I've never been a present-counter. When I was a kid, Santa left our gifts in very distinct piles under the tree, so that after a half-minute's assessment in the cold darkness - because it was darkness at 4 or 5am - each of us could head straight for our own small array of presents once we'd spotted one or two items that we knew had our names on them. Santa was nothing if not organized in our household. One of us would fumble around to plug in the Christmas tree, then we'd sit in its light on the floor in front of our goodies and indulge in magical exploration.
But back to the present-counting - I don't remember any of us hollering, "Hey, I got 8! How many did you get?" The focus was on quality - and by that I mean, had those one or two important Santa List wishes been granted? - not quantity. I'm not sure we really asked for much. Oh, there might be a special doll or game that caught our fancy, but I have no memory of having a long list of wants. Once that basic wish had been fulfilled - and it always was, I think - the sheer number of gifts didn't matter. (Take note, Dudley Dursley.)
In the pre-dawn darkness of Christmas 1961, I spied my pile of goodies. It wasn't a pile, exactly; it consisted of only two gifts. But I knew it was mine. There, in the subdued glow of the multicolored big-bulb and bubble Christmas tree lights, I saw the one thing I wanted most that year: a transistor radio! Yea! And next to it was a book about the American Revolution. Imagine! Santa thought I was grown up enough to own my very own hard-backed scholarly (well, to a 5th grader) work! A radio and a book. What more could a girl want? (I still have the book. See?)
I don't remember what the other three had in their gift-stacks. I was totally captivated by my personal stash of music and literature. To the best of my memory, we all seemed pretty happy with the goods.
On these early Christmas mornings, Mother and Daddy usually dragged themselves out of bed once they heard us rattling around. I don't know if they wanted us to have a few minutes on our own to take it all in, or whether their warm comfy bed was just too hard to leave. At any rate, they did manage an appearance within a half-hour or so after the four of us had hit the living room.
That Christmas, Mother came in first. I don't think I noticed her until she said, "Is this all that Santa brought?" There was a bit of uncharacteristic panic in her voice.
All? All? A transistor radio and a hard-backed book? All? Why, this was the mother-lode, as far as I was concerned. But evidently my own mother saw something lacking in the layout of gifts.
"I think Santa Claus must've left some things in the attic. I think Daddy ought to go up and see where Santa dropped them."
Poor Daddy, who'd probably only gotten a couple of hours' sleep, shook his head and headed upstairs. After a few minutes he came down, laden with other goodies. I remember a Flintstones Bowling Set (the "ball" was shaped like a boulder - ha!) and - what? - the Give-a-Show Projector, maybe, plus assorted games and goodies. Wow! I guessed we'd been better that year than we'd thought!
The point is that as wonderful as the additional gifts were, I, for one, was perfectly happy with my radio and book. It didn't matter that in the year 1961 Santa had lost his marbles, not to mention our Flintstones Bowling Set. But it did make for one more memorable and oft-repeated Frazier Family story: "The Year Santa Left All the Presents in the Attic."
Merry Christmas, blog-friends. Wishing you comfort and joy, and the 2007 equivalent of a transistor radio and a book on the American Revolution.