Today, I found myself on the couch watching tapes from Christmases gone by. It was as close as I was going to get to my family this holiday season, who were unable to hold their traditional Christmas in the country.
So, the next best thing was watching Christmas footage – from the 1990s.
Watching my little sister’s sing “Auld Lang Syne” in her first Christmas concert didn’t quite do it for me. Fast forward. Christmas 1993, and her face lit up with joy when she received a hot pink table with matching chairs. My older sister, opening gift after gift, saying, “See my clown, see my clown. See my clown!”
My husband joined me as I strolled down memory lane.
“Don’t your parents still have that answering machine?”
It was a gift from my sisters and me. White, just as mom hinted. “Nope, it died about three years ago.” Considering we bought the machine in 1993, it had a good run.
I didn’t grow up with Christmas, and one day I will write that book to explain why my family didn’t celebrate Christmas until 1990. Well, officially celebrate.
We slowly eased into Christmas. Our first tree was only five feet, give or take. As newbees, we didn’t own tiny twinkle lights. So, on went large outdoor bulbs.
My little sister, who was almost four, would stare at the tree. Mesmerized by its beauty. Only to end up at the doctor’s office because her eyes swelled. Diagnosis: snow blindness. The doctor advised mom to keep her away from anything bright.
Clearly, Christmas was a learning curve.
By the early-90s, the right kind of Christmas lights found their way into our tree – and onto our house. At that time, the house was often compared to the Griswold’s, and our bi-level could be seen for miles.
As my husband and I continued to watch the tapes, we laughed at the antics. Me, getting an Ice Capades Barbie in 1990. And exclaiming, “I knew it!” And in 1991, telling my dad to put the camera down and open presents – then shooting video later and dad saying, “Too fast, Tammy. Too fast!”
My husband laughed as he watched Christmas 1992. When I gave my then-boyfriend an eight-page letter, and I told him to “read it now.”
My husband laughed. “You Racheled him?”
Jump ahead to Christmas 1994, and my parents gave my sister’s then boyfriend a bundle of VHS tapes, He laughs and says, “I haven’t even used the ones you gave me last year!”
Yes, in the mid-1990s, VHS tapes weren’t cheap and could be considered a gift.
Christmas 1993, my mom squealled with delight at the sight of the Braun juicer she received from my dad, and then she proclaims, “We’ll have apple juice tomorrow.” We did not have apple juice on Christmas Day. Mom said she used the juicer once, and it made such a mess she never used it again.
In 1994, my six-year-old little sister pranced around in the new hot pink and purple robe I gave her. I excitedly ripped open my Jann Arden CD from my then boyfriend. He tried to mask it by making it look like a piece of Toblerone.
The same year, little sister proudly stood in front of my older sister and me, holding two identical packages and said, “Tammy, Jennifer, which one do you want.” We each took the closest box to us and open it. A little ball of Plasticine plopped out and Jennifer and I both laugh as we both squished it in our hands. After all, it is Plasticine. Sharlynn, the gift-giver, was devastated. “My masterpiece, it’s broken,” she exclaims with the passion of a second-grader.
During the recording of Christmas 1994, our RCA video recorder stopped. The tape ran out. However, in the last scene it was seven of us by the tree – my parents, us three girls and the boyfriends – both former. But it didn’t matter. At that time, we seemed happy.
After all, it was Christmas, right? Who wouldn’t be happy? Even if we weren’t happy with what we received, we hid it well.
Whether it’s a juicer, a VHS tape or a clump of Plasticine, it’s not what’s inside the box that matters, but the thought that matters.
Originally posted on December 28, 2009 on nostalgiaofthe80sand90s.wordpress.com (defunct)