Growing up, Christmas was defined for me by the arrival of the Montgomery Ward Wish Book.
It would arrive via the mail, and my sister and I would spend hours going through the toy section to see what the newest toys were and what the newest dolls could now do.
My mother would have us make a list of the three things we wanted for Christmas, and dolls were always at the top of my list. I would get a new one each year. One year it was the Little Miss Echo doll.
She had a built-in tape recorder and you could record a phrase and then move a pink button at the top of her dress, and she would play back whatever you said.
The Wish Book was my window to the world beyond my neighborhood.
I would spend hours going through every section of the book.
One of my favorite areas was the section filled with colorful photos of tin after tin of Christmas candy — especially the “ribbon candy” which would be a part of every tin of hard candies.
That candy was like a bunch of “S”-shaped letters scrunched together. It was always red and its lifespan as a single piece inside my mouth was a short one.
Another favorite section was lingerie. There was so much to pick and choose from: basic undergarments, slips, pajamas, nightgowns, slippers and bathrobes. For some reason, I can vividly recall my wonder at just how many different kinds of men’s slippers existed.
The choices were endless — flannel slippers, leather slippers, corduroy slippers, slippers like loafers or ones that didn’t have a back and just slipped on. Some were lamb’s wool-lined, while others were lined with flannel or a standard silky-fabric.
I loved to ice skate as a child. The Wish Book always featured at least several pages and types of skates.
There would always be a premium pair of ice-blue-colored skates that would be trimmed in matching fur.
How I longed for a pair of those skates. But the pecking order for our gifts was big, then medium and finally cheap when it came to price.
So if the doll was the big gift, then I had to look at something less costly for my second gift and so on.
I learned many lessons in how to take my $25 Christmas budget/allowance so I could get the most out of it.
That lesson has so benefitted me in my adult life, as I can take a dollar and stretch it into 10.
Like a lot of people, I, too, am feeling the economic pain of the current recession.
I have driven past a number of shopping centers and the crowds that should be filling them just don’t exist.
Sure, some folks went out after Thanksgiving and spent money for the bargains.
But unless people are planning to decorate their homes at the last minute, I’m seeing fewer and fewer Christmas lights shining brightly on them.
Yet in the end, Christmas is not about a Wish Book or how much money we spend at the mall.
It’s about how we treat one another every day of our lives. The end of the year is coming and we all need to take a moment to slow down, smell the roses and appreciate life.
A final note: Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network will host a Town Hall Meeting at Hyde Park Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.
Please come out and support his effort to stop the violence that is afflicting our communities.