My Most Memorable Christmas Presents: The Best and The Worst.

Worst:   Pajamas
When I was three, my Grandma made me some pajamas.

Needless to say, I was NOT impressed.   You know how three-year-old boys are:  they just want Toys!  Toys!  Toys!

It’s a bit vague for me to recall exactly what happened (perhaps Mom can remind me of the details).   But I remember I threw a major conniption-fit (and probably hurt my Grandma’s feelings in the process).

Even though this was forty years ago, I still feel bad about how I acted.  (But what can you say?  Toddlers can be little shits at times!)

This was Christmas Eve.   I recall going to bed naked, refusing to wear the pajamas.     And when I woke up,  I was furious to find that someone had put them on me while I slept.

Maybe Santa had done it, to prove a point.

Best:  Lego Train Set


Our family didn’t have much money when I was young.   We weren’t poor….we kids still had toys.   Just that we didn’t often get expensive toys.

But when I was in Grade 2, I was totally blown away Christmas morning when I found a Lego Train Set under the tree.    It included the tracks, locomotive, passenger car, box car and caboose.     And (be still my beating heart!) a battery-powered MOTOR!    Holy crap…the train actually worked!

Todays’ kids would say “Big Deal”.  But keep in mind, this was 1971, long before video games or home computers existed.   This train set was STATE-OF-THE-ART.   And Lego wasn’t cheap, either.   Even back then.  This was above and beyond what I ever would have expected.

Not only that, but it pretty much quadrupled my entire Lego inventory in one shot.    I spent entire summers playing with that Lego with my friends,  well into my teens.    And I still have much of that train set left (among the bits and pieces with the rest of my Lego collection) .

Best:  Matchbox Racing Car Transporter

racing-car-transporterThis was in ’66 or ’67, pre-dating Hotwheels.   I was two or three.    Matchbox cars were all the rage.   I wanted a King-Size Matchbox Racing Car Transporter.    I had seen it in the Matchbox Catalog   This was basically a large green Matchbox toy, big enough to transport two other smaller racing cars.

This was a modest gift.   By todays’ standards, it’d be the equivalent of a $20.  But at that point in my life, that’s all I wanted, more than anything in the whole world.

Well, I GOT the truck.  And I was thrilled.    And it was big and green (my favorite color), just like in the catalog.   I played with it for years and years, again, into my teen years.     I still have the Racing Car Transporter.   The paint’s chipped, the plastic windows are half-broken, but it still works.   And I wont’ ever get rid of it.

Worst:  Sticks and Stones


One Christmas, I think we kids musta been bad.    We were probably acting up more than usual that year.  Because we got STICKS and STONES for Christmas.  I was about ten.

Needless to say, my sister and I were quite pissed off.   My brother (who was around 5) didn’t’ seem to mind…he said he’d use the sticks to “fight the lions and tigers”.  (Or so was his story at the time).

(Now, don’t worry…we still got our REAL gifts that year).   Just that our folks made sure we got the Sticks and Stones too….to send a message.   To let us know we had been acting like little demon-spawn, but they were still magnanimous to give us our nice gifts, in spite of this.

I don’t know…did this traumatize me for life?    Probably not.   I’m a reasonably happy productive adult, and I didn’t turn out to be an axe murderer.   Not yet.

Best:   A Ski Vacation in Alberta


The one indulgence my parents did for themselves every year was to take one week off  and go skiing out West, just the two of them.   They’d been doing this since we were infants.

It was just something Mom and Dad did. And there was an unwritten rule that ski trips were just for the parents, no kids allowed.

But it was a good break for them.   (And for US, too!)   Because Grandma and Grandpa babysat us, and we got spoiled rotten while the folks were away.

Years later, when we were older, one Christmas morning  Mom and Dad announced that this year, we’d ALL be going on a ski trip together.

I couldn’t’ believe it…I had seen photos of the Canadian Rockies, and I had always wanted to go.   But I didn’t’ think we’d ever in a million years be able to afford to take the whole family.   At first I didn’t’ believe Mom and Dad.  And when I found out they weren’t’ kidding,  I was almost ready to cry with joy.

It was March when we did the actual trip.   I was sixteen, it was my first “big” ski hill, and it was everything I ever dreamed it would be.   And I’ve been coming back to the Rockies ever since.

Worst (and funniest):  Cologne


I didn’t actually get the Cologne….it was my brother in his early teen years. He got a big bottle of Polo the week before Christmas from a relative (who shall remain nameless).

Now, if there is ANYTHING a 14-year-old DOESN’T have any use for, is a bottle of Cologne.   Especially a smart-ass Spalpeen like my brother.     I remember him shaking his head, incredulously, and wondering what to do with his gift.

But between me studying Chemical Engineering at the time, and my brother and I feeding off each other, we came up with an EXCELLENT use for it.  You see, cologne has alcohol.  So when you spray it to a lighted match….well, you get the idea….(Kids, DON’T TRY this at home!).

