So huddle around the Trump Dumpster Fire and I’ll tell you a personal true story of a Christmas 45 years ago.
Yes, I am old.
On Christmas Eve we were in the car headed for my paternal grandparent’s house next to, but not in, the Richmond Mall. We had to leave a Very Important Football Game to get there on time, but dad had it on the radio: the Cleveland Browns were in Miami to play the unbeaten Dolphins in the first round of the 1972 NFL Playoffs.
Believe it or not, the Browns were leading 14-13 in the fourth quarter, even Gib Shanley was getting excited. “Bet Nick Skorich wishes the game was over right now,” my dad said.
Alas Jim Kiick ran for an eight yard TD with less than five minutes to play and the Dolphins hung on for a 20-14 victory. The Browns would not see the playoffs again for eight years.
But that wasn’t really the most important thing that night.
See, my paternal grandparents were, to put it charitably, loaded. As in, well-off. As in, well they had serious cash and loved spending it on their beloved grandchildren; even my sister.
So my mother had asked me what I wanted from my grandparents for Christmas a few weeks before that. And I told her. Knowing me, she kept a straight face. She knew I was serious. I knew my grandparents could afford it. And it wasn’t really that big a deal – households all over America had them.
No it wasn’t a television. That would be next year; I was working up to that.
Of course, the joy of Christmas getting for a 10-year-old boy was captured by little Ralphie in the movie ‘A Christmas Story.’ What did Ralphie want?
“I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!”
No, it wasn’t a gun either. That would be three more Christmases into the future and it was something I did not want but my father did. It was just as well my 10-year-old self didn’t get a shotgun – put my eye out? No, I would have probably blown my head off.
But Ralphie at least wanted something boys his age would be expected to want.
I wanted something no 10-year-old would ever think of wanting, would probably hate it if they got it and probably have never ever got it for Christmas.
We got to my grandparent’s house and I shrugged off Mike Phipps’ last feeble attempt to win the game for the Browns. Scanning the huge pile of gifts I saw a rectangular wrapped gift that looked like – could it be? Dare I dream? I would have to wait until the grand unwrapping time.
See, Christmas Eve at my paternal grandparent’s house was kind of like winning the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right. Each of us had a pile, a veritable pile of wrapped presents waiting for us. We didn’t just open up one or two gifts – it was usually six or seven.
The folks would pound down high balls, my sister, cousins and I would run into what we called ‘the big room’ to screw around for a while, the Kentucky Fried Chicken was on the table and the Cleveland high school choruses were on TV singing carols.
Really it was the stuff that lifetime memories were made of.
But my mind was on the present – did they get me what I wanted? I would soon find out.
Eventually, my mother called for us – “it’s time for gifts,” she’d yell. No sweeter words were ever spoken.
We ran into the living room. My mom knew – she pointed at the rectangular gift and told me to “save this one for last.” I knew then – I knew.
So finally I was down to this one gift – eagerly I unwrapped it and my eyes grew big – my Christmas would be the happiest one of my life.
Seated in front of me was the Christmas gift no 10-year-old boy has wanted before or since – just me.
BUT – this was not just ANY clock-radio. This was a GENERAL ELECTRIC premium clock radio which, as the owner’s manual said was ‘brimming with outstanding features!’
It was a conventional clock face with a lighted dial so I could see the time at night. And, of course, it had FM! But the real kicker was the extra ‘brimming’ features – sleep to music, wake to music, wake to alarm, or wake to both music AND alarm!
What more could a boy want? I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to get home and plug it in, set the time, and fall blissfully asleep to the soothing sounds of Cleveland’s leading beautiful music (dentist waiting room music) WQAL-FM.
Later my father would come into my room as I was trying to fall asleep to Ray Coniff, Percy Faith or the 101 Strings and sarcastically remark “oh look at Little Lord Fauntleroy in there falling asleep to music.”
But I didn’t care. I had that clock radio for the next 35 years until it barely worked anymore. It was missing a knob and you could barely make the rocker switch that changed it from AM to FM work. But I loved it. Even hopelessly broke, I took it everywhere I lived until I lost it in the second divorce of 2009. I don’t know what my ex did with it – she probably through on the bonfire with the rest of my left behind possessions.
But on this very night 45 years ago, I was as happy as, well, *I* could be. I was the proud owner of a brand new premium quality genuine GE clock-radio. No Red Ryder BB gun could ever compete with that.