As a child, Christmas had one overarching theme:
Sure, there were the warm feelings and cheer, holiday specials and the smell of fresh pine, cinnamon and cranberry floating through our home—there was something about a baby being born somewhere in a barn, I think—I wore my dad’s bathrobe and a towel on my head and walked single file down the main aisle of a Lutheran church as a children’s choir sang Away in a Manger…
But primarily, mine was a carnal holiday fueled by the toy section of the annual J.C. Penny’s Christmas Catalog and a fat guy dressed in red.
My sister and I would lay on the green shag carpet in front of the tree’s warm glow and twinkle, picking two items from each page of the toy section, fantasizing about Lite Brites, Spirographs and an official Jim Hart Football Cardinals jersey.
Television beat me into a frenzy for months as I devised and revised my wish list for Santa. Every commercial for any new toy meant a rewrite.
Looking back, I’m not even sure I knew exactly what I actually wanted, versus what the magic box told me I needed.
Once, as I sat on the toilet, I heard the muffled sound of a commercial for the greatest toy ever invented, emanating from the living room.
Without thinking, I yelled out at the top of my lungs, “I want that!!!!”
After finishing my business and washing my hands, however, I plodded back out into the living and asked, “What was that?”
The holidays have evolved into something far less sinister and selfish over the years—I truly believe that it’s better to give than receive, reveling in the expression on my friends and family’s faces when I surprise them with the perfect gift.
True, I still create a wish list every year, mainly to make shopping easier for family members I don’t see often enough and usually consisting more of things I actually need, rather than want.
But now I want so much more than presents.
Holiday cheer and warmth, consuming my every fiber of being—I want that.
Smiles from strangers, and a common respect floating through the general population? Yup.
A strange feeling of happiness, overshadowing my normal daily stress? Sign me up.
Peace on Earth and goodwill towards man?
I want that too.
Though I must admit, when I’m watching TV and a commercial for some amazing new toy I’m far too old to play with comes on, a small part of me still cries out, quietly, “I want that,” too.