A Look Back at Christmas

The holidays are a reflective time. It’s hard not to get caught up in thinking about all the years that have passed and what they meant. One gift I received this year in particular had me thinking specifically about old holiday photos.

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This sweet vintage Kodak dark room timer. I love it and it’s actually something I’ve been wanting since college when I used the same exact model in a photography class. Boy, photography AND a clock—it’s as if the universe didn’t want to take any chances that I might possibly miss its suggestion that I look through some old photos of Christmas past. Message received. Break out the photos!

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“Four Generations” photo, Christmas 1960. My mom, her mother, her grandmother and even Barbie all sporting matching looks sewn by my grandma.

Of all the old photos I looked through with my family, these photos of my mom’s family from the early 1960s were my favorites.

Christmas 1960. My mom with her holiday loot.

Christmas 1960. My mom with her holiday loot.

It’s always great to see photos of people you’ve only ever known in their adult forms as children, but I also like seeing the things that were special to them and what their environments were really like.

Christmas 1960. My uncle and his loot.

Christmas 1960. My uncle and his loot.

My grandma with her haul. I can't exactly what that coffee set beside her is, but it looks pretty sweet.

My grandma with her haul. Must have been a big year for aprons. I can’t exactly see what that coffee set beside her is, but it looks pretty sweet.

I think my mom was shocked to see how small and sparse the "big flocked tree" from her childhood memories was in reality.

I think my mom was shocked to see how small and sparse the “big flocked tree” from her childhood memories was in reality.

When I first started collecting vintage Christmas decorations (which was at a pretty young age), my mom always told me about the aluminum tree they had when she was little and how pretty it was with all blue ornaments. Although that tree was long gone before I even existed, it served as inspiration for my first aluminum tree which I decorated with all cobalt blue ornaments.

More matchy matchy with gold brocade and mink trim. My grandma made one for Barbie too, but she evidently didn't make it to the shoot.

More matchy matchy with gold brocade and mink trim. My grandma made one for Barbie too, but she evidently didn’t make it to the shoot.

I would make a crack about getting a toaster and an ironing board for Christmas, but honestly I probably would have thought they were pretty cool at that age too.

I would make a crack about getting a toaster and an ironing board for Christmas, but honestly I probably would have thought they were pretty cool at that age too.

You need the guns because, judging by their faces, Santa and the teddy bear are pretty menacing and that lazy hound isn't going to save you.

You need the guns because, judging by their faces, Santa and the creepy teddy bear are up to no good and that lazy hound isn’t going to save you.

Santa clearly stepped up his game the next year. A taffy puller? Amazing.

Santa clearly stepped up his game the next year. A taffy puller? Amazing.

But in the end, it’s the toys you want to see. There’s just something about them that, even as an adult, just makes you want to rip them out of their boxes and go crazy.

My mom still has this sewing machine. I always thought it was pretty cool, even if it was intended to reinforce gender stereotypes.

My mom still has this sewing machine. I always thought it was pretty cool, even if it was intended to reinforce gender stereotypes.

This look back made me think a little about the toys I loved as a kid and how those things are rapidly becoming vintage in their own right. Cut to the mid-1980s.

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That’s me on the right, clutching my Pound Puppy and a Fob puppet while chattering away to whatever Teddy Ruxpin was talking about (and I have NO idea why the orange Fob is on my hand because everyone knows the purple one was mine). Teddy was one of my favorite toys growing up. His books and stories were often just a starting point for my little mind to wander off deep into imaginary lands. It’s hard for me to believe that Teddy and his friends are now in their 30s just like me. Perhaps he’s dealing with back pain and rogue nose hairs too? I’ll never know because 10 years after this picture was taken I decided to purge these things from my teenage bedroom, despite my mom knowingly asking, “Are you really sure you want to sell that?” Who wants your little kid toys hanging around when you’re all grown up? As it turns out, in another 10 years I did. I really did.

After hearing me casually say how “Teddy was such a cool toy when you think about it,” and “I kind of wish I’d kept him,” my mom decided to bring my childhood magic back (with the help of eBay). A few years ago I unwrapped all of this at Christmas.

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Of all the things that pass through our hands in our lives, why is it that toys are so important to us no matter how old we get? I think it’s because they’re the things that influenced us most in our formative years. We cut our teeth on them (both literally and figuratively) and they often played a bigger role in making us who we are than we probably ever give them credit for. It’s tempting to say that toys are really all about consumerism and material lust, but at the end of the day our toys were beloved for the escapism and fantasy they gave us, not as items of value or status. And when you consider that, it really doesn’t matter how Mattel ever marketed Barbie or how many banana seat bikes Schwinn moved in the fourth quarter of 1963. All that matters is the lifetime of joy they gave the kids who played with them.

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