When I was 11 years old my mother dressed my brother and me up to go to town for the annual
parade complete with the appearance of Santa, shopping, and cheeseburgers with fountain cokes
at City Café. I wore a red and green plaid taffeta dress with a red bow on the left hip. Plus,
several itchy petticoats. That dress made me feel like a million bucks and so very pretty.
Mama gave my brother, John, and me five dollars each to purchase gifts for our family. We lived
in Levelland, Texas, a small, dusty, oil-field town that became a wonderland at Christmas. The
old-fashioned courthouse square was hung with white lights, greenery, and bells. Each store had
its own decorations and multiple strings of lights. The Main Street light posts had silver bells
arching over them.
Mama made us go into the stinky, old department store first to help her choose a gift for Daddy.
The floors were scuffed and they creaked with every step, merchandise was crowded together,
and the musty odor made my nose itch. We finally found a blue shirt and socks for Daddy, then
Mama marched us to the creepy shoe department in the back corner to have our feet measured. I
drug my feet and whined knowing full well that the seemingly 300 foot tall grizzly bear with
obsidian eyes, dusty fur worn off on its back paws and chest where people had touched it year
after year, and yellow claws would tower over me. I was afraid it would topple over on me. Or,
worse, come to life.
The clerk measured my feet first and with Mama’s permission I rushed away to wait at the front
of the store. I stumbled onto a large and deep box covered in red paper sitting next to the door.
How had I not seen it before? It was full, really full, of stuffed animals. I dug through it as happy
as I could be. A small, reclining tiger kept making its way to my hands and heart.
I begged Mama for it, but she said no and rushed us out to shop at Ben Franklin, the 5 and 10
store wonder. My five dollars started making my hand sweat. John and I were sent our separate
ways to find gifts for Mama, Daddy, and each other.
I never wasted time shopping. My gifts were never very creative, but John’s were. He spent time
thinking and figuring out just what would be the best gift. I quickly found handkerchiefs for
Daddy. Three sparkling white handkerchiefs in a small, long, flat box with a clear cover and a
gold string tied in a bow to keep it closed. Mama almost always got a small cobalt blue bottle of
Evening in Paris perfume. And, probably a car or truck for John.