You Call That a Gift?!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Our writers remember that year they ripped open the packaging and their faces fell.

Gimme Money

Cash. It was still shameful in the 1980s, in our family, to ask for cash. Charlie Brown scorns his sister, Sally, for her brazen letter telling Santa Claus it's okay to "just send money. How about 10s and 20s?" Now all teenagers get cash or gift cards for Christmas.

Cash is all I ever wanted and hardly ever got: a chance to be alone with my discretionary, adolescent spending. I loved the mall in January, after Epiphany, after the decorations were gone. I loved the mall in that voided state of recovery. I loved it half-empty of shoppers on a Sunday afternoon; the forlorn food courts and the sweaters marked down 75 percent; the ho-hum hints of spring on the mannequins. I'd have my mom drop me off on the Dillard's side, and wander through a post-Christmas wasteland. I carried in my canvas Velcro wallet the rare $20 bill from the grandma I hardly ever spoke to, and then and only then did the merchandise speak to me. Then and only then did I wish Santa Claus had been an ATM.

-- Hank Stuever

Menorah Envy

1994: Eternal crush Jonathan Schuyler invited me to his bar mitzvah.

Read "The Diary of Anne Frank." Got a teeny part in community production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Dyed hair a temporary dark brown. What this Lutheran desperately wanted for Christmas that year: to celebrate Hanukkah.

-- Monica Hesse


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