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Baby Boomers' Christmases: Bathed In Nostalgia

By HERWriter
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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Christmas has a way of kindling nostalgic memories of past holiday seasons. As a 56 year old baby boomer, I've had plenty of them to reflect upon.

My four brothers and I are all baby boomers, born between 1952 and 1964. The gifts we hoped for when we were kids were lightyears removed from what kids today want.

I remember Chatty Cathy, the first talking doll. Then there was Baby First Step who could walk, as long as her back was loaded with batteries. Baby Pat-a-Burp was a doll that had the dubious virtue of belching prettily when her back was tapped. It thrilled all the little girls for some reason.

Ken and Barbie were the cool kids for many years running. Barbie had a carrying case for all her paraphernalia that turned into a doll house and a sports car. Barbie's friends Midge and Francie and Ken's pal Allan were allowed to hang with them for awhile. Barbie had a teeny-bopper sister named Skipper and younger twin siblings Tutti and Todd.

I had 'em all. Dolls were my thing.

Of course the boys were into a whole other scene. One of my brothers had a Johnny West, a cowboy action figure (of course they couldn't be called dolls) who rode a big hard plastic horse.

Two of my other brothers played with GI Joe action figures. Naturally, Joe was far too manly to be called a doll, either. He wore camouflage and had guns, a canteen and a helmet. This was before the controversy of the Vietnam war, which later had a dampening effect on parents wanting their kids to play with toy soldiers.

My husband, also a boomer, fondly remembers the Christmas when his mother bought him his Cape Canaveral set. This was during the early days of the space program. His Cape Canaveral set had launching pads and buildings, and tracks to drive rockets to the launching pad. You could fire the rockets and they'd shoot up into the living room ceiling. Great for the kid. The parents weren't quite so impressed.

No computer games back in those days.

We had slinkies. It was great fun to watch one shimmy down the stairs. Not so much fun to unsnarl a slinky from the tangled mess it would inevitably become.

Mr. Potato Head pieces were stuck in actual potatoes your mom bought at the grocery store and stashed in the root cellar. The plastic head in the Mr. Potato Head set belonged to a later generation of kids.

Turning two dials on an Etch-a-Sketch drew pictures. Everything turned out a bit ... square but an Etch-a-Sketch plus a little imagination created childhood works of art.

Silly Putty theoretically would copy any cartoon or comic if you squashed it flat and peeled it off. The image was less than perfection but that was before cell phones took photos or Photoshop would custom-tailor your pics. Silly Putty came in its own plastic egg and we didn't know any better than to think it was way cool.

Life was pretty low-tech when baby boomers were kids, and so were our toys. They took more work to play with, but our imaginations and creativity had free range. I think it was the best era for Christmas presents but that's nostalgia for you. There just isn't any competition for the golden glow of remembered childhood.

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Reviewed December 12, 2011
by Michele Blackberg RN

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You paint a picture that walks - no, kaleidoscopes - me down memory lane. One of my earliest Christmas memories is of gazing out of the window at my grandmother's house, waiting for parents, who had been delayed by heavy snow, to arrive. I could have been no older than three, yet remember so well being enthralled by the diamond-glistening of the snow on my grandmother's road, just as I remember the warmth of the fire roaring in the fireplace, the glad arrival of my parents and the doll with blonde hair which, because of her "suntan," my dad swore must have been a bleached-blonde Brazilian.

Christmases came and went. Our real trees were exchanged for something silver, toys started to do things and parents complained that they were stifling imagination. Barbie and etch-a-sketch would belong to my sister and brother, younger than me by seven and twelve years respectively, while I moved on to make-up, miniskirts and boots as presents of choice. And then... my own children were born, we had a real tree every year and to heck with the needles. We bought a doll the same height as my young daughter, stuck batteries in it and led it by the hand, causing the daughter to shriek in fear and the doll to be forever consigned to the back of her wardrobe. One year, I bought a chess computer for my husband. It took the thing a day or two to think of its next move, but that was cutting-edge back then in the Seventies. I bought a chemistry set for my oldest girl, only to be told by friends, families and neighbours that this was a boys' toy and I should be buying my daughter still more dolls, nurse's outfits and the like.

In the blink of an eye, my own girls were asking for make-up, handbags and --- a tool set. I congratulated myself that Christmas for raising my kids to be whatever they wanted to be. And now, here we come full circle. We are back to buying girls' toys and boys' toys for little grandchildren - a doll here, a Tonka toy there - and are trying to see the world through the eyes of children who are still delighted by the diamond shimmer of light on the snow.

Thank you for prompting me to look at almost sixty years' worth of Christmases. It has been quite a walk.

December 14, 2011 - 10:15am
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