Posted on December 24, 2010My fondest (and probably first) memory of Christmas morning is when I was about 5 years old. I snuck down early (which of course, was a big no-no), and found under the tree a really cool Fort Apache set, complete with little U.S. Cavalry figures and the fierce little Apache Indians.
Those toy Cowboys and Indians gave me hours and hours of enjoyment, as I dreamed up ways that the two sides would wipe each other out. This was in the late 1960s, and back then, Daniel Boone, Ponderosa, Gunsmoke and other television shows chronicled how the West was won. We watched them just about every night.
There may have been some ambivalence among the intelligentsia back then about who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. There wasn’t that much ambivalence in my family. We were on John Wayne’s side.
Dad would sometimes set up action sequences with the toy soldiers after I went to bed, and I would wake up to discover a fort he had built with blocks, with good guys under attack from the bad guys. It was always a bunch of fun to check out what he came up with. This wasn’t a passing fancy for me. I played with toy soldiers well into seventh grade, and that kind of play helped me develop a real interest in history. That turned out to be the one school subject I was really good at.
A few years later, we got Pong for Christmas, and that led to hours of fierce competition between my brothers and I for Pong supremacy. The sheer simplicity and elegance of Pong really hasn’t been matched by other video games. The next generation was Atari’s Space Invaders, and while that was cool, it wasn’t nearly as competitive as Pong.
One of our family traditions in my later teen years was to go our Aunt Jean’s house for Christmas. We would play Ping Pong before the big Christmas meal and then play team Jeopardy after Christmas. Competition was the name of the game. Once we hit our twenties, we would add in some Liar’s Poker (along with a few beers).
Probably one of the most enduring traditions of the Feehery Christmas was that after a few years, the traditions would change. As people get older, move away, or especially get married or divorced, things change. For example, cooking Christmas dinner for 50 people just wasn’t something Aunt Jean wanted to do after a while. So, we had to find other ways and other places to get together.
Now, I have my own son, who will soon turn 5. I know it isn’t politically correct, but I got him a set of toy Cowboys and Indians. You can’t really find them in the stores, but if you look on-line, you can get them from an outfit called ToySoldiers.com. My dad asked me to buy Jack a present for him, and when I told him that I bought him some toy Cowboys and Indians, he immediately said, “make that from me.”
I don’t know if Jack will like these little plastic characters as much as I did when I was his age, but my guess is that he will. There is just something about boys and toy soldiers.
We aren’t going home for Christmas this year, because, well, we are trying to start our own traditions in our little family. But as I have discovered over a lifetime of Christmas’s, the one thing that stays constant in life is change. The traditions that best adapt to change are the ones that last the longest.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, no matter what your tradition is.