Some of my memories of my childhood are not actual memories of my childhood – they are an awareness of what's in the pictures Mom took of my childhood. And, as I think I've written before, I am grateful that Mom took so many pictures while I was growing up, and that we still have them all. (In fairness to Dad, I must say that probably a few of the pictures we have were actually taken by him, such as any picture that has Mom in it, but I'm pretty sure the majority of our family photos were taken by Mom.)
So I'm glad to have these pictures of Christmas morning fifty years ago, even though I think I do have actual (albeit vague) memories of this day. I don't remember the blue housecoat I'm wearing in the picture at the top, but I do remember the feeling of relief and joy upon finally being allowed -- after being up and waiting in suspense in my room probably half of the night, if not all of it -- into the den, the room in which Santa Claus laid out our presents, to find a veritable treasure trove of goodness. I even remember some of the things that Santa Claus laid out in that corner of the den. In fact, I still have the sleeping bag that's forming a square on the floor in the picture on top, which you probably can't tell from this picture has Winnie-the-Pooh characters on it. I used it for years, and now it sits rolled up in my closet, ripped in several places, much of its stuffing coming out.
Sitting atop the Winnie-the-Pooh sleeping bag in the picture is a box containing a toy pistol and a holster – yes, it was a different time back then, when people gave realistic-looking toy guns to children to play with, some of them cap guns that made a realistic shot sound, and then turned those children loose to play Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians, both of which required the kid lucky enough to have the pistol and holster around his waist to shoot his friends, punctuating each pretend shot with a shout of "Bang!" (unless you had a cap gun to do the "Bang!" for you), and the kids that were hit by those imaginary bullets knew it was their job to tumble to the ground and play dead, and to stay dead until they came back to life and it was their turn to do the shooting.
I kind of hope kids don't play like that anymore, but I also mourn the passing of that kind of mixed innocence and worldliness. And, man, I wanted to be a cowboy so bad! I know now that my fantasies about being a cowboy featured a lot fewer cows and a lot more guns than the real thing, I know that now, but I also mourn the passing of the cowboy as an iconic part of childhood.
And trains, like cowboys, don't seem to be as much a part of the current cultural landscape as they used to be. Fifty years ago, though, they were a pretty significant part of childhood, as evidenced by the second picture above, in which Jeff sits both surrounded by toys and in the middle of a circle of toy train track – some of which I believe I still have. I might even have the engine shown in the picture; I'm not sure how much of what I have in a box in the garage is in this picture.
The top picture shows Dad, then only about twenty-eight years old (half my current age!), sitting at our dining room table and playing with a shooting gallery game. You can also see a small (I'm tempted to say tiny) pool table game in the picture, and just barely visible on the right side of the frame is Jeff in his bright red pajamas. On the wall beside Dad is the matador decoration, which was accompanied by a charging bull decoration. I remember that matador well, and also, I think, a painting of a conquistador, and a mounted metal pseudo-sword (not sharp) and mace (not removable from its mounting board) adorning the walls. For a long time, whenever I heard the Procol Harum song "Conquistador," I thought of those wall decorations in our den when I was young.
But enough about Procol Harum, back to the pictures: I vaguely remember the shooting game Dad's playing, don't remember the pool-table game at all, but I remember well the camper/RV (for Little People? Weebles? That detail I don't recall.) you can see in the middle picture, and also the one near it that I think was a Little People airport.
How wonderful it was to be young and innocent and to live in such a time and place at Christmas!