Christmas 1974 – Welcome Home
The picture above was taken on December 25, 1974. The one who looks like an alien baby is me and the woman holding me is not my older sister. That’s my mom with her “I’m 17 and I got a baby for Christmas” smile on.
A year to the day before this picture was taken my mother was a just a girl in high school, opening presents from her mother (who probably took this picture) and making plans with a boy. Right around Christmas 1973, that girl and boy decide they want to get married but knowing that their families would never allow it, they decide to force the issue. The plan works and my soon-to-be-parents marry in March of ’74. I am scheduled to arrive in September but I showed up unexpectedly in June, tipping the scales at just over 2 pounds. According to my parents it was not clear if I would survive and for months they looked at me through hospital glass, unsure of when I would leave the hospital.
As you can see I made it home for Christmas.
Christmas 1984 – Holidays in Stereo
Ten years after the picture above was taken things had changed. My parents had split a few years earlier and I was living with my mom, my brother and sister and some guy my mom was dating.
When Christmas came around in 1984, my mother told me that money was really tight and Christmas was going to be very simple. Then she asked me if I would be okay with getting less because the younger two kids still believed in Santa. At 10 years old I was considered old enough to be in the know about ways of the world; after all I kissed a girl that summer and was already downing a lot of coffee every morning. It seemed reasonable and I didn’t want to be a baby. I said yes.
I’m sure it hurt her to ask me to make such a sacrifice, and she must have appreciated it because she said I could play records in her room after school. I wasn’t normally allowed to do this because her boyfriend was a dick about the records.
Between getting home from school and my mom getting home I had an hour and a half to lay on the big bed and listen to music. On the big stereo with the silver-tone finish and giant knobs I could spin my favorites at that time: Abbey Road, Best of The Jackson 5, and The Ventures Greatest Hits. I danced around and made myself lo-fi copies of my favorite songs by holding a tape recorder up to the speakers. Those afternoons made it seem like Christmas wouldn’t be so disappointing.
As the last school day before Christmas passed, I wondered to myself “is this record deal only through Christmas or can I do this all the time?” I was afraid to ask.
Christmas morning finally came and I kept my bravest face and smiled. Mom got up and left the room while we cleaned up the boxes and wrapping paper. She came back in, thanked me for being so grown up and told me I should go to my room right away because there was a surprise waiting for me. On the floor covered by a sheet was her receiver and turntable, in all of their silver-tone and wood finished glory.
It turns out that my mother’s boyfriend had decided to buy himself a new stereo for Christmas. While I was being brave she carried her old stereo components and speakers into my room. It was the best present I had ever gotten even before she pulled out the records that went along with it.