I was in Nashville with grandson King when the transition took place.
One minute, it was ghosts and goblins and Halloween – because it was Oct. 28, after all.
The next, it was sleigh bells and tinsel and ho, ho, ho!
All it took to move quickly from candy goblins to stocking stuffers was the Target Christmas Toy Catalog. The catalog arrived, and King, who is 5, did what hundreds of thousands of children throughout time have done: He grabbed his marker and started circling the toys he wanted. His eyes, how they twinkled. His dimples, how merry!
It was serious business for the youngster as he pored over every picture, his little mind working out just the perfect combination of toys Santa would find pleasing. He skipped pages of dolls, Polly Pockets and LOLs, but paused at a Poopsie dancing unicorn. “I do love unicorns,” he told me, his Gigi. Pen poised above the creature, he finally moved on. “Maybe just a regular unicorn,” he surmised.
Memories of my own childhood came flooding back as I watched him study the toys. Of all the heralds of the season for my brother, Tim, and me, the most anticipated was the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book.
The commercials on our Saturday morning cartoons always had us primed, but the real test was whether or not the toys were on the pages of the Sears Wish Book. We never quite understood how Santa and his elves worked it out with Sears, but we still knew that if Sears didn’t have it in their catalog, it didn’t really exist. I remember vividly – thanks in part to my mother loving to tell the story of how I “cried with joy” that Christmas – the year Barbie’s little sister, Skipper, appeared in the Wish Book. I circled Skipper and resolved to be my best, most obedient 10-year-old self. It worked, because I not only got Skipper, but her red coat that came with a hat and a purse!
I learned early in my Wish Book dreaming not to be too greedy. The Betsy Wetsy Christmas was firmly planted in my materialistic mind. That year, I think I was 7, I asked for both the Betsy Wetsy doll and the Betsy McCall doll but really, really wanted the Betsy McCall doll. I got Betsy Wetsy. From then on, I was more careful with my requests.
This year, however, for King, he seems to just be in love with everything. The “awesome” toys in the Target book got the best of him and, by the time he had been through the book three or four times, pretty much everything was circled.
“I’m not sure Santa and Gigi can know just what you love the most because you picked everything,” I told him gently.
“Christmas!” he extoled gleefully. “Christmas is what I love the most.”
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.