The week after Christmas
As mentioned in last week's column, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was a big deal in my childhood, as it is today. And if we didn't break most of our new toys, we were comfortable in the knowledge that one whole week or more remained before we had to return to the dreaded classroom. Maybe it's a sign of my encroaching senility, but it seems to me that kids today are faced with different problems and consequently are graced with different expectations in the modern age, which I take to be the last part of the 20th century. Back a few decades, one of my students dropped into my office on Dec. 1.
“Excuse me, Dr. Wood.” “Yes, Miss Anderson,” I replied. “I was wondering if I could take my final exam two weeks early, Dr. Wood.”
“Humpf! Highly irregular! Absolutely not! If I do it for one student, I'd have to do it for all! (grumble, grumble) Have you a valid reason for your request?”
“Oh, yes, Dr. Wood. My parents and I are spending Christmas vacation on the Island of Majorca—Dad figures he needs to rest up before he becomes chairman of the college's Board of Regents….”
“Well, well! Have a very pleasant vacation, Miss Anderson and be sure to wish your parents a very Merry Christmas, er, from me. Take the test at any time. Any time.”
The Island of Majorca! That's where Fredrik Chopin spent time with his mistress in “A Song to Remember.” When that movie was made back in the 1940s, kids' Christmas vacations were simpler. For one thing, if you weren't at school on the last day of classes before Christmas, you didn't get the pencils Miss Larson gave her fourth graders. Green pencils with your name and middle initial right up by the eraser.
And you certainly didn't get to the Island of Majorca. In fact, you were lucky to get as far as Blair five miles away to wish mother's Aunt Susie a merry Christmas.
Back then we got seven days before Christmas and were expected back one week afterward, effectively ruining the first half in delirium of expectation. What were you going to find under the tree? Skis? Or a bedspread for your bedroom? An official boy scout jackknife or a pair of four- buckle overshoes? A Gilbert Chemistry Set (duplicate the smell of rotten eggs!) or a scarf and more mittens?
When you weren't pondering such weighty matters, you were either rehearsing for the Young Peoples Concert at Our Savior's Lutheran or wondering how in the heck you could buy presents for the whole family with only $2.10 saved up?
But because of these early frustrations, the seven days after Christmas were sweeter, I'm sure, than the Island of Majorca. One thing I always got from Aunt Susie, who was rich, was a diary. Here's a sample of that week's entries: DECEMBER 26, 1946—Everett Berg went off junior scaffold on sled. Landed on number one fairway. Laying down. He went home to bed. Showed Roger Hobart my new scout knife. He said it wasn't authentick. Am now writting in my new diary. Going to write in it every day.
DECEMBER 27 – Twenty below today. Staid in. broke too test tubes on chem set. Made invisible ink.
DECEMBER 28 – cold again today. Made green dyes with chem set. Spilled on new bedspread. Cooked sulfer and broke another test tube. Stunk up house and pa said I couldnt stay up for inner sanktom. So am writing in diary.
DECEMBER 29 — went with scouts to old hickory hill. Scoutmaster showed us how to make hunters stew. Good. Went to Boston Blackie in San Francisco. Good.
DECEMBER 30 — four days till school starts. Ish. Billy and me went off the high school kids snow ski jump on his tobagan. Ruined track. Bob Debow got mad. Played war at pickel factory, threw pickels at each other. Mr. Sehler caught us doing number one in vats. Said we shouldn't but was not mad DECEMBER 31— Cold again. Put on new long underwear and went to Mick johnsons to play with his new Erector set. Electric motor and flexable cupling broke so we played parcheesy. Boring.
Thus ends the entries in the diary from Aunt Susie, who was rich. And luckily never asked to see if I was keeping up.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.
BY DAVE WOOD