Christmas presents

Over the years, I have changed too, though not entirely.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” declares Jo March, in Louisa M Alcott’s ‘Little Women’. As children, my brother and I wholeheartedly concurred. When our parents reminded us that it was more blessed to give than to get, we blithely banished blessing!

Shortly before Christmas, Suresh and I would be taken shopping. Confronted with a treasure trove of toys, we invariably chose the same things each year. “Aren’t you tired of donkeys?” Suresh was asked annually. Our parents meant dinkies but, since Dinky was a brand, even that word was inaccurate. My brother collected miniature vehicles of various makes, and the scornful sobriquet for his models did not dampen his zeal to amass them. Every December, he vowed that the ‘donkey’ he acquired that Christmas would be his final one, but —like the ‘last leaf’ of O. Henry’s story —the ‘last donkey’ proved illusory.

For my part, I made no promises. I loved dolls, and—perhaps because my mother shared that fondness—received several; among them, a dark-haired beauty in a yellow salwar-kameez. I called her Sadhana, on account of her remarkable resemblance to the stunning star of the sixties. Dolls with rosy cheeks, golden curls and frilly frocks were Delia, Daphne and Diana; almost as if I foresaw that they would suit my future surname.

If my brother and I appear childish, I should mention that we also enjoyed board-games that were more challenging than Snakes-and-Ladders. One Christmas, our uncle gave us ‘Goldfinger’, based on the James Bond film that had recently been released. Sean Connery was on the cover of the box, but he held no interest for Suresh and me. What mattered—Great Scorer or no scorer—was how we played the game!

When it came to playing games, we were no match for our parents. After squirming through Christmas-eve worship, Suresh and I would return home, in eager anticipation of goodies. Alluringly arrayed beneath the Christmas tree were brightly wrapped packages, outnumbering those we expected. Our parents had been with us in church at midnight, so how had the parcels materialized? Was Santa real after all? If, according to a bike endorsement, ‘talking is such a waste of breath,’ sleeping on the brink of Christmas morning seemed absurd. True to the proverb, it was darkest before dawn! Suresh and I awoke to many a glorious Christmas Day, each presenting (pun intended!) splendid surprises.

As my husband and I prepare to host a Christmas party for youngsters whose lives lack lustre, I asked an invitee what he would like. Searching for Monopoly, which he requested, I was delighted to discover it in a new avatar. Over the years, I have changed too, though not entirely. While I gain immense satisfaction from gifting gladness, I still warmly welcome Christmas presents!

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