The Roundup -

Christmas Shopping with my Father

 


As a child, Christmas enthralled me. Every December we made so many happy memories preparing for and savoring the holiday season to the fullest. We baked cookies, some of which we hung on the tree until the year a mouse discovered the cookies and helped himself, which in itself makes me smile even now as I recall that long ago and far away Christmas. Each year I helped my dad hang the large five pointed star on the chimney, covered with strands of multicolored lights that the entire neighborhood could view and enjoy. My dad and my brother strung outdoor lights along the eaves and around the doorways, my mother baked fruitcake and other delectable treats, we produced specialty cookies and candies that we only made at Christmastime, we decorated the house, and of course we bought a tree and placed it in a prominent place in the living room. Trimming the tree provided us children with extreme pleasure, and the result of our endeavors sparkled and glowed right through January 2, when we regretfully took the tree down and packed the holiday decorations back in boxes for another eleven months.

However, one of my most cherished memories, the highlight for me of the weeks before Christmas, centered on my shopping spree with my dad. Each year my father set a specific date with each one of his four children for a shopping trip to the next town. I counted the seconds until that special evening arrived. It was my perfect evening with my dad, just the two of us spending one-on-one time together. I could visit, share secrets, ask advice, tell him what was happening in my life, and plot and conspire with him as to what we ought to get for gifts for other family members.

I shared these Christmas shopping trips with my dad from my earliest memory. These expeditions grew and changed through the years, but they continued right up until I graduated from university, married, and moved away from my parents’ home to start my own life as an adult.

The point behind these yearly outings was of course to purchase small gifts for family members, but it also served as a means for my father to spend quality time with each of his children on a one-on-one basis. Knowingly or not, my dad also created fabulous memories that will stay with me until I close my eyes for the final time.

The evening always began the same way, with the first stop at a small business on the square which specialized in chili dogs. My father and I would each order a chilidog to fortify us for our shopping expedition. Until I was about nine or so, the second stop invariably would be to visit Santa, who sat in his little house on the Hanover square waiting to hear what all the little boys and girls wanted for Christmas. One year the town fathers even had a free carousel outside Santa’s little house, and I remember riding that merry-go-round for quite some time. My mother told me years later that the night I chose to ride the carousel for a half hour, the temperatures dropped and the wind came up, nearly freezing my poor father who waited patiently for me to get my fill of riding painted ponies round and round and round.

Besides purchasing small gifts for my siblings, mother, and grandparents, my dad allowed each one of us to select a box of chocolates or other sweet confection to take home to our mother. I understand now that my father loved candies and he chose this route to ensure that he too received some little treat from the evening out with his daughter. However, as a child, I felt so proud to return home from a delightful evening with my father and present my mother with a box of chocolates, or caramels, or a pound of the multi colored coconut bonbons that my dad absolutely adored. We only enjoyed these specialty chocolates at Christmastime, and I will forever associate light and dark chocolate caramels and coconut bonbons with the Yuletide season.

After we had completed our purchases for family members, my dad invariably finished off the evening with our final stop at a local creamery that served a huge variety of ice cream treats. In my young years, I would order a sundae or a banana split, but my goal was to order and eat what the creamery called a pig’s dinner. The creamery served this ice cream extravaganza in a small wooden replica of a trough. This enormous ice cream concoction consisted of six scoops of ice cream, a banana, nuts, strawberries, pineapple, three different toppings, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

It took me years to actually have the appetite to eat an entire pig’s dinner. When I began ordering pig’s dinners during our annual Christmas excursions, my dad would order a sundae in the expectation that he would have the opportunity to finish my portion of ice cream. For years I would eat what I could, and then regretfully push my trough across the table to my father so he could polish off the remainder of my ice cream treat.

I don’t remember how old I was when I actually ate the entire pig’s dinner. My mother told me that the year I accomplished this feat, my dad was extremely disappointed as he had anticipated enjoying what I could not eat. Every year after that one, my dad would order his own pig’s dinner to enjoy.

By the way, that creamery also sold what they called a battleship, consisting of a monstrous conglomeration of twelve scoops of ice cream, multi toppings, nuts, fruit, and other assorted goodies. If anyone managed to eat one of these giants, he or she was rewarded with a small flag that read “I sank a battleship.”

I never attempted to sink a battleship, I knew better than to even try. However, my brother accomplished this feat the Christmas before he graduated from high school.

These Christmas shopping trips with my dad meant the world to me. Setting the date each year cemented the fact that Christmas would soon arrive and all was right with the world. I cherish those memories and the time spent with a father who to me could fell Superman with one flick of the wrist had he so desired.

I haven’t gone Christmas shopping with my father for forty five years, but memoires from those years remain vivid. They make me smile and weep at the same time, and they never cease to remind me again and again how lucky my siblings and I were to have parents who cared about us and did everything in their power to provide us with Merry Christmases, happy birthdays, and good lives each and every ordinary day.

Merry Christmas to you all.

 

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