Suffice to say, Spalpeen and I emptied most of the bottle, making one fire-ball after another  in the garage.  Though it never occurred to us that perhaps all that vaporized musk might cause OTHER things to smell.   Especially the Christmas Tree which Dad had just bought and had been storing in the garage, right next to us.

And what a beautiful tree it was. Dad always took his Christmas trees selection VERY seriously.   He’d spend a long time picking out the perfect one.   And that year, he had bought an especially expensive Balsam Fir, which he had been looking forward to decorating.   He wanted the house to smell like fresh pine needles.

Anyway, a few days later, long after my brother and I had forgotten about our pyromaniac escapades, Dad brought the tree into the house, and bellowed:

“Jesus Christ!    WHY does the tree STINK like perfume!?”.

For a second, Spalpeen and I looked at each other.  (Uh-ohhhh!).

Then (Pffft!), we both burst out laughing.

Poor Dad.  He was ready to burst a blood vessel.

We tried to say “Sorry…”

But we weren’t.   Not really.  🙂

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20 Comments on “My Most Memorable Christmas Presents: The Best and The Worst.”

  1. t.sterling Says:

    Legos are the best! I wanted to use an expletive, but that’s just not me. Anyway, I still have my collection and they were last used while I made stop-motion-photography movies.

    And I too once recieved cologne on Christmas that I really didn’t care for and almost burnt down my house with. But first, I set some soda cans on fire in the bathtub. I couldn’t just throw the stuff away, what if it leaked and stunk up everything? It had to be disposed of properly… by lighting it on fire. Good times…

  2. Mike Goad Says:

    I actually don’t remember specific Christmas presents from when I was a kid — or after, for that matter.

    However, your sticks and stones struck me as funny because it reminded me of what I got my wife this year — which she says sounds like a “box of rocks!”

    She’s actually not far off. It’s a wooden box filled with decorative glass nuggets, but there’s a Hobby Lobby gift card taped to the outside of the box.

    It sure has her puzzled, though. Too bad I won’t be able to use this trick again to keep her guessing.

  3. Friar Says:

    Lego rules! (Except today’s Lego is so specific, it’s hard to build anything other than what’s on the box).

    Stop motion movies, huh? I would have loved to have done that…I just didnt’ have the equipment.

    I used to make cartoons on the edges of flip-pads. All the time.

    I can remember toys I got for Christmas 40 years ago…but put me in a room with 3 people, and I’ll forget their names in 30 seconds.

    PS. What do you do with a box of decorative glass? 😮

  4. Best: Atari, hands down. Don’t even need to think about it.

    Yes, we got it the first Christmas it came out. It really helped that my Dad was blown away with the thing when we saw it at Sears. I still have the original box and the original console with the Sunnyvale sticker (they were made in Taiwan after that…)

    Worst: Don’t remember a bad Christmas. Even the year I learned the “truth about Santa” I still got a great model that I wanted. I do think they slowly declined though the older I got, simply because the “magic” faded. But even that turned around as soon as we had kids ourselves…


  5. Friar Says:


    I remember Atari….those things were like $200 bucks, back in 1980. I never had one (too expensive). But my buddy did. He had “Asteroids” and when we went over to his house to play, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. (Even though the game was so crude, you could see the individual pixels on the rocks).

    I think we had a “Bad Christmas” the year my Grandma had breast cancer (and they scheduled the mastectomy on Dec. 24, of all days).

    She ended up living another 17 years after that, so the procedure was worth it, I supposed.

    Though why in God’s name, they couldnt’ have waited another 2 days for surgery, I’ll never know.

  6. BrettHead Says:

    Great blog! So your Xmas tree smelled better than you. Nice.

    My sis and I had a rebellion over our stockings one year. My Ps thought we were too old for that tradition so all they put in there were red hots candy and a glass with our initials. So lame. Despite having a bunch of presents under the tree, we complained like crazy. It worked though. The next year we were back to little toys, books and candy.

  7. Hehehe, Christmas antics are the best 🙂

  8. Friar Says:


    We kids used out stockings right up to almost age 20. Though the tradiation kinda fizzled out after we grew up and left home. I kinda miss them, though. I still have the same stocking I had when I was five.

  9. Friar Says:


    The person who give the cologne had no idea how much pleasure that gift give us (for the wrong reasons!) 🙂

  10. Kelly Says:


    ROFL! That story of you and your brother is a classic. I can smell it now. Oh my goodness!

    Let’s see. My best was a 10-speed bike when I was about 12. I felt so grown up on that bike. It was amazing.

    Now that I think of it, other than things I still have I don’t really remember too many other presents. I remember the times that led up to Christmas much more than the day itself—tree trimming, cookie baking, sending cards, listening to music, wrapping, and The Big Trip, of course, during the years we lived out in the midwest—Christmas Day, I’m drawing a blank.

