A boomer remembers a magical time of year

Do you remember those precious days before the holiday season when, as a kid, what you really thought the most about was Santa, and what he might bring? Redondo Beach, California writer Erin O’Brien remembers full well, which is why she wrote The List for BoomerCafé.

They began right before Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation back then (not before Halloween like nowadays), those fantastic toy commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. Kneeling at the coffee table, I was ready with my pencil and notepad because I knew the real meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown: new toys.

Erin O'Brien

Erin O’Brien

I was making a list and checking it twice, and by the time my mom walked by she was dismayed to see my “Christmas list” didn’t include the names of the family members I was shopping for, but only the names of 30 toys that I just had to have, including Milton Bradley’s Operation game (it was electric!), Mattel’s Tippy Toes (or maybe Dancerina), and smaller items for stocking stuffers like a Slinky or a Wham-O Super Ball. Still, I had my sights set on an RCA portable stereo or a Kodak Instamatic camera with flash cubes (batteries not included.)


At the market in the canned food aisle, Mom told me to pick out what I liked for Thanksgiving dinner. As I grabbed cranberry sauce and petite green peas, I was surprised when my mom said those would be the cans I’d be taking to school for the cardboard box in my classroom: the Thanksgiving collection for the poor. A gift for someone should be something you’d like for yourself, she instructed.


When I took another look at my Christmas list, I realized I had recorded every commercial I saw, as fast as I could write, without thinking. Then I remembered the kids who would be enjoying cranberry sauce and petite green peas on Thanksgiving.

I decided just to be surprised on Christmas morning.

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  1. As I frantically get ready for xmas, mailing cards, shopping online, shopping at the mall, going over my gift lists and menu for xmas dinner — I am reminded by a little girl from 40+ years ago — the true meaning of the holiday season.
    Thank you for that, Erin!
    PS: I clearly remember the excitement of my first camera (Kodak with flash cubes!)

  2. The Christmas season is about the only time of the year when the cookie supply meets my needs and expectations!

    Rainbow cookies. In other words every kind of cooking imaginable. I know there are bad cookies out there but I am blessed and manage to avoid them!

  3. Being one of six kids, my siblings & I had very regimented Christmas presents: 1) a new church outfit, opened after Christmas Eve dinner & worn to midnight Mass; 2) new pjs/flannel nighties, opened & immediately donned upon return from midnight Mass; 3) an expensive present, like a trike, bicycle, bb guns for brothers, et al., to be enjoyed Christmas morning. Then we got little things the remaining 11 days of Christmas: pens or pencils, books, lip gloss or balm, new socks, underwear, coloring or crossword puzzle books.

    Then on or about January 6, we had a Kings Day, aka Epiphany party, to celebrate the Magis visit to the Christ child. My mom’s Kings Day cake was a huge hit with my friends, siblings & cousins, because she wrapped dollar bills in foil and baked them into the cake, a trick she learned from her friends from New Orleans, where EVERYBODY served Kings Cake for Epiphany. 🙂

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