christmastoys“Grammy and I went to the holiday show at the fairgrounds last weekend,” says the mostly naked woman slithering her pert undercarriage into bikini briefs not six inches from my nose.

“She was telling me all about the Christmasses they used to have when she was a little girl. It was really different back then because their parents didn’t have jobs and so they were always broke.”

I’m hearing this in the locker room of the gym at work, as I pull on my exercise clothes. Now that the physical therapists have released me and Elmo-the-knee-replacement to my workplace trainers, I’m a regular lunchtime fixture there.* 

Today two 20-somethings have bounced out of the showers and plunked down on either side of my bench. They’re drying off, dressing, and doing heaven knows what while chatting away…

“It was back in the 1930s or so, and everyone was very depressed because there was no money or jobs. It was almost,” says Slinky Underpants Lady, “As bad as The Great Recession.”

I turn to explain about The Great DEPRession but discover I’m facing the wrong end (of her) and zip my mouth shut. 

“Since nobody had money for Christmas presents, they had to make everything themselves.”

“Yeah,” says her friend wisely, planking naked on the floor. I’m not sure what she’s hoping to accomplish, except that it involves resting face-down on her toes and elbows with a towel across areas you’d rather not sunburn,”My mom told me the same thing. It was the custom to just make presents instead of buy them. Kinda sweet but it would take a lot longer.”

“They were forced to,” says S.U.L, “My grammy said they just put all their toys in this great big sack that Santa took away right after Thanksgiving.”

What?” says her friend, pulling up on her haunches and squinting, “Santa took their toys?”

“No, wait! Their mom and dad and grandparents, they snuck off with all the toys in this sack, pretending to be Santa. Then they’d fix them up with new coats of paint and stuff, and bring them back on Christmas all wrapped up. So it was like their kids got all new toys because they couldn’t buy them any. Only not really.”

“Oh wow. That’s so sad.”

“I know, right? They painted these new faces on the dolls, and sewed them clothes, and changed the colors on the bikes and scooters and skates. And then each kid got a candy cane and one orange in their stockings.”

“That was it?”

“Yeah. Grammy said that when they woke up on Christmas morning, they pretended to be rich, like those were new toys, and they made their oranges last two or three days because that was the only time they ever saw oranges the whole year.”

“It made me kinda misty,” S.U.L says, looking wistful, “I mean, to be so excited just to get your old toys back. It really makes you think about what our kids will be doing for their Christmasses.”

“Yeah,” says her friend, “They had recycling, all the way back then.”

*Don’t get the idea that I’ve left the slug-o-the-month club to become Marathon Milly or anything. My motivation for regular workouts is reeeeally simple: On the fourth day I don’t go to the gym, Elmo swells up like a balloon, his range of motion drops to about 75 degrees, and I limp. Motivation a-plenty.