At Christmastime there is a strong gravitational pull of your thoughts back to home...roots...family. A pull so strong that it helps keep me balanced and centered like the hands on a compass pointing true north.
Let me take you back to a little town called Paradise in Northern California where I grew up in the 1950's. Money was very scare and my parents, both remembering the Great Depression, knew how to squeeze a dollar. On the demographic scale for the 1950 census, we probably would have been "binned" in the low-income column. My sister Gail and I knew nothing about economic status. We just knew we were happy and loved.
So let's go downtown to Harrison's Market. You knew everyone in town so when you went to the store you "swapped howdies" first then you shopped. The butcher called you by name. The clerks had a feather duster sticking out of their back pocket and a price stamper strapped into a leather holster covered with purple ink.
Above the vegetable section of all places were the "big" Christmas toys for sale. Wagons, dump trucks, large dolls 2 feet high and then there was the present I wanted. A pretend kitchen! A turquoise kitchen that was as tall as I was. It had a sink, refrigerator, and a stove! There were pots and pans and plates and silverware oh my! It was the best pretend kitchen a 6-year-old could ever want. I was always straying away from my Mother's cart and she'd find me standing in front of the brussel sprouts staring up at MY PRETEND KITCHEN. (I think the store's management put the toys above the vegetables as a subliminal message.....eat your vegetables and these toys will be yours!)
I ate my vegetables, I was good, as good as a 6-year-old could be for the whole month of December, forget the rest of the year! Christmas morning came and was that turquoise kitchen under our tree? No it wasn't, but this little wooden hutch and sink were under the tree handmade by my Grandpa Marshall.
The little hutch was filled with little plates, a canister set, a cookie sheet and a tea set all the way from Japan! I loved my pretend kitchen.
I washed many a dish in this tiny little sink.
When I grew up the little hutch was packed away for years along with the remaining dishes and accessories. It has been on my kitchen counter for the last twenty-five years. Would you believe the price on the cake decorations is 17 cents! (Where's the "cent" key on my keyboard?)
Here I am on the right with my Grandpa Marshall and Gail. I was about 3.
I was about 7 in this picture. Don't you love the old vintage porch swing!
This gift from my Grandpa was the best gift a 6-year-old could ever want. It's lasted over 5 decades. I marvel at the quality of workmanship, the tiny hinges and screws and the mitered corners on the cabinet doors. Through our youth, my sister and I received other handmade, wooden treasures from our Grandpa.
So sometimes what you think you want, and what you get, are two different things. I haven't forgotten about the turquoise pretend kitchen in Harrison's Market above the vegetables, but it would not have survived the decades and would not have been loved as much as I love my little hutch. (To this day I dislike brussel sprouts!)