    I guess I like the prep so much, those are the memories that stick. Funny, that.

    You have the most wonderful way of looking crookedly down memory lane. Great post!



  11. Friar Says:

    Hey, what are you still doing up? Insomniac like me?

    I first new bike I had was 5 speed, I was 13 at the time. I finally got a 10 speed when I was 16. But those arent’ presents usually given out at Christmas, because you have to wait almost 5 months to use them.

    I guess I was a very impressionable kid and I remember the presents that stood out. My family tells me I’m very nostalgic about these type of things…they dont’ seem to have the same attachment ot those memories.

    That Christmas Tree was pricless, though (And it was about the same time (give or take a few years) that we pulled the Gitchi Manitou Stunt. 🙂

  12. Mike Goad Says:

    “What do you do with a box of decorative glass? ”

    Keep my wife from guessing that she really got a gift card.

  13. Kelly Says:


    If you must know, Santa whispered that he needed some help. He handcrafts a lot of the things he brings to our house, you know. He’s good that way, but things he likes to have done weeks ago didn’t get finished…. *sigh*

    I’ve been sick for a week or so (and other stuff’s been on my plate, too), so I’m trying my best, but I’m afraid the old elf is going to have to change the plans a bit. I’m doing more sneezing and worrying than actual working, the last several days.

    Christmas Eve is here. Time for the old elf to stop (her) worrying and make joy happen!

    The Tree Tale definitely reminded me of Gitchi Manitou. Impish boys, you were. Must have been cuties, if Dad didn’t want to throttle you.

    Have a lovely Christmas, Friar. Eat a bit too much, drink a bit too much, and make children smile, okay?

    Until later,


  14. steph Says:

    Well, I finally finished that book I was editing late Monday night. Then I had to work yesterday till after 6. Today it is freezing rain and ice pellets, and it’s Christmas Eve and I still don’t have my gifts purchased. No, this is not typical of me. But I’m in a panic now, the weather is HORRIBLE, it snowed a ton last night so you can imagine the heavy mess we have and what a busy day it is. Belleville is so congested that where the stores are it takes 20 mins to cross the street. I totally dread going to that part of town, the north end. I am seriously considering not getting gifts for my sisters. Between the money issue and this last-minute crap, I feel like shit.

    I probably will go anyway because this is really all my fault (but I seriously didn’t have time this Christmas season, which I’ve missed entirely because of everything that’s happened lately!!), and if I get sticks and stones, I surely deserve it. This sucks really badly. I can’t believe it’s Christmas. It doesn’t feel like it at all, and I’m so sad about that! Next year. Next year will be better. Next year, for the first time in 6 years, I will actually not have a book to edit.

    Friar: That Polo is expensive! It was my first boyfriend’s cologne, and I still swoon every time I smell it. 🙂

  15. steph Says:


    Hey everyone,



  16. Friar Says:


    Hmmm…..I think I’ll file away that trick for future reference. That sounds like a good one! 😉

    Yeah, there’s a bug that’s going around. Brett had it…people at work had it. I’ve managed to avoid it so far. But one of my nephews is apparently sick and I’m seeing him tomorrow. (I worry, because I’m ashtmatic and every time I get a chest cold, it becomes an infection or pneumonia!)

    I didn’t think Belleville was that big..(to have traffic jams!). Yuck…I hate shopping.

    Our family isn’t into expensive gifts anymore. Since we’re all grown up, we do a random gift-exchange. It has to be something DECENT, but not fancy nothing more than $10-15$). It kinda takes the pressure of having to buy people things (but then again, I DO kinda miss getting nice presents).

    And yes…(like you said, DUH) . MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! 😀

    Despite your sniffles, I’m sure you’re being an EXCELLENT Santa’s Helper-Elf. I’m sure he’ll be extra nice to you this year.

  17. Friar Says:

    PS. Stupid weather. My Mom’s flight got cancelled,so she arrived yesterday at 2:00 AM.

    And now we have a freezing rain warning!

    Sheesh, there is more snow on the ground now than we’ve had some entire winters.

    PSS. The Little Drummer Boy was on TV this morning. I tried to watch it for 10 minutes but couldnt’. It sucked SO BAD. 😉

  18. johe Says:

    Thank for information

  19. mateo Says:

    Great… another site I can bookmark and never come back to

  20. TheBrickster Says:

    Hi Friar. I’m TheBrickster from Eurobricks and, and recently stumbled upon this blog in looking at Classic Lego Trains. I loved your story and wanted to share it on our Classic Town website. I’ve blogged your story and provided a link to this complete article, if you don’t mind. Thanks for sharing, and please check out the site. I’m not sure if you are active in the Lego community, but as a Lego fan, your always welcome.

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