mainly my mom; Dad was never too enthused about Christmas or any holiday; though he did make sure we had a tree each year) did the best they could to make Christmas special, and we were rich where it counted — we had each other.

We played board games, sang Christmas songs (with one of my older sisters playing piano) and laughed a lot. With a house full of girls whose ages spanned 15 years (my eldest sister was 10 years my senior; the youngest five years my junior), it made for a lively time.

My three kids, now grown, had it better in terms of material gifts, but they never had quite the same level of family fun — except one year, when we joined all of their cousins at my Salt Lake City sister’s house. With the three of them and four cousins, the numbers that year were the same as I’d grown up with.

So many memories were made that year: gingerbread houses, snow play (a thrill for my desert-dwelling kids) and a chaotic Christmas morning with lots of laughs.

One of the heartiest of those came after someone had opened their Furby — a talking, electronic, robotic creature that was the hot item that year (and enjoying a resurrection this year). Just as the Furby spoke its first words, the household cat walked by and sprang about 3 feet straight up, then struck a typical arched-back pose at the strange being — then sauntered away.

I think of all the Christmases I’ve known, that one stands out as the warmest, fuzziest and most fun. It is our hope to replicate it one of these years soon.

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