Christmas arrives in about 3 hours on the east coast, and I was thinking back this afternoon to some of the better Christmas mornings I experienced as a kid growing up in the greater Washington area.
The first one I recall with any clarity was when I was six. I got a Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy. Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney were very popular on TV back then, and Gordon Bokelman, who lived down the street from me, already had a Jerry Mahoney, and I wanted one, too. I also got a Roy Rogers cowboy outfit: hat, vest, kerchief and holster. I already had a cap pistol.
When I was eight years old, baseball had taken over. I received my first catcher's mitt, a Wilson Smoky Burgess model. I also got a new fielder's glove, a Rawlings Duke Snider "Playmaker" model. I also got a toy that I still own today: a plastic statue of Yogi Berra, made by the Hartland Plastics Company. Between 1958 and 1962 Hartland made 18 different major league ballplayers, and over the years I collected the whole set. Of the 18, all but 3 are now Hall of Famers. I still have the box that the Warren Spahn staue came in.
These days you can get all kinds of Nationals-related merchandise, but back then, if you wanted a Senators' jersey, you had to make it yourself. It's funny, about 30 years ago I sat in the late Fred Baxter's living room in Bethesda and asked the longtime Senators' equipment manager what he would've said if I'd called him up when I was 12 and asked if I could get an old Washington uni. "I would've asked what size you need," he said. "We always had old ones around, but no one ever callled to ask for one."
The years that followed I got fewer baseball-related gifts - and more clothes. That's the way it worked, and perhaps still does. My own kids are so used to all the baseball stuff in our house that asking for anything baseball-related never occurs to them.
I don't ask for Christmas presents anymore. If there's something I want, I usually get it myself well before the end of the year. I do the best I can do for my kids, within reason. They get it that the holiday is about more than simple greed.
Anyway, here's hoping you and yours enjoy tomorrow morning, and the last week of the year as well.
Maybe we'll wake up and find a first baseman under the tree.