Elektrostal: Lenin Square and the Park Plaza shopping center dressed for the New Year holiday.
I can remember just a few of the Christmas gifts I was given in my childhood -- but nearly all of them were somehow linked with words. Usually -- but not always -- that meant books.
In my early grade school years, I drove teachers to despair with my apparent indifference to the classroom -- I was usually looking out the windows or daydreaming. After educational TV came to our grade school (courtesy of a strange experiment known as the Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction -- MPATI), I liked to fantasize that my eyes were educational TV cameras, so it was important to watch the teacher and the blackboard, but not necessarily learn! My teachers were so upset with my inattentiveness that I was sent to counselors, who held anxious consultations with my parents. In turn my parents were so angry about my poor school performance that one year they took away my favorite non-print gift, a huge shiny red toy tow truck.
However, school librarians knew my secret -- I loved to read! I always had the maximum number of books on loan, and would soon be bringing them back for a new load. Christmas always meant that I would get new books -- and those were even better than library books for a special reason. In the blank pages at the front and back, I would draw television-screen shapes into which I could write the "credits" for the books I was reading. My eyes had the special property of turning print into video, and in preparation for each reading session, my viewers would need to know who the director and actors and crew were. Then I could go on to the book itself, whose text would become vivid television, not just for me, but for my fantasy audience who depended on my camera-eyes to see the world.
|Christmas with my sister Ellen.|
The very first gift that I can remember actually asking for was a bulletin board. Yes, a real cork bulletin board, complete with thumbtacks! I can't remember why the idea of owning my own bulletin board took on such urgency, but my parents humored me, and I joyfully hung it up in a corner of our apartment's front room. Letters and postcards from my grandparents in Norway and Germany were among the things on which I bestowed the honor of being pinned up on the board. Later, I pinned up lists of my favorite Top-40 AM radio hits, whose order in the current week and previous week, carefully noted in two columns, were totally based on my choices, not on any statistics or other lists. I stubbornly included Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" on my bulletin board honor roll long after it had disappeared from Billboard.
I guess the bulletin board was somehow a form of publishing and was therefore linked to the next gift I'm reminiscing about this Christmas season, a gift that ranks at the very top for all of my childhood. I think I was ten years old when I had the ecstatic experience of unwrapping the gift I didn't dare hope I would get: a printing press.
And now maybe you know why this blog has been going for twelve years. May the gifts you give and receive this Christmas bring you something like the joy that the Cub printing press gave me.
The wonderful Letterology blog tells more about the Superior Marking Equipment printing presses of my childhood and provides some samples of what the press could do. More background here. Did you by any chance have one of these?
Our Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends is grieving the loss of Arthur O. Roberts, who gave Friends many decades of intellectual and spiritual leadership. He was a pastor, educator, dramatist, poet, philosopher, politician, and mentor to several generations of Quakers now spread throughout the world. I'm so grateful that Nancy Thomas has written a tender appreciation. This bibliography gives an idea of his scope and energy.
Micah Bales says that Christmas is about hitting rock bottom. Are you there yet?
Our nation is entering into a time of great testing, and it remains to be seen whether which path we will choose. Will we embrace the baby Jesus, with all the disruption and trouble he brings? Will we carry this pregnancy to term? Or will we tell God, “No. I won’t have this child. No, I won’t claim him as my own. Find someone else, God. I don’t need that kind of disturbance in my life.”A story from Kingston, Jamaica: I see you.
When someone calls us by name they remind us who we are, our essential self. By locating us, they help us locate ourselves; the anchoring core of our own existence. Ah! I am here. The real me breaks out like light streaming from window shutters flung wide. I am here!
We children opened our presents on Christmas eve (following our parents' Old-World customs). The ritual went like this: we children were banished to our bedroom, while the Christmas tree was retrieved from the back porch, mounted on its stand and decorated, and the gifts placed underneath. So the whole thing had the quality of a dramatic reveal, but no Santa delivery was involved. Before the gifts were pounced upon and opened, our atheist parents led us in this one Christmas carol: